Monday, July 28, 2014
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A dose of Dan: Stretch in a new direction with Pilates

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From page A4 | October 08, 2012 |

 Thirteen months ago, I ruptured my right Achilles heel playing basketball. Needless to say, the injury altered my life. Aside from the surgery, recovery and rehabilitation over the ensuing months, the injury caused me to reevaluate my exercise regimen.

For the previous 15 years, my exercise regimen primarily focused on running. Getting my miles in each week was simple and efficient. There we no gyms to join, no drives to make. Just hit the trail or pavement multiple times a week, and keep eating what you want.

However, years of running and advancing age took their toll, especially on my Achilles heels. Both heels suffered from Achilles tendonitis, which undoubtedly contributed to the rupture. So while working to fully nurse both Achilleses back to health, I have been searching for a new exercise routine that doesn’t pound the joints as much as running.

The search has actually been a lot of fun. It has stretched me, pun intended in this case, to routinely perform yoga. I’m looking to replace my 25-year-old mountain bike. I even recently sampled Pilates.

In case you haven’t heard of Pilates, it is a body conditioning routine focused on building flexibility, long, lean muscles and core strength. The routine was developed by Joseph Pilates in the first half of the 20th century, and millions of people practice the regimen today.

I always thought of Pilates as a stretching and flexibility workout for the Hollywood rich and famous, but I was invited to try it from friend and instructor Donna Fettig, who operates Fit & Well Pilates in El Dorado Hills. Fettig informed me that Pilates has something to offer everyone, and it is particularly ideal for those seeking to restore strength or movement from an injury or debilitating illness.

Fettig thought the Pilates movements offered via its reformer, a specially designed machine with springs for resistance training, would aid my ongoing recovery, and I could literally feel the benefits occurring after one lesson.

Working out on the reformer is very different than a typical weight machine. For starters, the reformer is an unusual looking piece of exercise equipment — almost a cross between a bed and a Bowflex machine. Factors that make the reformer unique are that it can be adjusted to precisely fit your body size and weight, and further adjustments can be made for each exercise to balance your core and extremities. You can feel a reformer workout from your deep abdomen to your toes.

Additionally, the reformer allows for a full array of exercises while you are being safely supported, whether you’re lying back or sitting. That is why the machine and the regimen of Pilates are so ideal for restoring health — exercises can be performed while maintaining alignment and movement patterns that don’t overstress muscles and joints.

Along with reformer work, Fettig’s studio offers mat sessions. I may progress to that at some point as I continue my exercise regimen odyssey. Fettig described the Pilates process as purposefully working from a position of imbalance back to balance. After one lesson focusing on the whole body, I describe the process as rewarding. And if it can help me touch my toes — something I haven’t been able to do since I was a youngster — I’ll call the process a miracle.

Dan Francisco is an El Dorado Hills-based public relations consultant to the high-tech industry. 

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