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My Journey to a New Perspective….and a Blog!

October 14, 2013

My journey begins with the hundreds of hours needed to become a fully certified Pilates Instructor.

Mr. Pilates, who died in the 1970s, strangely didn’t write much down regarding how his exercises should be performed and why.  He wrote two books, but they covered less than 25% of the entire exercise repertoire.  So, to learn Pilates, you had to learn from a practitioner who also had the information handed down to him or her from an earlier generation.  In some ways, this was awesome.  I felt like I was learning a real trade and part of a very special club.

However, the trade I was learning was very subjective. Much was left open to interpretation and misunderstanding.  It was a Pilates telephone game.

The Pilates Telephone Game

In the early years, when many dancers made up the ranks of Pilates practitioners, it’s a safe bet that any unknowns regarding Mr. Pilates’s intentions were filled with aspects of ballet training. (Years later the gym industry would start their own Pilates telephone game, but that’s a story for another day)  As a former ballet dancer myself, most of Pilates felt very natural to me.  But I also knew what is physically necessary for dancers isn’t necessary or even advisable for the average person. 

Sure, ballet dancers are beautiful creatures when they are in their prime at age 21, but many need hip and knee replacements by age 45.  In addition, moving from practice teaching with my fellow Pilates apprentices (also former dancers) to teaching a non-dancer was a shock.  The Pilates exercises I had been taught seemed too difficult for the average person to attempt safely.  This seemed contrary to what Mr. Pilates clearly expressed in his books.  He meant for his method to be used by the masses, not just elite dancers and athletes.

So, even though modifying the Pilates method isn’t smiled upon in the more dogmatic corners of the Pilates world, I became an expert on how to modify the exercises.  I actually enjoyed coming up with the modifications and helpful props for my client’s safety.  I love the MacGyver in me!

But I still wondered:  Could it be that people just weren’t in as good of shape as they were when Mr. Pilates was alive?  Or, had dancers changed what Mr. Pilates created into something that suited their own ingrained aesthetic and special brand of athleticism?  And, if so, at what point does the dogmatic style of the early Pilates adopters do a disservice to today’s general client?

Adding to my perplexity, I started my teaching career in a boutique health and fitness club where personal trainers outnumbered Pilates instructors.  The trainers had their own vocabulary and a very different take on health and fitness. To better communicate with these co-workers and understand their methods, I decided to obtain my personal training certification. The head trainer recommended I study with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, so I did.

To prepare for this certification, I was given a huge textbook with many exercises and citations of scientific studies.  Unlike Pilates, there seemed to be established science supporting the methods of personal trainers.  However, many of these scientific studies were of athletes and athletic training, and then extrapolated to non-athletes.

Sounds kinds familiar, doesn’t it?  Hmmmmmm

To continue getting different perspectives and hone my teaching skills, I studied with very knowledgeable people from the worlds of anatomical science and physical therapy.  I learned a lot from everyone. However, it was during my studies with the Resistance Training Specialist program that I first felt I was really getting down to the nuts and bolts of exercise.

The RTS program focused on exercise mechanics, and I loved it.  Unbelievably, I already had three different nationally recognized health and fitness certifications, but none of them required I know much about the physics and mechanics of exercise.  In this RTS course, I learned that Newton’s laws of motion ALWAYS applied, no matter what the exercise was called or how fancy it looked. 

Sir Newton says that's risky bro

I learned the importance of objectively analyzing every exercise prior to adding them to a client’s program.  I learned the different ways external forces can be applied to the body to build stronger muscles.  I also learned that applying forces inappropriately can break your client’s body down.

But that was kinda the problem.

You see, I was seeing new clients who already had broken down bodies. Many had degenerative tissues and repetitive stress injuries, yet they were not professional athletes and dancers.  It seemed like people were experiencing these issues from just living their daily lives, and it didn’t matter if they were totally sedentary or if they had been gym rats for years. What I really wanted and needed to understand is the poor mechanics created by the modern lifestyle, and how to address it.

I’ve spent this last year learning exactly that, with the help of Katy Bowman, a Bio-mechanics Scientist.  Instead of focusing purely on the mechanics of exercise performance and athletics, she helped me understand how the movement and mechanics in our daily life affect our alignment and our health.

This new understanding helped me clarify the disparity I’ve felt while working in this industry.  Now I can clearly see that many exercise programs presented in the Health and Fitness world have little to do with true health.  Instead of being healthy AND fit, many gym goers gain some elements of fitness but at the detriment of their health and potential longevity.

My new perspective has inspired me to make a new commitment: writing a blog I’ve coined Wellinea.  I’ll tackle some cultural beliefs and misconceptions, and maybe do some risk /benefit analysis on popular exercises.  I’ll also talk about minding your alignment, the natural movement every human needs, and anything else that pertains to optimizing health and longevity.  I might also indulge in a few photos of my dog, just because he’s super cool.

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8 Comments
  1. Well done, lady!!

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. Writing about “the journey” was a journey itself. Ugh- so cliché, but true!

  2. Excellent, and I so related to that journey! Mine is exactly the same, with the exception of not ever being a dancer. So in Pilates “school” I was the lone person with a normal range of motion surrounded by freaks of nature. But I hope that gave me some insight into what a regular person needs. Looking forward to meeting your dog!

  3. Shannon permalink

    Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Danijela Dragosavljevic permalink

    Great! This is very much of how I felt through my whole University days and later through all of the certifications I’ve done so far…

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