Guest post by Riki Shore
On Sunday October 8th, IOBT client Anne-Claire Broughton will complete her first triathlon, the Ramblin’ Rose, in celebration of turning 50! A lover of challenge and a lifetime learner, Anne-Claire decided to celebrate her half-centennial by doing something active and enabling, and pushing herself to new physical frontiers.
Ever since she can remember, Anne-Claire said her spine looked “unusual”, but she was only recently diagnosed with scoliosis. “I was always flagged for it when we got checked in school,” she remembers, “but the back pain didn’t come until after my daughter was born, and it intensified later when I had abdominal surgery.” Indeed, when she first walked into IOBT she wasn’t standing straight and tall, and she told me immediately that her back hurt “almost all the time”. And like a lot of mothers, firing the low belly muscles was nearly impossible – those muscles just didn’t seem accessible. More than anything, she came to Pilates to strengthen her deep core.
As her instructor, I build sessions that help her achieve her goals while creating space and length in her spine, pushing her to an edge without ever increasing her pain. We start every session with Footwork on the Reformer (see image below), which wakes up her feet and stabilizes her pelvis while using the deep abdominal muscles that Anne-Claire wants to strengthen. Since she’s not primarily looking to build muscle mass, we keep the spring tension low in order to facilitate smooth, continuous movement and highlight the connection between the spring tension and her Pilates scoop (what is sometimes referred to as “holding the spring with your belly”).
If asked her favorite exercise, Anne-Claire would say Leg Circles, which she credits with helping to straighten her spine and reduce lower back pain. We also do this exercise every session using the leg springs on the Cadillac. When we first started, I asked Anne-Claire to “stand” into a block that was pushed against the short box from the Reformer, which I had placed at the end of the Cadillac. I wanted to her to feel a ground beneath her extended leg as a stabilizing force while she circled the other leg exploring both movement and restraint. After several months together, she no longer needs the stabilizing block and can hop onto the Cadillac and go right into the exercise.
We always finish the session with some time draped over the Spine Corrector (see image below), which allows her to explore flexion, extension, side bending and rotation in a safe and supportive way. While there have been ups and downs in her triathlon training as she learns what her spine can tolerate, I can honestly say that Anne-Claire is stronger, leaner, taller and more supple than when we first met.
Like any busy not-quite-50-year-old, she sometimes experiences stress, fatigue, muscle tightness and pain, but she remains undaunted and committed to what she calls her Body Project. “I love doing things that at first I’m afraid of or I think I can’t do. Then when I do them…that is the best feeling!” I have no doubt she’s going to be feeling that way when she crosses the finish line in Chapel Hill in a few short weeks – and I’m proud to have played a small part in her journey. Thank you, Anne-Claire, for brightening IOBT with your presence!
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