More than a decade ago, in college, I studied musical theater performance. This may sound like a cupcake degree to some, but it was a rigorous and multifaceted program of study that involved every aspect of performance. In addition to a host of performance classes I spent most of my day in a sweat, moving between movement, dance, and stage combat classes, with instructors who relentlessly pushed us to be our best, and always better than the day before. Aside from the inherent life lessons there, I’m very grateful to those professors for introducing me to one essential and valuable practice: Pilates.
Almost like boot camp, one professor led us through a 45-minute Pilates mat workout each day of our freshman year at the crack of dawn. At the time, Pilates was not as much a part of the public consciousness; there were no Pilates studios in town, and no local gyms had classes around the clock as we see now (and as we are so lucky to have here at Club Fit.) My fellow students and I didn’t even really know what had hit us; we would crawl back to our dorm rooms, cradling our exhausted and sore abdominal muscles, and silently cursing Joseph Pilates for inventing such torture.
After a not-so-long period of time, we all started to notice amazing changes, not just in our physical appearances, but more importantly, in our capabilities. In dance classes, our leaps and turns got bigger and better. In stage combat we had better balance, stronger “punches”, and we fell down less frequently. We had greater energy, injuries became fewer and further between, and we improved rapidly in all of our other physical practices. Even though I carried a significant amount of extra weight, I found myself able to double pirouette with the rest of my ballet class – I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful that felt. It wasn’t long before we realized that the Pilates mat workouts had given us an incredible gift: core stability. The workouts we dreaded became practices that we craved, because of the miraculous abilities it gave us. As upperclassmen, we would continue to practice anywhere we could find time and space; even in our tiny apartments and dorm rooms. We were converts! Some days, we’d sneak into those early morning freshmen classes we used to fear, to squeeze in a guided mat class alongside them. One of my classmates was so devoted to the life-changing benefits of Pilates that she went on to become an instructor after college.
All of these memories came back to me one day as I was looking through old photos from college, and I asked myself, how did I forget how valuable this practice was, and why am I not incorporating Pilates into my workout routine now? Even though I’ve changed career trajectories off stage and into nonprofit arts administration, the benefits of this practice are no less valuable to me, or anyone, especially when it comes to preventing injury. I got myself to a Pilates mat class at Club Fit as soon as possible, and I can’t say it was like riding a bike. After ten years away, it really felt like starting all over again. It’s hard work, the exercises seem unusual at first, and my abs hurt just the same, but I’m here to tell you that sticking to the practice equates to a really miraculous transformation. I’m committing myself to rediscovering that core strength, and if you haven’t tried Pilates yet, I encourage you to give it a try – not just once, but a few times, to see what it can do for you.