Exercise? No? Pilates? Yes!

Most of my life I have been pretty blessed with the fact that I need to do little, to no exercise, and still continue to stay pretty thin. With that said I always knew that one day my metabolism slow down and feared it might be too late to begin a regimen.  I also quit smoking a few months back which has also encouraged this whole fitness interest that has peaked.

I began my journey attempting to figure out exactly what type of exercise I wanted to take on. I hated to exercise, and this was something that developed long before my accident. Really if anything that looks or sounds like exercise, I’m out! The one thing that I found just prior to my accident was my love for boxing. I was dating a guy that was really involved with it and naturally it became a fitness hobby I enjoyed, but only because it seemed like more fun than exercise. After losing my leg, boxing along with many other things were just not my highest priorities; at the moment learning to walk was number one on my list. As I started the search for some type of exercise that I actually wanted to do and would be able to do, I found it was much more difficult to figure out than I thought it would be. Heck, I was intimidated to go into the gym before losing my leg because I have no idea how to work the equipment. After limb loss that fear only increased for the same reasons; really I just had a lack of confidence because I had no clue what I was doing.

My Pilates Journey Begins

attachment-525c5d8ce4b05530bc99a581 Lucky for me just as I was starting to get a little discouraged I received an email from  a gal who was reaching out to teach Pilates to someone in the Minneapolis area who had lost a limb. I think I replied within 5 minutes of receiving the email that it totally sounded like something I would be interested in. Here is the truth, I knew very little about Pilates, I had no idea if it would be something I could or would want to do. We had a conversation over the phone and set up a meeting time. What I thought was really cool was that Kristin, the instructor who had reached out to many different organizations, has lost part of her fingers on one hand- so she has a bit of an understanding of what losing part of a limb is like, certainly more so than someone who has not experienced anything similar. The owner of Centerspace Studio, Nancy, as well as the studio manager Marcia, were very supportive of the idea of Kristin working with someone who suffered from limb loss and graciously allowed us to use the studio as we needed to for our sessions.

 Kristin, Marcia and I set up a meeting and got started on the details and goals right away. They were great at listening to what I have been through in order to have a better idea for the ways that we would need to “adapt” in order for Pilates to work me out in the ways I was looking for (and ways I didn’t know yet). I have been doing 2 sessions a week with Kristin and Marcia for just over 8 weeks now, and I can most positively tell you that I notice a HUGE difference. When I say there is a difference I mean that in so many ways. I highly recommend Pilates to anyone at any fitness level. The reasons are really endless, but to name a few: core strength, much less joint soreness, muscle strengthening, and it is a workout that doesn’t really seem like a workout!! The other huge positive is how body aware I have become. Nothing else in my life have I done that has created such body awareness.  Each week we have discovered something to work on or correct in order to allow my body to become that much stronger or healthier. For example, when starting Pilates I totally rotated my foot, ankle and knee out but kept my hip in the same place – not anymore! Another example would be the stretching that goes along with it has helped my whole body, but really my good and “bad” leg. I could go on with this list for pages, seriously.  One of my favorite things is that I am able to do Pilates with OR without my C-Leg. I try to always do my sessions with C-Leg because everything is about proper balance. But when my leg is sore I don’t want to miss a session, it is wonderful that I can just take off the prosthesis and still get a killer workout with one leg.

attachment-525c5dd6e4b05530bc99a664attachment-525c5db4e4b05530bc99a5feAs we approach the wrap up of our series of session, I am really realizing that Pilates has started a revolution in my life. It has been the inspiration to get healthy and to learn my body. It is a good practice to become familiar your body.  As an amputee I want to make sure to keep my sound leg as healthy as possible along with the rest of my body. I think we go on for far too long not really knowing how the body operates. I am so grateful that this journey began, furthermore, I am SO happy I started this journey with Kristin and Marcia. I cannot imagine a week without Pilates now, and I really never thought I would say that about any form of fitness. “Adaptive” Pilates has done incredible things for me both mentally and physically. I thought I would ask Kristin and Marcia how they feel about our sessions and here is what they had to say:

“Kate, do you know how many letters’ I have written and sent out? I sheepishly (because my accident is not as severe) joined Amputee Coalition and Empowering Amputees to find YOU! My motivation is simple: Stop pain, get strong, and feel better! Pilates gave me a way to find myself again! I can be active with reduced pain now and not be immobilized with it…. I was exhausted and hurting and had no idea why. It’s so important to learn the proper mechanics of the body when the body is compromised; otherwise it just keeps keeping on in the wrong direction, compounding everything.”

— Kristin, Instructor

“It has been such a pleasure to work with Kate. Her openness and humor have helped us to determine the best ways to address what her body needs. Pilates helps us uniformly develop the body as well as increasing our awareness, thereby teaching us to use our body as efficiently as possible. When there is trauma and imbalance such as in the case of limb loss, it is even more important to have a tool like Pilates to find relief, build new pathways for easy movement, and protect the body from the wear and tear of adaptive patterns.”

— Marcia, Centerspace Studio Manager

I don’t see there ever being a reason I would stop doing Pilates. Truth is I believe Pilates has the ability to help anyone and everyone in ways that you would not expect. Through my one on one sessions I am now confident enough to go sit in on group class. I feel strong enough now to take on some different kinds of fitness if I chose too, but for now I will stick to Pilates because it is the only fitness I love to do. If you are in the Minneapolis area, I highly recommend checking out Centerspace. There will be more to come about other fitness adventures and Pilates in future blog posts!

*To learn more about Pilates and if it’s for you,  read our  Tips For Selecting A Pilates Studio.

*The exercise advice contained herein is based on the author’s personal experience.  Please consult your physician or health care professional prior to beginning any fitness regimen

Have you tried Pilates? Or have questions for Kate? Share them in the comments below. And be sure to sign up to follow the Momentum blog so you don’t miss any posts.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Nikolai Wedekind says:

    Wow, what a powerful story of coming out even stronger than ever! Hugely encouraging, way to be a light for others traveling the same road you are!niko


    1. Kate Ross says:

      Thanks Niko! Pilates has done amazing things for me in a short time! I am happy to hear my taking on new things can be encouraging to others! Thanks again.


  2. Susan Cotten says:

    Hi Kate,I remember seeing Kristin’s post and wishing so that I was the lucky person who lived in Minneapolis. I took "Pilates" at a gym before my accident and really liked it. So almost immediately after my amputation (AK) I began scouring the internet for a Pilates instructor who had experience working with amputees AND I joined a gym that is a training facility for the Paralympics. Amazingly I had NO luck. I did, however find Alyssa Wyatt, founder and I think CEO of pilatesology–an online Pilates studio with dozens of Pilates instructors who trained under Romana (Joseph Pilates’ protege). After a few e-mail exchanges, Alyssa suggested I do a Pilates session with her via Skype! What an honor that experience was. And what I learned is that I really don’t need anyone to teach me modifications…instead I’ve just figured it out as I went. Alyssa and Pilatesology have been a HUGE help. For $20/month I tune into Pilatesology at least 3x’s week. Pilatesology is great because I’m learning how to do Pilates correctly. And I’ve gotten so much stronger. I’m doing lots of things I thought I physically would never be able to do! I sure hope some day there will be a website that provides direction to amputees!!!


    1. Kate Ross says:

      Hi Susan! Thank you for the comment! That is SO great that you found an online Pilate’s studio, I will for sure be checking that out today! I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the modifications; it is so much more about finding your own way. Thank you so much for sharing this great site, I cannot wait to look into things a bit more and learn about pilatesology. I was fortunate enough to meet Mary Bowen (also a Pilate’s elder, who studied under Joseph) while training with Kristen at Centerspace. What an honor to have such experienced Pilate’s instructors in our life! Can I ask what area you reside in?


      1. susancotten1@gmail.com says:

        Hi Kate,Just now seeing that you responded. Thanks! Mary Bowen–WOW!!! I live in Birmingham, AL


  3. Roz Robbins says:

    I started Pilates about three months ago. I wear a Genium leg and have been an amputee for 34 years. I can’t begin to tell you how much I like this. I started out with a series of 8 private lessons so the staff could help me learn the proper movements and adapt them to my needs. I usually go to a group class now but, every now and then, schedule a private lesson if something ne has been introduced in a class and I need to find a way to adapt it. This is the first exercise I have ever liked.About shoes for Pilates. I don’t like walking bare footed in my prosthesis so I had been wearing socks with anti slip soles. I just bought a pair of Nike foot wraps and the are great. The wrap is elastic and covers the bottom and instep of your foot while leaving your toes exposed. The best part is there is an overshoe to wear when you’re outside the studio. You do have to have a foot with a split by the big toe to use them. Check them out at the Nike web site.


    1. Kate Ross says:

      Hi Roz! Thanks for the comment! I am so excited that you also love Pilate’s; honestly it has been life changing for me. I think starting with private lessons is really helpful and that way you can find your own groove. I agree that Pilate’s is one of the first types of exercise that I really enjoy, and I also don’t really notice that I am working out when I am doing it, ya know? I have to tell you that I have been getting into some other types of fitness lately and that I really love to box as well. Slow to get going with it at first, but I love it almost as much as Pilate’s! I also have found a few other things that have worked well and I will share those soon! So keep your eyes open for future blog posts about it.You said that you are a Genium user, how do you like it and how long have you been in that knee? I have tested it out several times and LOVE it. Just like C-Leg it really has its perks. What knee were you using before? Thanks for the tip on the foot wraps. I will check them out for sure. I have a foot that I cannot use the split toe foot cover and I don’t mind being barefoot. I will still look into the wraps though because they sound really awesome!


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