The power of Pilates

Those of you who watch the AeroPilates shows on QVC will know just how much I’ve always loved this piece of equipment, but it’s fair to say that I don’t know how I would have coped without it over the past twelve months, and I’m not just saying that because of the global pandemic and gyms being closed.

I had major ankle surgery at the end of January 2021. My surgeon’s job was to break bones and re-position my foot, and to also replace tendons that were badly frayed. My physiotherapist’s job is in some ways harder, as she has been responsible for rebuilding muscles from the waist down on my left side and teaching me to walk and stand properly after years of “cheating.” All of this is as a result of contracting polio at the age of fourteen months.

I left hospital on Christmas Eve 1957 after a five month stay, wearing a calliper on my left leg. My mum was instructed that it should always be worn to aid my severely wasted muscles, but she was keen for me to walk on “my own two feet,” so sent me to ballet class at the age of three.

Thus began my love of dancing, which eventually led to my first professional dancing job, a summer season in Guernsey.

When I eventually hung up my dancing shoes some eight years later, I wanted to do something to stay fit and supple, so I started teaching Body Conditioning classes at a local fitness studio as part of the 1980s fitness boom. It proved particularly useful for getting in shape after the births of my two children, Dan and Sophie.

Once they were attending school and I’d started at QVC, as well as other freelance presenting work, I didn’t have time to teach classes and was looking for a piece of exercise equipment that I could use at home. I liked the idea of the Pilates machine from the first time it appeared on the channel, but it took me a few weeks to get pass the ‘motion sickness’ I initially experienced. Once I did, there was no looking back – I’ve loved my Pilates machines (I’m now on my third one) for well over twenty years!

When we down-sized from a five bedroom house to our current cottage, the first thing we did was have a cabin built at the bottom of the garden as a dedicated gym for the AeroPilates, my treadmill and a couple of other pieces of fitness equipment that are mostly used by my son.

Not only has it helped me physically, I find it therapeutic if I’m feeling stressed and energising when I’m tired. It also gives me headspace while I’m performing exercises that my body is familiar with to work on new ideas for my novels.

But let’s return to the importance of my AeroPilates machine over the past twelve months. My physiotherapist, Brittany, works out of a Pilates studio in Chiswick, close to QVC. Prior to my surgery, she was trying to build strength in the muscles that would be most responsible for a good recovery. Among many exercises, she asked me to stand on one of their Pilates Reformer machines, with one foot on the end and the other on the moving platform, and then push outwards. I couldn’t move the platform at all, not even with the least amount of resistance and it reduced me to tears.

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My post-surgery rehabilitation began, and in fact the first video of me walking on my treadmill was from March last year after a couple of sessions. The second is March this year – an unbelievable difference.

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The whole country went into lockdown and I was unable to see Brittany for three months. I continued with the specific exercises she had given me, gradually increasing repetitions or weight by ten percent at weekly intervals, but felt that my progress was slower than it could have been. That’s when I started carefully back on my AeroPilates machine, relaying via phone what I was doing. When I was eventually able to see Brittany in person again, she was pleased with the strength I had developed and how I’d begun to regain flexibility.

Since I’ve been back having regular sessions with her, my recovery has accelerated. She shows me exercises on the professional machines that I’m then able to perform on my home machine. I’m delighted to report that I can now stand on my machine and push the platform away with a certain amount of ease. Achieving that was something of a milestone, I can tell you!

Of course, Pilates is not only for people who are recovering from surgery or injury, although that is why the system was originally devised by Joseph Pilates in the late 1920s. If you want long, lean, strong muscles and the flexibility, regardless of age, to enjoy simple everyday pleasures like gardening or playing with your children or grandchildren, then I would highly recommend it as a piece of fitness equipment.

Since the addition of the Cardioboard, a small trampoline that slots onto the end of the machine allowing you to bounce while lying down, thus keeping your core muscles engaged, it has become the perfect all-rounder. It will help keep you strong and supple, and gives an aerobic workout for a healthier heart and lungs.

It’s easy to find reasons not to get kitted up to go out to the gym (when they reopen, of course), but much harder to make excuses not to jump on a piece of home equipment. The other excuse is not having room to leave it out, but the AeroPilates machine folds in half, so space and storage have been thought about too.

Once you start, I think you’ll find it quite addictive as you see and feel your body change. It is the one piece of home equipment I have yet to tire of and, to be honest, I doubt I ever will.

Check out our Feeling Good Together campaign too, where we’re regularly updating the page with fitness inspiration, wellbeing top tips and expert interviews to help support and inspire you throughout 2021.

3 Responses

  1. I have done pilates for about 15 years and like you I am now on my third machine. I absolutely love it,it’s the best thing ever. I have always done some sort of excercise, doing aerobics in my twenties and lifting a few weights, but as I got older I found it too much and to be honest I became a bit bored with it. Watching QVC one day I discovered Pilates and that was it for me, I ordered my first machine and I’ve never looked back. I’m 66 now, I get on my machine 5 mornings a week and I could not live without it. I keep my machine under the stairs and I lift it out, unfold it,do my routine about 45 minutes then put it back. I love to watch you Julia your an inspiration and I’m so pleased you are recovering well. Stay happy and healthy. Love Diane xx

  2. Hi Diane
    I’m so pleased to hear you love your Aeropilates machine as much as I love mine.
    It’s also good that you mention folding yours up after use to store under the stairs which, as you use it 5 mornings a week shows how easy it is to do.
    Thank you very much for your kind comments – and yes, finally it feels as though all the hard work with my physiotherapy is paying off.
    Julia x

  3. Hi Julia always love to watch QVC just wanted to say how fantastic you look how have you lost so much weight & what have you been eating to get there keep it up & keep us smiling thankyou x ps the Danni Minogue spotted dress looked amazing on you pink really suits you & of course your fav purple & red

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