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Nikki's Pilates Journey

‘Hi. Does anyone want to do a Pilates class with me?’ came the text on the street chat.

‘Yeah, I’d like to give it a try’. I replied. ‘Do you know a good studio in the area? If not, I can ring round a couple of places to find out the times and prices of the classes.’

A couple of days later, I texted everyone on the street chat.

‘I called a few places and the best one seems to be Pilates Nation (where Amy used to teach pre-Covid), but they recommend a 1:1 session first for an assessment. That way they will know which class will be the best fit. I’m booked in for my initial session tomorrow.’

I was on top of the world as I had heard how amazing Pilates can be with the right teacher. I was also nervous as normally I would go on a word-of-mouth recommendation and here, I would be meeting someone I had had no feedback about whatsoever.

Tomorrow came.

Amy & I introduced ourselves, and then began the detailed assessment of what I wanted to achieve and what my issues might be. I have to say here that I do have one or two health conditions that Amy would have to deal with, but then again who doesn’t have something that niggles them from time to time. I had convinced myself that Pilates would be the answer to all my physical woes. We began to go through what turned out to be quite an extensive medical history.

To put you in the picture; age-wise if I were a wedding anniversary, I would be somewhere between a diamond and a sapphire. Over the past ten years a few things have not gone according to my life plan. Let me enlighten you. I have had to have a double mastectomy and now have a permanent heart condition attributed to the chemo. For this, I have to take drugs that make me feel extremely unwell if I over-exert myself – helpful when you are trying to start up an exercise regime. Another issue post cancer is that I have developed osteoporosis from the drugs I am on to stop the disease returning. I was fit and healthy once the cancer had been removed, it is all the prophylactic treatment that has caused me all of these problems! Have I mentioned yet that I am also hypermobile and have had previous spinal surgery? Individually, these issues might be manageable but together… At one point, I imagined I could see a certain look of disbelief come into Amy’s eyes, but she remained reassuring and self-assured throughout our conversation. Goodness knows what was actually going through her mind!

Taking everything into consideration, it was suggested that maybe I should do a few 1:1 sessions before thinking about moving into a class environment. Another thing you need to know about me is that I am extremely competitive – not necessarily against others, but against myself. I will NOT let my body dictate what I can, or cannot, do. That is another reason why I need to work with someone who knows me well enough to stop me, before I push myself too far. You’d think at my ripe old age I would have worked that out for myself, but apparently I haven’t!

I laughingly suggested to Amy – with a large dollop of truth – that I may turn out to be one of her more challenging clients. She confidently responded with ‘I like a good challenge’. Words that may well haunt her from hereon in.

Let’s look at just one of the medical issues Amy has to contend with: my hypermobility. “Lucky you” I hear some of you say, “that means you must be incredibly flexible”. Yes, it does mean that, but it also means that to try to get me to engage my muscles in the correct way, as opposed to what I have been doing for all these years, is a major complication. In my youth much of my time was taken up with gymnastics and dance – so the hypermobility served me well then. It also taught me to understand my body quite well and what it is capable of doing. Amy’s challenge is always to help me isolate the main muscle we are working on and alter my posture during an exercise to engage that one muscle properly. Not an easy task, believe you me. However, she has an uncanny knack of describing an action to me that I instantly get and can translate into the movement required. A talent indeed!

For the first year we worked together I went twice a week for 1:1 sessions. I pushed my body hard in an effort to see and feel results. Amy was always so encouraging but was constantly having to reign me in. I wanted to be shown the exercises but not the easy version, the harder levels, so that I had something to work towards. However, I would then become frustrated when it turned out that I could not do them after all!

Then we hit lockdown and our sessions moved online. We didn’t have all the equipment to use that is available in the studio, but Amy managed to come up with a variety of exercises that kept me engaged and moving forward.

That was until… I developed a frozen shoulder! This meant that we could no longer work on my upper body. Amy had to come up with a plan of focusing just on the lower half of my frame for an entire year and yet still keep the sessions interesting and different. The initial challenge had become even more complicated.

So where am I now?

Concentrating just on my legs has meant that after 365 days I finally have some shape and musculature to them, and they are much stronger. We have continually joked that I might not even be able to fit into my skinny jeans anymore. Moreover, no matter how bad I feel before my sessions I nearly always feel better after. I am also amazed at how what looks to be a really simple exercise can be so difficult to do and utterly exhausting. Amy is constantly there to reassure me that it is because finally, my body is doing what it should be doing, but in the correct way now.

As for the jeans, well, it was far more of a struggle to get them on over the legs than before and they are definitely skin-tight, but you know what, they look good!

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