My Core

7 Sep

I do lots of different active stuff now and would love to try more! One of the key things I do is pilates. It’s fantastic.  I hear a lot of people say it’s a bit like yoga and there’s an assumption that it’s an easy option, I can tell you and so can the super fitties and blokes in my class that it’s not at all!

I came across it a bit by accident.  At the end of October 2009  I developed a persistent cough, it  was ridiculous, I would cough all day, to the extent of starting to choke, it appeared to be related to speech so every time I started a conversation off I would go, I was exhausted and at my wit’s end with it.  My doctor tried lots of things and we even got to the stage of using strong drugs to knock me out to try to break the cycle and give me some respite, it got to the stage where work was impossible too.  I needed to see an ENT specialist to check there was nothing sinister going on, of course the wait to see one on the NHS was about 4 months, I couldn’t wait that long so went privately.

Interestingly this didn’t cost that much, I was lucky when a friend told me that there were now 2 levels of private fees, one for those with insurance and one for those who were paying themselves which can be significantly lower and affordable. It even turned out that my GP surgery had an administrator who would locate the best specialist and price for you – if you’re ever in that position it is well worth asking if going privately may be an option.

After some tests, the specialist found nothing awful, however what he did find was that my vocal cords were in almost constant spasm, my brain therefore thought that there was an obstruction, as I tried to talk the spasms increased even more and set off the coughing. What was concerning though was that it was severe and I ran the risk of the condition moving to a stage where I would just choke, something had to be done as a matter of urgency.

The recommendation was emergency speech therapy, this would have to happen privately too.

The therapist was fantastic, there was barely any work on my voice, from discussing what was happening to me something bizarre came to light.  I had lost almost three stone by this point, my muscles had no idea what to do about that, they were shifting position on my body and severely tensing. The  top of my spine was being pulled over to the extent I’d lost about half an inch in height and it was probably why my vocal cords were reacting in such an extreme way, they too were being pulled by the muscles in my neck. Everything was tight and compromised.

I found a pilates class at about the same time as I started swimming,  I was a little stunned by what some of the other people in the class could do, there’s one exercise where you are lifting your body weight, for me that seemed amazing!  We started slowly and I was surprised how quickly I got better, the breathing really helped and I found that together with the shrinkage and the swimming that my body shape changed quite quickly.  I was walking tall, taking care over my posture and felt that my core muscles were now providing me with some real strength. And the cough got better.

And by the summer I was doing that exercise – the one where you lift your body weight!  I’ve also been on an intensive pilates trip, a whole week with two sessions a day and I get to a class whenever I can, it is hard work, I feel the difference quickly and it makes me think about my breathing.  The vocal cord problem is much better and I can manage it, even when a choking episode happens, it has turned out that they are damaged, thanks to a general anesthetic I had for a knee surgery 4 years ago and 3 months of constant coughing but it is manageable now.

So give pilates a go, for people who have lost a lot of weight it is invaluable, it’s a very flexible exercise in that there are different levels so you can find the best one for you and build on them.  And for the boys, it’s not just for girls, it can be extremely good for men, it can provide a lot of stability for your muscles which will help with any other exercise you do, it keeps your joints in good condition too as you get older, there’s a guy in his 60s in my class, he runs and swears by pilates to keep him strong, he’s also the one who groans the most too!

And when you do lose weight, strange things can happen as a consequence, just as putting on weight causes problems, losing it can be a challenge for your body, listen to it, respect it and ask for help if you are worried.  It will be worth it in the end.

And for some more reading about the benefits of pilates have a read of this:

And the photos – the Italian pilates class on my trip earlier in the summer and by the end of the week I was flexible enough to get my feet behind my head, I used to be able to do that when I was in my teens, I am overjoyed to be able to do it again! 


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