Monday, September 20, 2010

Phat Pilates ~How Your Trainer Can Modify For The Big-Bellied so the Fat and Obese CAN do Pilates!

I had planned to post this last Thursday, but got lazy. I hate uploading pics.

Interestingly, I'm posting this about modifying Pilates moves today, which was my FIRST time doing The Hundred--the quintessential Pilates exercise--without modifying into a diamond leg shape for my belly. No, I did it with the table-top shape. I noticed I could do that on Saturday when I first attempted it at home on my fitness mat. I only got to 50 at home (twice) in tabletop. At the studio today, I went all the way to 100. Yay.

Losing this last batch of pounds on a higher-protein, lower-carb diet clearly has made my belly a scosh smaller so I could reposition. Yay. The trainer was encouraged enough to have me do other exercises with tabletop and not diamond legs. (See pic at upper left of modified "teaser" on the Cadillac to see what I mean by "diamond" legs that make room for my tummy. Pic taken back in June, when I weighed about 12 more pounds. If your fat is localized largely in your torso/belly, this is one type of modification--basically, just making room for that "belly obstacle.")

All right, a few pics from last Thursday's workout session--not the whole session, not nearly all the pics, just some to give you ideas for what you may need to do in a class/session--which I post for fellow fatties who want to try Pilates but maybe don't know if they're local class will/can/knows how to modify for us apples/big-bellied types:

Here, I'm just doing some balance work with the chair. If your fat is largely in your belly, you can be thrown off balance FORWARD. I started with my fingertips on the bars you can see there attached to the chair. Just the fingertips to give me balance.

But as you can see, I can do it without holding on now (better balance, stronger legs, stronger core.) I'm pushing down the movable chair arm with the ball of my foot.

I have so much fat you can't see the muscle action, but you do use your abdomen a lot for centering, strength, staying upright and steady, and to help the leg move more smoothly up and down.

Here, we're doing armwork while the legs also work on the chair. I've got weighted balls in my hands. For those of us who are overweight or obese, upper arm and upper torso fat can get in the way of lots of arm maneuvers. I know that when I started, it was torturous to get my arms straight up over my head--pretty much couldn't do it. The fat around neck, upper arms, shoulders, etc literally got IN THE WAY. So, you may have to hold your arms wider to accomodate that.

Same with the legs on the chair. You may need to place your feet as wide as possible on the up-down movable arms to accomodate the belly/thigh fat. But you CAN do it. Just need to find the posture that allows you to move with control.

The move. Arms go up as legs press down. Sounds easy. :)

It's actually harder to get the arms up than to push against the weighted arm.  Having the feet in the down position feels good, having them up puts some pressure on the belly.

Breathing matters a lot in Pilates, and in constricted positions (The Hundred with head up and knees bent; rollbacks, etc) people with lots of fat in the neck/torso areas can find it hard to breathe.

Tell your class or personal instructor ANY TIME you find breathing obstructed. It's time to modify or focus on how to get you oxygen. :)

Here's that rollback that makes it hard for ME, an asthmatic, to breathe:

You may not be able to tell, but my pelvis is curved under, my spine curved (yeah, the adiposity makes it hard to tell), and this requires I really engage abdominals to hold the position. The ball held like this was more stressful 20 pounds ago, but it's still not easy to put arms this close due to upper arm/upper torso fat. I'm going to swing from side to side with that ball (passing it to one had, then passing it to other). Here is the modification: stopper farther back, feet under strap to make room for tummy.

This is a similar exercise, but on the chair.

I have weighted balls, instead of the one ball. I'm in a rollback position and doing side twists.

Modification: My feet are on the box, instead of being held straight out, which would then put my belly in the way of movement and strain my lower back.

I'm hinging back here. This is modified for my belly the same way as the rollback: I'm on a box, yes, but my feet aren't on the reformer pad. They're under straps on the frame, which gives me support and lets my legs stretch out some.

I wish I had pics from today's session, cause I did some arm work on the Reformer without having my legs stretched out. They were in lotus position on the box. My balance was great and my back didn't feel strained.

You can see in the pic where my feet are flexed under the straps. The Reformer's settings are also placed to give me more room (the stopper is placed farther back).

Whatever your body needs, the machine CAN be set for it.

I am still working the, a lean to the left and right are added.

I'd probably tip over if I didn't have my feet in straps. That's a lot of weight shifting to the sides!

In any case, this is a hard exercise. I always dread it. I can breathe better than with the rollback, but having my arms up is still a struggle (see those hams that I call upper arms?)

Back to the Chair. Here is one way to do the Twist that my stomach liked. I've done it on a box on the Reformer, on the Cadillac, on a fitness ball--never on a mat.

BUT..on the chair, because I press down as I twist, I have lots of room for my middle to move in a circle left, circle to the right. It feels really good. Normally, the twist is a battle against the fat obstacle in my middle. The press down on the chair relieves the obstruction beautifully.

 If you carry a lot of weight in your torso, just getting balanced on the chair to do a side bent or side lift can be tricky. It's important you TAKE YOUR TIME with the trainer to be in a proper position, yes, but to feel as if your weight is distributed in a way that you don't topple. When I was first learning this move, it was a fiasco. I just could not balance.

Now..the balance is easier on one side (weird how that seems so often to be the case) but not daunting. Keeping the balance as you push down and raise up, well, that's another thing. :) It gets easier.  For large-bodies, the command to press legs together can be nearly (or actually) impossible. My feet weren't this close 20 pounds ago when I was first doing Pilates. As my thighs slimmed, i could get my legs tighter together, which also helped.

A stretch I used to DREAD. Why? I'd get sooooo dizzy doing this. You start with the carriage on the Reformer towards the backrest, kneel on it with foot against the headrest, then push out. But whenever I did it, I got so dizzy. I think having my belly pressed down there was just squeezing my organs and doing something to my blood flow. No kidding.

Well, last Thursday, when this was taken, was the first time I did NOT get dizzy. Again, losing weight is less taxing to the organs during movement, and there's the proof.

After class, we took a few minutes to work on postural work. If you carry a lot of weight up front like I do (belly, bosom), your posture will tend to get out of alignment (think of pregnant women with big bellies compensating by arching spine or throwing shoulders back or both). So, we worked a bit on getting me in proper alignment.

So, there. Just a few exercises that can be modified for the overweight/obese.


Now, go inquire about classes or training. Let Pilates pros know we need classes with teachers who know how to modify and train larger bodies. This is an area the Pilates community (just as does EVERY other fitness community) needs to address aggressively. I know I was intimidated going to the studio, to the gym, etc, and I am not alone. Pilates trainers need to get themselves training on dealing with the FAT and the VERY VERY FAT, cause we need exercise more than the already slim and/or  fit. :)

Happy fitness endeavors to you! Hope this helps you try Pilates!!!

Note: I weigh 258 in these pics.


Karla said...

I am so lazy, I do my treadmill every morning while watching the latest trash TV I recorded on the DVR. I need to start doing some light lifting. I am going to be 51 in a few weeks and the ole bones need to get stronger

moonduster said...

I love that you are doing Pilates! I have heard some wonderful things about Pilates, but I haven't tried it yet.