My name is Claire Louise, age 44 and currently living and teaching Pilates full time in the North East of England.
My active younger years
From as long as I can remember I never sat still as I always seemed to be practising my own version of a handstand, splits and dreaming that one day I would be a gymnast or an athlete.
Unfortunately gymnastic coaches were very sparse where I lived, so running became my new found hobby and joining the local athletics team seemed like a good option. I was a very focused and disciplined 11 year old and could easily motivate myself to find the nearest big hill or open fields at 6am in the morning for my sprint drills and since this was now the eighties, what else was there to do? My home was the proud owner of one TV, a record player and several reading books, all of which had no interest to me whatsoever.
Injuries turned my world upside down
So fast forward a couple of decades of competing in running events which had ranged from 100m sprint to marathons. Also during this time I was running a successful fitness business, studying nutrition and cycling everywhere.
Then one day I just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was during a spinning class, my foot slipped on the pedal banging my knee against the stem. The stem had a faulty screw that stuck out 2” and it was this screw that tore open my knee. Surgery and 3 months of not walking properly took its toll and sadly my back, hip and knee never let me run, jump or even hop again.
An orthopedic surgeon told me at the age of 30 that I now had degenerative disc disease in my lumbar spine and arthritis and would need surgery in the near future. “What the hell ! You have got to be kidding. This must be wrong.”, AND YES HE WAS SO WRONG.
How is it that in those brief short minutes during these consultations a surgeon or specialist can label such a condition and potentially ruin a person’s life without ever checking a person’s history, posture and muscular firing patterns. Apart from getting taped on the knee for my reflexes he never once looked at my gait or posture. I felt disempowered, hopeless to say the least. But thank goodness I got back up off my knees to keep going and find a solution to all of the below
BACK SPASMS every few days
Pain 24 hours a day
No sleep as I could not turn over or move in bed
Scared to even bend/twist/reach
Pilates is like Marmite. You with either love it or hate it.
And that's exactly how I felt about it. With such weakness on one side of my body due to my accident and now compensation patterns had taken a tight hold causing frustration in a lot of my own Pilates exercises. Years of Osteopathy, physiotherapy and even teaching Pilates was getting me nowhere fast. I had now spent a total of £6000 on treatments to resolve the below issues
Pelvis out of alignment
2cm muscle loss through my entire left leg
Weak Psoas, hamstrings and glutes
Rotation in my trunk
Although I was a Pilates teacher and you would expect to resolve such issues, I just seemed to be taking one step forward and two steps back and this was because all of the Pilates mat classes were too much for my injuries and posture type.
Demonstrating back bend type exercises like the above picture was killing my back and a simple sit up with legs in the air would cause my back to tighten. I knew that I had to take a step back as a teacher and stop demonstrating exercises that were making my back worse. My clients at the time were reporting back with such good results with their pilates practise so I knew that Pilates was a great practice but it just needed tweaking to suit my body and most importantly accommodate all my injuries.
You are probably wondering,why on earth I am telling you this story.
Simply put…..Pilates is A GREAT form of movement providing you do the right exercises for your Posture type from day one especially if you have complex injuries. But you can say the same for Yoga. If your back is lordotic (arched/extremely compressed and tight) then there’s no way backbends in a yoga class are going to help your back as much as a forward bend. So if you are in a lot of pain, with nerve or disc damage and taking medication to try and suppress or manage this pain , then mat classes are not the first starting place. YOU WILL REQUIRE 1-1 TRAINING to help establish the right exercises for these injuries. Remember a group class whether it be Pilates or Yoga is a lesson plan taught to move a group in a general way and this does not include someone with severe pain.
Finally…I became pain free
Yep ! That’s right.
Over one xmas I spent the entire 2 weeks studying and analysing firing patterns within my own body. I began to see that my paraspinal muscles were not switching off during my day to day activities. This was a huge turning point for me and it was only a matter of days of carrying out somatic movements that helped me to relax my deep spinal muscles.
My next step was to regain strength in the Psoas and therefore bring balance back into my body when standing and sitting. I analysed every single movement throughout my day like standing in the kitchen , drying my hair, sitting on the loo even . It took me 2 weeks to be out of my constantly tight back and then a further 3-5 months of daily Pilates exercises. My Pilates exercises only lasted 5-10 mins but as long as I did them daily I JUST KNEW that I was on my path to a pain free body.
So, that’s my story. 10 years of pain, depression and saying no to a lot of dreams, opportunities and social events had finally come to an end. Pilates saved my life you could say.
What’s your story ? Has a specialist stuck a label on your condition and then filed you away with all of the other unresolved case studies .
Do you feel disempowered and hopeless ? Drop a comment, let me know.
If you think you are beaten , you are. If you think you dare not, you don'. If you'd like to win , but you think you can't , It's almost a cinch you won't
If you think you'll lose, you've lost.
For out of the world you find , success begins with a fellow's will.
It's all a state a mind
Love and Blessings