As the lockdown started over a year ago, we have all had plenty of time to appreciate the things that we used to do and yearn for their return. Coffees, pubs, meals out, getting together with family and friends, travel, this list could go on… Well, almost as long as the lockdown itself. While many of these things have been missed, they have been things that we could pause and wait for us to return to. However, one thing became abundantly clear, our fitness and mental health could not be paused… it needs to be attended to carefully and consistently.
I used to swim regularly and go to the gym a couple of times a week, but haven’t for a long, long time. I still walk the dogs regularly (and for good long walks of 7km – 8km, most times) but that wasn’t enough. I could feel that the muscles (especially the important ones in my core) were atrophying! When I tweaked my back putting on my socks in autumn (!) I knew it was time to make a change.
Pilates has always been something that I have had great respect for and as I get older, I realise it is something that will form a vital part of my fitness activity that I must continue forever. However, it was something that I had lapsed a little with. Floor work with a mat is great and, if done correctly, produces huge dividends, but therein lies the rub – it has to be done correctly. I know a great Pilates teacher and he has helped me learn lots about it, but with lockdown, his only sessions had to be by Zoom and that’s quite a challenge. Yet the solution was standing right in front of me. My Aeropilates machine.
Having trouble viewing this video? See YouTube’s Help page
I have had an Aeropilates machine for a few years and I must confess, I had rather ignored it because of all the swimming and gym work, but with lockdown… out it came. I know that I only catch the surface of what this system is capable of and every time I have met Marjolein, I have learned more and more, but what it does so well, is that it guides you to do all the exercises well, correctly and safely. It helps you develop a balance in your body, which so many of us are missing (especially if you have been hunched over your kitchen table working from home) and it is tremendously efficient at strengthening your core muscles.
We hear a lot about ‘core muscles’ and initially, I think like many, I misunderstood these to be mostly about your tummy muscles. But now I realise that it’s tummy muscles and back muscles and shoulder and hip and glutes, as they are all connected and ALL need to be challenged and stretched and worked. Aeropilates does all of this and more. The Reformer is quite an incredible invention, as it can help you with a cardio workout with so little impact and it is unbelievably efficient. I used to run for 45 minutes in the mornings and hardly get breathless, but with the Reformer I’m out of puff within 10 mins (and yet don’t get sore knees).
So, Aeropilates is definitely an all-round toning fitness machine, but for me, perhaps it’s greatest strength is it’s ability to help you stretch. I’m an old-school ex-rugby player and I’m afraid I tend to overdo things a bit and have so frequently stretched too vigorously or in the wrong way and pulled muscles or tweaked ligaments and tendons causing all sorts of problems.
The Aeropilates machine simply doesn’t let you do this and yet the difference it makes is so clear. If you ever fancy testing this, try the ‘elephant’. I have tight hamstrings and need to stretch these and my calf muscles. I have tried all sorts of different methods and nothing, but nothing does it as well as the “elephant”.
I used to work out as I had a specific goal (like running a marathon or a sponsored swim) but now I realise that as I get older, it may not be so sensible to always push myself to achieve some sort of record. Now I find that being fit and able to do what I want to do is a good enough goal of its own.
As Joseph Pilates once said:
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
As I turn 60 this year, I’m planning on having a flexible spine and a few toned muscles so I can enjoy some sort of party! Is it too old to lambada in Barcelona?
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.