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Gain balance, strength and stamina with Pilates Reformer class

August 16, 2019

June Nichols used to do ballet to work on balance and strengthen weak ankles. But the 72-year-old Rolling Meadows resident says her physical condition worsened after cataract surgery when her ophthalmologist gave her two different prescriptions – one for each eye. 

“My right eye surgery was for up-close vision and that’s why the left side of my neck drove me crazy,” June explains. “My brain couldn’t process the two different prescriptions.” 

She tried acupuncture and massages but nothing could solve the chronic neck pain she was experiencing.

A VIP member* at the NCH Wellness Center, June was able to personalize her fitness routine and create a plan that worked best for her needs. She decided to combine a variety of classes, one of which was the Pilates Reformer class. She enrolled in August 2018 under the supervision of certified Pilates Instructor Kathleen Morris. 

“She sees me twice a week, a personal trainer twice a week and she also does Yoga,” Kathleen says, adding that June works with her in group and private sessions.

Additionally, June walks, so she’s doing some type of exercise every day of the week.

“Adding walking to her weekly routine was great because in class we focus on ankle, knee, hip stability and functional movement,” Kathleen says. 

Once she started taking Pilates Reformer, June’s chronic neck pain disappeared.

“The Pilates Reformer class balanced the muscles,” June says. “I had been turning my head and favoring one side for a long time in order to see up close.”

Then, her Yoga instructor noticed that her balance had greatly improved. 

“When I first started Yoga, I was falling over and couldn’t hold a pose to save my life,” June recalls. “Now I have more awareness of how my body should feel in a balanced position. Prior to that, I just didn’t know how it was supposed to feel. It’s called mind-body awareness.”

What is Pilates Reformer?

Many people are familiar with mat Pilates which is done on the floor with small props. The Pilates Reformer class, explains Kathleen, uses specialized equipment to create resistance and feedback that helps to align the body. June works on machines that use springs to create that resistance. Specialized equipment includes Pilates Reformers (which look like sleighs with springs), tower units, Pilates Exo Chairs and spine correctors. They provide a challenging, full-body workout.

Joseph Pilates was an accomplished gymnast, skier and boxer who discovered that the springs he pulled from the underside of bed frames aided patients by enabling them to exercise although bedridden. His methods were unconventional but revolutionary. 

“He took the springs out of the beds in hospitals to create this whole apparatus,” Kathleen says. “The springs offer a unique resistance system and June can use the feedback she’s getting to become stronger and more properly aligned.”

Pilates’ methods, which involve articulation of the spine, were widely used among the dance community beginning in the 1960s to gain more flexibility and range of motion. Today, mainstream society chooses the Pilates method for strength, flexibility, balance, posture, core connection and an overall sense of well-being. Pilates has been known to provide better concentration. Many also attest that after completing a class, they feel as if they have just gotten a massage.

“If you have tightness anywhere, this makes it disappear,” June says. “When I leave here, I feel like everything is in perfect alignment and all the aches and pains that I might have had when I walked in are gone.”

As an instructor, Kathleen also does Pilates regularly and says it gives her “an almost euphoric feeling.” It helped her become a better runner.

“It can be amazing for people who are in pain, but it can also be an amazing performance enhancement if you’re a triathlete, a runner or participate in any kind of sports,” Kathleen says. “Former Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta did Pilates and it saved his career.” 

It’s been a year since June started Pilates Reformer and she says she no longer sprains her ankles. Her stability and balance have improved so much that she felt confident enough to travel to Sicily for a walking tour.

“I walked at least 10,000 steps every day over cobblestone streets and climbed to see a volcano,” June says. “It was grueling, and I never would have been able to do it without this training. There would be no way.”

Learn more about the NCH Wellness Center. Call 847-618-3500 to inquire about a membership, Pilates class, personal training or VIP package.

*VIP members commit to a six-month or annual package at the NCH Wellness Center. Various levels, such as gold and platinum, are available. Discounts are given on classes and monthly memberships, and members can choose a combination of spa services, Pilates and personal training based on their desired fitness goals.