Over the past decade or so, Pilates has become commonplace in the realm of fitness. Most of us have heard about some celebrity or athlete who uses Pilates as part of their fitness program. We know that Pilates is supposed to be good for “core strength” right? You may have also heard it is good for long lean muscles, flexibility, or any number of other claims related to fitness. The real question is, have you heard about the benefits Pilates, or any movement training for that matter, can offer your wellness?
What is “wellness”? I suppose that depends on who you are talking to. In my world, wellness is about the overall productivity of your body. As my great friend Ann Crammond says, we all want to “prolong our shelf life”. Well, the process of doing so is my vision of wellness. While it is wonderful to look good, it is even better to feel good. Many of us are familiar with the aches and pains that seem to be par for the course for these bodies of ours. Many of us may even think of our bodies as a burden. They are something we have to deal with in the course of living our lives. We have to somehow deal with our pain – whether from injury, overuse or just faulty patterns – to get to the pleasure. The pleasure being any number of activities we personally enjoy.
Over the course of the past couple of years, I have decided to embark on a personal wellness journey. I decided to run a marathon a couple of years ago and that felt like a way for me to get “healthy”. I considered myself at the time to be in the best shape of my life. Little did I know, the thing that I was relying on for my “fitness” was negatively affecting my “wellness”. A few short weeks after I completed my marathon I discovered, with much joy, that I was pregnant with my second child. So here I was, in the “best” shape of my life and now ready to face my pregnancy head on. Much to my surprise, just a few weeks into my pregnancy I started experiencing excruciating pain in my lower back. I would get sharp shooting pains almost every time I took a step. My OB prescribed physical therapy and I started sessions as soon as possible. It turns out, all of my running with little attention to my form (let’s face it, running for 5 1/2 hours is hard enough without having to think about form) coupled with the hormone relaxin coursing through my body to get me ready for childbirth had led to an incredible amount of pelvic instability. I continued physical therapy throughout my pregnancy and was able to remain relatively pain free for the duration. After the birth of my darling Cooper in July of 2013 I found myself back at work just six weeks later. With two little ones at home and a busy studio, I had very little time to dedicate to myself and my recovery post-pregnancy.
In February, I decided I was ready to tackle my next project: the CoreAlign®. I signed up for my first weekend of training and just knew I was going to love learning something new. I was right. I LOVE the CoreAlign®. I also learned in that weekend that the body I thought I had so much control over, was not as organized as I once thought. I struggled to figure out my shoulder stability, and my lower back is a place I no longer had any awareness of. I am still working hard to figure out how to correct some of these faulty movement patterns. What I have realized during this process is this: I had been thinking of my job as teaching “fitness”. I embodied this by mastering the exercises without mastering the proper movement patterns required to do these exercises efficiently. I now realize, movement – any movement – has to be done with proper attention to form and bio-mechanics to be truly beneficial. It is now my goal to use many modalities (i.e. Pilates, CoreAlign®, yoga, etc.) to achieve wellness. Or, as Ann would say, to preserve my shelf life. We only get one shot with these bodies we have been given. I want mine to take me places, not hold me back from my life.
I have decided that Balance Through Movement will be just that. A place where people can come to achieve balance in their bodies. I am working to be the bridge that is so desperately needed between the realms of physical therapy and exercise. The place where we are no longer working on any one specific issue or injury, but the integration of the total body to achieve the ability to move through world in a functional way. We will be a “movement studio”. I invite you to come and learn to move. Learn to use the body you have been gifted to take you to places you never dreamed you would be able to go.
It’s over! My husband and I completed our marathon on Saturday. We ran 26.2 miles in 4:54:33. For those of you who have had to listen to me talk incessantly about the race, you know that my goal was to finish in 5:30:00. We rocked it!
Here is the thing: it was HARD! I mean, really, truly hard. As in, I can’t do this, I’m going to quit. Thank goodness I had my husband by my side every step of the way. The times I wanted to stop and walk, he pushed me to go a little longer. The times when I wanted to give up all together, he wouldn’t give up on me. This went on for about 23 miles. I would start to doubt myself and he would be there to lift me up. He’s a pretty amazing guy huh? Want to know something that makes me feel good? I was able to be there for him too. At mile 23 I started to realize that not only were we going to finish the darn thing, but we were going to slaughter our time goal. I found that runner’s high (well, as much as one can after running 23 miles). At this same time, Rob started to lose some of his enthusiasm. Okay, he lost ALL of his enthusiasm. He was down right pissed. And really, can you blame him? We had been running for almost four and half hours at that point. So slowly, the tide started to turn and it was now my turn to lift him up. I was able to dig deep and not only keep putting one foot in front of the other, but I was also able to find the strength to tell Rob how amazing he was and how proud I was of him. Now that the race is over, I can look back and realize that this was one of the best parts of the race for me. Yes my feet hurt like crazy and my hips started to feel like they would freeze up if I stopped moving for even a second. Yes I wanted it to be over. But through all of that, I realized how amazing it feels to be someone’s support system.
Aren’t we all on some sort of journey at any given time in our lives? Maybe that journey is professional in nature. Are you working to climb the ladder to the top, or maybe just the next rung? Maybe that journey is health related. Did you just realize you have high cholesterol or are at risk for Type II Diabetes? Maybe that journey is spiritual or religious. Maybe it is something you don’t even realize you are working toward. None of us are ever standing still. There is always more to come. I encourage you to figure out what journey you are currently on and who is in your support system? Do you rely on your loved ones to get you through those bumps in the road? Perhaps you have a co-worker that you bounce ideas off of or a best friend who you vent to. Once you have figured out the who those important people are, thank them. It could be as simple as just saying thank you or maybe you want to take it further and do something for them in return. I can assure you, it will feel great to be the one lifting them up.
Now, it is time to set my sights on another goal. I’m not sure yet where this phase of my journey will take me, but I do know that I can never fail when I have a support system of so many amazing people in my life. And if you feel like you need a pick me up, I’ll be there to lend you a hand.
Stretch your Hip Flexors using your foam roller.
Work your back and stabilize your shoulders with Swan on the mat. Please note, not all of the progressions in this series are right for everyone. Start slowly and build only as you feel stronger.
Lengthen your IT Bands using the foam roller. This is great for runners or those with chronically tight legs.
As you all know, I am in training for my first marathon, which I will complete in September. I have decided to run in honor of a beautiful and brave little girl named Emma. I met Emma’s mom, Sarah, when I worked for my parents company about 6 years ago in North Carolina. We bonded over many things, including being two of only a few young women in a company made up of mostly men. We also bonded when Sarah became pregnant. I was desperate for a baby of my own, but my husband, Rob, and I just weren’t ready yet. I could not have been more excited for Sarah as I followed her progress through her first pregnancy. She eventually gave birth to a beautiful girl named Emma. Sarah and I lost touch for the most part over the next couple of years as we each went in our separate directions. One day, I got an email from Sarah letting me know that Emma had been diagnosed with Leukemia. I just couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to try to explain to a 2 year old what that meant. I followed Emma’s progress through her treatments by reading Sarah’s blog entries on a wonderful website: caringbridge.com. I recently read a post that moved me immensely. Emma is approaching the end of her treatment. It has been a long road for her and her family, but through it all, Emma has remained a shining example of the resilience children possess. I am honored to run in her name and I asked her mom to write an entry for you all to read. Please take the time to learn a little more about this amazing family and their journey. If you would like more information about Emma and her fight with cancer, check out her Caring Bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/emmasteen
To donate to the Pablove Foundation, visit my fundraising site at: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=205865
On June 28, 2010, I took our 2.5 year old daughter, Emma, to the pediatrician because she had been running a low grade fever for three days with no other symptoms. As we waited in the small room at the doctor’s office, I gently bounced our three month old son, Wyatt, in the Baby Bjorn while trying to keep Emma occupied. The doctor assured me it was probably just a virus, but at the last minute she had Emma’s finger pricked for a Complete Blood Count (CBC). I knew we were in trouble when two doctors came back into the room with the results. Emma’s counts were very concerning, and they instructed me to take her straight to the local emergency room where she would be transported by ambulance to UNC-Chapel Hill.
I handed Wyatt off to a friend en route to the emergency room, and my husband, Phillip, met me there from work. Phillip was scheduled to deploy for six months the following week, and while Emma and I traveled with full lights and sirens for the 80 minute drive to UNC, his chain of command took him off of the deployment. Emma was taken to the pediatric ICU and immediately given blood transfusions. Later that evening, we heard the words that would change our lives forever: “Emma has leukemia.” Specifically, she was diagnosed with pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
The first week in the hospital Emma had surgery to place a portacath (a small medical device placed under the skin allowing easier access to a vein), started chemotherapy, and received a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap. Unfortunately, Emma contracted a serious staph infection in her hip bone from that first bone marrow biopsy. This resulted in a month long hospital stay so they could administer strong antibiotics and closely monitor the infection. It was an intricate balancing act between fighting the cancer with chemotherapy (which lowered her immune system’s strength to fight off the infection), treating the infection with the intense antibiotics, and trying to ensure her organs didn’t shut down from all of the chemicals in her body. We watched our normally vibrant daughter transform into a downcast kiddo who felt terrible, barely spoke, and couldn’t understand why her parents were letting so many strangers torture her.
These were dark days for our family. We honestly could not have survived it without the mighty support system we were blessed to have around us. Phillip’s unit booked a hotel room close to the hospital so Wyatt and I didn’t have to commute back to our home every night. Friends took turns taking care of Wyatt during the day so I could spend as much time as I could at the hospital with Emma and Phillip. They also took turns a few times a week staying overnight in the hospital with Emma so Phillip could get some much needed rest. Phillip’s unit gave him four months off of work, no questions asked. Love and support poured in from all over the country, from people we know (and some we didn’t!) from all chapters of our lives. There really is nothing like a challenging life event to remind you how amazing your loved ones are.
Emma went through seven months of very intense chemotherapy while we traveled to the UNC clinic once a week. Miraculously, even after her experiences during the first month of treatment, we were able to convince her that going to the hospital is fun. To this day when we tell her we are going up for her clinic appointments, she acts as though we just surprised her with a Disneyworld trip. I think it is mostly because she knows she will get to watch movies all day. We lost track of how many blood transfusions she had and her immune system was nonexistent. Any fever is considered life threatening and is essentially a ticket straight to inpatient for at least a couple of days. Every time we consider taking her into public we have a mental risk/benefit list going because our goal is to avoid inpatient at all costs. After the intense part of treatment, Emma entered the “maintenance phase” where she goes to clinic once a month for infusions, has lower doses of chemotherapy, and more stable immune system levels.
This October, Emma will complete 28 months of chemotherapy. She is now 4.5, has a beautiful head of curls, and is full of life. She has been through more than her fair share, and shown more courage, spunk and tenacity than I think many adults would. Our little girl has been through so much, but we truly believe it will make her an even stronger person as she grows up. We joke that Emma will one day rule the world 🙂 Phillip and I have kicked around a few ideas for how to recognize the end of her treatment. We are hesitant to throw a big party because it just feels premature and a little like we might jinx something. But we wanted to do a couple of things: recognize what Emma has been through and celebrate her courage, involve as many of our loved ones as possible (even those far away), and raise some money for a cause we believe in.
We are recruiting 28 people to run for her, one person to represent each month of treatment. Sarah has graciously offered to run her marathon (go Sarah!) in honor of Emma and raise funds for The Pablove Foundation. Pablove was founded by a couple who lost their six year old son, Pablo, to cancer. The Pablove Foundation’s mission is to fund pediatric cancer research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and improve the quality of life for children living with cancer through hospital play, music and arts programs.
Thank you so much for reading Emma’s story. The truth is there are many kids out there in much more serious situations than Emma and we want to help. We are simply trying to pass on all of the love and support we have experienced during this chapter in our lives.
Work the lower abdominal muscles and stretch the hip flexors and lower back in this series on the foam roller.