I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I don’t do Pilates all the time.
I teach it a lot more than I do it myself.
Shh! Don’t tell the Pilates Gods.
And please don’t let Joseph Hubertus Pilates overhear our conversation, unless you want him to “roll over” in his grave. (<– Pilates teachers, I hope you picked up on my joke.)
Oh, and don’t tell my clients, but since most of them read my blog, I guess the cat’s outa the bag.
Here’s the thing.
Pilates teachers aren’t perfect.
We are human beings just like the rest of you. And just how nutritionists don’t always eat nutritious meals (guilty as charged), we don’t always get a chance to fit in our workouts.
However, I’ve had a bit of a Pilates Renaissance over the past month. I’ve been assisting a teacher-in-training prepare for one of her practical exams, which includes taking a client through a series of exercises while being critiqued by master teachers.
I am that client.
I actually made her promise to teach me three times a week in preparation for this grueling test of strength. I mean Joe Pilates was a man who originally created this system of exercise for MEN, not ballet dancers (despite everything you’ve heard).
The advanced exercises are serious business that take a coordinated effort of strength and flexibility and the risk of injury is high. Having recovered from a slow-healing tailbone/sacral injury over the last 2 years (plus loads of minor injuries that come standard with rock climbing), I didn’t want to jump head first into something that could be dangerous.
Hesitant at first, I started practicing with her and something dawned on me in one of our first sessions together. I had fallen victim to this idea that I needed to build up some obscene level of strength to execute these exercises perfectly.
Like I had to exercise to be ready to exercise.
And I’m not alone in this.
How many times have you talked yourself out of going to a Pilates class (or just the gym) because “you’re not strong enough” or “not thin enough” or “not coordinated enough”?
I’ll admit our first session didn’t go perfectly. There were exercises I hadn’t performed in years that I just wasn’t very good at anymore (“Head Back” can just be eliminated from the reformer sequence, if you ask me, but I digress).
Despite my imperfect performance, I showed up to our next session knowing which areas I needed to improve and making the commitment to work on those to the best of my ability.
And you know what? Simply setting that intention changed my mindset about the whole thing. Each time I went to perform an exercise, I got better, I got stronger, and I had more confidence in my ability.
Perfect is not the goal. Progress is.
Now part of my change of heart can be attributed to the alignment and positioning of certain exercises, particularly those that involve chest opening movements, which have been proven to boost confidence and reduce stress.
The other part of it was just becoming more aware of my own body. Listening when it sends a signal of discomfort and adjusting however small I need to to find perfect alignment (thank you Rebecca Leone).
It’s about embracing and appreciating the strength we already have, rather than focusing on what needs to change.
So next time you’re falling into the victim trap of not being _____ enough for that Pilates class, know that your body is smart, capable, and perfect just as it is right now.
We’re all on this journey of discovering what kind and amount of movement is right for us. It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s about staying fully present in the process and embracing every step of the way. (And, if happy dances are your thing, you can add those mini celebrations into the mix.)
The funny thing is, this focus on body awareness, mindfulness, and alignment is what drew me to Pilates in the first place. Somehow I lost sight of the process when I imagined doing advanced Pilates moves, thinking that because I wasn’t a workout-aholic, I couldn’t possibly do those exercises anymore. But you’ll see from the photos below, I’m building my way back up, one step at a time.
Now I’d like to hear from you. In the comments below, tell me:
- What holds you back from going to Pilates class or working out?
- What do you appreciate about your body in this moment?
Until next week,
PPS – If you’re wondering how I maintain a Pilates body without doing much Pilates, I reveal my secrets in my free guide. Snag your copy below.