If you’ve ever seen anything I’ve ever posted, you know I’m a big fan of Pilates and stability work – i.e. all those slow, alignment based exercises that are that so gentle you’re almost not sure anything’s happening.
But can I let you in on a secret?
I love the crazy stuff.
When I was 17, I spent 6 months falling on my face, knees and hands determined to master the standing back flip.
In my Pilates training, I was the first to volunteer to try walkovers, hanging pull-ups and backbends on a spring loaded carriage.
I spent my early twenties screaming into a microphone teaching tuck jumps, burpees, wind sprints and plyometric lunges.
Because let’s be real.
Not only is jumping, sprinting and flipping until you’re sweating bullets and gasping for air fun – it also makes you feel like an invincible bad@ss.
However, if that’s all you do and you do it a little…recklessly…it can leave you injured.
That standing backflip? It’s how I tore the lateral ligaments in my left ankle.
Those backbends? They left me unable to lift my right arm over my head without neck pain for six weeks.
And the seven hours of high impact floor aerobics I taught per week left me with ongoing plantar fasciitis, hip and low back pain.
Those final injuries stopped me in my tracks.
I went from trying and doing everything to feeling like I couldn’t do anything, because it hurt to move.
And it retrospect, I know it didn’t have to be that way.
None of the exercises I was doing were bad or unsafe when progressed correctly or done in the right amount, but I was executing them on an overtrained system with unstable joints.
And if you’ve ever played Jenga, you know how this pans out. Build on a poor foundation and the tower eventually falls.
If I’d taken the time to strengthen my rotator cuff and mobilize my thoracic spine (upper back), I wouldn’t have had a series of ongoing wrist, neck and shoulder issues.
If I’d said hello to my hip stabilizers once in a while, my lower back wouldn’t have been screaming at me 30 minutes into a cardio class.
But I was young, impatient and didn’t appreciate or understand why you’d ever do something in moderation when you could go 110%.
Initially, my injuries made me wonder if my body had failed me. Now, I know it was sending me an SOS that I needed to slow down – way down.
And I did, because I was tired of hurting. I traded high impact cardio for walking, heavy lifting for Pilates and power vinyasas for foam rolling.
This past Thursday I took a high intensity cardio class like the ones I used to teach.
Friday, I woke up pain free.
It was the first time in 3 years that I’d gone all out in a workout without subsequent joint pain.
It felt like coming home…to a stronger, smarter body.
This is why the boring sh*t matters.
Yeah working on your rotator cuff or improving hip mobility doesn’t sound very sexy (seriously 3 sets of 10 with an ultra light band? #yawn), but if you take the time to build joint stability and good movement patterns, you can do what you want without being sidelined by pain and injuries – even as you get older.
Your thing might not be sweating buckets while doing burpees to top 40 remixes. It might be gardening…or playing an instrument…or sailing…or crawling around on the floor with your kids, but it doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, I believe that while it IS important, we should train not just for function, but so we can do activities that we enjoy.
Life is more than perfect posture or having full hip mobility.
It’s about having the power and confidence to do the things you want.
And it starts with consistent, thoughtful movement, which even though I call this stuff the boring sh*t, I say it with love, because there’s something fulfilling in doing things well.
Not to mention, who doesn’t want to get better at the things they enjoy with age? Like wine 😉