The following is an imaginary letter to a pilates instructor I had recently.

I mean the letter is real but I won’t send it to her. I’m afraid it would make her feel bad and in the end, not really change anything. Or maybe I just hate confrontation. The important thing it is not really about her at all – she was a lovely, caring person.

It’s also not about pilates specifically.

I think this experience is being had in lots of group exercise classes from yoga to bootcamp.

I’m sharing it because  a) I spent the rest of my gym time that day composing it in my head and b) I want to make a point about all the weird, tedious, crucial, unusual work we do in my classes to mobilize wrists and shoulders and prepare the joints for high load (and very common)  exercises like push ups. Push ups are just one example of a movement we expect ourselves to be able to do even though we spend most of our week at a keyboard sitting in a chair. It is HARD to do a proper push up but if you build up to it – it becomes do able. Patience People! You and your body are in this for the long haul.

so anyway, here it is.


Dear Pilates Teacher

Thanks for the drop in class yesterday! I liked learning so many new things from you.

When you asked who had never done pilates before I was hopeful. It was a good question considering its beginning of January and many people there were well over 60. Maybe a third of the class put up their hand.

Once we got into it I was loving all the props and especially the bender ball.

Then you started what i can only describe as the shoulder shredding push up portion of the class. With no preparation in the wrists or shoulders and no real instruction you had us hold plank pose for a good long while and then do as many push ups as we could do in 45 seconds. WTF?

A full body push up is an advanced exercise that usually takes some form of modification for any beginner. Not many of us in  that class could do more than a very few push ups with good form. Most of those new students could not do one push up and we were asked to do many. And as fast as we could. You commented that “push ups are your friend” Really?

Only if you know them very well 🙂

Many of these fine folks would have some trouble just sustaining a hands and knees position for any length of time. Heck, my shoulder is talking to me today and I do a lot of weight bearing on my upper body but doing these things FAST is a recipe for disaster. Not to mention it’s not really that helpful in terms of results. You should be able to slow down and have good control throughout the whole exercise. If not you are using momentum and gravity and pushing your body into something it is not ready for.

So most of them will not return and will blame themselves.

Some of them will return and perhaps injure their shoulder (super common in women).

They may never really return to exercise believing it is to late for them. 

Please don’t let this happen!

Slow down and consider your audience. I know its tough in a multi-level drop in class but you can give different stages of an exercise.  As one of my friends says ‘regress to progress”.

with loving intentions and high hopes for next week,


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