Couch to 5K (no, this is not about running!)

Why is it that adults have such a hard time not being good at things on the first try?  

Of course I am generalizing, however, I have been noticing this in my classes more frequently.  If I teach a new skill and it is hard for someone, I get real resistance.  As we get older we tend to do fewer things, and we do them really well.  The average age for retirement in the US is 62.  So potentially you could be doing the same job for over 30-40 years.  Kids do new things ALL of the time.  By the age of 2, children learn a whole new language.  Every year adolescents are learning new subject matter in school.  When we are young our bodies and brains are accustomed to not knowing a skill and then being good at developing a new system. 

Please understand that I know not everyone fits in this category.  I myself thrive on new experiences, but it makes sense that adults get stuck from time to time.  A couple of months ago I was teaching “pulling straps” to an amazing group of ladies that were fairly new to Pilates.  One of them commented on how hard it was.  I went through all of the usual suspects, are your springs too tight, are they too light, are you positioned correctly on the box.  Come to find out she was just uncomfortable lying prone.  Then I asked her when was the last time she was on her belly; she laughed and said, “Years!”  She professed that she was not good at this exercise and never wanted to do it again.  After ruling out potential medical/trauma reasons for not liking this exercise I began a new approach. 

How can I get this client to take a normal human function, such as lying prone, and put it back into her vocabulary?  Well… I load her slowly.  

The next week I put her on the ladder barrel and let her hips press onto it as she extended her spine.  It gave her less pressure on her front body and more control to get down when she was ready.  

A few weeks later I put her on the chair and laid her on the seat as her feet were still onto the floor.  From there she put her hands on the pedals and extended the spine.  Still less pressure but allowing more load to the front.

Now we are able to get about halfway through pulling straps and still feel good!

You see we load at a slow and steady pace to get the function we desire.  Exactly like kids… did we give up walking as a toddler the first time we fell? 

This is one small example of frustration with new things.  I have seen clients get upset with themselves because the tension was hard, but they don’t want me to lighten it.  The coordination of a series gets overwhelming and they need to get water.  An exercise requires a certain amount of mobility and they just don’t have it yet, so they let everyone know that it is their bad leg.  Recently I have experienced clients repeatedly apologizing.  So lets say Beth needs me to lighten their springs in footwork; she says, “I’m so sorry, please could you take a spring off.”  Then I say, “Don’t be sorry, be Beth!” 

I have decided it’s not my job to judge them, or understand why they get upset or apologetic.  My task is to let them know, it’s OK to not perform perfect Pilates.  Who really does?

My new cue is COUCH to 5K.  When you embark on a program such as this do we immediately run a 5K straight off the couch?  No.  We start slowly, safely, and walk for the majority of the time on the first day.  Load slowly, be unapologetic!

Becky Phares, PMA®-CPT is a Polestar Pilates practitioner and graduate with more than 10 years of teaching experience. Find Becky and her Studio on Facebook: The Body Initiative Pilates Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana.   The body Initiative Pilates Studio and Instagram @the_body_initiative_ .

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Reader Interactions


  1. What a great tip!

    I have taken my client who has a similar issue to the ladder barrel but haven’t thought of the WC. Thank you for sharing Becky.

    It is about connections. Not just doing more exercises but seeing the connection of the exercises as a method and how they develop your body to the next level. This is a significant part of teaching.

    Pilates works as a system utilising a fully equipped studio working with a holistic systematic approach.

    Love your post !

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