Ed's Success Story
I am probably not typical, because I have four "bulged" discs in my low back and one in my neck. I had tried everything; chiropractor, acupuncture, nsaid's, muscle relaxants, Celebrex, Vicodin, physical therapy, pain support groups, you name it. One Sunday morning three years ago I walked past the Star Ballet--I live just a block away--and saw a class: people of all ages using a mat and a big exercise ball. I saw a poster on the glass: Core Strength. Later I happened to be walking back as people were leaving. I walked up to a woman about my age (57) and asked, how hard is this? It's not hard, she said. I told her about my situation and she encouraged me to give the class a try.
I figured I'd have to buy the ball, the mat, some special shoes etc, but when I called the instructor, Maggie Harding, she said she'd lend me everything I needed so I could try it out. It took me a while to work up the courage to come--my back was really fragile in those days--but once I got there it was easy.
Maggie pays attention to everyone in the class; I don't know how she does it, but she knows when someone is in pain, and finds a way for them to participate within their limits. Soon I loved it so much that I talked Maggie into adding a third day (now it's Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). I go all three days every week, and I couldn't imagine life without it. I've lost 20 lbs, mostly because I now can ride a bike and do other exercise, and I do. My abs are rock-hard for the first time in 30 years. Who knew? I thought I was too old to look this solid, to stand this straight. Best of all, I am no longer in pain.
Every class is different in the details--apparently there are many ways to work the "core" muscles--but the pattern never changes: warm up exercises involving large movements--easy and impact-free. Then comes what I think of as "the muscle groups of the day;" a series of exercises to strengthen first one then another specific area, maybe the insides of the legs, or it could be the low abs, or the shoulders and upper arms.
Many of the exercises involve using balance to keep your core engaged, which stimulates my brain as well as my body, so I start my day feeling alert and alive. Maybe that's why the days when I have class are always my best days of the week; I'm more awake with less caffeine.
Maggie has constructed this class from her wide-ranging expertise, bringing in elements of yoga, Pilates, physical therapy, physiology and skating conditioning (she skates competitively and was once Tinker Bell or something in Walt Disney on Ice). She saves the best of all these for the last 20 minutes: gentle stretching.
Maggie sets a friendly tone, and I really like everyone in the class. We are in all shapes and sizes, and all ages, ranging from dancers types in their 20's to sedentary folks in their 60's. A few people come in with a back or a knee or some other issue, but more have just gotten soft from too many birthdays since they did any exercise. Somehow Maggie is able to set a pace and incorporate exercises that work for everyone, without anybody either feeling overwhelmed or under-challenged. We laugh a lot and everyone goes out of their way to make new people feel welcome. I've found some real friendships in that class.
And, physically, what a difference! I used to be a mess: carpal tunnel, the bad back, crummy posture, whine whine cry cry. Core Strength has changed all that. I like how I feel, and how I look. I can sit at a desk for hours with no pain. I can carry in the groceries. I can drive to the mountains (long car rides used to be torture). I can run around with my kids, go hiking, biking, walk the 40 lb dog on a leash; I can do so many things I could only dream of doing just three years ago. Like I said, I had tried everything and nothing worked. Now I have core strength, and that's made all the difference.