(Awkward throat-clearing: I don’t do giveaways very often because I’m not a serious enough blogger to get a ton of pitches from companies. But when I do host one, I like it to be something that benefits a local Pittsburgh business. I also picture my usual Daria self being all “GIVEAWAY YAY PEPPINESS!” and that makes me feel weird. I have no idea what the point of this “disclaimer” is. I just felt the need to talk it out. Thanks for listening.)
So, if you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ll know that about two years ago I took some initiative and started working toward making myself physically healthy again. For years, and particularly when I started graduate school, my health was not a priority for me. I didn’t exercise and had really yucky eating habits which, if I’m being honest, I’ve always had even when I was “in shape.” But that’s a whole other post.
After finishing my MA, I realized that I had spent the last several years focusing on my brain and stuffing knowledge into it. And that was satisfying, but it came at the price of completely ignoring my body. I wanted to start focusing on my body, especially since I had entered my 30s and knew that taking care of myself was going to be more important than ever.
I started the Couch to 5k program and began paying more attention to the food that I was eating, how much, and when. I also took advantage of the fact that I worked on a university campus that offered fitness classes and started taking yoga and Pilates. I gravitated toward those because they were familiar to me. When I was a ballet dancer, Pilates became a big part of our routine. Dancers are obviously very strong, but there are often areas that are prone to weakness, particularly the abdominal and core muscles for women. Much like any physical structure, a body with a weak core won’t last very long. Pilates also worked on areas like the legs, feet, and back, which are overused and prone to injury. Just like how athletes cross-train, us dancers supplemented our ballet with Pilates to help us get stronger and avoid getting hurt.
Working on my core strength is even more essential for me if I want to avoid hurting my neck again. My posture was getting worse and worse because my core was getting weaker and weaker, so I’m more mindful than ever of getting those muscles in shape.
I’ve stuck with running, yoga, Pilates, and healthy eating (with plenty of indulgences, of course) for a little over two years now. I don’t know that I’m skinnier, but I’m definitely healthier. And I’d even dare say that I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. By the way, if you’re at the site and can see my little Daily Mile widget on the left or if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that yesterday I ran six miles. So…yeah. Pretty proud of that.
A few weeks ago, the cool people at the Verve 360 Wellness Salon and Spa in downtown Pittsburgh found this humble little blog and commended me for my efforts toward fitness. They offered me the opportunity to come and take one of their Pilates classes and to give a free class to one of you lucky people, too. On Monday, I took them up on their offer.
Verve 360 is in a gorgeously renovated building downtown, with the salon on the first floor and the spa areas on the second. After checking in, I met Linda Williams, my instructor for the evening. After I got dressed, Linda took some time to find out what my experience and level of fitness was and learn about any injuries or physical difficulties that I had. She explained that we would be doing a Pilates chair class, which I had no clue about. She showed me their equipment, and I recognized the Cadillac, but hadn’t used in a number of years. The Pilates classes that I take at work are all on a mat on the floor, so this chair thing was totally new to me.
What was immediately wonderful about the class was that it was just me and two other people. Verve 360 keeps their classes small so that you are guaranteed personal attention. This is crucial for something like Pilates, because even though you can learn the basic movements and do them on your own, to get the maximum benefit you really need someone with a trained eye to tell you what adjustments you need to make.
Our class was an hour long and the exercises focused on all parts of our bodies, strengthening them while gaining a better understanding of how they all work together to create movement and balance. The chair, like most Pilates apparatuses, had springs so that you could adjust the tension and, therefore, the amount of work that your body had to do to complete a movement.
At one point, I had my feet planted on the bottom part of the chair and my hands on the seat and needed to lift the bottom half of my body up by engaging my core, butt, and leg muscles. Mentally, I didn’t know how I could do it, but I took Linda’s advice and stopped thinking about it. Then, with a grunt, I was pulling myself up in a way that didn’t seem possible just moments before.
Linda was able to keep an eye on me through each set of movements and let me know what to adjust (“Ribs in, shoulders down, legs turned out,”). It was so fantastic to have someone there to remind me of what I need to think about so that when I do Pilates on my own I can incorporate those adjustments into my practice.
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty evangelical about Pilates and would love for one of you to get to take a class at Verve 360. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete who would like a little extra personal attention or a total newbie to exercise, you will get so much out of this class. So, if you’re in Pittsburgh or the continental US and are planning on being in Pittsburgh some time soon, leave a comment saying why you’d like to try a Pilates class at Verve 360 (or just leave a comment, I’m not picky). You can earn an additional entry by tweeting about the giveaway and leaving a comment here letting me know that you did so. And you can earn even one more additional entry by sharing this giveaway on Facebook and leaving another comment here letting me know that you did that.
The winner will be chosen at random and announced next Thursday, July 5th. Good luck! And thanks to Verve 360 Pilates Pittsburgh for providing the prize!
(Disclaimer: I received a complementary Pilates class from Verve 360 in exchange for hosting this giveaway.)