Salvation at My Local Pilates Studio

It’s my birthday week and, since blogging has been one of my work life balance joys in these last few months, I have decided to challenge myself with a blog post a day every day this week. Some are relevant to the milestone that is fast approaching, others are not, but it will be a gift to myself to reach my b-day week goal. Hope you enjoy.


I had a private reformer session today and boy, oh boy, did my instructor work me. She made sure she complimented me on the major strides I have made since I first sent her an email inquiry just over 24 months ago but then she worked my core, hips, and glutes like nobody’s business. And it hurt, and it felt so good, all at the same time.

Mostly, I was just proud that I took some time out of my day to make myself leaner and stronger (and hence healthier) when up until that email I was making no efforts to be well after more than a decade of ingrained self-negligence. If you’re not naturally athletic, if you weren’t raised in a home where being fit and healthy was a priority, and if you pick a life partner with basically the same wellness liabilities as you, it’s easy to use medical school, surgical training, and life as an attending surgeon as an excuse to not take care of yourself.

So here is how the email sent on 6/22/2012 went:

Thanks for reaching out to me by phone earlier today…To reiterate, I am a trauma/acute care surgeon with a busy schedule that I cannot sometimes control. That said, I need to be in better shape and I wanted to start pilates reformer 1:1 to improve my back pain and posture and make my overall cardiovascular endurance better. I wanted to meet with someone for a first reformer class and if we hit it off, move forward with a 10 pack but I could not commit to the same day and time every week and some weeks I could not do any session while others I could do two.  Is there someone there who might be able to work with me?
Leading up to this email, I had done some online research on other local fitness options and had done a qualitative study of sorts from my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. From the traditional gym to crossfit to bootcamps to private personal trainers, I had explored them all. For most, I was either put off by my perceived culture of the establishment or none of the offerings were going to meld with my hectic schedule. What drew me to my local pilates studio was multiple.
It was the story of the founder who wrote on her website about how her back pain dissipated when she learned pilates–I had been waking up with excruciating pain for the past 6 years (hunching awkwardly in the OR can do that to you). It was the studio interior which made my sort of frumpy suburban scene seem urban and hip–I left an amazing city to move to the burbs because it was the right thing for my family but I’m a city girl at heart. It was my research on the art and science of pilates which seemed like exactly what my body needed to become healthy from inside out–I had done the fits and spurts of diet controlled weightloss many times in the past and had failed. It was the flexibility of booking sessions the private instructors and paying with punch cards or passes that would only be charged for the sessions I signed up for–I had tried the motivation of automatic monthly fees or year long commitments only to lose money without imparting any improvement in my strength or agility.
And, so on the morning of my 38th birthday I arrived at 6am, a little fearful, a little exhilarated for my first Stott reformer class.v2max Something that I had initially viewed as a medieval torture device soon became my tool for healing my chronic pains, for gaining length and building strength. My goals was to be in the best shape of my life by the time I turned 40. That’s just 6 days away and like I was reminded today and am reminded every time I wear an awesome dress without Spanx, I have come a long  way.
Finding this studio has saved me from heading into the next decade of my life feeling tired, with a hunched, aching back, and a body shape with much to be desired. Last week was a banner week for me with a relatively light 87 hour week on service so I was able to do a lot at the studio. I took a group reformer class, zumba, and two barre classes at the studio in addition to my private which I still try to make at least twice a month (but my schedule is no better so it doesn’t always happen). Sometimes, however, weeks go by and I don’t go at all between call and travel.  But, all of the fundamentals I have gained by starting first with reformer and then adding in other offerings at the studio which fundamentally are focused on building and sustaining the core are now with me every day.
When I am too busy at work to make it to the studio, I might do a quick set of exercises on the floor of my office on call or use the edge of the OR table to do some more while waiting for the patient to get rolled into the room. When I travel, I have enough core strength and coordination to be an itinerant Pure Barre student (I surely would have died on site during my first Pure Barre class had I not already been a student of Stott Pilates method for well over a year). Finally, though it was not known to me when I wrote that email, I was also an aspiring runner. And, pilates has made me a stronger, safer, and faster runner. So when all I have is a pair of kicks and I hit the road, I am taking what I have learned at the studio with me.
There is no doubt in my mind that 40 is better if you are fit. I gave myself two years to be in the best shape of my life and today, as I start my 40th birthday week, I am. Do I have further to go? Yes, absolutely. I am just so happy that I have such a wonderful place to continue achieving my fitness goals–a true place of health and well-being salvation.



I lost 5 pounds…and grew half an inch

I had my annual primary care visit the other day. There are several reasons I am proud of this accomplishment.

1) I made it to the doctor. With my schedule, the first person I tend to neglect is myself. I have been known to go years at a time without seeing a physician unless I was incubating a human inside me. Given that I am heading toward that age where routine screenings begin to start, I compelled myself to make this visit. Turns out, I am in great health and added routine screenings (mammogram) are still a year away but still I felt pretty proud of myself to just getting there and having the patience to be examined.

2) Though I could still benefit from a few fewer pounds on my short frame, I have lost 5lbs since my last check-up. While I know that it is not about the numbers and the last two years have been about being fit and healthy, about shedding fat for muscle no matter what the scale shows, it was nice to be a little lighter. The total weight is 32lbs less than my highest in adulthood (10 years ago, just after having my first child) and 17lb more than my lowest in adulthood (on my wedding day, pre-babies and after 9 mos of anxious energy and weight watchers but very little in the way of fitness activities). If I can hold my own in this range give or TAKE a few while persisting in the running-pilates-zumba regimen I have crafted for myself, I will continue to be proud.

3) Speaking of short frame, turns out I am not as short as I thought. I have been 5’2 1/2″ since puberty–honestly, a pretty remarkable feat of western nutrition given that my immigrant parents are only 5’0” and 5’2”. Despite weight fluctuations as wide as 50lbs, my height has been unsurprisingly consistent because, hey, that’s what humans do. The hormones kick in and we stop growing. But it turns out that I measured in at 5’3” this year. It is a sure sign the the posture benefits of pilates have become a way of life for me. So I will continue to stand tall, stand proud and hit the reformer as often as I can.

4) I went all morning without a cup of coffee (and survived). I didn’t want the hassle of coming back for fasting blood work so I challenged my body. I did not have my typical 10 oz borne from the Keurig on my way out the door. Usually this is consumed by 7am at the latest. And, though it is my only cup of coffee of the day on a regular basis and I no longer consume other caffeinated beverages, I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee. But, for this 9am appointment, I bravely entered the outside world sans travel mug in hand. I did not have a raging headache by noon so I powered on. Lasted a whole 24 hours without caffeine. I haven’t done this in the two weeks since but I might try is again sometime. Just shedding the fear of a day without caffeine in a point of pride for me.

5) I managed to be less VitD deficient. At my last visit, I was deficient. I was told to take a ramp up supplement for 4 weeks followed by a daily supplement. Well, it took about seven weeks but I did the ramp up; however, I never managed to get onto a daily supplement. I live at the wrong latitude and so in general me and all of my neighbors are VitD deficient and so I really should be taking the supplement but I really suck at taking pills every day. I just cannot make it happen (which I might add as an aside is as good a motivation as any to work hard at being fit to avoid the diabetes, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, and coronary artery disease that ail the majority of my adult genetic kin). So that I was less VitD deficient this year to me is representative of the many more hours of sun exposure I incurred with the running. Granted a good month for me is still only 6-8 outdoor runs but that is 6-8 more than when I last got my VitD level measured and this added sunshine in my life is also a matter of pride.

I wish there was a #6 but I was a bit displeased by my LDL/HDL situation. My LDL had plummeted dramatic between my last two visits but was creeping up this time even though the HDL was better. This, at least, is motivation for future PCP visit related pride which will tie in well with desired weight loss goals as I doubt I can get much taller, don’t plan on relocating to a sunnier latitude, and imagine I will not become a daily pill popper anytime soon.