Fitness Archives - Norah Myers

June 1, 2022
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.


March 18, 2022
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We’ve all said some variation of, ‘I don’t have the time to exercise.’ I used to work for a book publisher and was at the desk ten to twelve hours a day. My colleagues made the time to fit in a run or a walk, but I used the excuse, ‘I don’t have the time to work out.’ I walked ten minutes to and from work every day, and I lived at the top floor of a building that had no elevator, so I lost weight because I took the stairs, but that didn’t mean I was healthy. My sleep was always awful, I was chronically stressed and exhausted, and I was deeply depressed. If I had made more time for exercise, I think it would have helped my mental health and overall wellbeing a lot more.

I left my publishing career in 2019 and became a Pilates instructor, and I made the time to exercise every day. I had to walk the talk as an instructor, and I wanted to be as strong and as healthy as possible, to be able to do my job well. When I told people that I was a Pilates teacher, I heard the same response over and over again. ‘I would do that but I don’t have the time.’ I used to say that constantly when I wasn’t working in the wellness industry. I wish I had made the time to work out, even if only a couple of days a week. Other people who were just as busy as I was – if not more – made time for exercise.

If you don’t make the time to look after yourself, eventually, you’ll have to make the time to manage pain, stiffness, soreness, and injury. If you build in wellness habits now, you can prevent discomfort and pain down the line. Do you ever see Marie Forleo or Michelle Obama skip a workout? When you see it as something that nourishes you mentally, physically, and spiritually, it’s not drudgery anymore.

How do you make time for exercise and self-care when you’re really busy?

Find exercise you enjoy

I used to drag my butt to the gym because I hated the way I looked. I couldn’t stand my stomach and thighs. The gym made those feelings worse because all I saw there were women who were more attractive than I was, in nicer clothes, with far better bodies. I pushed myself through hours on the elliptical machine and in the pool, hated every minute of it, and left my sessions exhausted and depleted. I never felt better. When I started doing Pilates and yoga, I loved them and looked forward to them, and felt better after. Find exercise that you look forward to and that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be a tough slog in order to be effective.

Start slowly and build gradually

A hairdresser asked me if she should start with three Pilates classes a week. I said stick to one to begin with and then work up from there. It can be tempting to go deep at first dive and jump into an intensive routine, but it’s better to increase gradually than go full tilt and then stop because you feel burnt out. Come in once a week and, once you’ve got the hang of things and are ready to progress, build up to two or three classes a week.

Get a workout buddy

Why do we have personal trainers, yoga teachers, Pilates teachers, running clubs, and workout buddies? To stay accountable. That’s why I have an Apple Watch and why I still take private Pilates classes. Otherwise, it would be too easy for me to say, ‘Oh, I’ll work out tomorrow.’ Your Pilates teacher is human, just like everyone else. Even though we’re in the wellness business, we also have days where we don’t feel like working out. The social aspect of wellness can be just as beneficial for our mental health as the exercise itself, especially since we’ve just entered the third year of a global pandemic. If nothing else, going for a walk with a friend or joining a Pilates class together can be a great social activity. I have several clients who do classes with friends and family members, and it’s their fun time that they spend together.

Location location location

Find a Pilates studio or gym that’s either close to home or close to work. You can go in the morning before work, at lunchtime for an express class, or after work to burn off the stress of the day. When you build your workout routine around places you spend a lot of time in, you stop thinking about it and you just do it, the way you brush your teeth every day. Find a place that’s easy to get to, or buy equipment you can use at home, and make it as much a part of your day as housework or cooking.


March 13, 2022
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Anyone who knows me for all of five minutes knows that I adore Billie Eilish. I only discovered her in June 2019, when I heard Bury A Friend on the radio, and I’ve been in love with her ever since. I spent months of quarantine dancing around to Bad Guy and My Boy in my underwear. I nearly had the lyrics Somebody new is gonna comfort me like you never do, from Bitches Broken Hearts, tattooed on my hip. I lightened my hair several shades after she bleached hers. My family and friends think it’s weird if I can manage to have a conversation without talking about her.

Before the pandemic completely sidelined her 2020 tour, I desperately wanted to get a ticket to see her in Vancouver, but there were no disability-accessible seats available. The same thing happened for this tour. Why did I think it would be any different?

I was selected to buy a ticket to her Vancouver show in the presale, the day before the tickets went on sale to the public. I grabbed the first ticket I could get because I knew that they’d be gone in seconds. I recently found out that the ticket is not disability-accessible. Given both my disability and recent ankle injury, I can’t stand up unassisted for long periods of time, and there is no grab bar or safety rail in front of the seat that I managed to get. All of the specific disability-accessible seats have been taken, understandably. It’s Billie Eilish – she’s been the hottest ticket around for years.

Billie’s shows are notoriously raucous and she’ll have the whole audience on their feet the entire time, dancing and moshing and jumping, just like she always does at her favourite shows. She creates the experience that she’d want to have as a fan. If I stay seated the whole time in the seat that I managed to grab, I’ll only see the show by watching the screen behind her. My only choices now are to find an accessible seat at the very back of the venue or to sell my ticket.

Billie is twenty years old. It’s not like she’ll never tour again. Even if I sell my ticket this time, I’ll likely have the same issue at every show I want to go to. The venue simply isn’t accessible. The same is true of sporting venues, theatres, ballets, and operas. I don’t think I have ever gone to a sporting event and not needed help with the stairs. The design of these kinds of venues has completely ignored and overlooked the needs of people with disabilities and injuries.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I got a ticket to see Ricky Martin as a Christmas gift. I went with a couple of friends, and ran into this exact issue – there was nothing for me to hold onto when standing up, and I don’t have the balance to stand unassisted at a concert venue. Everyone was on their feet from the first count of the first song, and the only way I was able to see the show was that a friend held my hand the whole time while I stood. It made both of us very uncomfortable and I felt useless. I know now that this was my own internalised ableism, and that I should have found a way to get an accessible seat. It’s not a bad thing to need help or to ask for it, but I was a teenager, and I hated knowing that my disability was an inconvenience to someone else.

What would I do differently if I could go back to May 2021, days before I ordered my Billie Eilish ticket? I would call Ticketmaster, explain my situation, and ensure that I could get a disability-accessible seat. I was just so desperate to get any ticket at all, at that point in time, that I didn’t stop to consider that I might not be able to use it.

What would you do in this kind of situation?


March 9, 2022
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I know this because it happened to me.

I’m the one who constantly shouts, ‘Get your exercise in every day. Don’t be lazy,’ and now I have to stay off my ankle while it heals because I overdid it. I’m from Winnipeg, where it’s snowy and cold from October until sometimes April, so I don’t walk a lot at home. I Uber to Pilates and exercise there, or I do mat Pilates in my apartment. One of the things that excited me the most about moving to British Columbia was the opportunity to walk more because I wouldn’t be contending with -30.

Up until recently, I lived about thirty minutes’ walk from work. I walked to and from the studio nearly every day, which amounted to just over an hour of walking after spending months hardly walking at all.

I strained muscles and ligaments in my right shin and ankle because of the pressure I was exerting on my body, especially since my right side is stronger and does most of the work. I’d heard about this kind of injury from people who run, and have treated clients’ ankle injuries, but I never thought I could sustain this sort of injury from walking and trying to do something that would keep me healthy.

My physiotherapist forbade me from walking to and from work for two weeks, at a time when it hurt to put even the tiniest bit of pressure on my leg. I’d feel fine first thing in the morning when I woke up, but my ankle would ache within seconds of putting my feet on the floor. I had to take cabs and rely on rides from family because I couldn’t walk anywhere without my ankle yelling at me.

I took painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication. The physio massaged, stretched, and taped my ankle. She prescribed exactly the exercises that I would give to clients who have ankle pain or injuries: medial footwork and running on the reformer, both of which work the calves and ankles. This caused me a huge amount of discomfort, and my Pilates instructor told me that I couldn’t always exercise my way out of an injury and needed to rest.

I’ve spent the past few weeks staying off my ankle as much as possible, and stopping to rest when my ankle hurts. There are many days when I’ve wanted to do Pilates or even walk to the grocery store, but I’ve stopped because of my ankle. I haven’t been able to go for walks with my family or join in on bike rides, and taking three flights of stairs hurts. If I push myself, it’ll only make it worse.

Does this mean that I’m not a good Pilates instructor?

No.

Does this mean that I’m a bad person for not exercising?

No.

It just means that I have to listen to my body, let myself heal, and adapt my routine.

Yesterday, a Pilates client said to my manager that she has a habit of overdoing new exercises right from the jump. That can lead to burnout, resentment, and injury. It’s better to ease into a routine and then gradually build it. Start with one Pilates class a week and ten minutes of walking a day, and then progress to two classes a week. Better to establish a routine that you can maintain than deep dive and then pull back because you’ve hurt or exhausted yourself.

How many of us break our resolutions every January? Most of us, because we set goals that are too high and have unrealistic expectations. Set manageable goals for yourself, and don’t berate yourself if you can’t reach them – simply adjust them.


March 9, 2022
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What was the thing that held me back from first trying Pilates when my doctor recommended it?

Fear that I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t flexible.

My doctor Karen specialized in treating cerebral palsy, and inflexibility is something that most people who have it struggle with. I realize now, after all this time, that she recommended I do it because she believed that I could do it and that it would help me.

She wasn’t wrong.

She recommended it to me in November 2007, and I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t that for people who are already flexible? There’s no way I would be able to do that.’ I didn’t try it until nearly a year later. My massage therapist told me that getting massages was a waste of money if I didn’t go to the gym. I didn’t like the gym, and I was awful at sports like basketball and tennis, and swimming often exhausted me. There happened to be a Pilates studio right up the road from the massage therapy clinic, and I went there and never looked back.

I realized right away that Pilates could be adapted for my disability, and that it was the thing that would help me become more flexible. I am more flexible now, since I trained to be a Pilates instructor, than I have ever been in my life. Flexibility isn’t required to start Pilates classes. Pilates is what makes you more flexible, especially when you do it regularly and stay consistent.

I had a client recently enquire about Pilates classes. She was in her early eighties and had chronic pain as the result of a hip fracture. She said she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do what I asked of her. I told her I felt the same before I tried Pilates, and that’s what had held me back from even starting. I knew exactly how she felt, and I know how common this assumption is: that Pilates isn’t doable unless you’re already strong, fit, and flexible.

I specialize in patient, slow, beginner-friendly classes. I love helping people who are just starting out to feel comfortable with Pilates. The whole reason I became a Pilates instructor was to help people who didn’t think they could do Pilates believe that they were capable of it.

Here are three ways Pilates helps you to become more flexible:

Strength

Strength is the foundation of everything. Strength gives you a solid foundation to be able to stretch and improve mobility and flexibility. We get you grounded first with strengthening exercises, and then we progress on to stretches that can help you with flexibility.

Fascial work

Pain and stiffness in your body can come from tightness and dryness in your connective tissue, your body’s structural system. When we do fascial work with props like foam rollers, stability balls, and resistance bands, we hydrate the tissue. This leads to pain relief that’s often quicker than taking a painkiller, and it helps to increase flexibility in the body.

Consistency

How did the ballerina dancing in Romeo and Juliet learn all those jumps? How do gymnasts stick their landings? How do swimmers and high jumpers beat their best times? By practising. A person who makes something look easy has trained and practised for years and years to get to where they are today. They grow when they put the work in, and the same is true for you in your Pilates practice. I didn’t become flexible overnight. It took years of hard work and dedication for me to be where I am now, in my own Pilates practice and in my career as an instructor.

Lots of my clients say to me, ‘You’re so patient.’ Many other instructors have told me the same. I work with you to help you get to where you want to be, whether that takes five weeks, five months, or more than a year. The most important thing to keep in mind with Pilates is that consistency is the only way to make progress and then to maintain it.

I don’t judge you if you come into class and are stiff, inflexible, and in pain, because that’s exactly where I was at the beginning of my practice. I want to help you to get better, feel better, and feel safe and comfortable in your body. When you struggle with exercises, we either break it down into manageable steps or we find another exercise that serves the same purpose but might be more doable. Pilates is infinitely adaptable, which is why it’s so brilliant, and I love coming up with different ways to help you.

I see challenging classes as an opportunity to learn. I learned, very early on in my career, from one of my mentors, that I would learn the most from a difficult class. Don’t be intimidated if you present with injuries, pain, scars, or weakness, or you use mobility aids. The harder the class is for me, the more I learn new ways to help new people, and I am able to stay calm under pressure because I love helping others and learning new ways to problem-solve.

Book a class with me if you struggle with flexibility and I can get you sorted.


March 3, 2022
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What’s my biggest pet peeve as an instructor, aside from when you don’t listen to me?

Great question – I would love to tell you.

It’s when you think you have to do every exercise perfectly and you beat yourself up when you can’t do something.

You don’t come to Pilates to do every exercise perfectly. You come to Pilates because you want to feel better, whether you want to manage pain, rehab an injury, or get some exercise. Perfection is not the point of Pilates, and you shouldn’t leave class feeling worse than when you walked in.

My client finished class by saying, ‘I’m a perfectionist,’ and she’d spent the whole class frustrated and mad at herself when her foam roller slipped a little sideways, when I had to explain things a couple of times, and when she couldn’t get every exercise perfect right away. I understand why she beat herself up, but it’s counterproductive and unnecessary. I don’t judge her, so why should she judge herself?

Here are five ways you can shut out the noise in your head during your Pilates class and stop beating yourself up.

Breathe

It always comes back to the breath, the foundation of Pilates. In through the nose, out through pursed lips like you’re blowing through a straw. Take big breaths and feel your ribcage expanding. Let the breath relax you. Coordinate your breath with your movement. When you focus on what you’re doing at the moment, you can stop the endless hamster wheel that might be telling you you’re not enough or reminding you to pick up curry paste from the grocery store on your way home.

Count

Count the reps as you do them to keep the rhythm and pace going. This helps you to ground yourself back to the movement and stop overthinking. Your Pilates instructor might lose count because she’s doing a correction or modification, and she’ll ask, ‘What count are we on?’ or say something like, ‘Just two more,’ when she isn’t counting at all. Counting fills the space and helps you stay present in class.

Be precise, not persnickety

Pilates is about deliberate movement, but I would prefer to keep the flow of class going rather than be too nitpicky. I get you moving and then we clean up the exercises as we go so that you do the work correctly while still getting a good workout in. Just today, I forgot to cue lifting the ankles in Stomach Massage, so we had to clean up my mistake, but then we laughed and moved on. Don’t dwell on the small mishaps. As long as you’re safe, comfortable, and you haven’t injured yourself, you’re okay.

Take it seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously

My favourite classes are the ones where I get everyone laughing. I love classes that are fun, where we all giggle like imbeciles. Those are the classes I most look forward to and love teaching. That’s why I love my career – I like to make other people happy. If you can’t laugh at yourself in Pilates class, when can you? Take the work seriously, but take a moment to laugh at yourself.

Leave it at the studio

When you’re done for the day, leave any mess-ups at the studio. Take note of what you need to keep in mind for next class. Then, forgive yourself and let it go. I’m the kind of person who holds grudges for a long time, who has a hard time letting go of things, especially in work. I used to spend weeks and months beating myself up over mistakes at my job. Now, as an instructor, I learn from my mistakes and I get on with the next class. If I held on to every screw up, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. I wouldn’t give myself room or permission to learn and grow as an instructor.

Failure is natural, unavoidable, consistent, and useful. It’s the only way that we make progress. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that’s so impossible that you are unable to move forward. Get yourself out of your straightjacket, laugh at your mistakes, and sign up for your next class.