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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fat Gals CAN Do Pilates! Even MORBIDLY OBESE ones! Here's Photographic Proof...

UPDATE: A pic of me from this blog post originally published on ONCE UPON A DIET blog showed up with an article over at Suite 101. The article is titled "Fat People Can Do Pilates Equipment Workout."  And yes, I'm proof fat people CAN.

~~~As promised, the pics of me during one of my Pilates training sessions. The pics were taken 6-10-10 and I was 265 at the time (for reference, for the fat gals out there who wonder if THEY can do it at X pounds. I have done it at 278 lbs, too.). I am an apple shape, meaning I carry my fat mostly in the middle, principally in that forward danger zone: the abdomen. My belly is huge. It actually IS an impediment to movement. So, we work around it.

If you aren't familiar with Pilates or are and have been intimidated by the equipment or think your size is a barrier, then I'm here to say: try it.

Yes. Fat folks can do it.   Here are pics of a plus-sized gal doing it. She's the only one I've been able to find online shown doing various poses.

The exercise community seems to be lagging behind the reality of what's going on in the US. They have only recently begun discussing how to deal with overweight/obese clients. And I've seen some advise the client to lose weight first. (Excuse me?!) But little by little, I see that conversation widening. (Not fast enough, not wide enough, but some). When I began doing Pilates in 2008, those pics I linked to were NOT online. I couldn't find pics of big gals like me doing Pilates, never mind BIG MIDDLE-AGED gals. :D

But we're the ones who need to exercise THE most, and many of us have back pain issues, joint pain, and could benefit from the increased core strength (to carry that heavy load) and flexibility.

I have bad knee joints and one slightly wrecked ankle, and I purposefully chose Pilates because it's easy on the joints and low-impact. I did fear I wouldn't be able to use the strange apparati (not strange now, but strange to me prior to doing it). I will confess that getting on and off the Reformer is TOUGH for us heavyweights. But you'll only look like an overturned, drunk turtle for a few weeks to a month, then you'll look like a sober overturned turtle, then you'll start getting up and off with more ease as you get stronger.

The Cadillac, though, is great for us. For big gals and guys, getting down to the floor and back up can be tough (especially if, like me, you have to be super-cautious about what you do with your knees). But the Cadillac is higher off the ground and it's a breeze getting on and off. I strongly recommend that if you're a big person, you tell your instructor to let you use the Cadillac to start, along with Reformer work, and avoid the mat as long as you can.

So, here it is. A morbidly obese, middle-aged gal does Pilates:

Okay, first pic is me on the Reformer (the apparatus that most folks will associate with Pilates, invented by Mr. Pilates himself.) It's got a sliding part you sit or stand on, springs, attachments, a foot bar, etc, so diverse and numerous exercises can be performed on it--for warming up and for strengthening, for arms and legs and core and back, etc. Here, I'm working upper body. I am sitting on a short bench in order to modify it to accomodate my belly (lets my legs extend without straining my lower back. I am doing the Airplane, which is part of the "essential" Pilates Reformer repertoire called BACK ROWING PREPS.). Like many Pilates moves, this LOOKS easy in the pic, but you are constantly focusing your attention on proper form and breathing, so I tend to be deeply in my brain coordinating the postural and breath stuff. I do less well on the breath being asthmatic, but when it's good, it does help a lot. Depending on the way the machine is configured (for tension), this can be REALLY CRAZY HARD.

Hah. Speaking of breath, you can see my cheeks puffed up here as I blow out air on exertion (ie, I'm pulling up on the rope). Again, this is the Reformer, I'm on that little bench for modification , and I'm in a half roll-down position doing biceps curls. (I do have hard lil biceps, too, now!) It's WAY harder than it looks when you've got a gazillion fat cells in the way of tucking butt under and holding stomach muscles curled so as to support weight with the core. This exercise is also part of the Essential Reformer Repertoire, back rowing preps category.

It took me a good, long while to be able to do this, and it's STILL really hard for me. I went into Pilates with the upper body strength of a newborn, I swear. My trainer has been merciless (thank you) with the upper body work to get me to a better, stronger place. (Man, can I carry a lot of groceries now.) But it's still not my forte, and anything where weight is supported by my upper body and is on my puny, carpal-tunnely wrists, it's tough.

In this one, it's your CORE that is pulling you in (ie, sliding in the carriage), not your arms. Your arms stay still and firm and long, and, here's the kicker, your pelvis has to come forward (the shifting of weight is killer),  and then your abdomen has to do the work. So hard. That first pic is the out position (the carriage is slid out some). Here's the in position: my core pulled in the carriage.

I will add that it's very hard for me to do some straigtening moves (of arms, of legs) in particular positions, as my fat IS an obstacle. But that doesn't mean you can't modify or do what your body allows, safely.

Aha! At upper left--the Push Through with Modified Teaser on the Cadillac. This exercise starts with you laying down and then you lift your head and roll up your torso as you lift the bar.

To accomodate my level (I am NOT advanced yet) and my belly, we've done the legs in a diamond position. Here, my knees are bent with feet together.
We decided to see if I could get my legs straighter: a push through with teaser. And here's that move at left.

It's really tough for me to straighten my arms here due to the obstruction of fat in the upper arms/upper back/neck. But I do try. :)

We move over to the ladder barrel usually for the last minutes of the session. (The pics above are not in the order I did the exercises, as we began on the Cadillac, then moved to Reformer.)  Side bends (hate em, get cramps in my hips if I'm not perfect on form) are tough. You are lifting your upper body weight with your core, especially focusing on your obliques. Down and up. Down and up. I've done it with feet in this position and higher on the rungs. With arm out and with both arms bent with hands on forehead.

Again, I'm blowing out that air. Hah. Glad I did my pedicure before my trainer surprised me with the picture-taking.

After this, we tend to do stretches, getting me cooled down safely.

And we usually end a session with a roll down, which means standing, feet parallel, hip distance apart, then rolling down from the neck and down vertebrae by vertebrae until you just hand loose, then you tuck your pelvis and scoop your abs and roll up vertebrae by vertebrae to a slow count of 4, exhaling.

I didn't have pics for every exercise and stretch we did in 55 mins time, but these are to show what might be included in a workout on various apparati.

I hope if you're a fat gal or guy--obese or morbidly obese--you won't be afraid to try Pilates. I always feel so much better afterwards and, yes, it helps your activities of daily living and SEX. :D  As you can see, snuggish fitting clothing is good . This--in the pics-- is one of my baggier tops for Pilates, and I have camisoles, tank tops, and racerback tops, all sleeveless and all more snug,  that I wear as well. I also have Danskin shorts and bootcut pants that I've worn to a session, but capris are my fave, as they do offer my knees a layer of cloth to absorb sweat for the "on my knees" moves.

There it is. As promised: Fat Princess Does Pilates.

Now there's pics of TWO of us supersized, Pilates-loving ladies on the internet.

If you are in the Miami area and want to try a private session to see what you think of Pilates, do call Liza at The Pilates Room in North Miami Beach.  I strongly recommend a couple or more private sessions BEFORE undertaking classes, as you need to learn about proper Pilates posture (imprinting is hard for some to "get") and what will be the needed modifications for your larger body type. The link takes you to their site with contact info, class schedule, and bios of the instructors.

Later, and a happy, healthful Tuesday to all!

WARNING: These photos are the property of this blog's owner and cannot be used without permission and should not under any circumstance be hotlinked. But feel free to use a regular link to use this as a reference as needed to help other folks who have weight problems and wanna do this great form of exercise and rehab.



Stamp Til Dawn said...

I read your blog all the time in google reader and I just had to pop over here and comment today!! Love the pictures and the descriptions. I know nothing about pilates and have been very impressed with your consistency in training. Great pictures and I'm sure you will inspire someone to give it a try.

I'm really into bike riding and I'm a big girl... I love surprising people when they find out how many miles I ride that bike of mine...

Hopefully we can both inspire women of all sizes to try something new!

The International Loser said...

Okay you make doing pilates and being plus size hot! Gotta say you've given me courage to not feel like a fool when I purchase the DVD's. The gym near me isn't advanced enough to have equipment, but I think I might try some out when I get back stateside. Thanks for posting these!!!

Weijourn said...

I had heard of pilates but new nothing about it. Didn't even know that they use equipment! I'm envious that you can get your knuckles to the floor.

Laura said...

Hi, Just found your blog, and lovingit! Thanks for putting these pics up. I guess I'm still way too self-conscious; I don't even like my husband to watch while I exercise. :)

Have a great day!

Cindy said...

You go girl! Fat doesn't mean inactive. And you just proved it!

Felipa said...

Woohoo!!!! That is awesome that not only are you putting it out there that bigger girls can do it, but posting pics. Kudos to you and not the quaker kind :)

BTW I tagged you in my Funky 5 MeME :)
Hope you get a chance to stop by and check it out.

Midori Mighty Warrior said...

You go! I like your photos! I've always been a little curious about pilates - thanks for your wonderful post :)

fatgirl_vs_world said...

Holy crap.
What courage!
But also, what poise, what grace!

ARA said...

How do I contact you to possibly use a photo or link to you? I am the Mind Body Fitness feature writer on suite101.com and author of Fat People Can Do Yoga in Class or at Home.

Thank you so Much,

ARA said...

Hi Thanks to Once Upon a Diet, Fat People Can Do Pilates Equipment Work Out.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Inspirational! I am a newly qualified Pilates teacher and am looking forward to introducing the equipment to my clients. Reading your story has given me confidence to be a better teacher and not to be daunted by my larger clients. Thank you.

Freckles said...

I love it! I started a blog a few weeks ago, I think we should compare notes! :) http://chubbygirlpilates.blogspot.com/

Georgia said...

Found your blog tonight while I was reading up on Pilates work. I'm a plus-size Pilates enthusiast. I've been doing it for a year now. Results: rock hard abs (underneath my layers of fat), down 15 lbs. and two sizes, and feeling so strong! No one is more surprised than I!

I do mat Pilates. I live in a small town and our little studio has no reformers, but we're working up to that. I'm wondering what it feels like to use the reformer. I used to mind working on the mat because it was so difficult getting up off the floor, but it's not as hard any more.

Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE AWESOME!!! I can't thank you enough for this post!! I want to try pilates but have been terrified b/c of my size...... means a LOT to see this post. Thank you so much!!

Fatgirltrying said...

Wow! I'm well impressed! I tried Pilates for the first time yesterday and nearly died!!!! Haha.

Well done. I've subscribed to your blog and can't wait to check your new one.

Fight against the flab!!! =)


Boomergirl said...

I love these photos of you on the Pilates Apparatus! I am a PMA Certified Pilates Instructor and I applaud you and your form! I have felt that Pilates is good for Every Body and just moving is important. I'll bet that you have noticed many good changes in your body such as strength,lengthening, and perhaps your clothes fit just a little bit better! You give people everywhere no matter their shape or size the courge to try Pilates! You Go Girl!Judy Cocke,PMA CPI

Xsyntriq said...

This post has more amounts of awesome than I can put into words. Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration to us big girls that want to try but are too scared to go for it :-)

Holly Holland said...

You are so beautiful! As a certified Pilates teacher, I applaud your form, your courage, and your inspiration. I have several clients who will really benefit from your knowledge and experience. Thank you so much for sharing!