Fitness Archives - Norah Myers

November 21, 2022

On 7 September, I found a TikTok where Jenna Hushka asked, ‘What’s something you were not prepared for in the corporate world?’ I finished my walk and was still sweaty and red-faced when I got in and made a TikTok answering her question. I talked about how, in the corporate world, you’re always disposable. I told a story about a previous office job where I’d worked twelve hour days, stood on my head, and then I was replaced within three hours on the day I decided to leave. The missing context was that I was the social media manager, and they’d needed someone in right away to continue monitoring and posting on their social accounts.

The video amassed 4.6 million views within days, and at least six different news outlets picked up the story. Thousands of people commented that, if they hadn’t been through something similar, they knew someone who had. Their parent, friend, or cousin had been replaced within hours, days, or weeks. Some people said, ‘What do you expect – they’d just sit around and mourn the loss for two weeks?’ and I understood why they thought that way. What I didn’t understand was a comment that said, ‘Mam, that’s just because of your looks.’

I’ve been called ugly for my entire life, online and to my face. This kind of comment was nothing new to me. I decided to own it, and to acknowledge my ugliness, so that those kinds of comments might not hurt anymore. I made a response video and said, ‘Okay. I get it. I’m ugly. I know this. I’ve been called ugly for my entire life. But I did not leave a difficult corporate job because I’m ugly. I didn’t.’

That video racked up 10.7 million views. Thousands and thousands of people commented to tell me that I was beautiful and that I needed to work on my self-esteem. Other TikTok creators made response videos telling me to work on my self-confidence. The user who made the comment came back and said that they stood by it, but nearly everyone else who commented had a kind word for me.

I started making videos answering people’s questions about Pilates, and I started sharing mat exercises that people could do on their own time. I posted a video about being single and independent that hit a million views within a matter of hours, and someone commented that I didn’t look happy for being single and alone. I made a response video saying that I’d tried to be happy alone, and that I’d been single for so long that I’d just accepted being alone, and that video hit nine million views in ten seconds flat.

Weeks of horrendous bullying started, where it felt like people were competing to leave me the meanest comments to see which ones I would respond to. I woke up every day to thousands of comments calling me fat and ugly, telling me that I didn’t meet the beauty standard, and that they would never go to my Pilates class because I didn’t look the way an instructor ‘should’ look – slim, attractive, or strong.

The only reason I continued to show up on TikTok was that there were some people who were doing my PIlates exercises, and telling me that, because of my visibility as a person with a disability, they believed that they could do Pilates. They’d found adaptive exercise because of me. Those were the people who I continued to show up to serve. I’ve received comments recently from members of the LGBT community who have told me that my content is their safe space. A fitness trainer said that my content helped them feel confident, as a trans person, to work as a trainer and show up in the wellness space. That helped give me the strength to handle all the hate I receive.

It also showed me that the platform I have managed to build in a short period of time is so much bigger than me and my work as a Pilates instructor. It’s about holding space for so many people – BIPOC and LGBT clients, curvy clients and clients who are chronically ill – who don’t feel welcome or safe in other fitness or wellness spaces. I want to be that safety blanket for people to feel comfortable and welcome.

When I tell people about the bullying I have been through, they often burst into tears. They ask me if it’s worth it to keep creating, especially when I am an unproblematic creator, and all I have ever wanted to do was help people through providing adaptive Pilates. I always try to put them at ease by telling them about all the kind people who have come to my defense, including some huge TikTok stars, like Ophelia Nichols, Justin Nunley, Jessica Kent, and Dylan Mulvaney.

One month ago, I had 97k followers on TikTok. Today, I have over one million. I would like to keep the focus of my TikTok mostly on Pilates, which is why I’ve been answering frequently asked questions and sharing easy exercises, but I am very grateful to have found so many people who support and appreciate me. Every day, amid the bullying and meanness, at least one person tells me that, because of me, they have signed up for Pilates classes and believe that they can do it.

That was my mission right from the jump – on 4 June 2019, the day I decided to leave publishing to teach Pilates, I wanted to work with people who didn’t think they could do Pilates and show them that it was possible and within their capability. It took going viral for responding to a hate comment to get there, but I did it.

If you aren’t already, follow me on TikTok to be part of a safe and supportive community, and you can also book a 1:1 consultation or class with me here.

November 14, 2022

I regularly hop on TikTok live and answer questions about Pilates. People often ask me the same things – can Pilates help scoliosis, menstrual cramps, knee pain, ankle issues, sports injuries, and back pain? The answer to all of these things is yes. I have many YouTube videos for pregnancy, shoulder pain, back pain, and sore hips, simply because I’ve had these questions over and over and over again.

People also frequently ask if Pilates will help them with weight loss, and I tell them that it doesn’t. You need to complement Pilates with cardio in order to lose weight, and you also need to balance your hormones, manage your stress, get enough sleep, and drink lots of water. Someone asked me a question recently that really hit me deep in the heart – they said that they’d lost weight all over but that their thighs weren’t as thin as they wanted them to be. They wanted to know if Pilates would make their thighs smaller.

It really hurt me to know that this person had lost weight but was still focusing on the last ‘problem area’ of their body, as though they needed to lose that particular weight in order to be healthy, accomplished, acceptable, or happy. I told them that, even if they do lose that weight, if they maintain that mentality that there’s always something to be ‘fixed’ about themselves, the list will never end. Even if they get their thighs to the size they want, they’ll eventually go back to nitpicking the smallest things about their body and look at their body as something to be addressed or fixed.

Your body is not a problem to be fixed. If you’re always thinking about the next issue you have to fix – your breasts, your stomach, your arms and legs, your chin – you will always eventually find something. Your body works so hard for you, every second of every day, to keep you alive. Your body fights off infection, heals your wounds, and protects you as best it can. Your body has never given up on you, even in the face of neglect and punishment that you might put it through. It’s not a problem to be fixed.

The best way to approach exercise is to consider your mental health first. Work out from a place of empowerment, doing it because it feels good and keeps you healthy. When you work out to feel well and healthy, everything else flows naturally from there. When you’ve had a bad day, go for a walk. When you’re stressed after work, put on a YouTube dance workout and get your heart rate up. When you wake up feeling grumpy, do twenty minutes of yoga. If you want to make plans with friends, join them to go for a sun, play soccer, walk your dogs, or have a beach day.

When you look at exercise as something you do to feel better, rather than something you do to ‘fix yourself’ you will not only get better results, you will improve your relationship to your body and your relationship with yourself.

Exercise is not punishment for your diet, size, or appearance. It’s a celebration of what your body can do. It’s as nourishing as a good meal. When you use exercise to feel well rather than to berate yourself for a ‘flaw’ that you believe you have, it becomes something you look forward to and something that you do just because you enjoy it. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard, painful, punitive, or exhausting. It can be fun, comfortable, and easy. You’ll get better
results when you consider it joyful and celebratory.

September 26, 2022

I recently posted a Reel on Instagram that I’d filmed over a year before. It was a tip on how to help prevent clients from leaning over too much while doing Front Rowing. It was meant for other Pilates instructors. I was at my heaviest weight at the time, but I was actually the healthiest and strongest I had ever been, and I did at least an hour of Pilates every day.

The only person who commented said, ‘Right, because I’m definitely going to take advice off of a woman who clearly looks like they go to the gym a lot.’ They meant it sarcastically because, at the time, I was heavier than I currently am. I get these kinds of comments on TikTok every day now – people tell me that they wouldn’t take a Pilates class from me because I’m chubbier than they’d like. I don’t look the way they think a Pilates instructor should look. They want their instructor to be slim or look strong and shredded. I understand that, and I know that I’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea.

There are some people who actually like me for the same reason that some people dislike me. I don’t look like a ‘typical’ Pilates teacher, and they tell me that they feel comfortable with me because of it. They’d be too intimidated to work with an instructor who was slimmer than me or seemed to be healthier than me.

The truth is that weight and appearance are not the only indicators of health. In the video that I posted on Instagram, I’d put on weight because of birth control, but I was actually more flexible, strong, balanced, and physically capable than I had ever been. Could younger skinnier Norah do any of the Pilates that I was capable of doing in that video? Not a chance.

The other day, I had a meeting with a new client who had just stopped working with an instructor who was slim and strong. That instructor refused to accommodate the client’s disability. That’s why she found me – because I specialize in disability, and I am known for teaching adaptive classes and providing lots of modifications for clients who need them. The instructor who looks the best isn’t always the most knowledgeable, compassionate, flexible, understanding, or helpful.

The thinnest girl in your Pilates class might not always be the healthiest girl. I have taught so many curvy clients who are strong, healthy, capable, and dedicated to their well-being. Some of my curvier clients can do Pilates exercises that I can’t do, and are actually stronger than me. To judge someone’s health based only on their appearance is incredibly judgemental, narrow-minded and, frankly, stupid.

In the last decade, I have been every size between 109 and 170 pounds, and I was just as miserable at 115 pounds as I was at 150 pounds. Losing weight won’t necessarily make you any happier, more confident, more successful, more capable. It has no correlation to your worth.

I think we have to shift perspective and work out for our mental health first. Exercise because it makes you feel good, because it helps with depression and anxiety. It can improve both your energy levels and the quality of your sleep. When you prioritize your mental health and the fact that exercise simply makes you feel good, you can stop worrying about other things that aren’t really that important.

That slim girl in your class has problems and insecurities you know nothing about. Thinness and attractiveness don’t inoculate us against heartbreak, rejection, sadness, loss, grief, or unhappiness. We have to stop looking at aesthetics as the goal for exercise and instead focus on holistic wellness and happiness.

September 1, 2022

There’s a current trend on TikTok with professionals sharing how they’ve made changes to their lives as a result of their work. I hopped on the trend, and I thought I would further elaborate here, especially since I still see clients doing all of the things that I used to do and don’t do anymore.

Use weight that’s too heavy for me

You know how you see people at the gym using really heavy weights? They’re pushing themselves as hard as they can. They might not be using the right muscles to lift the weights, and this can lead to injury because other muscles have to kick in to compensate. Find and use weight that’s appropriate for your body, and increase it incrementally as you grow stronger. So many people come into Pilates because they’ve injured themselves at the gym by using equipment that
their body can’t handle. Forget about bragging to your friends that you can bench weight that’s much too hard for you. It’s better to start with manageable weights and make progress than rehabbing an injury you could have prevented.

Bash other forms of exercise

At the beginning of my Pilates teaching, I used to bash yoga and other forms of exercise. After working with a client who regularly biked and was getting good results from it, I realized that snarking about other exercises was rude and alienating, and that I’d been parroting another teacher who was known to put down all kinds of exercise. If my clients are happy doing yoga, walking, cycling, swimming, or running, I use Pilates to complement the work that they’re doing. I recently designed a class for a client who loves to paddle board; I’ve taught professional football players, and many of my regular clients love to golf. Pilates actually helps to make your sports game better, so there’s no point in bashing anything that isn’t Pilates.

Only focus on calories and weight loss

I spent years in the pool and at the gym putting myself through punishing workout routines in my late teens and early twenties. I exhausted myself by only focusing on the numbers on the scale rather than things like my mental health, my energy levels, my sleep, and my happiness. I learned from personal trainer Joe Wicks to work out for my mental health first, and to do things that make me feel good and happy. When you work out because it makes you feel healthy and it makes your life easier, it’s so much easier to be consistent. If a client comes to me with weight loss goals, I will say to them right away, ‘You’re beautiful. Let’s just establish that now.’ Pilates isn’t for weight loss anyway. It’s for injury rehab. If you only focus on weight loss, you’re ignoring your actual health.

Push myself to the point of pain

‘No pain no gain’ is a load of crap. We remember it because it rhymes, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. I see clients every day of the week who use Pilates to manage their pain. The last thing I want to do is cause them more of it. Clients are always surprised that Pilates doesn’t hurt, and that they finish class with more energy than when they started. They expect to be hurting and wiped out, but they feel better. I always tell people to stop if an exercise hurts, and to tell me if they’re in pain. Then, we adjust what we’re doing to make the exercise more comfortable, or we move on to a different series. Pain doesn’t mean that a workout is ‘working’ – it’s your body telling you to stop.

Forget to have fun

I started Pilates in the first place because I don’t like the gym. I spent too much time at the gym comparing myself to other women, especially women who were thinner or more attractive than me. I made Pilates a part of my lifestyle because it was comfortable and fun, and I looked forward to my classes. I became an instructor because I love helping clients feel better. ‘I had so much fun,’ is feedback that I hear often, and the best compliment. If you can’t have fun while you’re exercising, then what’s the point? I was never able to stick with exercise when it just felt like work, and now I look forward to my Pilates classes.

August 15, 2022

I’ve lived in Victoria BC for nearly eight months and I’ve been focused on work. I recently decided to take up yoga again to make new friends. I signed up for vinyasa because I like the flow of movement and the comfortable heat – it’s not overbearing. Three classes in, my old back pain flared again. I understood then why, pre-Covid, Pilates teachers spent the most time treating yoga injuries, and why my osteopath had once said to me, ‘I did Pilates so that I could do yoga again.’ I adore yoga and there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the work, but applying the principles of Pilates can help keep you injury free as you flow through your sequences.

Engage and activate your muscles before you stretch or lift your body

Ever notice how, even in Pilates class, pain can shoot straight into your hamstring when you lift your glutes, or into your back when you bring your legs into tabletop? That’s because you haven’t switched on the bigger muscles in your bum and your abs, and your back and hamstrings are compensating. Before you lift your leg to the sky in downward dog, recruit your glutes. Before you lift your chest up in cobra, switch your abs on. These are the muscles you’re meant to use for more challenging exercises, and then smaller muscles, which are meant to stabilize you rather than mobilize you, don’t have to overcompensate for bigger ones.

The other day, my yoga teacher said when we lifted and stretched our legs, ‘You can feel your glutes kicking in.’ The glutes should be what kick in first before the leg is lifted. Always recruit the bigger muscles as you prepare to stretch or move, and keep your muscles engaged as you transition from one exercise to the next.

Keep your abs engaged as you lift your arms and open your chest

I can spot a yoga instructor at fifty paces because many of them have loads of tattoos and their ribcages often pop a little. This can happen when they stretch into poses like warrior without keeping their abs engaged. Keeping your abs on can move your ribcage into a more neutral position, which helps to protect your spine and back.

Prioritize strength, then work on flexibility

We all want to be able to be that person on Instagram or TikTok flipping into ridiculous poses but strength needs to come before flexibility and balance. Slowly and incrementally work on poses that make you stronger, and then progress to working on sequences for flexibility. Flexibility without groundedness can lead to injury. Why do you think so many people who have overly flexible bodies can often injure themselves? They haven’t worked on strength and stability.

Ditch the shame

One of my Pilates teachers told me that he trains yoga teachers who don’t want anyone to know about their back pain or the fact that they use Pilates to feel better. They heal that back pain by learning how to engage their muscles, strengthen their glutes and abs, reposition their rib cages, and protect their spines.

There is no shame in complementing yoga with Pilates. I have no issues telling people that, as a Pilates teacher, I do yoga. Cross-training and working with other modalities doesn’t just keep you healthy, it makes your life more interesting. I started yoga because I wanted more fun in my life, to make new friends, and to have activities and interests outside of working all the time. When I lived in Toronto several years ago and was still working in book publishing, the only way I was able to make friends was to go to yoga every day.

You can do online Pilates classes on the mat or join a group reformer class twice a week. A minimum of two classes a week is best for getting results and maintaining them. You’ll make your body stronger, improve your yoga practice, and you might make some new friends because you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people. Book a free consultation call with me today to receive a customized Pilates class that meets your needs:

June 1, 2022

Do You Have To Be In Shape To Start Pilates?

Let me think.

Erm – no.

Twenty years ago, Pilates was geared toward the fitness community and attracted people who were already in shape and wanted tough classes. Now, physiotherapists, doctors, and chiropractors send their patients to Pilates following surgery or an accident. The perspective has shifted more toward the rehabilitative nature of the work.

My first client who ever came in regularly, Amanda, did classes because she had knee pain from running. Four weeks into our work together, she came in and said she had her first pain-free run. I cried because I was so happy.

The whole reason that I started Pilates was that I wasn’t in shape. I hated going to the gym. I never felt pretty enough to be at the gym and just spent all of my time there comparing myself to other women who were prettier than me. I also didn’t see any results from the gym. I’d spent years in the gym on the elliptical, doing weights, working with trainers, and I’d never seen or felt any difference in my body. Why would I do something where I felt no result and I just spent my time wishing I were as pretty as the girl on the treadmill in her Lululemon shorts?

My massage therapist told me that having regular massages was a waste of money if I didn’t exercise regularly. There happened to be a Pilates studio right down the street from her clinic. After that treatment, I walked in the door of the Pilates studio and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been a student of Pilates for nearly fourteen years and an instructor for nearly three years.

I was very out of shape when I started Pilates. I had poor balance, weak abs, no glute strength, a very exaggerated curve in my back, and an obvious limp. At that time, I wasn’t in pain, but I was certainly weak and needed help with my posture and balance. I took to Pilates very quickly. One year of Pilates did more for me than thirteen years of pediatric physiotherapy. My pelvis untwisted, my limp diminished, and my posture became better than it had ever been. It wasn’t until I started my instructor training that I finally developed glute and ab muscles and I improved my balance a hundred fold, but Pilates definitely got me into better shape than I had been in before.

I specialize in these kinds of classes because I want to help people who are in the same place now that I was when I started. I have helped so many people who are out of shape and just recovering from an injury or an accident. In the last three years, there have been countless clients who used to believe what I did: that Pilates was just for dancers or gymnasts, for people who were already flexible. I’ve shown them that you don’t have to be flexible to do Pilates, and that the work is adaptable to their needs on any given day.

Kathleen was hesitant to try Pilates because she was out of shape and self-conscious about her body. It took me months to convince her to try classes with me. When I finally got her to come in for private classes on the reformer, where it was just her and me, within three classes she was sailing easily through the work and saying to me, ‘This is fun.’ Now, she does Pilates several times a week. She’s not only much stronger and in much less pain – she’s far more confident than she used to be.

At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, I started teaching online mat Pilates classes on Zoom. I taught a daily class for my mum, sister, aunties, and cousins. They initially joined for the social aspect, so that we’d get to see each other every day, and they were all surprised when the classes helped them feel better. My mum was able to manage pain in her hips and knees, something that had been difficult for her for years following a bike accident. My auntie’s back and hip pain got better. Most people who are skeptical about Pilates, myself included, are proven wrong pretty quickly when they feel a difference in their bodies that other exercise hasn’t provided.

If you want to progress in Pilates, it’s great to complement the work with weight training, running, swimming, or boxing. The one thing that Pilates doesn’t provide is cardiovascular exercise, and you don’t burn a lot of calories. Intermediate and advanced Pilates classes do demand that you have more strength, so weight training and TRX classes are some of the best things you can do to make your practice better. But you don’t have to be in shape to start Pilates classes.

May 26, 2022

Yesterday, I had a chat with someone who has rheumatoid arthritis who was interested in becoming a Pilates instructor. I told her that she definitely should, especially since arthritis is something Pilates teachers see in clinics all the time. I started my Pilates instructor training nearly three years ago. Right from the jump, I heard things like, ‘I would like to teach Pilates, but . . .’ and I still hear that today. One of my favourite YouTubers recently retrained to be a yoga teacher, something she’d wanted to do for years, but she felt held back by her lack of strength and flexibility. I told her that those things would make her a compassionate and thoughtful teacher because she’d be able to help others who held the same limiting beliefs. What you perceive as a deficit can actually help other people relate to you and feel comfortable with you.

Why do we all follow Elyse Myers on TikTok and adore her? She tells stories we can all relate to. Why did her video of her messing up LIzzo’s ‘About Damn Time’ dance get more views and engagement than her video of her actually doing the dance? Because everyone who did that dance must have messed up at least once, and Elyse put that out there and expressed what most of us were feeling.

If you want to be a Pilates teacher, your greatest strength can come from what you consider your weakness: inflexibility or inexperience. Everyone who teaches Pilates had to start from somewhere; everyone who comes from a background of dance or physiotherapy started from zero at one point or another, and they worked hard to learn everything that they know. Teaching Pilates involved continuous learning – taking workshops and classes and courses. That’s one of the best things about the job: there’s always more to learn, and you can push yourself to
add new work to your repertoire and help your clients.

This is what I would go back and tell my younger self when I was just starting out as an instructor:

Find the instructor training course that is best-recognized in the city where you plan to work.

Many studios prefer one course over another. Figure out the best-recognized course wherever it is that you want to work, and do that course. It can save you a massive headache because many studios are quite particular about the training they’d prefer their instructors have. Do as many workshops and classes as possible that add more to your repertoire, like a prenatal course or a course on fascial stretching.

Get a business partner.

The hardest part of being a teacher, by far, is running a business. If you decide to work as a self-employed instructor, find a business mentor who will help you market yourself. Have them make connections to other industry professionals, like physiotherapists and massage therapists and chiropractors, who can help you build your business.

Don’t rely on social media.

I worked really hard at Instagram for nearly three years. How many clients did I get from it? Seven. In three years. Five of them were pregnant women whom I approached first and asked them if they wanted prenatal classes. Email marketing, business to business referrals, and word of mouth recommendations are far better than using social media, especially since Instagram is now an ecommerce platform that caters to product-based businesses rather than people selling services.

Representation matters.

We need instructors who represent the kind of clients we want to serve. We need people of colour, people of size, people with disabilities and chronic pain, and members of the LGBT community working as instructors. What differentiates you from other instructors is what will get clients in the door and keep them coming back. The elitism in the industry can be staggering at times, and the best way to dismantle that is through meaningful representation.

You don’t have to be able to do every exercise.

I had an instructor tell me that, when he was training to teach Pilates, of the thirty other people who were training with him, only he and one other person could do every exercise. There’s a difference between being able to do exercises and being able to teach them. I struggle with exercises like Shirt Spine, Shoulder Bridge, Hip Lift, and Swan Dive, but I can still teach them. Not being able to do an exercise also means you can learn ways to adapt it, with props and modifications, and that helps you to help a broader range of clients.

Teach your clients how to change their own springs and equipment.

The instructor I spoke to yesterday was concerned about her arthritis affecting her ability to handle the equipment. I have a somewhat similar issue because I have weak grip strength. I told her that I teach clients how to adapt and change the equipment, and that this keeps classes going at a reasonable pace. Having to change everyone’s equipment takes up too much time.

Keep doing your own Pilates classes.

Walk the talk as a teacher. Make time for your own classes. My instructor training – the concentrated hours of Pilates – is what healed over a decade of chronic back pain. I finally developed strength in my abs and glutes. In the last few months, the pain has returned. As soon as I felt the familiar twinge in my back, I immediately knew that I hadn’t been doing enough to keep my abs and glutes strong, even though I’d been walking a lot more than usual. Keep doing your own Pilates classes and trying new things so that you can share them with others.

May 1, 2022

How does Pilates help your mental health?

Great question – I would love to tell you.

I’m so glad you asked.

Exercise of any kind is as beneficial for our mental health as it is for our physical health. In fact, you can get more out of exercise if you approach it from the perspective of mental wellbeing rather than something like weight loss. Why do so many people fail at diets and gain back weight they’ve lost? Because they approached these plans from angles of restriction, punishment, negativity, and conditional acceptance. They believe that, once the weight is gone, they’ll be happier, more successful, more worthy. It doesn’t work like that, and those kinds of intentions aren’t sustainable long-term. Long term success with exercise routines comes from a place of respect for your body and from prioritizing your mental health.

If you come into Pilates with aesthetic goals, like a flatter stomach, a more toned bum, or slimmer arms, I will stop you mid-sentence and say, ‘You’re beautiful. Let’s just establish that now.’ I will encourage you to work out because it makes you feel good, not because you want to look different. Things like weight loss and changes in your body are more likely to happen when the first thing you do exercise for is your wellness, not your size.

I’ve been able to stick with Pilates longer than I have any other form of exercise because it makes me feel good. I can come into Pilates feeling sore and grumpy and tired, and I always leave feeling calmer and more relaxed. I struggled through years and years of failing at gym sessions and personal training because my primary goal was to change the way that I looked. Once I focused on exercising for the way it made me feel, especially when it helped me to manage pain, that’s when I was able to be consistent.

It helps you stay centered and calm

The most basic principle of Pilates is breathing. The breath that we teach you to use when exercising helps you to relax and forget about everything else going on in your life. It grounds you in the present moment, and gets you out of your head and into your body. One of the most common things people say to me is, ‘You’re very calm and patient.’ I want you to feel as relaxed as possible, and to work with your body rather than fighting against it. It always comes back to the breath.

It relieves stress and pain

Pilates teacher training helped me heal ten years of chronic back pain. Lots of people, myself included, start Pilates when they’re at the end of their wits, when other things haven’t helped chronic conditions, soreness and fatigue. Pilates is one of the best modalities for pain management and, once you’ve healed an injury, consistent Pilates can help you prevent other injuries from happening

It doesn’t wipe you out

Many of my clients, especially those who have fibromyalgia or who are pregnant, often assume that Pilates will tire them out. I understand this because fibromyalgia and pregnancy can often mean you can be tired after doing the laundry. These clients are always surprised that Pilates boosts their energy, and that they finish class feeling brighter rather than depleted. I understand that some people prefer tougher workouts that tire them out – I used to swim in order to exhaust myself so I could sleep – but Pilates doesn’t contribute to fatigue or exhaustion.

It’s fun and social

A huge part of the appeal of Pilates is the relationships you build – the closeness you can have with your instructor and with other clients in the studio. Several clients who come to class on the same day at the same time become good friends, and there’s a really fun aspect to catching up with the people you see regularly. Several of my clients come to group classes because they get to socialize with friends, and I love making everyone laugh as we work out together. You can take Pilates seriously without taking yourself too seriously.

Something that’s relaxing, relieves pain, and connects you with others will hugely benefit your mental health. Exercise out of love and respect for your body and mind. That’s the only way that you’ll ever see real results that you can sustain.

March 31, 2022

Yes, I did go to Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever show in Vancouver, injured ankle and sore knee and all. My very generous dad was able to swap my inaccessible ticket for a ground-floor ticket that was safe for me. I don’t use a wheelchair or a mobility aid but, because of my disability, venues like a concert arena are inaccessible to me. Issues with balance at a show can affect people with blood pressure concerns, vertigo, visual impairments, injuries, and disabilities.

I danced my butt off to Oxytocin and Bad Guy. I thought that my ankle injury might bother me, but my knee bothered me more. While I was working to heal my ankle, my knee started hurting, and my back did too. In the days leading up to the show, I was managing all three in terms of pain and stiffness. My knee acted up the most during the show, most likely from dancing a lot. There were a couple of points where I had to sit down. The best part of the show was that I was on the ground level and didn’t have to worry about my balance. It was just like I was dancing at a party or a club. I was in a seat just behind the mosh pit, and I actually touched Billie’s shoulder as she ran by during Not My Responsibility.

The funny thing is that this show just made me want to see her again. I wanted to travel to Seattle and see her next two shows. I just want to have that experience over and over again. It was so much fun. She was in good spirits, seemed really happy to be there, and wanted us to all have a good time. She finished the show wearing a Canadian flag, which was really sweet. I thought I would cry my eyes out during Everything I Wanted, but I mostly screamed and cheered with happiness at all of my favourite songs.

I am so thankful that I was able to go to the concert and that I had disability help. I booked it on the day, three hours before the show. I went to the box office, explained my situation, and had someone assigned to me to help make sure that I was safe. If I had to do it again, this is what I would do differently.

Ask about disability accommodation before you buy your ticket

As soon as a show is announced, before the tickets go on sale, contact the venue and explain your need for disability accommodations. I want to go see Billie in London at the O2, and the first thing I did after coming back from the Vancouver show was contact the O2 to ask for accessibility help. They have a specific channel to help make these accommodations. If you need them, use them.

Visit the venue days before the show and look at your seat to make sure it’s accessible

Pick a day where there are no events at the venue and visit it. Look at your seat and, if possible, sit in it or stand up from the seat. If it isn’t accessible for you, make that known then and either book disability help to make it accessible or see if you can get another ticket. On the day of the show, no one was allowed in before the doors opened for general admission. I wish I had gone and looked at the seat the day before because it would have calmed my nerves immensely.

Use the bathroom before you arrive

The stairs to and from the bathroom in the venue were all the way up stairs that had no railing or support. The person who’;d been assigned to help me helped me out of the arena and to the elevator so that I wouldn’t have to use those stairs. I needed disability help to the toilet more than I needed for the show. If you need the bathroom, use it before you go to the venue, as soon as you get there, or during the opening act.

Ask for the help you need

As a person with a disability, I constantly feel guilty for needing help. I am constantly apologizing when I need help. People close to me have said recently, ‘Stop apologizing or I won’t help you anymore.’ Most of the time, people won’t mind helping you. Stop apologizing for taking up space in the world. Ask for the help you need and don’t feel guilty about it.

March 21, 2022

I had chronic low back pain for ten years. It resolved two years ago, when I started training to be a Pilates teacher, because I was doing hours and hours of Pilates every day, and building strength in my muscles that I’d never had before. Now, because I’ve had to take time off from exercising because of my ankle injury, the pain has flared again. This is a clear sign to me that I haven’t been exercising enough and I need to find a way to get back on track as my ankle heals. Just the way you can forget a language you’ve learned when you don’t use it enough, when you aren’t consistent with exercise, old pain and previous injuries can resurface.

This time, I know what to do. I use the same prescription for clients every day, as low back pain is one of the most common issues I treat as a Pilates teacher.

For years and years, before I started my teacher training, other health professionals had different explanations as to why my back hurt: one of my legs was shorter than the other (this is true) and my pelvis was torqued a certain way. The actual issue was that, because I had weak obliques and glutes, my back was taking all the responsibility that my abs and bum should have been taking. The pain vanished instantaneously once I learned to properly engage my obliques and my glutes, and I gave my back a reprieve from stabilizing my whole body. The strength in my abs and bum also drastically improved my balance, coordination, reflexes, and body awareness. I can actually catch myself if I stumble or slip.

If you have low back pain, use Pilates to strengthen your abs (not to be confused with core), hips, and bum. Place a support under your back, whether it’s a thin pad or a larger prop, so that you leave your back out of the equation and strengthen the muscles that are meant to help you balance and stabilize your body. When you have weak muscles, other muscles that are not meant to work will compensate. That’s why you see so many people at the gym injure themselves when they use weights that are too heavy for them. The muscles they want to work can’t handle the load, so different muscles step in to support the weight.

My least-favourite Pilates exercise is The Hundred, which is one of the best exercises for abs. The reason I hated it (and I still don’t like it, even though my abs are better) is that I always felt it all in my neck and couldn’t breathe my way through it. Because I had no abs, my neck took the brunt of the exercise. Now, it doesn’t hurt as much (though I still find it a pain in the ass), and I have enough ab strength that I can actually see my ab definition when I look in the mirror.

Here are three ways you can build those ab, hip, and glute muscles to resolve back pain:

Use props

When you do mat work, which builds your strength fast, use a prop. If you struggle to engage your abs or to get enough forward flexion, a prop like a barrel or an edge will support you. It’s not cheating. It helps your body relax so that you aren’t tensioning the wrong muscles. Eventually, when you’re strong enough, you might not need the prop anymore, or you might be able to use a smaller prop.

Do mat Pilates

When lockdown first happened in March 2020, I pivoted to online classes and taught at least three mat Pilates classes a day. I had to do the exercises with everyone else in order to demonstrate them, and it made my abs and bum tighter and stronger right away. I also used a prop, the Merrithew Edge, and I wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate exercises like Scissors if I hadn’t had the prop.

Take the stairs

Taking the stairs is one of the simplest habits to build into your daily routine, and it’s good for your muscles and your endurance. Stairs are my biggest indicator that I’m out of shape: if I feel winded doing the stairs, I know I need more cardio. Then, when I commit to taking the stairs regularly, I notice a difference in my ability to handle them.

Back pain can be discouraging and frustrating, but regular Pilates can help build muscle, use the muscles correctly, and manage pain.