It was just another day when I received an online inquiry about Pilates. I emailed back and got in touch with Di. We spoke briefly on the phone. Di sounded quiet. She had Lyme disease. She wanted to give Pilates a try at the recommendation of her sister. She had all over body weakening and knee swelling and inflammation. I asked her if she can take stairs. She said that she should be able to. We scheduled a consultation for her to come visit the studio and meet each other.
A few days later, the appointment time came. Here came this young and beautiful girl. She was maybe mid 30s. Her posture was slumped, her shoulders rounded forward, her knees quite swollen. She came slowly down the stairs while holding onto the rail. She came in the studio and sat timidly at the edge of the sofa.
Di was soft spoken. She shared her story – Lyme disease, which also brought upon digestive issues and depression, had left her body and mind weak. Di had spent months lying on the sofa, staring at the TV with a mind too scattered to actually follow any story. Her body was achy, her knees painful, her muscles atrophied, her life – at a stall. She didn’t have energy. She didn’t really know what to do next. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to handle Pilates as prior attempts to exercise had failed.
Yet, Di had sparkle in her eyes. She had started feeling a bit better from the Lyme symptoms and knew she wanted “to get out of the trap”.
Session one. We usually start at the reformer with 4 springs. I knew she wouldn’t be at 4 springs. A spring came off. 3 springs – no go; she couldn’t move the carriage (the reformer bed). 2 springs – legs and body shaking, Di managed to extend her legs. We lowered the reps too. Her glutes (behind) muscles wouldn’t fire up. We didn’t do much in session one but we got her body moving. Di was uncomfortable. In her own words, she had to give it her all to focus, to follow instructions, to do simple moves.
So did Di’s journey begin. She started with 2 private sessions per week, and she chose to add a 3rd private sessions per week. When Di started working out at the Rebellious studio, she lived very close by. 6 months into her journey, she moved 30+ minutes away. Cold or hot, rain or shine, traffic or not, stormy weather, Di showed up every freaking time!
A couple of months into her journey, Di came in beaming.
Di: Oh, I have to tell you! My husband and I went out to dinner last night! I felt fine! I had energy. I enjoyed my meal. I was sitting at the table and managed to sit straight. Oh, it was so good. I can’t believe I have energy to get out of the house! It has been so long. This was like life in the good old days!
Aw! Speaking of why I love doing what I do. THAT! Right there!
Progressively, not only Di’s body but also her mind started reflecting an uplift. She started coming to class with a smile. Her slumped posture started improving. The swelling in her knees started going down. She had a pep in her walk. She was coming in upbeat and chatty. Even if she had a day down, because who doesn’t have those, we would talk on deep topics such as fear, self-doubt, confidence……
Another couple of months, Di came in with head down and knees swollen big time.
Me: WHAT HAPPENED?!?
Di: You won’t believe what happened.
Me (puzzled and worried; she had been doing so well!): What did happen?
Di: Well, I went to a concert….
A big smile started creeping on her face. Like a child, she proceeded telling me…
Di: It was absolutely amazing! I danced non-stop for 3 hours, and I jumped most of the time!!! And I didn’t get tired. I was feeling so good! I had all this energy.
Di was so excited sharing about how unbelievable her night out was. I was beyond thrilled for her…. well, except the jumping for 3 hours part. The girl who was telling me this story was a completely different person than the person who had first come into the studio and sat at the corner of the sofa.
Me: I am so happy to see you so happy and vibrant!
Di: Me too! I haven’t felt like that in a long time.
Me: Do you remember the first day you came here and sat at the edge of that sofa?
Di (teary eyed): Yeah, I remember.
Me: Look at the life in you now!
Di: I know. I finally feel like I am getting my life back! And if feels so good! I can go out and do stuff in the evening. I can hang out with my hubby. I have all this energy.
It has now been close to a year that Di has been religiously doing Pilates. She is now perfectly comfortable working on 4 springs. Maybe a month ago, she felt tired and asked if I can take a spring off.
Me: 3 will be too light for you.
Me (took a spring out): Here, try it out.
Di: Oh, you are right. Too light.
Me: Hang on, let me show you something.
I took another spring off. She was at 2 springs – that is where she had started and was struggling.
Me: Try now.
Di: What is this now?!? This is like nothing!
Me: This is 2 springs. This is where you started, my friend.
Her eyes watered up. She smiled …
Di is now getting into intermediate advanced exercises. Her core is solid. Her engagement is excellent. Her tush, which previously wouldn’t engage, has awaken. She texted me the other day saying she is starting to see definition in her behind.
When we started super slow, Di would feel frustrated and start beating on herself why she was weak. I kept reminding her that she is ahead of the game from most people. She was doing something about it and showing up. I promised her that one day she will be burning up and be done half way into her workout.
2 weeks ago, half way into the session:
Di: Ok, I am convinced you are trying to kill me today! My entire body is on fire! I think I am fried.
Me (smiling): Remember my promise to you when we started? When I told you that a day will come when you will only be able to last half way into the session because you will be working so deep from your muscles? That day has arrived, my darling!
This girl! A powerhouse! A woman determined to not be a victim of her disease. A rebel determined to claim her life back by taking personal responsibility. I am not sure who is getting more out of our sessions together – her or me. Di inspires me. She is the perfect example of someone showing up and fighting to live a life full of life. Seeing her emerge from a timid girl limited by pain to a confident woman who is not only embracing daily life better but is now actively on her entrepreneurial path.
I asked Di why she stuck with Pilates, even when it was so uncomfortable to begin with. Here are her words:
“I gave Pilates a chance as I was desperate to change my life and no longer live in pain. I needed someone to tell me exactly what to do to get results. I kept coming because after a month of Pilates I was seeing results, not only in body strength but also mental attitude. I also kept coming because you connected with me and were understanding of my health situation, not pushing me uncomfortably past my physical limitations but rather encouraging me to build physical and mental strength.”
I asked Di if I can share her story and am so grateful she agreed to it. There are too many people feeling broken and believing that there is no way out. I hope Di’s story inspires and brings hope to many others, regardless of their situation and circumstances. There is always a way out…with determination, personal responsibility and tools equipping us to keep moving forward.
Keep rocking, Di! You are inspirational!