Linda Pimentel, owner of Origins of Inner Strength Inc., in Mesquite, Texas, has made Pilates transformations a family affair. She frequently works with families, couples and mother-daughter teams. “I usually work individually at first, to establish boundaries,” she says. “For example, the mother needs to know that during our sessions she isn’t in charge, and the daughter doesn’t get to show off in front of mom.”
The Webb family is a unique story of triple transformation. Shannon Webb, 58, began Pilates to counteract the effects of a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a group of hereditary neurological disorders that affect the nerves around the brain and spine. Her husband, Don, a marathon runner, began Pilates when he couldn’t recover from a running injury. Their daughter, Olivia, also needed help with facing challenges related to CMT.
Preserving Quality of Life
“When Shannon came to me, she could barely walk for 20 minutes—now she can walk for 3 1/2 hours,” says Linda. “Stability was the primary thing for her, because of the neuropathy in her feet. She needed to learn to function from her thighs and core, and to know that if she lost her balance, those muscles would secure her.” Pilates has allowed Shannon to live without a wheelchair, walker or cane. Linda works with Shannon two to three times a week, including via Skype when she travels.
“CMT causes my muscles to atrophy from the farthest extremities toward the core of my body,” explains Shannon. “It typically affects the legs most noticeably. There is no cure, but I’ve had great role models among aunts, uncles and cousins who have this disease and haven’t let it get the best of them. It didn’t stop me from going to law school, marrying the man of my dreams and having a successful career. When I was 47, I dragged my left side because it was significantly weaker than my right side. My neurologist suggested Pilates. Ten years later, I have more muscle mass than I’ve ever had in my life. I’m pretty balanced between my right and left sides, which is phenomenal. I’ve kept my muscles lengthened instead of letting them atrophy. Falling is common with this disease, but I rarely fall.”
Shannon gardens almost every day—she has 100 rose bushes on 8 acres—and she can maneuver cobblestone streets on her regular visits to Prague. “I think there are people who don’t have my disease who can’t do what I do at my age! Pilates has given me the ability to maintain my quality of life. It didn’t happen overnight, but persistence paid off. Eventually I’ll be in a wheelchair, but I hope not until I’m 70; and when it happens, I’ll be prepared.”
Linda has demonstrated Pilates at the local CMT center. Says Shannon: “Pilates is a wonderful tool many people are not aware of. [Those of us with CMT] all go to neurologists, but they don’t all know about Pilates, as my neurologist did.”
Help With Running
Don is a seasoned marathon runner who tore a deep gluteal muscle while running in the dark. He tried working with a trainer in the gym for over 6 months but got no results. When Shannon suggested he try Pilates, he rapidly began to recover, and in less than a year he placed second and third in two race categories. Linda worked with him to strengthen and lengthen the deep muscles that were overlooked in his gym training.
“A lot of what you see in the gym trains surface muscles, but with Pilates we take it deeper,” says Linda. “We make the whole spine flexible and lengthen the muscles. We train the body to be functional and prepared. All the abdominals are trained as stabilizers and as movers. We don’t just train for power and strength; we train for the loss of it.”
“At the Oklahoma City Marathon I set a new personal best record,” says Don, “and I qualified for the next Boston Marathon. I’m going to continue Pilates as part of my training. In fact, if I had been doing Pilates, I probably wouldn’t have injured myself in the first place.”
A Positive Outlook
Olivia, 24, has a bubbly voice and a positive outlook that has prompted friends to call her “sunshine and rainbows.” Many people don’t realize that she also has CMT. Until she was 14, she walked on her tiptoes because of the disease; then she had foot surgery to implant bolts in her feet. “My high school had four staircases, and I literally fell down the stairs every single day,” she recalls. At the urging of her mother, Olivia began Pilates in her senior year of high school. “I’ll never forget when I was able to tell Linda that I had gone my first whole week without falling at school. The next milestone was when I could go down the stairs without clinging to the rail. It was extraordinary.”
When Olivia went on to college in London, New York City and the Czech Republic, Linda continued to work with her over Skype. Today Olivia lives on the third floor of a building that has only stairs—no elevator. Recently she lived her dream of trekking up the mountains to historic Machu Picchu, in Peru. “Thanks to Pilates I recovered in ways I never thought I would,” she says. “I now believe there’s a type of fitness for every person, no matter what your ability or condition—you just have to find the right one. And it isn’t just about the exercise; it’s about having an instructor who cares about you, and whom you trust.”
Do you have client transformations to share with other instructors? We look forward to hearing from you!