Pilates - Flexibility and Start for a Good New Habit

t is not always easy to find time to exercise while being busy working, taking care of children, doing a big load of chores, etc. This is the fact for many moms out there including me. For years I did not have any kind of daily or weekly exercise routine. I lived my life believing that if I somehow work enough I would use enough calories to keep my weight down and my joints flexible.

I have been a massage therapist for 15 years. When I worked full time as a therapist, I did use a good amount of energy at work. But then I went to school and after 7 grueling years studying online, I finally graduated and moved on a full-time office job. Now, since I sit most of the time, I have come to realize how most of my past clients gained the ache in their necks and lower back. It does not matter that I have a pretty good adjustable chair at work, I cannot avoid occasional back pain and tight shoulder muscles. I had to do something with my slowly aging body.

I have tired a gym at different times of my life like when trying to get rid of the fat layers after pregnancies or occasionally after some special inspiration. My last gym inspiration happened in fall 2019. I was able to maintain 5 times weekly exercise routine for several months and lose about 10lb. Then COVID-19 forced my gym to close for two months. I needed to find something I could do at home.

It took for some time to convince myself to get rid of the frustration of a single mom while taking care of two teenagers who were tied up inside the home with me. I did lose a good few weeks before I realized that the gym is not going to be open and I need to do something.

Luckily there is Youtube and a plethora of fitness instructors who are posting different routines. I already knew that my joints would not be able to take intense jumping and other high energy moves. After feeling my old knee injury activating under my growing weight, I knew I needed a different kind of strength training.

Somehow I had always liked to use the various exercise machines in the gym. I rarely wanted to do any exercises on the floor. Word plank sounded like a swear word for me without even talking about several different exercises that start from assuming that position. For those who have been uninterested in floor exercises like I have, a plank is a front hold where a person keeps position as at the beginning of push-ups. If you hold plank long enough, which was not very long for me as a beginner, you feel it in your abs, back, arms, and legs.

I started to pay attention to the body shapes of the pilates instructors. Their abdominal muscles looked most of the time very strong. Muscle shape is something I have used to pay attention on as a massage therapist. It was not anything to do with body shaming or poor self-confidence, but I had to admit that my belly fat might need something more focused than sitting in a machine and doing leg or arm presses, that is good for strengthening the limbs but did not seem to do much for the persistent fat in the middle of my body.

Pilates has many benefits for the body. The moves are focused on strengthening the core. So there is that to start with. Pilates anyhow incorporated many different muscle groups at the same time. Just to take the plank as an example, you cannot do it well if you do not use your arm and leg muscles along with your abs, glutes, and back muscles.

For a beginner like me, it was also comforting to find out that there are easier variations of many of the moves. I could start from my level without giving up because of too difficult exercises.

To me, the most important benefit seemed to be an increasing range of motion in my joints. That is something that as a massage therapist we are working on as well. But when it is not possible to receive a good NMT treatment, pilates helps to do the trick. It is very satisfying to realize the increase in flexibility already after a few weeks of practice.

I have learned that every new habit takes about 21 days to develop. I have taken a great start to making it there. As a beginner, I determine to do pilates 20 min daily unless if I have a plan to go for a long walk that day. After a couple of weeks now I can feel my energy level rising. It is getting easier to get started. Plank does not feel like torture anymore, but I have been able to progress to different variations like side planks and added various leg and arm strengthening lifts as well.

I started from 20 min a day because that felt comfortable for me to start with. If you already have a good exercise routine go for a longer time. If you feel like 20 min is too long, start with just one movement a day or 10 min or so. Nobody is judging when you do what feels good for you. Pilates is worth trying.

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