Pilates and the Art of Slowing Down

I recently took up pilates.  Not by a DVD or by going down to my local gym for a class.  Those aren’t really options when you have mobility problems.  No, my mum told me about a woman locally who does what she bills as ‘clinical pilates’ on a one to one basis and despite the cost, the embarrassment at being totally useless and the fact the studio is up a short but steep flight of stairs, it is brilliant.  She did an assessment before we began so she could design a course that would work on all the muscles that have apparently decided to go off on holiday without me (which apparently includes my abs, my glutes and half my back muscles, the joy) and improve the things I suck at (such as everything).  Just a few sessions in I can already feel the difference in the way I move and feel.

 

During sessions, the instructor is always having to tell me to slow down.  My fast twitch muscles fibres (yeah I didn’t know about such a thing either) are in pretty good shape in lots of places.  I can walk pretty fast for someone on crutches.  My slow twitch muscle fibres however are, to put it medically, pants.  If I walk or move anything slowly the limbs start to judder and shake and I get sweatier than a pig in a sauna.  It’s these fibres that are really making it difficult for me to walk for longer than a few minutes right now.  Well, them and the chronic back pain nobody can diagnose.  So for the whole hour long sessions all I hear is ‘slow down, slow down, slow down’.  And it got me thinking…

 

This fast muscles versus slow muscles could very well be a metaphor for so many areas of my life.  I do everything fast.  Essay due in a month?  Shall I use the whole month to research and plan and write?  No, I’ll do all three in one day.  Want to organise an event?  Shall I do it in a few months?  No, lets do it in two weeks.  I make decisions fast, I fall in love fast (and often unwisely but that’s a different story), I write fast.  If I slow down the judders start.  The no-I-can’t-do-it’s start, the everybody-will-laugh-at-me’s start, the why-even-bother’s start.  My brain and my muscles are very in tune; if I do it fast and without thinking I can do good things, if I slow down I become an anxious mess.  But the problem with this lifestyle is the same emotionally and physically.  Burnout.

 

A Vegan Mess recently wrote a piece about burning out and I recognise what she describes so well because I go through it, or small versions of it, once or twice a week.  I spend a day working on an essay, writing a poem, making posters for an event, planning my next book and then when I stop, because I’m exhausted from the pace my minds been running at, I’m left with just the anxiety and negative thoughts and no energy to do anything positive to overcome them.  This cycle must be broken.  I need to learn that it’s OK to take my time doing things, that this may even get better results, but also to work through the negativity.  It’s OK to let these feelings in, acknowledge them, examine them to try and learn where they came from, then put them aside and carry on going at a pace where both metaphorical muscle groups work together.  So I can run around like a blue arsed flied to get stuff done when it’s necessary but also that when I have time I let myself use it so things don’t just get done but get done really well.

 

It’s a hard change to make, this mindset is very well ingrained with me.  But I’m hoping that by having constant reminders to physically slow down through pilates it will bleed over into my mental well being too and I’ll learn to give myself a break.

 

You know, once I’ve finished this essay, and that project, and that novel, and that blog, and that…

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