Can 12 months of Pilates really change your body? We find out.
About three years ago after a particularly hectic time which included working long hours, flying weekly and wearing high heels daily my back just gave up. I woke up one morning with excruciating sciatic nerve pain shooting down my left leg and a debilitating lower back ache. The pain was so intense that the only option was to lay completely flat or stand, no in-between movement was possible. It hurt to walk, sit and move in general.
This lasted for a good three weeks, helped only mildly by a cocktail of prescribed drugs and a whole lot of Netflix, watched laying flat on my back on a hard surface.
Advice came from every direction- get surgery, go to physio, buy a new bed – and for two years I tried everything, acupuncture, physio, cupping, Chinese herbal medicine, water therapy, walking (you name it I tried it!) and while all of these things assisted and made it manageable to move and get on with daily life the pain was always niggling and present, making me cautious about aggravating it with every movement.
About 12 months ago, after a session at the chiro when he advised yet again that building core strength was going to be the best way to help my body heal, I did the standard google search of ‘how to increase core strength’ and landed on Pilates.
I found a great club, signed up and got started. The first couple of weeks were ridiculously hard, between modified exercises to accommodate for the back injury, learning how the reformer beds worked (and trying not to topple off) I realised very quickly that Pilates was more than just stretching and I felt quite out of my depth. I remember looking at the more experienced Pilates practitioners around me thinking that my back will never allow me to get their level.
Fast forward 12 months, and after practicing Reformer Pilates for 3-4 days a week, with 1-2 weekly yoga classes or home practice thrown in, my back is in the best shape it has been in since I was a teenager. I can run again, wear heels, have started boxing classes and overall feel better than before my back injury happened.
Every single muscle in my body has been stretched, worked out and given the Pilates treatment, including muscles I never knew existed. I feel infinitely stronger, fitter and healthier than ever before. My cardio fitness levels have improved, my body has re-shaped and my muscles are longer and leaner.
Of course there were some setbacks in the 12 months, a month of travelling, long-haul flights and no classes mid-year caused the start of twinges of pain but a few days back at Pilates and I was back on track.
I have stated to explore different classes as well – Vinyasa, Barre, Pilates Radiant (Mat Pilates conducted in an infrared heated room) and Yin Yoga (deep long lasting asanas that stretch the fascia of the body) and everything in-between. It has opened up the door to so many more forms of exercise that are focused not only on the body but also the mind, providing a more holistic wellness regime.
Side effects of a yearly dedicated pilates and yoga practice have been all of the usual things you would expect, weight loss, increased stamina and flexibility but it has been the unexpected things that have been the most surprising, pure strength that I never knew existed, clearing of my mind and a deeper connection to my body.
I rarely think twice about my back now, I have largely given up all of the other treatments I was doing (which has saved a whole lot of cash!). My Pilates practice is now a non-negotiable in my life, I prioritise it as I do family, health and sleep.
Like most forms of exercise, finding something that resonates for you, works for your body and is something you like enough to do regularly is key. For me that is Pilates, it will be a lifelong addiction that I can’t see changing anytime soon.
*We primarily train at Kaya Health Clubs in Melbourne, Australia. As with all health and fitness programs we recommend consulting your doctor before starting.