Having a Knee Replacement?


Are you thinking about a knee replacement or maybe you’re finally fed up enough with your knee pain that you decided to get it done?  Congratulations!!  As a Pilates instructor I see lots of bodies and lots of different things going on in the body.  As a general rule, I’m a fan of “do everything you can first before resorting to surgery” in many instances but I’ve really changed that attitude over the years when it comes to knee replacements.  I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of clients pre and post knee replacements and all of them have said something like this,” I’m so glad I did it! I can move and be active and not have pain in my knee! I wish I had done it sooner!”

I can also tell you that the clients who I taught Pilates to before their knee replacement swear by the benefits of their Pilates practice in helping them get through their recovery period with much more ease and speedier recoveries.   These clients always come back and tell me how their physical therapist is so happy with their quick progress and can’t believe how amazing their recovery is compared to others following the same journey.

Someone I know told me she was going to have a knee replacement soon and when I asked her if she wanted to come in and do some Pilates before the surgery to prepare her she said,”I have 12 exercises they gave me and I’m doing them twice a day.”  My response,” That is great- you should continue doing those exercises, but just doing the exercises won’t give you the same amazing benefits of doing Pilates before the surgery. I don’t know what exercises she was given but I am sure they were all great exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in her legs and hips, as well as keep those muscles flexible and mobile.  Since she was already doing these exercises I told her we would start her Pilates practice intro by just going over those exercises and applying the Pilates principles to those exercises so she could get more out them.

If you’ve never practiced Pilates before you might be wondering what is so great about Pilates?  What makes Pilates exercises different from the exercises the PT gave me as preparation?  Here’s my best attempt to explain the difference:

1.  Each Pilates exercise is a whole body exercise.  We are not just strengthening the leg muscles or the hip muscles! Yes the Pilates exercises will strengthen those leg and hip muscles but each exercise will also have you engaged,connected and working your whole body.  This comes in very handy when you are trying to figure out how to safely and effectively move your whole body around after your knee replacement surgery.  When the nurses come in to get you up and walking after your surgery you will appreciate your core strength, your upper body strength, and your ability to efficiently move all of your body, all thanks to your Pilates practice!

2. Pilates teaches you to initiate movement from your center.  Having strong core muscles that support your body and just knowing how to engage those core muscles is so helpful when you are recovering from an injury that is causing the rest of your body to compensate.  By having this knowledge and strength of how to engage those core muscles you will be able to support your body better whether you are using a walker or crutches and you’ll take some of the strain off of the rest of the body.

3. Body Alignment:  Pilates is considered a corrective exercise as we are continually trying to create balance in our body by doing movements in alignment and strengthening in alignment.  Creating balance in your body is important for everyone, but if you are recovering from an injury or ailment that causes you to compensate in the rest of your body it could save you from chronic pain, tightness and even injuries in the rest of your body long after your knee has healed.

When’s the best time to start Pilates if you are contemplating a knee replacement? Of course the sooner you start the more prepared you’ll be, but honestly even getting a few sessions in before the surgery with an experienced instructor can teach you some basic concepts that will help you immediately before and after the surgery.  After surgery you’ll want to talk to your doctor and physical therapist about the timing of starting regular sessions again.  The great thing about the Pilates work is that it can truly be adapted to any body so it is possible if you are working with an experienced instructor you can start incorporating the Pilates movements into your recover process sooner than later.

Want to see the benefits of Pilates before and after surgery?  Check out this video below of Pilates Instructor Nancy only 2 weeks after her kee replacement surgery:

Do you hate gyms?

Just 3 years ago, my answer to every one of these questions was yes.   Well, I was pretty sure I could get back up off the floor, but I knew I wasn’t looking too graceful while I did it.  My back hurt almost every single day,  and my knees were creaky.  When I got out of bed, I felt like I was walking like someone much older than my age.   My best intentions to walk every day, somehow disappeared before I stepped out of the house.    I had paid a monthly membership to a gym for a year, and quit going there after the first two weeks.    My mom had just lost a painful battle with pancreatic cancer, and my dad had moved in.

We went out to dinner one night, and I saw the Rivercity Pilates studio across the street.    I had taken some Pilates lessons a few years ago, and I knew the springs on the equipment would help me through exercises that my body simply couldn’t do by itself.   Still, it took me a few weeks to actually walk in the door of Rivercity Pilates.  I took my free orientation session from Carey, and was amazed at her knowledge, her patience and her concern for how I felt as she led me through Pilates exercises.  I bit the bullet and signed up for private sessions (the most expensive option), because I didn’t want to feel stupid if I couldn’t do an exercise in class.  I started to feel better after a few sessions, and I was able to see progress in how my body moved thru the exercises.   The atmosphere at Rivercity Pilates was so spa like and comforting, that it didn’t threaten me like a gym.

Two years later, I’m still going to Pilates 3-5 times a week.    While my legs didn’t move much two years ago at this time, now I can touch my toe to my forehead.   It’s not a very useful movement, but it sure feels good to be that flexible.     My boyfriend has also started taking Pilates, and he has gone from daily back pain, to hardly ever feeling back pain.     I take both private sessions and classes. I’ve talked with Carey about my experience, and she is starting a new class for people that might relate to my feelings. She just calls it Beginner Pilates 4 week series.   It could also be called, Pilates for the over 50 crowd or Pilates for people who can’t seem to get to the gym.   It could also be called Pilates will Change Your Life.

The class will be 1 session per week for 4 weeks.   You’ll get to learn some history of Pilates, and try the exercises at your working level.  (You’ll understand this more later — but the important thing to know now, is that Pilates isn’t about everyone doing the same thing.   It’s not about feeling the burn. Your neck shouldn’t hurt.    You don’t have to curl up and do hundreds of sit ups.   Pilates is a whole body exercise where you make progress gradually). Lots of individual attention.   Do you have to wear spandex?   No.   Wear comfortable fitting clothes that allow your body to move.   (I remember wearing huge tee-shirts to my first classes in an effort to hide the curves and extra love handles, just so I would feel better about going to class.)   

Take a deep breath, click here, and schedule your Complimentary Orientation Session at Rivercity Pilates with Carey.  Right now as we wait to see what happens with COVID 19 — all sessions are being done virtually!  If you’d rather call to register before you get nervous about it — call us at 319-665-2499!

picture of people doing pilates

The world did not blow up, and I did not feel like a failure!

I’ve been practicing Pilates for a little over 3 years.   When I started, I took a combination of privates and small group classes, but since I retired, I take mostly private sessions – and a few semi-privates.    When Carey encouraged me to come to a Pilates class offered by a visiting instructor, I was terrified.  My comfort zone is now in private sessions with a teacher I know very well!

You have to understand, for the last 15 years of my work life (before retirement) I traveled between 20-30 weeks per year.    I watched a lot of reality tv in hotel rooms.    I have anxiety when I think of personal trainers and fitness instructors from watching the Biggest Loser on TV. I’m pretty sure I’d have a heart attack, or a total body collapse if I was in a gym with a trainer yelling at me to run on the treadmill!   So in my head, I pick the safest route, and generally that does not include taking a fitness class with a new instructor.   I did join a gym locally 4 years ago.   I went for maybe 2-3 months to a couple of classes a week – but the classes involved lifting weights without much personal attention (or detailed instruction) – so I was terrified that I would hurt myself and I quit going.

The class I was invited to was called Restorative Pilates.   Ok — that’s a pretty non threatening title, so I’m not sure why it frightened me.   I had no idea what to expect.    I knew I had met the instructor before, and I was pretty sure that he was not the yelling and screaming type!

On that Saturday morning, I decided to put on my Pilates pants and go to class.   The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t the only one that was nervous.     There were other students in the class going up to Carey and asking her to tell the visiting instructor that they had this or that going on – so they would be modifying some exercises.     Another student was really nervous that she wouldn’t be able to do some of the exercises.     Uh Oh.   It was time to start class.

What was class like?   It was terrific.    The guest instructor (Len) started teaching.   We started with the most basic of Pilates fundamentals – breathing.   Len’s cueing was amazing and after practicing breathing for a few minutes – we started at our toes – and flexed and stretched most every muscle in our bodies.   When he asked us to do hundreds – he gave so many modifications that everyone could feel good about doing their best hundreds – and after class, I felt great!     I went, I completed the class, the world did not blow up and I felt really good about class!    Here’s a tiny sample!

The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid of taking a class from a different instructor!  I learned things from that class that I use every day to make my body feel better!   Len’s ability to paint a picture that compared Pilates movements to everyday tasks gave me new ways to visualize the exercises that I was doing and I had a great time!     Of course, I took some pictures and a few videos so I would have them for this blog, and it seemed like after the class — everyone was feeling the same way!

I don’t do bendy-twisty things…

bendytwistyI was talking to a friend the other day ago about Pilates and mentioned I should take her with me sometime. She immediately said “Oh I don’t do any bendy and twisty stuff!” That made me laugh because I knew exactly what she meant. We’ve all seen those pictures of yogis on Instagram and Facebook with their leg wrapped around their head or in some crazy upside down position.  And let’s face it – just the thought of doing something like that makes me and most people cringe.   Then add to that that the people in those photos are usually wearing crop tops and have tall, lithe bodies — and my cringing turns to groans!   But my Pilates sessions are nothing like that!

When I think of bending and twisting I think about the fact that I like to be able to bend over and weed my garden. I want to be able to turn my head and back and looked behind me when I back out of my driveway so I don’t hit anything. I especially like it when I bend over to pet Misty and my back doesn’t hurt.  When I go to my Pilates sessions we don’t do any crazy poses or things that cause my body to hurt. In fact you might be surprised at how seemingly simple some of the movements we do look from the outside.

We spend a lot of time getting ourselves into correct body alignment and doing movements that mimic things I do in my day-to-day life.  There’s a focus on strengthening my core muscles and my teacher is always making sure that I am engaging the right muscles and not hurting myself by doing something incorrectly.  The movements are small and controlled and even though they are usually a lot of work- my body kind of feels amazing and better when I’m all done. We focus on things like knowing where my body is in space and how to find good alignment with my posture. All of these things help me in my day-to-day life feel better in my body.

So if you’re one of those people that have written off Pilates because bendy-twisty things scare you- I wish you would reconsider. Quite honestly it’s been kind of life-changing for me and it makes me happy that I’ve found an exercise method that helps me bend, twist and move in my life with ease and without as many aches and pains!

Inspiration of the Month Natasha Pashkova

natasha-iom-marchWhen did you start Pilates and what inspired you to start?

I discovered the Pilates exercise method a long time ago through books and DVDs and began practicing at home. To get better motivation and more consistent Pilates exercises, I started to search for Pilates group classes in the Iowa City area. The Rivercity Pilates website sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for. However, it took me a few months of thinking about joining the studio until my daughter Anna finally suggested trying the complimentary session together last August. Since then, taking classes at the Rivercity Pilates studio has become part of my well-being routine.

How often do you practice Pilates and what type of sessions or classes have you been doing? 

I have done various group classes and try to go to the studio at least twice a week. The classes that I’ve attended the most are Pilates Mat, Barre and Pilates Mat Combo, and Restorative Yoga. Taking these classes helped me learn the correct technique of different Pilates exercises, how to control breathing and body movements, gain strength and flexibility, and experience relaxation of the body and mind.

What benefits or improvements have you noticed in your body and life from doing Pilates? 

Through regular Pilates practice, my core muscles have become much stronger and my posture has improved. I started to feel less stressed emotionally and more energized physically. Reduced tension in my shoulders and neck has also helped me avoid frequent headaches.

Do you have a favorite exercise or piece of equipment (or both)?

My favorite mat Pilates exercise is probably Rolling Back. Also, the challenge of doing the Teaser makes me feel stronger and more balanced.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing Pilates?

Definitely give it a try! Don’t wait too long…just invite your relative or a friend to take a session or a class together to get started. At the Rivercity Pilates studio you can find exercises for any fitness level and the convenience of different class schedules.

Crohn’s, Pilates and Life: How many miles have you run?

listen1Last week I talked about one of the two questions I always ask Kelly when she comes in for a session. Today I talk about the other question,” How far have you run or biked since I last saw you?”.  Now you are probably thinking, that’s seems like a pretty reasonable, expected question from your trainer or coach right?  But what I think might surprise is you why I ask Kelly that question.   Sure, part of the reason I ask her is because I want to know what she has been doing with her body.  I want to know if tightness or patterns I see in her movement are from her biking and running or if they are more related to what is going on in her body from her Crohns and Fibromyalgia.

More important than what is going on physically in her body, I ask Kelly that question because I want to know how she is doing from an emotional state.  You see Kelly, like many people with chronic diseases deals with depression and anxiety on a regular basis and it’s not something she likes to talk about (who does?).  She has figured out though that movement and exercise can help her better deal with these issues and often turns to them as a health tool.  In so many ways…this is amazing!  There are a lot of choices and options of how to deal with depression, anxiety and stress in your life and exercise is definitely a pretty positive one!

kellyrunThe only down side to using exercise is that sometimes( Ok..many times!)  Kelly over does it.   In an attempt to feel better emotionally she runs 10 miles or bikes 50 and then her physical body pays the toll for it in the days after.  One of the many reasons I think Pilates has been so great for Kelly is that she can get the emotional benefits of a movement practice without all of the harsh effects of hours of running or biking.

So what do I do as Kelly’s teacher when she tells me she ran a half marathon the day before?  I usually try to do what I would call a “listen to your body” movement session.  We slow down, we listen to what her body is telling her and me and we try to do things that it needs.

listen2This is my attempt as a teacher to help Kelly figure out how to listen to her own body.  My attempt to help her figure out that she is so much more capable than she realizes at figuring out what her body needs and giving her permission to do whatever that is.  Giving permission seems like a funny phrase when it comes to movement, but I think it’s appropriate.  I think so many people feel like there is a rule book of what you need to do to be in shape, be healthy and fit.  The only rule is you listening to your body and doing what works for you, what makes your body and life feel the best.