By Helen Brandreth, Jun 13 2014 11:52AM
Tom, who is a trained physiotherapist, offered to be our ‘guinea pig’ in a Q&A session about Pilates. Recently, he ran the Manchester Marathon and is now training for a 10 peaks mountain challenge! Having previously had spinal surgery, Tom now incorporates Pilates into his running regime. Here’s what he had to say:
Q - why did you decide to take the Pilates classes?
My quality of life in relation to sports participation (rugby, running and cycling) had been affected for several years due to ongoing back pain. As a physio, having tried the usual pain relief (foam rollers, massage and heat/cold therapy), I realised it was important to have sufficient mobility and strength throughout the whole body, especially the lower back and trunk. Having heard that Pilates helps to promote core stability, flexibility and control, I decided to attend Helen’s introduction to Pilates which allowed me to progress at my own pace.
Q – how does your preparation for the 10 peaks mountain challenge compare with your pre-Pilates marathon training last year?
I’ve noticed significant improvements in my running. During my 2012 marathon preparations, I was plagued by niggling injuries and muscle soreness, exacerbated by tightness in my hip and knee muscles. Since starting Pilates, I’ve been able to train harder because my muscles are not as tight on the days following a long run training run. Also, my running style is more fluid and my legs feel more powerful. I think the weekly Pilates sessions help my muscles to recover and have improved my flexibility and control. The classes give me time and focus to really stretch my legs and back, which is something I’ve always neglected previously.
It’s also contributed to my post-race recovery. After the 2012 marathon, it took almost seven weeks to feel ‘normal’ again. This year, having taken regular Pilates classes, I was back running a few days after the marathon – without any significant muscle pain or tiredness!
Q - following your spinal surgery, how have the Pilates classes helped your mobility and strength?
In 2012, I suffered a slipped disc following a back tackle during a rugby match. I needed spinal surgery, which was followed by several months of rehabilitation. The Pilates classes have helped me get back to my pre-injury state, in terms of mobility and strength. Pilates has motivated me to work on my core stability and my lower back mobility. All this means that the weekly back pain I’ve experienced for years has been reduced to an occasional ache, e.g. after a long day of driving.
Q - are there any other specific benefits Pilates has brought you?
In addition to improving my flexibility and strength, I’ve noticed improvements in my posture. The Pilates classes teach you to be aware of your body position. I now find myself ‘checking’ that my posture is correct. Adjusting and improving my posture when standing and sitting has reduced my lower back pain and had a knock-on effect in improving my running style.
Q – could you tell us something about the classes themselves?
In my opinion, Helen is a fantastic Pilates trainer, who combines professionalism and friendliness to make the classes challenging and enjoyable. She takes time to get to know each member of the class and this insight enables her to tailor the classes to suit the group. Helen provides advice to individuals, such as those who may have specific injuries/pain, so that each attendee gets the most out of the classes.
The classes are fun and varied, where the level of difficulty of each exercise is adjusted to suit the individual. There are between 8-12 people in the class I attend. This allows a social element, without having too many attendees. Helen walks around the class and helps individuals whenever needed. It’s also really motivating to watch others improve as the weeks go on.
I really like the fact that the Pilates classes are mixed, in terms of gender and age. Whilst the classes are mainly female, several men do attend and don’t feel out of place. The age range is from under 18s to 60 years plus. Attendees include people who are into sports like running, rugby and dancing, but also include those who simply wish to be more active.
I was amazed to discover that Pilates suits everybody. It’s great to be involved in a class where everyone works at a similar level, regardless of gender, age and background. I’d highly recommend the classes – either to support specific injury problems or for general fitness purposes.
Helen says …"Pilates really is great and I am glad that Tom along with all the other class participants have found great benefit in their own ways. Pilates based exercises are often given during one to one Physiotherapy sessions too, so don't feel the only way to benefit is to come to a class. You could have a one to one Physio Led Pilates Session at the clinic or exercises may be taught in your Physiotherapy Assessment and Follow Up appointments. I can also say how much benefit I have personally felt from my own Pilates experience. I am 26 weeks into my 3rd pregnancy, I have had no pelvic pain, back pain or sciatic pain which I suffered during my previous pregnancies."
For more information about our physiotherapy-led Pilates classes, please contact us [email protected]