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My First Love Exercise That Changed My Life

Monday, March 07, 2011

My return to reformer pilates in March has my body saying "YESSSss, thank you!" So much so, that I got to thinking -- is reformer pilates my first love? I think yes, it is my very first love of exercise! After all, it was the only exercise I felt comfortable doing when I was 300+ lbs 5 years ago. I still remember the very first time I shyly walked into the studio. I couldn't believe I had mustered up the courage to take a group class with complete strangers. I remember stumbling my way into the machine and how awkward I felt...thinking oh god I'm going to be the elephant in the room, everyone else will be teeny tiny. And then she appeared - the perky instructor / OWNER / EX-ROCKETT!! I wanted to run, but I was stuck in the machine, trapped, so I had no choice, I stayed.

There I was with the owner of the studio who was like this magnificent ray of light. She made me feel comfortable while we waited for the others... as faith would have it, NO ONE ELSE showed up so I ended up having a private session with the Rockett!!

She was awesome, took everything slowly. Not once did I feel self conscious about my body, although I was grossly out of shape! I fell in love with reformer pilates from that moment on and have been practicing for the past 5 years. Last
Saturday - I saw her again after about a year of absence (she has since sold the studio but still trains clients one on one) and her JAW DROPPED when she saw me. She screamed "OMG, you look fantastic!!" She actually cried when I told her I was now down 80 lbs. and that I keep coming back to reformer pilates because this is my first love and that SHE was pivotal at showing me this path. She cried more and hugged me until we were both late for class. It didn't matter though, we had shared a moment connecting over reformer pilates love! It's all good!

Reformer pilates is not mat pilates (similar, but done on a Reformer Machine) - Articles written about the subject aren't conclusive about whether a reformer pilates program on its own promotes weight loss. To that I say - Pssh. Reformer pilates works great when you ADD it to your existing program of cardio, nutrition, tracking, cross training, sleep, meditation, prayer. What I can say from experience is that reformer pilates HAS contributed to changing the shape of my body. It's helped transform my mid-section, stomach, hips, thighs, like nothing else had in the past. Your results will vary, because you are uniquely you and I am uniquely me.

Here's what it looks like:

Reformer pilates is done on a Reformer Machine. The cutesy woman standing at the lower right corner of this picture is the former NYC Rockett and my first instructor.

This is the basic pose - it's called Table Top - legs extended at 90 degree angle, core muscles activated; most moves are built on this standard pose.

This is a killer core move called Hundreds/100s - it works!

This move is called Plank - because you extend your body out in a plank, not as easy as it looks because you are lifting your entire body weight.

This move is called Skiing - you balance with one leg stationary on the track, the other leg slides the carriage. Core activates to control the carriage distance in & out.

This move is called Short Spine - It really helps stretch the lower back. It took me 2.5 years to actually be able to do this move. My gut, that looked like a spare tire, got in the way. I couldn't go up and over without feeling uncomfortable. Once I lost some of the stomach fat, and actually developed core muscles, I was able to benefit from this move.

My return to reformer pilates this month and the chance encounter with my former instructor made me realize how hard I've worked over the past few years without giving in or giving up on myself. Is this love? Yes, I think it is the ultimate expression of self love. There it is -- the AHA moment.

emoticon Do you have a first love exercise that changed your life? What is it, what's your story?

SKINNYINMYHEAD (Annie) commented that reformer pilates is expensive and she's right. I don't want to mislead anyone about cost. Most gyms have an upcharge to your initial membership.

Here's what I did to mitigate costs - I consulted my primary physician and asked her if she would support me by writting a "Medical Necessity" letter that I could submit to my Health Care Benefits Administrator under my Flexible Spending Account Plan from my employer. I showed her that it could be done utilizing IRS Publication 502 - check pages 13, 15:

My goal was to use my PRE-TAX FSA money to pay for reformer pilates classes. My physician was all for it and immediately wrote a letter saying I was morbidly obese and this was a good first step at exercise which she prescribes ASAP. IT DID STING - to admit that I had let myself go to be part of the "Morbidly Obese" BMI category. But admitting it, got the job done. For the first 3 years costs were covered by pre-tax dollars. Then our FSA administrator changed / my Doctor moved out of TN and I no longer was able to get the costs covered. I have a new doctor now and plan to try again this year.

My point being - If you really want something, don't let cost get in your way. Check out REDCHILIFLAKES recent blog on the same subject:
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great info. I will take a page out of your book.
    2325 days ago
    Wow! I read your and Erin's article in Idea Fitness Journal magazine today and had to pop in and say CONGRATULATIONS!! So glad you are doing great! Hugs, Brenda
    2484 days ago
    I've never heard of this type of pilates. I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the info.
    2583 days ago
  • BABARR67
    I actually own one of these and I have _never_ used it. I might take a couple lessons at my local studio. I think if I knew how, I'd love it! Congrats on your weight loss, BEV
    2583 days ago
    I have a rebounder @ home *sans the platform*, I use to use it ALL the time. But now 'Sheila' is sadly collecting dust in my closet.

    My friend you have inspired me to start hanging out w/ Sheila again. I forgot how much I enjoyed her company.

    btw: I love when you said "without giving in or giving up on myself"
    2583 days ago
    Wow, I had never heard of that. Sounds interesting. Very inspiring story!
    2584 days ago
    I purchased a reformer from QVC. There will be special sale on the reformer tomorrow, March 24th on QVC for anyone who may be interested. Also check out Marjolein Brugman on She is an expert with the reformer. Keep up the good work!!
    2584 days ago
    That's a fantastic tip about the FSA dollars.
    2584 days ago
    I do Pilates too! I love it! I go twice a week and work one-on-one with a trainer. I had lots of reasons not to like exercise classes (loud music), treadmill (feel like a lab rat), etc. but Pilates has changed me SO much. My favorite is JUMPING on the reformer. I feel like I'm flying.

    I'm glad you wrote about Pilates on the reformer, because a Pilates mat class is nothing like working on the reformer and the other equipment. A good trainer can make you feel confident, and when you are overweight or older (I'm in my 60s), it's fabulous to feel the confidence that lets you start getting stronger. My trainer is a dancer and she makes tiny corrections that help me really work the right muscles in the right way.

    I'm amazed that you use the roller for the i.t. band. I tried it and it was so painful. I love it on my back though.

    You are an amazing inspiration. Glad I found you!!!
    2587 days ago
    Wow, I love this blog! I've been curious about pilates but didn't know anything about it. Your photos are really helpful.

    I know you've read my blogs about finding what you love. It's so magnificent reading about you and the reformer pilates!

    That's it, I am adding you as a friend. emoticon emoticon
    2588 days ago
  • PUNZIE73
    There's a similar "exercise thingy" I have that goes over the door that I need to whip out, I simulates a some pilates movements that I've forgotten all about, thanks for reminding me!
    2589 days ago
    That is so great that u got up enough courage to go to a class like this, especially w/a cute little Rockette! I don't know why, but I am so scared, maybe a little shy to go to a new class where I've never done the exercise before. I really want to take up swimming. I never learned how to swim as a child and I found out that I can take classes at my gym for only $40 for 6 wks. I'm going to give it a try. I want to learn how to swim laps so I can do this once or twice a wk along with running.

    Keep up doing what you love! Running's always been my love. Hopefully, I can turn swimming into a 2nd :)

    emoticon emoticon
    2589 days ago
    i would love to try reformer sometime, been doing pilates with my body weight alone and been LOVING it, definitely shaping up my muscles! it is so great when we find an activity we love, i think walking is my number one but pilates is a CLOSE 2 ;)
    2596 days ago
    Wow wow wow, awesome girl, simply awesome. I am so proud of you
    2596 days ago
  • DMR3673
    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I've been posting my weekly progress to keep track of how I am doing. Looks like you have a great week planned!

    the rest of the week for me:
    Thur- REST- Ran 4 mi on TM tonight and my legs are really sore.. boo, it's weird- its my inner calves closer to my ankles- never been sore there before

    Fri- Strength training and 4 more miles.. the weather here in PA sucks and I am so ready to run outside!!
    Sat- ZUMBA
    Sun- 6 miles

    Hopefully I can fit all that in.. I want to, but don't know if I really will be able to...
    2598 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/9/2011 9:10:49 PM
    That looks like a really good exercise to try! I haven't done any kind of pilates before, so I need to try that some time.
    2599 days ago
    I'm so glad you included the pictures. I finally understand! Even better - the great story about the Rockett to go along with your story. You have had incredible success, but you have worked hard for it. No matter how long it takes, I know you will reach all your goals.

    First love...I was 4 when I started dancing. I think any exercise that involves basic ballet moves (like pilates) or a routine that involves movement of all body parts (Tae bo) is the type of exercise I am most comfortable doing and like the most.
    2599 days ago
  • MAIA2011
    My first exercise as a teen was ballet but my great love is boxing (kick and otherwise). I am getting back in shape for the dojo. Woot!

    Thanks for sharing on the Pilates. I hadn't heard of that!

    2599 days ago
    you made me cry :) my first love was swimming! I still love it! I have been doing it my whole life! something about the water is comforting, and the absence off all sounds, except the water sounds. so relaxing and a WHOLE BODY WORKOUT!

    PS~ thank you for the bday wishes :)
    2600 days ago
    Wow, this looks awesome! I wanna try it now that I understand a bit more how you're supposed to use that contraption, lol.

    My first love workout? Strength training. I started at Curves and fell in love with pushing myself to my limits!
    2600 days ago
    I always thought those machines looked so intimidating but you make me want to try it! Congratulations on your incredible weight loss and thank you for helpful payment info- as an employee at a non-profit I'm always looking for ways to save money! Congrats again- I loved this blog!
    2600 days ago
  • CARLA-216
    What a nice blog. I love that you have a "first love exercise" and that has changed your life so much and continues to do so. I also love that your former instructor was there today and was impressed by your awesome progress.

    I guess my first love exercise would be simply walking, outside or on the treadmill. I never tire of it or get bored with it.
    2600 days ago
  • TOSHIKO120
    Great blog! thanks for sharing all that good info! I am thinking that ZUMBA is my first love of fitness because not till this year do I feel like I LOVE fitness. I'd say ZUMBA ties with running. I know I love running because it gets me out of the house and I feel like it's a classic exercise that when I get a little better, I'll feel like I'm among the other "fit and healthy" but I say I love ZUMBA because I can do it anytime I'm at home, I know with a little more practice I will be confident in dancing in general. Something I have never felt comfortable with. Whenever I'm home I can just pop on some music and get moving, reminding myself that all movement counts and when the heart rate's up BONUS!!! Fitness is in my life in a fun and very big way these days and I really hope I can endure the 6 mo. stretch-something I've heard, if you can do, you have a really good chance you'll exercise for life. I have a feeling that my mind WILL benefit from reaching that milestone! As far as day by day for now, I keep eating and exercising fun because I'm deathly afraid of boredom being the end all! There are days I still feel like I could give up for no good reason, like it's out of my control because I might not know THE secret to success or something! I'm glad you have a few faves! Have fun out there keeping active!
    2600 days ago
    What an awesome story! We have that near me but it is so expensive in Boston so I haven't tried it. My love is spinning! They don't have it at my gym and I am looking for a new one because I really miss it.
    2600 days ago
    emoticon looks so intense!! I started out loving the stair climber!!! It was only until I met my Hubby when my LOVE for running sprouted!!!! Awe i felt misty reading about your reunion!! xo
    2600 days ago
    The thing that stood out to me the most was that you met up with the person that started you on your journey and was able to see her reaction to your progress. that is an amazing feeling. the diciple getting praised by the master. trust me, you made her feel good too because a teacher has no greater joy than to know he/she had such a positive impact in your life. thats why they do what they do. you encouraged her as much as she encouraged you.

    My first love was mountain biking. that was my first exercise I could do after walking wasnt enough and it broke my first plateau.
    2600 days ago
    Wow! Reformer Pilates looks AMAZING! I love the idea of building strong, lean muscles and this looks like an amazing way to do it!

    Thanks so much for the shout out! It was a great "a ha" moment for me to realize that nothing can stand in our way when we really want something!!!

    2600 days ago
  • LOUANN22
    I'm so happy for you! You accomplished so much and are an inspiration to everyone! Keep up the great work emoticon
    2600 days ago
  • ALOFA0509
    I think my first love was the STEP- my first class was taken at at community center in my early 20's during collage. I remember the instructor was this MAHOO Fabulous guy.. No lie he'd walk in with this GUCCI Swap Meet Glasses, and his Donna Karen Stretch outfit.. He would Sa-Shay to the front, and then out of no where, came this POLY RUGBY WARRIOR... OMG!! Changed the shape of my body, and I was in such awsum shape.. As exercise evolved it's been harder to find a STEP Class.. I s too "Dated" for some gyms to carry.. As I've been told- lol I teared up over your reunion with your old instructor!! what a GR8 accomplishment sista.. You are Frickin Awsum..

    I Love you sista!!! Hugs, O.
    2600 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/7/2011 10:02:56 AM
    I think my first love exercise is step-aerobics. When I was just 13 (and probably 10-20 lbs over weight) I started with Richard Simmons videos, and I moved on to Susan Powter's Stop the Insanity. It's still a stand by for me, I love doing step at home while watching tv (it's a great way to fit in all the shows you can stream on netflix). I know all the moves, all the ways to modify to make it harder or easier. Really, step changed my life.
    Pilates looks so hard! Congratulations on changing your life! You are amazing!
    2600 days ago
    I have not heard of reformer pilates, but it looks like a great activity!!!!
    You have done an amazing job and are so inspirational to me!!!

    2600 days ago
    I took one reformer class and loved it... unfortunately it's out of my price range... my LOVE exercise is biking.. I adore it... I'm sorta dreading breaking in my "saddle" again this season.. it's the worst part.. a month of soreness is worth 9 months of freedommmmmmm!!
    2600 days ago
    i have never heard of reformer pilates! that is really neato!!
    im glad that you found something that you love and kept with it.
    and yay for the awesome compliment!!
    2600 days ago
    My love is tennis. I could play every day! Right now I am fortunate and get to play twice a week.

    I have been trying to run. I did the Couch to 5K last year and completed two 5Ks. This year I have signed up for a 7K and the Warrior Dash, but have not trained nearly as much as I should. I am just waiting for the snow to melt so I can begin to love running outside.

    2600 days ago
    Love this blog - pilates reformer was the first group exercise class I ever took as well and I, too, absolutely loved it! I took it weekly for about 1.5 years. Skiing - I was miserably weak when we started this - while everyone else was on a yellow (light resistance) and I to use blue (med resistance) and I would get so tired so fast! In the end, I was back to the yellow spring, using the full carriage, bottoming out, etc. LOVED the progress I saw. Glad you found it.
    2600 days ago
    Great blog! My gym recent brought in two pilates reformer machines. They offer one on one training sessions for a price. I was contemplating doing them, but wondered if I was too out of shape to give it a try. I think you've just convinced me to give one of the sessions a try next go around. Thank you for that. :)
    2600 days ago
    Awesome. Your blog is the perfect example of why we always need to treat *everyone* with the utmost respect - we may be their only ray of sonshine that day, or we could be instrumental in changing their life!

    2600 days ago
    Exercise is definitely NOT my first love! However, I'm learning to love it as it seems to love me. Great blog! So happy you found something to connect with!
    2600 days ago
    I started pilates with Mari Windsor cd's. I've recently purchased her pilates chair (Susan Lucci heavily promotes this unit) and I also just got a Total Trainer Pro w/ Pilates for under $500. This machine is similar to a Total Gym, only on steroids. It has all the attachments so you can perform the pilates reformer movements as well... You might want to look into one, but then you would lose the great motivation and advice of your rockin' rockette! Congrats for sharing your awesome journey!
    2600 days ago
    What a beautiful blog! How touching! I applaud your bravery to walk in there the very first time. I am fairly certain that I couldn't have done that. What a beautiful story.

    I can't say that I have a 'first love', but I definitely feel when I'm walking outside, early in the morning, with my tunes, that I'm calm and peaceful and content. Unfortunately, my knees are not happy with all that walking, and its a once in a while treat for me.

    And thank you for showing us some reformer pilates poses. I always wondered what that was about.

    Have a super week! I am rootin' for you every step of the way.
    2600 days ago
  • HOPE2011
    Hmm...I had been under the impression that it was best to wait for Pilates until I was much smaller - say under 200. After reading this though...

    I'm so glad that you had the encounter with your former instructor! That had to make the both of you feel just terrific!

    Thanks for sharing!
    2600 days ago
    Thank you for sharing!
    My first love I would have to say despite the fact that I burn SO easily is swimming. I love to swim. Unfortunately, I am not near any pools but when I get to swim, I savor it.

    So for the love I like to do that I can at anytime it is riding a bike. Right now I weight too much for the average bike, but once I get down to a size that I can buy a "regular" bike, you betcha I will be ON it and riding my butt off! lol

    You are an inspiration!
    2600 days ago
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