How Do I Know When I Am Ready To Move On To An Intermediate Pilates Class?

Consider this a warning label: I asked this question after only two Clinical Pilates Basics classes with Katherine. I expected some heart-centering yogi answer like, “The answer is within,” but maybe not quite as hippy-dippy. I would have taken a, “Your body will tell you,” type of answer as well. And you know what, those answers, while unclear, would not necessarily be wrong.

When I asked, I didn’t really get a straight answer because I sheepishly asked in an Instagram comment. However, I know that I was heard and my question was taken into personal consideration because the next time I showed up to a Basics class, it felt more like Basic Training for Caz than the cushy, familiar intro class I was used to.

My third class ever and what quickly became my last Basics class was with Jess. Jess is awesome! Not only does she own her own line of Pilates-perfect gear, she’s a Mum, a rock-solid Pilate’s/Mat/Stretch/Yoga/Mindfulness instructor at BounceREHAB, and somehow a total ass-kicking sweetheart. She is a breath of fresh air and the very definition of authenticity. In fact, pretty much everyone I have met at Bounce so far tends to be exactly that!

Jess is no push-over though. She individualized everyone’s Basics class to exactly what that person needed. I swear she knew everyone in that class by name as if they were longtime friends, and I was one of them despite only meeting Jess once before in an easy-breezy Mindfulness practice.

The class started out something like this, “Ok everyone, let’s go three red spring leg warm up. Caz, I want you to do all springs.”

Cue laughing and disbelief. I popped on the standard three red and Jess walked by: “No bae, ALL of them!”

“ALL?”

“All!”

Ok… All.

Some moves in Pilates are harder with fewer springs since you are forced to focus on your core muscles for balance and control. However, leg warm-ups are most certainly harder with ALL the springs involved. This means the ultimate resistance.

I was worried a bit about my ankle strength. Even before my ankle injury, I had the weakest ankles in the world. In fact, I’d say post-surgery with all my metal plates and screws, my ankle was stronger than ever. I mean, it had to be right! At last now it couldn’t bend whatever way it wanted. That was new!

I was up for the challenge. I trust Jess and I know she has the best in mind for everyone in her class.

I was a mix of emotions–I felt like maybe I might die and I also felt like I was prepared to dominate the world!!!

I’m not going to lie. Being a newbie, all the springs was tough stuff. After several minutes of moving back and forth, I was feeling it. It was only when we moved to angled feet and then the Pilates V that I felt the burn like I’ve never felt it before.

I’m a tough gal. I know that. I can push through almost anything and I knew I could push through this. What was most interesting to me was where I was feeling the burn. These leg warm ups formation are meant to target your thighs – inside, outside, upside down. But if you’re as active as I have been over the years, your thoughts aren’t exactly weak. Jess knew that.

While my legs look nothing like I want them to look like and only vaguely familiar to what I’m used to them looking like (thanks muscle atrophy!), you can tell there’s muscle there somewhere. So, when I expected to feel the burn between my thighs the most, I was surprised to find that the hardest part for me and the deepest of burns I’ve ever experienced was actually the muscles in and around my knees!

I hate my knees. I feel like I have the chunkiest knees in the world – something that my partner thinks is incredibly weird about me. I also have some seriously increasing pains in my ankles, legs, and hips that I know center in my knees. I just don’t have strong joints.

In the past, there were few workouts that I could keep up with for more than a month at a time aside from basic walking because my knees would ultimately take the brunt of the workout. I would quickly debilitate myself into losing all my hard work to a week or two off my feet.

I knew this wasn’t a bone pain. I knew this wasn’t something that was actually going to be detrimental to my knees. I could tell the burn was in muscles I’ve probably never worked out before in my life! Through years of swimming, yoga, hiking, and treadmilling – when I really think about it, all the muscle support came from the front of my thighs or my calves. I could get by with all levels of activity without really having that knee support. And that’s likely why I’ve been experiencing so many pains in my legs (especially around my knees) simply from sitting or lying down.

I was feeling it. I was ultra-aware of the tiniest of muscles all around the top of my knee, connecting into my thigh muscles. Any burn I felt throughout the rest of my thighs was totally minimized by this new sensation. Yet, it excited me!

“This is EXACTLY what I need,” I thought.

And with that test of my will power and the confirmation that my body would respond well to being pushed that hard, I graduated myself from basic Pilates into intermediate Pilates.

Now that I have a physio-assisted Pilates program all laid out for me, I am very confident that I will be able to strengthen these overlooked parts of my body, gain that proper core strength that I’ve been able to work around for all these years, and find results that I have never found before.

That is something that, for me, is truly exciting.

Next stop: My new 30 day challenge.