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
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
Old Man starts Exercising, Writes Blog.
Part 2: This is Just for Me.
There is lots of “stuff” that surrounds taking care of your self. The media and self help gurus are quick to tell you that you don’t quite cut it and with just a little more effort (or one of their gadgets or new info just released) you can be a better person.
Listening to that chatter doesn’t have the effect they think it does. I have never been motivated by some stranger telling me to eat healthier, exercise more and be more mindful. As a matter of fact, those messages come at me with such amazing frequency and zeal that they sound like the propaganda of a despotic ruler. I call it the Tyranny of the health industry.
My healthiest days were when I was in training for league soccer. Starting in March and working out until September we would go twice a week for training plus 14 weeks of matches and play-offs, if we were lucky. I loved that.
Then from October to February, I continued riding a bike or when I was living in the Snow Belt, cross-country skiing. Solitary pleasures that get me out of my head in into the world.
I wasn’t “getting fit”, I didn’t give two shakes about my diet and no one, not even Richard Simmons himself could convince me that I should do more.
Fast Forward half a lifetime later and I find myself pursuing a healthier lifestyle by eliminating (read: reducing) poor food choices and taking up a course of pilates with Diane Archer of Compassionate Body Pilates.
Today, after spending 8 hours hunched over my workstation I was knotted and tired and in a pretty crappy mood after a workweek full of stress and doing things for other people.
Not long after my one-on-one session with Diane started, I began to feel that stress slip away. Just the controlled breathing and stretching that came with our first few moves was enough to change my perspective to “this is just about me”.
I was opening up my lungs, checking my body positions, deliberately moving through the routines and feeling my body doing a little more of what it was meant to do. It brought me to a place where I was finding selfish pleasure; observing where I was pushing through the tightness and coming out the other side.
Blood was flowing better and my mind began to clear. I was relaxing into the work-out with the Diane’s gentle corrections making my efforts all the better.
What a luxury this was. It dawned on me that a private session in my home with a Pilates instructor was worth the expense. That the “selfish” just-for-me attitude wasn’t wrong-headed, but something that truly matters as my life-style choice.
Now as I write this, once again at my workstation, I am sitting taller, my posture is correct and I focus a little more on my breathing. I am relaxed and mildly rejuvenated.
My energy level is a little higher and my outlook brighter.
I came to an exercise program in my mid-life because I want to share activities like hiking and cycling with my uber-fit partner. But in the midst of today’s session with Diane, it struck me that I should have been doing this sooner.
It’s not about hiking in the mountains of Mexico, or our next cycling tour of the wine regions or finally kicking her butt at Racquetball. It’s about treating myself to some time for me, tossing off the stiffness and crankiness and getting to a place of balance in my body and my mind.
That last bit sounded like what a typical fitness guru might have told me.
I just wish they had told me earlier.
By Dan Willis
There's a lot of assumptions out there about the kind of people who do Pilates. People assume that I only teach women... It's strange, as the creator of Pilates was a man himself. Professional male sports teams often have Pilates as part of their training regimen, as it complements any athletic pursuit. Being strong in your core muscles means you are less likely to get injured- a definite win for any professional team.
People are generally surprised when I say that I had about 30% male clients in the UK. I even taught men only classes. Some of my most loyal and dedicated clients were men. There was a simple reason for this: if they didn't come to class every week, their back pain returned. By far the majority of the men I saw had led incredibly active lives. They were strong everywhere except their core. Usually, they were lacking in flexibility. These characteristics can often be a result of too much time working out without stretching. We worked a lot on flexibility and core strength- and they were always telling me they couldn't believe how hard these small movements were!
I really enjoyed teaching men only classes- It was always a fun and engaged group. I also enjoyed the challenge of modifying exercises for tight hamstrings or coming up with creative imagery tailored to men. I particularly recall one exercise I was teaching for the first time, and one of the men cheerily decided to call it the "Nut Crusher!" I've never laughed so much while teaching a class... good fun.
Any men out there reading this who want to sign up for a class? I'd love to start one up again! If you are really lucky, I'll teach you the "Nut Crusher" ;-)
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.