The best things in life usually don’t come easy.
By Kelly Beasley | Photography by Jessie Shepard
“Come on! You’ll only get out of this what you put into it!” I often say this to students attending my Pilates class at WaterColor. The powerful meaning of the phrase became a staple of the way I teach waaaay back in the “olden days” of my Pilates apprenticeship in 1999.
The enlightenment took place three months into my training at The Pilates Studio at the Atlanta Ballet, while taking a session from Romana Kryzanowska. (She is considered by many to be the “Master Teacher” of Pilates.) So…
Let’s rewind to about ten months before the time I took that enlightening session with Romana… (Harp music here.)
You have probably heard about Pilates (from “Mari Winsor Pilates” infomercials and the like), and the miracles it can do for your body. I did too, back in 1998, and decided that teaching the method was right up my alley. I thought, “Hey, you’ll learn a new skill and reap the benefits of getting a miraculous body change at the same time!” So, I applied and qualified for the training at The Pilates Studio in Atlanta.
Prior to that particular session, I had taken many sessions already – at least seventy-five private Pilates sessions, two one-week intensive training workshops, and a full two- months worth of daily rigorous training, learning and observation of The Pilates method. Surely, I was not a beginner! Oh, how wrong I was! At the time, I remember wondering when the “miracle” of getting longer, slimmer and/or stronger would apply to me. Heck, all the stars were raving about it; many people claimed that it had whittled their waists; they got longer muscles, lost weight, and gained strength. So what about me? I hadn’t really seen any change in myself. (Dangiiiiit!!) Still, I continued going through the motions, just knowing that soon enough I would see the magical transformation. I really did not put in much effort. But, I kind of thought I was at the time.
And then… it happened.
One day while walking by the full-length mirror in my room, I ALMOST fell over. It had actually WORKED! I mean, it was unbelievable! I had literally become longer, taller and leaner! I EVEN put on some high heels and kept freaking out, looking at myself in disbelief, at my new, svelte, longer figure in the mirror. HOW could it really happen that fast, and how could I look THAT DIFFERENT?? Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!
Until… (“Downer” music here.)
Reality entered the scene. I realized that the mirror was propped up against the wall, causing it to curve, so it behaved just enough like a fun house mirror to make me look taller and skinnier!!! Oh, the disappointment!!! (Arrrrgghhhhhhh!!!)
I pushed the base of the mirror to the wall, and there was the shorter, stubbier, normal me looking right back, once again! (Sigh.)
Fast-forward to my 1999 session with Romana…
If you are getting on your Reformer (a piece of equipment that is specific to Pilates that some people might compare to a torture rack!) with the Master Teacher of the method about to train you, you aren’t going to waste her time by leisurely moseying through your workout, right? I put my ALL into that session, did my absolute best to impress her, which resulted in complete loss of all muscular function by the time we were finished!! Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT bad, but I had never been so fatigued that I was quivering before! It was a completely different experience from any other session that I had ever been through – especially two days later when just BREATHING brought searing pain! I remember thinking to myself, “How could I possibly be this sore? I have been doing this for almost a year!” And that’s when I realized that I had been getting out of it what I had been putting into it – very little. I had been doing some moves leisurely and waiting for the miracles to happen. From then on, I upped my intensity. I would pretend that Romana was there watching me. That’s when things really did start to change! First, I quickly became much stronger and more flexible. Later, I got a tad “longer” (from 5’-3 ¾” to 5’-4”!) from learning to hold myself up correctly, not from muscles or bones lengthening, as you may hear some Pilates “professionals” claim – that’s medically impossible. You may lose a little weight and look leaner, sure. I did get a bit leaner at the time, but it was from trying the Atkins diet and from doing Pilates four to six times a week.
I have never forgotten that session; and I know that I am still benefiting, to this day, from the lesson I learned.
“How could I possibly be this sore? I have been doing this for almost a year!”
Does the following sound familiar to you?
“Barely move, for less than three minutes a day, and look like Joe “X” or Jane “Y”!! Amazing results guaranteed!” or,
“Check out the new Ab-alizer!! Sit at your desk and it contracts your abs FOR you! Just look at Suzie Homemaker… she lost fifty-two pounds in just five weeks, JUST SITTING AT HER DESK!”
We see new fitness “gadgets” popping up all the time. Their commercials will have doctors making claims and people giving testimonials, show before and after photos and offer money back guarantees. You know what I am talking about… you’ve seen them, and have probably (like me) sometimes found yourself unable to change the channel! It’s mesmerizing! And almost always WORTHLESS! Bummer, eh?
Ninety percent or more of these items are sold to you in a manner that preys on you psychologically. (They use the marketing principle called “social proof.”) “But wait, there’s more!!” They do this because the tactic WORKS! The fact is, there are no shortcuts with fitness. In fitness, as in life, you only get out of it what you put into it. If it’s done leisurely and you never get uncomfortable, you probably aren’t putting enough into it. Most people do not work out at a high intensity. Unfortunately, they don’t know any better and actually aren’t doing much to shape, change or challenge their bodies. Our bodies are well-oiled machines. They are designed to become good at what we challenge them with. Therefore, regular activities that you do daily are quite easy for your body to do. Your body has adapted to them. (We could be talking about walking, standing, sitting or exercising on the elliptical machine four times a week at level six for thirty minutes.) Your body is not really challenged by these activities anymore. Therefore, for you to become more fit, or to force your body to adapt to new stimuli, you must change something. You can change the mode, duration, intensity or weight. Just remember… once something becomes rather easy, it’s not challenging your body anymore! This is critical to health and fitness. There are no shortcuts. Aren’t the best things in life usually the things that don’t come easy? Health is definitely one of the best things in life – in my book! I am going to work for it!
Try putting just a little more effort into anything you would like to improve in your life and see what happens!
Go ahead… Make your day!
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Kelly Beasley is a Certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor at WaterColor Workout. For more information about her services, or if you have questions on this article, call her at 850-622-5164, or go to her website at www.fitwithkelly.com