Jess Davies blogs from a beginner’s perspective on Clinical Pilates…
I have never understood pilates, although I have heard rumours that it is good for you. My opinion has always been that it is some sort of fashionable exercise that people who don’t like to get sweaty do while wearing the latest Lululemon apparel before meeting their friends for coffee. While the muscle strengthening benefits of pilates have interested me, I have never seen it as enough of a challenge (plus all of my exercise clothes are just old t-shirts that I found in the cupboard) and therefore I have never taken it up.
My chosen form of exercise is running five times a week outside in the rain, hail or shine. As I rapidly approach my 30th birthday, my body is starting to question my regular pavement-pounding and many of my muscles are complaining.
So when Jeremy and Elle from Wisdom Physiotherapy challenged me to four-weeks of pilates and physiotherapy sessions to help me prepare for the City to Surf Marathon, I figured I may as well give it a go. A few relaxing stretches weren’t going to hurt and maybe I’d learn something about how my body works.
And that’s where my understanding of pilates finishes and the reality begins.
Initial Consultation (or the day I discovered my butt muscles)
I was secretly nervous about my clinical pilates consultation session with Jeremy – I had no idea what was going to happen, what to expect or what to wear. Elle had very kindly solved my clothing issues by recommending comfortable/stretchy pants and a tight-ish fitting top to avoid any unnecessary exposure during exercises. Done.
In the safety of the private consultation room, Jeremy proceeded to ask me a series of questions to determine exactly how my body functions.
Despite having lived with my body for 30 years, the more questions Jeremy asked about aches, pains and muscular tendencies, the more I realised how little I know about how my body works. Do I gravitate towards my left or my right side when I’ve been standing for a long time? At what point in a run does my lower back start hurting?
Despite having lived with my body for 30 years… the more I realised how little I know about how my body works.
Somehow through asking these questions, directing me to hop on one leg and then the other, and testing my flexibility, Jeremy determined that the reason I have a sore lower back, inner right knee, and right ankle is because I have an ‘extension bias’ – meaning my body prefers to bend backwards instead of forwards.
For the next 40 minutes or so, Jeremy made me perform simple, non-strenuous movements and stretches that didn’t really appear to be doing much at all. In between in each exercise I had to retest my flexibility and shock absorption (by hopping on my right foot and touching my toes).
Incredibly, through very simple, targeted exercises, Jeremy pin-pointed exactly how my muscles and nervous system work together and what would either loosen or tighten my muscles. With each individual exercise my ability to land softly on my right foot or reach down and touch my toes changed dramatically. Not only this, he narrowed in on the fact that I clearly do not use my (technical term alert) ‘butt muscles’ at all.
Not only this, he narrowed in on the fact that I clearly do not use my (technical term alert) ‘butt muscles’ at all.
Jeremy had coaxed me on to one of those pilates machines that I had seen in photographs that up until now had just looked like a torture rack. It is still a torture rack in my mind because Jeremy instructed me to perform two technically easy, non-weight-bearing exercises that targeted muscles in my bum that I never knew existed.
Apparently pain is a good thing and by doing a few simple exercises to teach my body to engage these newfound muscles, I will be a much stronger, faster and lighter runner. Hopefully in time to run 42 kilometres in four weeks.
Wish me and my butt muscles luck!
If you would like to try Clinical Pilates, please click here to make an initial assessment appointment with one of our Physios – Jeremy, Jane or Sandrine or to read more about our programs, click here for more information.