Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. It passed last year almost unnoticed for me, but this year I want to share. I am ready to talk.
As a small business owner, it's hard to feel comfortable sharing personal information with the world. Especially information about your mental health. What if people think you won't be able to do your job? What if people think you will let them down because of your mental health problems? I've thought about this a lot. And I believe that the answer is: if you are honest and open and compassionate with yourself and others, you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded people. And those people will continue to support you in your business, no matter what you share. Bell is right- it's time to talk. So let me tell you a little story.
In high school I was a shy, awkward teenager. I had body issues- I thought I was fat and huge. I was fearful all the time. I was afraid to draw attention to myself. Afraid to speak up. Afraid to ask for help. I had a particularly bad year when my circle of friends decided that they didn't want to be friends with me anymore. All of a sudden, lunch was a horrible hour of hiding in different places around the school. When I tried to eat, I felt like throwing up. It lasted for weeks. I would put food in my mouth and chew, chew, chew, and then start gagging. I was not consciously trying to stop eating- I wanted to eat. I was hungry, but there was a knot in my stomach that never went away. I went from 150lbs to 120lbs in 2 months. I was 5 ft 9 inches tall.
Something interesting happened then. People started talking to me and giving me compliments. The dad of someone on my soccer team. Boys I'd never spoken to at school. They told me I looked good and said I'd lost weight. Every time it happened, I felt kind of odd. I was getting attention now. And I didn't want it. And the reason I was getting it was because I felt like throwing up all the time? That felt wrong.
This is where I'm glad that I am a stubborn and strong willed kind of person. I rejected the idea that my weight would define me. I decided that I would just be me, however that was, and not worry so much about what others thought. Those boys who talked to me weren't worth my time. Suddenly, I could eat again. I'd somehow worked it out in my head and the knot in my stomach had lessened.
I wish I could say that was the only time I experienced mental health problems. But it is a lifelong experience for me to feel these feelings, to feel different from the world. I have had periods of depression, periods of anxiety, panic attacks. I've been on medication and I've been through counselling. I'm much, much better now. Now, I can recognize what's happening. I can take a moment and try to breathe. Ask for help. I've surrounded myself with people who understand. I don't hide away anymore (not much, anyway).
When I started a Pilates business, I wanted a name that would share my philosophy with the world. I wanted something that would be both a reminder to myself, and a reminder to others. Compassionate Body Pilates was born. I work on treating everyone around me with compassion, every day. Even more importantly, I work to treat myself the same way. To forgive myself when I have a bad day. When I can't manage. To step back and be kind. And try to set that example for others.
Lots of love and compassion to you all out there. If you have mental health issues, please take care of yourself as best as you can. Please ask for help. Let's talk.
Happy New Year to you! I wish you and your family a SPECTACULAR 2017!
With the start of a new year there is traditionally a time of reflection, and goal setting. This year I have a lot to be thankful for; I live in a new, beautiful house (that's all my own- wow!), my son is getting older, and my husband has a new job that he loves. My business is taking off and I am meeting and working with such lovely people. It's easy for me to write my goals this year, because life has been good to me, and I'm grateful. If you are writing goals of your own, there's something I want you to consider first and I feel it is very important. It's the kind of language that you use to write them. Let me explain.
I can see it everywhere now. Posts on Facebook, blogs, emails, ads. The fitness industry is leveraging the "New Years Resolution" craze to whip up more customers. The language of the fitness industry is often the language of shaming. Cajoling. Assumptions. Mostly shaming though. Things like "Finally do something this year about that spare tire" or "Get beach body ready!" or other similar sentiments. These kinds of phrases assume that you already don't like yourself, that you are powerless to change on your own, and that you subscribe to socially accepted ideas of beauty and fitness. In my experience, shame is a terrible motivator. It simply doesn't work long term and you are miserable when you fail.
We tend to absorb what we read everyday. That means when people write their resolutions, they often echo these ideas. Here's an example:
So I am proposing a new language of goal setting this year. No shaming language allowed! Instead use the positive language of compassion, of understanding. How about, instead of the above, we have ones like this:
Those ones don't involve shame as a motivator. And I truly believe that you will achieve a healthier, longer term result with this kind of mindset. This is my greatest wish for you in 2017, to ditch the shaming language and learn to use positive language for your resolutions.
If you are looking to try a fitness class this January, I would love to meet you and teach you all about Pilates. I hope you will discover that Pilates is the exercise system for you and that you want to keep practicing. But if it isn't, then fair enough! At least you came out and gave it a shot.
Classes start January 9th and run for 6 weeks. I hope to be meeting you then!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please feel free to reply with any comments. I'd also love to hear your positive goals for 2017! I'll be sharing this idea on fb today so you can also pop on there to join in the conversation.
p.s. My resolutions are below... did I mention cookies before? LOL
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog: Part 11
I just ran up the stairs for the first time in I don't know how long.
Time was when I dreaded the staircases that wind their way up my two-and-one-half-story century home, in downtown St. Catharines.
Whenever I was working on a home-improvement of any consequence, I would always insist that She-Ra be my helper. While I made it seem to be that it was only fair that we share the work, it was really because I hated running up and down the ladder, up and down the stairs to fetch some item or tool that was invariably needed.
Whenever I was in the loft (where my home studio is) or in the cellar, I would carefully manage my trips up and down to minimize my steps.
What the hell is a Pilates?
Do I think that my renewed abilities are the result of 12 weeks of training from Compassionate Body Pilates and Diane Archer? Yes I do.
Do I think you should do it too? Same answer.
The workouts (I was reluctant to call them that earlier, but now have changed my tune) are low impact and high result. I came in with no knowledge of Pilates except that a dancer friend of mine from years ago had a studio in Toronto.
She was always super fit and I understood from the sidelines that strength, conditioning and balance were on offer. It kind of made sense that someone with her physique and abilities would want to work on their “core” (whatever the hell that is).
I, alas came in to Diane’s program unfit, with a train wreck of a physique and limping from an old sports injury.
Today I am still unfit (but way more fit than when I started), I have lost a few pounds (looking in the working mirrors at the Pilates Studio was a big motivator) and I am no longer limping.
Is Pilates for you?
If you are the type to need to know what Pilates is before you sign up, I can tell you.
It’s twice a week.
It’s under $100.
And it’s running up the stairs.
By Dan Willis
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog: Part 10
It's Just Gravity and Me
In my youth (not the misspent one, the other, more youthful youth) I anticipated the start of soccer season year after year.
The getting fit first, then testing oneself against another. Then performing as a team. By the time we were in week seven I had kicked enough grass around, I was ready for the season.
I didn’t like the first 5 or 6 weeks out on the pitch, but once I got good, I played with enthusiasm and never made any excuse for loving the taste of victory.
Likewise, the theatre is a place where one gets fit for a role, practice with others and when one gets good, they slay the audience.
I thrill to taking a curtain call.
It has been 20 years since I hung up my cleats, six years since I played my last game and four years since my last curtain call.
After my seventh class with Diane (Compassionate Body Pilates) I felt I was starting to strengthen and balance, then I went and injured myself.
Now its week nine and I am on the upswing. I got my posture back; and I got my gait back; and I got my height back too.
Knowing the body’s position in space is an important skill for the theatre actor and since it is a non-contact sport, the soccer player as well. The Pilates sessions I am getting are fantastic in helping me control my movements. I am not surprised how much I am improving (I am), I am surprised about HOW MUCH I MISSED MOVING PROPERLY.
I missed my posture, I missed having a gait, I missed standing tall.
What I don’t miss now is my body slipping into a slippery slope of decay. I don’t miss the defeatist attitude I was carrying around and I don’t miss fearing the stairs.
Now it’s just gravity and me. It’s a solo performance not a ensemble piece. There is no opponent but the craftiest one of them all, me.
I have to remember that: “How much I missed having a gait.”
By Dan Willis
Old Man starts Exercising, Writes Blog. Part 9:
You Snooze, You Lose.
So I missed my Tuesday Pilates class with Diane Archer of Compassionate Body Pilates this week. Recall that I also missed my last Friday’s 1 on 1 and thought it would be a good idea to take to the Skys and enjoy a trampoline fitness class on Sunday.
It would be reasonable to say that I missed the Tuesday class because I was sore from tramping around, but that would be a lie. I didn’t miss the class for that; I missed the class because I went out to dinner with the Girl.
I know having had made it to my advanced years without back problems is a real blessing and I should not be tempting fate by becoming overly aggressive in my activities where my back may be at risk. Luckily, The injury in the lower part of my back subsided after a couple days and I don’t expect any permanent damage.
Today’s 1 on 1 was an eye-opener. My core strength was still pretty good, but my balance wasn’t as good as it has been. The week between classes was too long without exercise and my body was all too able to show me that.
My body also showed me that the trampoline had engaged muscles that I didn’t even know I had. Didn’t know I had them until I was running through my exercises with Diane, that is.
You know that feeling when you literally rack your chest coughing and it feels like a vice is closing around your chest? Well, I was stretching and breathing and then, “Hey”.
Then during an arch it felt as if my spine was fused. I am not the most flexible individual, but during simple bends and twists my ribs and spine let me know they were there and they were not happy.
So two things to take away. Tuesday nights at Kully’s on St. Paul is a lot of fun and don’t join in a fitness boot camp.
I can see how one might enroll in a course of fitness that is far above their level and then after suffering an injury decide that maybe fitness is not for them. I get it.
But fitness is for me. I just have to learn not to get cocky and to take things slowly. It took a couple lifetimes of neglect to become this fabulously out of shape so I should treat myself to a long and not-to-hard regimen of slowly progressing activities suitable for a man my age.
That or give up entirely.
By Dan Willis
*P.S. Note from Diane- Just a little reminder for you Dan- anytime you are thinking of skipping a session, watch this clip :)
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog: Part 8
If you have been following this blog then you know a few things about me. I started an exercise program after having a “come to god” moment while hiking in the mountains Mexico with my life-partner. If I were to participate in meaningful ways with her I would have to take better care of myself. I would have to participate in physical activities that, at my age and fitness level would require ongoing care and some lifestyle changes that were hither-to inconceivable.
Life has a way of sneaking up on you and in our daily habits where work and life takes up so much time we can forget to, or miss opportunities to take care of ourselves. Such was the case when, on Friday I lost complete track of time in the afternoon and missed my personal session (one-on-one) with Diane Archer of Compassionate Body Pilates.
Regular readers will also note that I have been less than punctual in practising my at-home, by-myself workout sessions. So it was an extra big bummer when I missed my Friday Session (Sorry, Diane!) Well the weekend was not a complete write-off where my fitness was concerned as my beautiful and uber-fit partner provided a chance for me to partake in “Sky-Fit” at the newly opened Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park on Ontario Street in St. Catharines.
Six months ago this would have been out of the question. I know because when the kids were growing up they played on trampolines. At the time with the kids the aerobic efforts to sustain any bounce on the mats was beyond me. I was a smoker and I was inactive and overweight. While bouncing with the kids would have been a joy, my joints, my belly and my lungs would not have permitted it.
If you are reading for a heart-warming story of redemption and glory, you may be disappointed. Given the fitness of the other participants and my partner I figure I was about 45% effective in my participation during the exercises and routines. After all it had been about 40 years since I was last on a Trampoline for any length of time and 9 weeks of Pilates training, no matter how skilled a teacher Diane is, is no miracle cure.
However, what 9 weeks of Pilates training and 4 months of non-smoking has done for me is to give me back a relationship with my body that I thought was lost to the depths of time. So feeling confident (and wanting to participate with my Partner, who was going to go with or without me) I put my hand up and joined her for a Sky-Fit Session early on Sunday morning.
Our instructor Laurie welcomed us to the session personally warning us not to push too hard, to have fun and to simply pass on exercises that were beyond our skill level.
If you have not been to Sky-Zone you do not know that it has become a favourite with the Birthday crowd and every Saturday Afternoon there is a cacophony of children squealing, music playing and general joyousness. Sunday in the AM was thankfully more subdued, so I was able to focus better on keeping my feet under me.
After the warm ups, we went from one grid of tramps to another where we worked alone and with partners springing and springing for the hour-long class.
Thanks to my Pilates training I felt strong enough to take up the challenge of the aerobic exercises and confident enough that I wouldn’t make a complete fool of myself. Given the two extra bowling balls I carry around my mid section the “L-Sits” did hurt my back a bit but otherwise I am not stiff or sore at all.
It will take a long time before I become passable on the trampoline for fitness or whatever, but I figure mixing it up a little with the Pilates and Aqua-fit, continuing as a non-smoker and hiking regularly with the girl, I will come to enjoy the free-flying feeling of the jumps and twists at Sky-Zone.
By Dan Willis
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog: Part 7
Getting into Pilates with Compassionate Body Pilates and Diane Archer was a roll of the dice. Without any notion of what was involved or why it was appropriate, I jumped in with both feet.
It was proved pretty early on that I didn’t have to know anything; that Diane was the expert I needed.
To outline, in no uncertain terms, why you should be doing Pilates with Compassionate Body Pilates and Diane Archer:
You will live better, longer.
I know that is a pretty big claim to make, but I have learned that flexibility, balance and muscle strength are key indicators of longevity.
You can read more about a simple test here.
Sometimes simple answers can tell us a lot about complex problems and it makes sense to me that working my body for these three indicators of well-being is a good thing.
The word “morbidity” describes the opposite of flexibility, balance and muscle strength. It describes the production of disease. The more morbid you are in your elder years the crappier your life will be.
“But, Dan”, I hear you say, “Smoking may take 10 years off my life…but it’s the LAST 10 years.”
And of course, if that is actually your attitude, “God Speed to you my friend, God Speed”.
But if that kind of thinking is wrong to you, like it was to me, and you are thinking about flexibility, balance and muscle strength, Compassionate Body Pilates by Diane Archer is a great place to go.
Here I am at Week 7 and am already feeling the benefits.
A peaceful feeling begins to wave over me even before I take my first warm-up breaths. With Diane’s easygoing attitude and constant encouragement present at every session, it is enough to say “Hello” and already I start to stand a little taller.
After all, my Coach is in the room.
I am really starting to relax after the set of roll downs we do, dropping the chin to the chest and leaning forward as we try and feel each vertebrae, reaching for the ground.
Moving on to some balance moves, I am surprised at how I am able to do multiple rotations on one side without falling over and how the other side is not as good. Room for improvement on both sides for sure, but I never new that my balance was different on each side until today.
Then we are going to stretch out some of our bits.
Here the “Rolling Ocean-wave” breaths turn to harder and more forceful inhalations, and, harder and deeper exhalations because with every breath I take, I am compressing part of my core as well as moving into the stretch, compressing it more.
I picture myself as being in a dangerous accident, pinned in a crevasse at the Glen. With no room to spare I am yet able to draw breath, affirming that bar other, life-threatening injuries, I am not giving up the ghost today.
Gently prodded back to reality, I find myself doing some simple squats. I inhale to bend knees and raise arms to shoulder height, and then exhale to rise up to the start position. Bum out, knees behind feet.
This time I am not rolling up a wall, leaning into a ball as I squat. I am progressing in strength and as I do Diane makes my tasks a little harder. Each time I return to an exercise I can mark my progress now by how much harder Diane makes it. This time I am squatting in the middle of the room.
I make it harder for myself sometimes too. When I am balancing my pelvis over the little roly-poly pilates ball (not the actual name), rolled back in a shoulder arch, I lift my hands to make it harder. The arms come up almost by themselves. Diane noticed, and then made me do that on the next three exercises. Breathe.
As I experience progress with my balance, muscle strength and flexibility I notice something else. There is a shrinking possibility of morbidity as I breathe through the class.
I get stronger, my production of disease gets weaker.
By Dan Willis
Director Media and Sales Publicita Online Marketing
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog, Part 6:
If these are Happy (if not actual) Coincidences can I have More Please?
As a highly-developed, thoroughly-evolved, pattern recognizing organism I often need to remind myself that coincidences are a fabrication of my mind and my perceived notions of the odds by which a coincidence may or may not happen often relates to the significance I apply to said coincidence.
Yet here I am, on a low–impact journey of physical fitness and opportunities for self-improvement are leaping out of the ethers toward me at an alarming rate. Of course, I am taking advantage of them and I hope that by sharing them I will enjoy more opportunities like them.
This blog, which I am writing as a sort of payment for my beginner’s Pilates Program from Compassionate Body and Diane Archer, is a lot of fun to write. Normally in the course of my business as a digital marketing professional, I write blogs over the signature of my clients. That is to say that I write blog for companies from the legal profession to the landscaping trade. All the while speaking with their voice on topics that interest their readers.
With this blog I am able to write in my own voice about things of interest to me and to others also interested in fitness and self-improvement. It is nice to be recognized as the writer and there are other benefits that are coming my way that I never anticipated.
When I wrote a couple weeks back about missing the opportunity to do the at-home session of pilates because I was to tired or too busy or too lazy to do so, that blog was read by a certain Brain Freel, who is a Life Coach, Personal Potential Consultant, Executive & Performance Coach, Conflict Management and Marriage Coach, Philosopher and founder of the Balance for Life program.
Brian saw in my musings that I might be primed for a little encouragement, seeing as I had written about a desire to improve on the one hand and a set-back of non-compliance in practicing my home pilates.
Brian and I set up an appointment and had a great discussion about rehabilitation and becoming unstuck. Just like I was starting to stretch out my core muscles in my pilates program, Brain was encouraging me to continue on the path that always begins with the next step.
A big goal like becoming fit is daunting for certain, but a little goal of taking the next step is not. You may want to eat the whole elephant, but Brian advised me to do so one bite at a time.
Not only that, but Reiki Teacher Roxsane Rysdae also offered, following a consolation I performed for her a complimentary Reiki session this week.
Now Reiki is deep and lifelong path to enlightenment that I was definitely interested in. I must admit, my interest is borne from a cynical position based on nothing more than eschewing things I do not understand and from that position, how could I not tale her up on her kind offer to fluff my aura and play with my charkas?
After the session, Shihan Roxsane told me a few things that were interesting and I must admit, a little mystical.
Spending 45 minutes at my head, Roxsane declared when all was said and done that my head is where I live. Even when asked what I do to ground myself, my answer came from my head and had little to do with the literal sense of grounding, which I now understand is to be present in the physical world.
Roxsane told me of the trickster that I have inside me, one that she was trying to draw out and for anyone who knows me, it must come as no surprise that the trickster figures large in my essence.
Coincidentally (or not), the Sunday Morning CBC Radio Program, Fresh Air was featuring a talk on using the principles of design to help get unstuck from a particular place in your life that is not as exciting as it may have once been.
From that I am drawing inspiration for my next presentation at the BEE network in November and look forward to using examples from my own journey to punctuate it.
And finally, at last months Niagara BEE Business Network meeting I won a fabulous door prize consisting of a month of free, unlimited Yoga at Moksha Hot Yoga on Glendale Ave.
My experience with yoga is about as wide and deep as my experience with pilates was before I stared with Diane, which is to say little to none.
So I have the perfect combination of coincidences to carry me through my next cycle of learning and blogging. I have complimentary session in a healthy pursuit, of which I know nothing about. I have a healthy curiosity of what the future may bring and I have a healthy command of the written word to share my experiences with you as I develop.
Today I hope for two things. I hope you find some inspiration in my journey to embark on your own journey and I hope that more opportunities to grow and to blog about growing come my way.
By Dan Willis
Core. Pilates is about strengthening the core. And the core is where, exactly?
Five weeks ago, my knowledge of pilates could be summed up in two words, “It’s core”.
The difference is now I know where that core is. Since beginning my workouts with Diane of Compassionate Body Pilates, I have discovered which muscle groupings were related to core strength. Some of which I did not even know they existed.
At my session today, I was not only aware of them; they were sometimes called upon to hold me in a position or move me through some deliberate poses.
“This is not so bad”, I said to myself five weeks ago, after my first somewhat bumbling attempt to rotate an outstretched leg while standing, balanced on the other. “I would hardly call this exercise”, I smugly thought.
Then of course Diane discovered which parts of the workouts were easier for me, which needed adjusting and which were literally pains in the butt. And through gentle encouragement, progressive challenges and mindful coaching, I am starting to see the difference.
Now, after so many sessions on my own, in a class or with Diane in a one-on-one situation, I (and Diane) see progress in my stamina, balance, breathing and coordination.
I am seeing my squats come easier, even with this bad knee of mine. The standing leg circle mentioned above felt much better and so long as I kept my eyes open I could balance through it for the most part.
My shoulder positions are acceptable and the various planking positions are being held longer and longer. It is getting so I am starting to think about recommending Pilates to my friends.
Diane gave this series of blogs a name. She called them, “Dan’s Journey”. I took that name to heart and realized that Pilates could be the first part of a longer process of getting fit in mind and body and spirit.
I can’t help but consider this to be a sort of rehabilitation plan for me. While I didn’t suffer an immediate trauma that required convalescence medically, you could consider the decade of decay I suffered at my corporate desk job a train wreck in slow motion, taking ten years to come to it’s crashing, grinding halt.
As I near the halfway point of my 12-week program, the exercises are becoming more familiar and I glide between them with more grace than before. I challenge myself a little and when that is not enough Diane challenges me more.
I began thinking that Pilates was going to be a breeze but with the progress I have encountered, I think that I was wrong about everything. It is not about hard or easy, about strengthening the core.
It is about personal development. Learning new ways to relate to your body and enjoying small successes. Holding a plank position for ten (OK, three) breaths matters when last week it was two - and last month it was zero.
Every time I get a little better, Diane makes it a little harder. I won’t be finished with Pilates in the 12 weeks it takes to complete this program, but I will be more prepared to take on the next step of my journey.
P.S. Why not join me Tuesday October 18, 2016 for a “Taster Class” at the Lake/Carlton plaza? For only $10 you can try out some of the positions and movements that I have been on about. If we are “lucky” maybe Diane will bring out the Big Balls.
By Dan Willis
Old Man Starts Exercising, Writes Blog, Part 4:
The most important fitness class to go to is the one you don’t want to go to.
Looking at my reflection in the working mirrors during the Compassionate Body’s Pilates Class is not such a great idea. There I am reminded of my faded youth and vigor. The unblinking view of my middle-aged form is mildly depressing.
Stepping out of the house on Tuesday, I quipped that I really didn’t feel like going to this week’s Pilates class and my partner, ever the cheerleader for health and fitness returned with, “the most important fitness class to go to is the one you don’t want to go to.”
I lugged myself from the house to the car to the class with a fresher outlook than I had been feeling. By the time I got to the studio for my weekly in-class session, I was ready to participate.
Though the first chin-drop, roll down exercise is a simple one I notice that the simple act of regulating my breathing and being aware of my body puts me in a contemplative head-space. It is going to get tougher during the class but right now I feel relaxed. I am sure my blood pressure, which is high normally, is getting lower.
I can tell that I am improving as I work with Diane and the others in the class. Balance and strength, range of movement and outlook all improve with each session I undertake.
In the everyday, I sense more flexibility. Bending to work on my partner’s bicycle wasn’t such a chore and this morning I noticed in the middle of putting my socks on that I wasn’t using the dresser for balance.
The thrice-weekly regimen that includes a class, a one-on-one session and a solitary session seems about right. It doesn’t take up too much time and I don’t feel like I am always in the gym.
This week, I made time for the at home, solitary session. My partner, whom I affectionately call “She-Ra” , asked to join in and I was happy to oblige.
Something happens when one turns from a student to a teacher. Explaining, as I did, the positions, the breathing, the movements and objectives focused me on what I was doing. It was definitely more enjoyable with her there.
Thankfully, I won’t have any difficulty getting her to work with me in future and the solitary session will no longer be the session I don’t want to do.
By Dan Willis
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.