Welcome Pilates into your life
I’ve suffered from lower back problems for almost 20 years. Admittedly because I was a sportsman much of this may have been self inflicted and being tall probably didn’t help but statistics indicate that 30% of the adult population in any one year and over 60% of the population in their lifetime suffer from chronic lower back pain so I know I’m not alone.
Part of being an athlete is learning to deal with injury and understanding what you need to do in order to mend your constantly breaking body and much like many sportsmen and sportswomen I picked up one injury after another during my athletics career, so much so that at times it felt like a career as a patient more than a competitor! After two knee surgeries to repair a ruptured ACL and damaged meniscus (cartilage) in 2000 I returned to training in 2001 with the absolute belief that I would continue my career despite my knee surgeon telling me as I awoke from the 1st knee surgery that my career was over (I don’t think he fancied telling me when I was fully conscious). A year after the 2nd surgery my back started to fall apart and I again went under the surgeon’s knife for a micro-discectomy of my L5/S1 joint (removing part of a permanent bulging disc in my lower back). This time I resigned myself to the knowledge that I would not be able to return to professional athletics.
My Mum the Pilates convert
My Mum/physio Libby had been telling me about this new exercise called Pilates for a while. I had previously been dismissive of it as faddish but when Libby installed a Pilates equipment studio in our Harley Street site and started to train all the physios to use it she convinced me to try it.
One of the side effects of lower back pain is often sciatica, this is referred pain often caused by a disc pressing on the nerve or from a reduced space between the spinal joints. It can also be accompanied by muscle wasting and tightness which also exacerbates the discomfort. The Pilates exercises focused on core-stability and strengthening to help support the joints but in addition to this and more dramatic in reducing the discomfort were the neural mobilising and flexibility exercises for the lower back, hamstrings & calf muscles – what we call neural flossing. The exercises immediately delivered a reduction in pain and a return to normal function. If I missed doing the sessions regularly the pain would at least partially return reminding me that this had to be a regular pursuit. It was also very clear to me that the Pilates equipment was an essential element where mat Pilates just wouldn’t make as much of a difference. When I was able to return to the gym and start more resistance and cardio-vascular exercise, with the increased strength and general fitness, I improved further.
A sample exercise of me using the Pilates reformer
Teaching the method
I was completely convinced of its benefits, so much so that I decided to train to teach – my mother training me at ESPH. Libby and I developed the structure of our Pilates sessions at ESPH including our hugely popular Pilates Fit class, which is perfect for someone like me who enjoys the benefit of Pilates but also wants to push the intensity. We now have two Pilates studios, one in each of our Harley Street and East Dulwich sites offering Studio Pilates, Pilates Fit and Mat work Pilates.
10 years on…
My back problem is definitely under control. I occasionally feel the stiffness and tightness that comes with such injuries but as long as I do my Pilates exercises at least once a week, along with flexibility, cardio-vascular conditioning and strength I know it won’t come back.
Have you ever suffered from back pain? Do you have arthritis, osteoporosis, pelvic dysfunction or regular pain? Are you inflexible? If you’ve answered yes to any of these then Pilates is definitely for you.
ESPH has fully-euipped Pilates studios in Harley Street and East Dulwich and offers Pilates classes, one to one sessions and Pilates Fit.