I admit that I became a Pilates instructor by accident. In fact, when I began the Peak Pilates Level One instructor training, I had never even taken a Pilates class.
In 2008, I was working at LifeTime Fitness as the Yoga Coordinator. When the Pilates Coordinator decided to leave her position, I became the LifeStudio Coordinator. With this transition, it was now my job to manage both the yoga and Pilates programs.
Having been a gymnast as a child, a cheerleader as a teenager, and a yogi as an adult, I’d been experiencing severe back pain off and on since the age of 19. What I didn’t know as I began Level One Pilates training was that while my flexibility was impressive, I did not have the abdominal strength to support my lower back and pelvis. The instability brought on by my flexibility caused severe pain in my lower back throughout my early adult life.
The worst episode of my back pain occurred in 2004, at the age of 30, when my second born was 16 months old. He and I were home alone, and having bent down to pick up a toy, I ended up flat on my back. I couldn’t move. Somehow, I was able to get my toddler to bring me the phone and I called my neighbor to come over and help me. I was scared, and the pain was excruciating. I knew I had issues with discs in my low back and had pain in the past, but this pain was the worst I had ever felt.
After visits to the chiropractor and doctor, it took nearly two weeks for the pain to settle, and even longer before it went away completely. During those first two weeks, I cried a lot. I didn’t cry for the physical pain in my body. I cried at the thought of never being able to pick up my son and hold him. I cried at the possibility of not being able to pile both boys onto my lap for snuggles and stories. I cried at the thought of not playing at the park with my kids, taking them on picnics, going on daily walks, and sitting on the floor with them to read and put together puzzles.
Four years after my back went out on me, I entered Pilates training to fulfill a job requirement. What I didn’t know was how hard the training would be. I also had no idea how much the training would change my life.
My flexible yoga body struggled in Pilates. The first weekend of training felt more like boot camp. Every muscle in my body hurt. I was mentally drained and emotionally overwhelmed by Sunday. I woke up that morning for another eight hours of training and cried. I didn’t think my body could handle any more. I was sore and tired, and I really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I got through that day. I focused on showing up and giving my best even though my best felt more failure than success.
What surprised me most after that first training weekend was that while every muscle in my body hurt, my back didn’t hurt at all. The muscles were sore and tired, but I did not have pain in my back. As I practiced every day, I never had pain. As I went through the second weekend of training, then the third weekend of training, and then the final testing weekend, I never had pain. The gift I received from Pilates is a strong, healthy lower back. Today, at the age of 46, I have remained pain free.