Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pilates at ATHLETE Studio

First Pilates class at ATHLETE Studio - using the Reformer

Earlier this year I saw an announcement posted on Michele Landry’s, ATHLETE Studio’s Facebook page, that she was looking for one female and one male who would like to be put through six weeks of Pilates at her new studio. I have been meaning to start doing Pilates or Yoga consistently and thought this sounded like such a great opportunity! It’s so hard to fit in stretching, strength training, core work, Pilates/Yoga on top of triathlon training, however, it is sooooo important for injury prevention. So, I sent in my story. I haven’t talked about it much on my blog so here is a brief summary with the email I sent to Michele:

Here are my reasons for wanting to particpate in your 6-8 week pilates series. In 2008, I found out that I had a bulging disc in my L5-S1. I started out going to the basic prescribed physical therapy at a hospital doing some basic lifting. Then I got a few steroid injections. In 2009, I was training for my first Ironman. The surgeon told me he didn't think it was a good idea to do it but I didn't let that discourage me. From that point, I found a great chiropractor at Capital Rehab and started to get needling done at Sports and Spinal PT. All of these things helped me get through my first Ironman and since then I have done two more, just missing a Kona slot by 3 minutes at Louisville in 2010. I did halves and under last year and this year, I am doing Mont Tremblant and 70.3 World Championships in Vegas. I still struggle with my back/hip/hamstring issues and I know a lot of that is my lack of core strength. I still go to the chiropractor about once a week now but I know this alone is not going to get me through my tough training I have ahead of me the next five-six months. I haven't even been putting in a lot of training yet and I feel my hamstring/hip/back bothering me. It worries me a bit b/c I have set some challenging goals to try to reach this year. My ultimate goal is to try to qualify for Kona at Mont Tremblant. This will probably be the last time I do an Ironman for quite some time as I'm going to take some time off from that long of distance. So, this year I'm going all out with my training and need to definitely take time to do core and strength training. I want to do what I can to get to the start line at Mont Tremblant with a strong and healthy back and try to race my best Ironman ever. I know the only way I can do that is to work on my core and back strength. I do not take the time like I should to do this on my own. I feel a set program like this would be so helpful for my body and training and help prepare my body to be able to push myself in all three disciplines. My swim is the worst of the three sports and I know have a strong core would definitely help with keeping the proper swim form.

As I mentioned in the email above, in 2008, I developed a bulging disc in my L5/S1 vertebrae. In case you don’t know what this is, here is a definition from WebMD:  A bulging spinal disc occurs when the disc's soft, jellylike center (nucleus) is squeezed into cracks in the disc's outer covering, weakening and stretching that covering. As a disc bulges out from between the neighboring bones (vertebrae), it can press on nerves that travel to the legs or arms and can cause numbness, weakness, or pain.

Ron and I were training for the NYC marathon at the time and I knew something was not right. After visiting an Orthopedist, I started going to physical therapy and was prescribed Celebrex. Ron and I would always joke and say we had to take our ‘happy pills’ after our long run. He was also dealing with his own back issues so had some happy pills too. Lol I was not so happy when my whole right leg went numb at mile 16 of the NYC marathon! It went away luckily (for the time being), Ron and I finished our marathon together (his first!) and when I got home, I had an MRI done to confirm what was going on with my back. From there, I had a few spinal transforaminal epidural injections which helped for the short term. Then I found a wonderful sports oriented chiropractor, Dr. Beck with Capitol Rehab in Arlington, and he started treating me with adjustments and active release therapy. (I will be blogging separate about this soon in greater detail! It’s great stuff!!)

So, what exactly is Pilates?


1.    A system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness

Pilates is a body conditioning routine that may help build flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips and back. It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, and developing a strong core or center, and improving coordination and balance. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaching to move with ease and grace.

Michele has a great explanation on her website here. In the picture above, I am doing an exercise on the Reformer, essentially a moveable mat with pulleys and springs to provide resistance.
On a Facebook post, Michele, explained what my muscles are doing in this exercise below on the Stability Chair:


Intermediate Sidebends on the Stability Chair.

Lots happening here: Internal and external obliques working like crazy as she laterally flexes the spine, glutes and hamstrings are engaged and isometrically holding to prevent her hips from flexing. Her core is on fire to prevent rotation of her torso. Court is also doing a fabulous job maintaining scapular stability all while avoiding tension in her head, neck and shoulders.


As Michele mentions on her website, Pilates is great for anyone!

If you sit at a desk all day for your job, I’m sure you notice your body slouching over. Doing this day after day, can lead to horrible posture and back issues. If your job entails standing, lifting or any type of repetitive motion, body alignment and proper muscle balance is key to prevent injury. In the sport of triathlon, triathletes are constantly moving in one plane (sagittal plane – forward and backwards movements) while swimming, biking and running. If you ask a triathlete to do an activity that involves side to side movement (frontal plane) watch for the freaked out look you will get! Lol But, we need to do exercises in all planes to obtain balance!

While endurance training is excellent for the body in so many ways, if you do not focus on some sort of injury prevention with musculature strength and flexibility, injury is inevitable. You can’t expect your body to continuously move in one repetitive motion (overuse) and not have some sort of musculature imbalance. This is exactly why I signed up to do Pilates at Athlete Studio.

In my 20’s I could get away with running day after day and not have too much of a problem with nagging injuries. When I turned 30 all hell broke loose!.....Well, not really but my body could definitely tell I had been doing marathon training year after year (sometimes two a year) and I had developed some muscle and postural imbalances. I experienced plantar fasciitis then some hip/hamstring/back issues all related to that bulging disc that developed. Definitely not fun things to deal with!  Sure, I’ve been teaching Body Pump classes for over ten years and some strength training on my own but that is not enough to prevent injury with the type of exercise load I put on my body.

I’ve learned a lot since I developed that bulging disc, yet, I never made myself attend yoga or Pilates until I started up with Michele this summer. I even went through Stott Pilates training before I moved out to DC (just never took the test to get certified) so definitely understood the benefits it has on the body. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an injury like what I had, to really buckle down and do something about it. I don’t recommend that to anyone, but who am I kidding…..when we are younger none of us think we can get injured!

Michele is an endurance athlete herself and has years of experience training and working with athletes. She believes that ATHLETE studio can help athletes reach another level by incorporating Pilates training along with endurance training. After doing my first century of the season in June, I went to a recovery Pilates class the day after. I felt amazing when I was done and actually went to the pool for a recovery swim after class. I had one of the best swims I’ve had all year! My legs also didn’t feel as sore as they usually do after putting in that type of mileage. Needless to say, I’m hooked! I now have six weeks until my Ironman so I’m looking forward to continue to see the great results Pilates is doing for my training! Michele also has recovery boots for clients to rent and pay for some time to use at the studio. I’ll blog more about those in my next post!

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading your journey, albeit painful and frustrating for you w/ injuries. Not only are you a very gifted athlete, you're an intelligent one having done the research and taken the time to balance your training. Let's keep it up the next 6 weeks and I cannot wait to track you at Ironman Mt. Tremblant. So very happy to have you at the studio and your dedication to training continues to inspire all of us! :)