Just six short months ago my life was at a standstill. Due to the wear and tear of being a professional dancer, I had seriously pulled my left hamstring. I always thought that when I had a life altering injury it would be my back or my knee. Although back and knee injuries are much worse, they often require surgery with a prescribed recovery. Hamstring injuries are much more elusive. No one really knows how long it can take to heal. In denial and jobless, I continued to dance and desperately audition on it for months. One particularly hectic morning, I forgot to pack my dance pants to wear under my skirt for an audition of West Side Story. I franticly ran around the garment district praying for a solution. Finally, I had to purchase an industrial sized pack of granny panties! By then I was too late to properly warm up for the audition (which always includes my hundred!) and dancing on it cold just made it worse. Finally, with much regret I realized I had better lay off of it or it wasn’t getting better. So, I went back to my roots. My Pilates roots that is.
At first I was unable to perform anything more than beginner Pilates exercises. I was pissed off and depressed not being able to dance for the first time in my life. Somehow everyday I painstakingly practiced the basic Pilates repertoire. The hundred with bent knees, the 1/2 roll down, single leg circles with bent knees. Pilates was the only thing I could do to be physical and I clung to it like a girl overboard clings to her life raft. The days crept by like a death march and there was many a time during my long eight-month recovery (and my boyfriend can attest to this, he’s a saint by the way) that I was ready to throw up my hands. I was thoroughly convinced that I was never getting better, that I’d never be like I was before. I had resolved to give up my dreams. Before my injury I was an advanced Pilates student, and avid yogi, a professional dancer, a warrior. Being weak and in pain almost constantly drained my natural good nature and strength. I had no sense of who I was without my physicality. I wanted to give up and just be miserable and bitter, but I didn’t. Well at least not for long.
That’s when I started thinking, when do you know it’s time to give up? At what point do you accept where you’re at and just resign? As a Pilates instructor, I have had many a client try to convince me that they “can’t” get an exercise or “never will” progress. And although normally it’s an easy job to inspire them and convince them otherwise I was at a loss in my state. I could barely convince myself to get out of bed some mornings. I felt like a sham. Who am I to lead others to recovery and health when I couldn’t inspire myself? My mentor overcame a serious neck injury with Pilates (and LOTS of hard work) and is now the strongest woman I know. I decided to make Mr. Pilates prove himself. It was him that said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” How do you begin to build without a single brick? Or be patient when you can’t seem to find anything worthwhile? Peter Drucker said “There is a risk you cannot afford to take, and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take.” Giving up gets you nothing. I decided to plant the seeds and try not to get discouraged if I didn’t see immediate results. So I pulled up my boot straps and kept going.
Here’s some tips that helped me:
1- Find a mentor. When I lived in Los Angeles I had a Pilates instructor that knew my weakness and pushed me accordingly. Now in NYC I had to really look to find someone that inspired me. Taking with a great teacher motivates me to do the exercises correctly and do my homework.
2- Do the things you don’t want to do. In my experience, the exercises and systems I loathe are the best ones for me. If I continued to only perform the easy exercises I’d have never gotten stronger. The added benefit of doing something you hate is the self confidence that only comes with slaying the demon.
3- Limit stinkin’ thinkin’. Negative thoughts lead you down the road to no-where. Why not believe in the impossible?
4- Progress is personal. Comparison to others is pointless. In the studio and in life. We’re all originals. There is no one just like you, so celebrate your unique-ness. Make the most of your sessions and focus on you!
Sometimes life takes you in a different direction than you were first headed, often at an entirely slower pace (just click to tweet;) Pilates is a constant. The specificity of the order and the precision of the exercises can lend comfort and familiarity during a time when nothing else can. I’ve been practicing Pilates for over ten years now (I’m older than you think!) and it always fits in my life wherever I’m at. Pilates is for you whether you’re healthy or injured, fit or out of shape, young or old, That is it’s magic. My advice is to you, take it or leave it, is not give up on yourself five minutes before the breakthrough occurs. In the end it’s always worth the effort, whatever the outcome.
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