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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Responding to a Pilates Query

Meg asked in a comment on a previous post:

I've always wanted to try Pilates, but I'm super self conscious about trying new classes at the gym. How is it?
First off, from scanning your blog, it looks to me like you are at normal weight and pretty fit (ie, you run and exercise, etc). So, you have nothing to feel self-conscious about...AT ALL!!! Go try a class. Make sure it's taught by a certified Pilates teacher (not just someone who's done it and decided to up and teach it). Form, focus, and breathing matter in Pilates, so you want someone who knows how to do it right and teach it properly, who will correct your form during the length of the class.

Now, back to the self-conscious thing: Girl, I started Pilates weighing 272 pounds and having been a couch potato for years and years. I didn't even know if I COULD do it, much less worry about how dumbass I'd look trying to do it. :)

I've since REGAINED some weight I lost. Last week, I was doing Pilates at 282. I did it yesterday at 278.8. And on the reformer next to me was a model with impossibly long and slender limbs and apparently a 0.5% body fat.

I know about self-conscious.

Add to that that I'm the only obese person doing Pilates at the place where I train. I'm certainly the only MORBIDLY obese person there.

Still, I've been doing it for nearly nine months and I feel more flexible, stronger, my arms and legs have better shape, I can do my activities with more ease (ie, groceries, crouching, reaching), and for a very fat 49 year old woman who was nearly an invalid in the 20th century, I am happy to report this. And even having regained some weight, I look slimmer than when I started. I feel denser, firmer. And my acanthosis got better, so that may be just the exercising after NOT exercising for so long. I was used to being ill with severe respiratory infections two to five times a year. Since I started working out, I got sick ONCE.

Honestly, if I can do it, just about anyone can. And I do qualify with "just about", because I do understand that being significantly larger than I am, 350 or 400 or 500 pounds, has a huge impact on what you can do. I chose this form of exercise particularly because of damage I have to my joints from being fat. It isn't easy on the ankles and knees and hips. Pilates is very joint-friendly.

Getting on and off the Reformer, the most famous piece of Pilates equipment, while easier than when I started--when I flopped and flipped about like a mutant giant turtle--is still not the most graceful activity. But when I"m on it, I do my thang! I've done stuff I wouldn't believe I could have done. Heck, I'm able to do one of the exercises that includes the position to the left on the Cadillac, even while morbidly obese.

I think all of us with fat issues, body image issues find it hard wearing tight workout clothing (snug clothing being essential for Pilates). I know for me, it was really hard. And it was hard walking into the studio with wall-to-wall mirrors and models and skinny dancers feeling like Shamu with arthritis. But a good teacher and an environment that is accepting and wants to foster health makes up for a lot of self-consciousness.

The fact that I"ve stuck to it, 3x a week, hour sessions, for nearly 9 months says something. I've never stuck to exercise this long. NEVER. And I've swallowed my discomfort with being seen in tight clothes moving about to the point where yesterday, in order to march in place with higher knees, I HELD MY BELLY UP WITH MY HANDS out of the way of my knees. I looked demented. But it helped me move with better form. So, ah, yeah. I can't believe I did that. Hah!

Someone in your much better shape and much slimmer form will do marvelously. You'll see a lovely line emerge in your arms and legs. Your tummy and waist will reform. You'll feel longer and sleeker. You will be happy with the results.

I told my hubby this weekend, "Man, if I weren't covered in all this fat, you could see my rocking ab muscles!"

And you should NOT feel self-conscious. You doubtless look very, very good already. :)

And again, for the fat gals out there who've been afraid, just do it. Save the money, get a couple to three personal sessions first to ground you in the breathing, posture, scooping techniques and to use each of the machines and equipment pieces at least once with your trainer. Then, ask what class they think you should take. It's an investment that is worth it.


IRJessica said...

You go girl! Everyone is so focused on themselves and their own issues. Some days I can't jog in the daylight cause my stuff just jiggles in giant fat waves, but I try to have that happen less often now.

Vickie said...

when I started yoga -
the INSTRUCTOR weighed 300 pounds.

She was strong and flexible and had beautiful positions.

She had just had her third baby (C-Section).

encouraging, beyond encouraging, for me - just starting out.

she would say things like -
the first day is always the hardest day.
and -
everyone has to start somewhere.

Meg said...

Heh ^_^ Thanks for responding to my question! Your post really inspired me! Now I just need to decide if I should try the Pilates class at my gym, or go all out and try a class at a studio!

Chubby Chick said...

Psst... there's something for you over at my blog. :)

The Better Idiot said...

Hey, it's getting on to two weeks since we heard from you, let use know how you're doing!

Lora said...

My daughter swears by pilates - so maybe I should give it a try!

MizFit said...

really good post. I like the promise of pilates (the reformer etc. Im ok with mat stuff because I can so it at home w/dvd) but can afford the sessions right now...

mat stuff it is for me.

The Better Idiot said...

Where on Earth are you?

Lyn said...

Hey, I miss ya! Time for an update??

Anonymous said...

I caught your post, way back in November of 2007 about the Weil/Oz/Taubes spot and your comment that 'You probably agree with Weil on this'.

I ask you if you actually READ Gary Taubes book before making that comment.

I am sure that you have been told this by others, but you really MUST read that book - it will save your life... It saved mine.

It is a layman's book, but that does not make it easy to get through (although I chewed through it because I was desperate and what he was saying appealed to my 'scientist' self). But it sounds to me like you are doing everything in your power and yet... you aren't getting the results you want.

Buy the book. Read it. Force yourself to push down all the 'no no no no!!!! fat is BAD' stuff you've been force fed since the 60's. Read the book. Save your life...

Sorry this is off the Pilates topic. I hope I can check back in on you in a couple of months and see the numbers start to recede!

Cheers to you,


Anonymous said...

One more thing and I will shut up and go away... for now...

Google: "The surprising reason people get fat". It is an essay on Weil's site and I think you will be intrigued... Then you will read the book ;->



Lyn said...

Okay I am back to whine some more. I really do miss you girl, can you drop me an email?? HUGS!!

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The Better Idiot said...

Hey sweetheart, I'm going to be clearing off all my links that haven't updated in a month and you're on the list! Argh! Do me a favour and drop me a ine letting me know if you're ok (zanitta(underslash)chan(at)homail(dot)com) even if you don't feel like updating. Of course if you do start updating again then I'll put you straight back in the links!

Chubby Chick said...

Just stopping by to say "hi!" How are you? I miss you and hope you blog again soon! :)

Caz said...

Tried Pilates, loved it. Of course never having done it, did it all wrong and paid the price! lol I am going to get into it a little more! Great blog!!!!

Lyn said...

I still check in and hope to see a new post sometime! Miss ya!

jh said...

Thanks for such an inspirational post. I have always wanted to try pilates--my yoga instructor adds some pilates moves and they always feel so hard but effective. Need to try it.

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disa said...