I just got home from Pilates. After a workout like this one, I can almost say that I don’t miss running. Sort of. It’s a hard habit to break.
Maybe a more accurate statement would be that Pilates is the only activity that makes me feel like I can tolerate the loss of running. even though the exercises couldn’t be more different. For me, running is all about aerobics and mental abandon. When I ran, I didn’t really think about the running. Of course, I was aware of everything around me, and aware of the sensations of breathing, and muscle action, and perspiration and everything–I just didn’t need to be specific about the length of my stride, or the way I moved my arms, or how my body was aligned. Most of my mental focus was on planning a menu, or rehearsing a challenging conversation, or writing an article, or absorbing myself in the scenery. Pilates is different–it’s a full-concentration physical activity. When I’m on the 8th repetition of a butt-busting series on the Reformer, or when I’m directing all of my attention on my hamstrings to control the leg springs, or isolating that one abdominal muscle group to move the platform, I can’t think about very much except the precision of that small motion. They both take the same amount of time, but an hour of Pilates is so totally different from a 7-mile run. And yet, the exhilaration is nearly the same.
After being plagued by serious back injuries, nerve damage, and two major spine operations in the past two years, I’m convinced that Pilates is one of the major reasons that I will stay out of surgery this year. The flexibility and core muscle strength that I’ve developed have been incredible–and that’s saying something, since I’ve been an athlete all my life. My surgeon was amazed when I saw him last month, and although he warned me that I won’t be able to avoid him forever, he agreed that I’ve built back my leg and the muscles in my low back to the point that I don’t need to plan another visit to the operating room anytime soon.
Here’s to the wonderful women at Upward Spiral, especially Martha and Paula, for their great personal interest and expertise–and for being so much fun!