I’ve always tried to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, especially since fitness is my profession. Unfortunately, I’ve recently come to realize that as we age, exercise is not as easy. I hurt more afterwards and take longer to recover; I feel tighter, stiffer, and—most annoyingly—I’m more prone to injuries.
For instance, a few weeks ago I had just started to increase my workouts after recovering from two small injuries, when I went a little overboard while teaching a cardio class. I woke up the following morning and could hardly walk! I had a good idea of what it was, as I’ve heard many people talk about it: plantar fasciitis. All I could do was cry, frustrated at being injured yet again, and concerned that this time it was something as crucial to movement as my feet. I was feeling down and defeated. I was feeling my age!
Rehab with Pilates
After a week of pouting, limping, and impulsively canceling any class that required use of my feet (i.e. ALL of them,) I realized I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and instead use this downtime for good. I wasn’t about to give in to a sedentary life just because of one small set back! So, I set a goal to continue an exercise routine while recovering, and luckily for me, Pilates is great for rehab!
To ensure proper recovery, I started physical therapy, which includes hands-on, manual therapy as well as rehab exercises, such as foam rolling, stretching, and yes… Pilates! Did you know that many physical therapists incorporate Pilates-based exercises into their patients’ recovery programs because of its low-impact nature and adaptability? That’s actually one of the things I love most about Pilates—it offers great modifications no matter what type of injury you are battling.
So with my physical therapist’s approval, I started practicing Pilates again. I focused on my upper body (arms, back, abs, etc.) and with some simple modifications, I was even able to continue to work my legs and hips.
Working Through Injury
The truth is, we will all encounter some type of injury, soreness or pain while exercising, and personally I would prefer getting an injury from a great workout rather than suffering an injury as a result of being stiff and sedentary. We just have to learn to listen to our bodies so we can continue to exercise safely. To stay strong and injury-free, you might need to modify your workout to suit your limits or what your body is telling you that day. That may mean lighter springs on days you’re sore, fewer reps when a flare up is bothering you, or less frequent workouts if you’re just getting back into an exercise routine.
When you do encounter an injury or pain, first and foremost you must find out if it’s okay to continue with your Pilates practice by going to get checked out by your physical therapist or doctor. If you get cleared to continue activity, use this set back as an opportunity to learn and grow! For instance, try using your recovery time to advance your Pilates practice by really focusing on your form, control and stability. You should also inform your instructors of your injury so they can suggest modifications to keep you safe and protected as you continue to advance through recovery.
Stay Pilates Strong
One thought that helped me stay strong after my injury was remembering one of our amazing clients, Shannon, who about 10 months ago broke her foot and would still come to class, hobbling in on her crutches, boot and all. Here’s what Shannon had to say about whey she chose to continue her Pilates practice while injured:
I spent the first couple of weeks [after my injury] on the couch drowning in my feelings of hopelessness and defeat, until I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let something like a little broken bone in my foot hold me down. I decided to give Pilates reformer a try knowing that this would be an excellent way to exercise every portion of my body, while causing the least amount of impact on my broken foot. Despite the injury and awkwardness of being class in a cast/boot, I surprised myself by being able to do most of the regular exercises being taught in the class, and for those exercises that I feared caused too much strain to my foot, I was given easy modifications of the exercise by each instructor. This was awesome! I felt like a whole person again, and I was rejuvenated.
After the first class, I began taking 3-4 reformer classes a week. In the later stages of my recovery when I was finally given the green light by the doctor to begin bearing small amounts of weight, my instructors not only offered modifications, but they also also suggested additional exercises that would help rebuild and strengthen my foot to protect it from any future issues. I continued with Pilates reformer all the way through my injury, and it never once inhibited any portion of my recovery. If you are considering your options for exercise after an injury, Pilates reformer is definitely the ticket!
Remember, Pilates is a lifetime of learning. As you begin to learn more about your individual body mechanics, you must also learn to stay mindful and strong despite those inevitable, pesky injuries, aches and pains. It just so happens that Pilates is a great way to stay in shape (and stay sane!) while recovering. Continuing your practice will keep you on the path to health and wellness, even when you’re injured.
Needless to say, I’m back in classes and feeling stronger every day. I guarantee you, injuries won’t ever get this girl down again! If you are currently battling some injuries, come stay #PilatesStrong with us at ABC Pilates; whether that means taking Restorative Pilates classes during rehab or simply asking your instructors for some modifications, we are here to help you get through it.
To your health,
ABC Pilates Studio Manager & Instructor