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  • Lori Hattan

Why Pilates is a great workout after having a heart attack

My younger self believed in order to have a great workout, you needed to do something with high intensity while sweating profusely. Cardio back then would mean step aerobics or running. You were a serious stepper if you could get more blocks under that step and raise it high to the heavens. I can hear it in my head now...that pumped up music blaring as we stepped up and down, lunging, hopping over that step to the beat of the songs. Running, was another option of getting my cardio in. Somedays it would be going for miles, any where from five to eight. Getting eight in would be an awesome night. Other days I'd like to hit it fast which meant less miles on my shoes. Now that I'm reminiscing, I spent some money on my sneakers! I'd mix in a few days of weight training. That would consist of using a heavier set of weights with a certain amount of reps. I would do this after a day of work. The feeling was endorphins were released, my mind was clear, and my clothes were dripping wet. Yes, that meant I had the best workout and I felt invincible. Looking back on those years, I quiver thinking about what I did to my body and my knees as I pounded onto that step or pavement. And oh my form, struggling to lift those heavy weights. What did I know? I was young and that's what we did to stay in shape and look good.

Thats brings me to my older wiser self and lessons learned as I'm aging along this path God has for me. I'm a middle aged female that suffered a heart attack at the age of 48. Yes me!!! Everyone that looks at me can not believe that I of all people suffered a heart attack. I was and still am a healthy person that takes her health seriously. How did that happen? Stress and sadness! I'm a true believer now that our emotions can play a huge factor on our body. When this happened, my workout at the time was kickboxing, boot camp, plyometrics type moves, and not to mention on occasions my beloved Pilates!! My doctors told my family it was my health before my heart attack that helped get me out of the near death experience.

After my heart attack, I did cardiac rehab 3 days a week wearing heart monitor. I was walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, and doing a sitting elliptical machine. Those were some sad days for me, however, I looked forward to my early mornings with my older friends. They were there clearly for the social aspect, but they definitely brought me joy every time I walked in there. When I was released from rehab, I decided to continue my walks and incorporate Pilates back into my days. I put my gym membership on hold knowing there was no way I was ready to get back into my bootcamp style workouts. Now remember, this was a girl who loved sweating with high intensity workouts and running. I was getting fitness back into my life, however, going down a different avenue with it.

This is why I am a true believer that Pilates is a wonderful workout for someone after suffering a heart attack. I was a beginner in class again. Nowhere near the level I was before my heart attack. What I learned going back this time was really breathing. Taking a nice big inhale and feeling my chest expand as I took that breath in through my nose. Exhaling through my mouth and closing the rib cage. Not worrying about my neighbor hearing my loud breath going out.

As Joseph H. Pilates once said, "To learn to breathe properly is really more difficult an accomplishment than the average (uniformed) person realizes." I laid on my mat and became more aware of my body as I was breathing. I never felt that before because I never took the time to really slow down. I learned that the correct breathing pattern can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Pilates mobilizes the rib cage. The ribcage function is protection, support, and respiration. Tissue connects the heart and lungs to the ribcage and by doing rib and spinal movements like side bends and twists, pilates can feed our heart and lungs. That will make a heart healthy! | have more strength now than ever before!

I am focusing on different muscle groups and my core is the strongest of all. It's the center of my body and I can tell immediately when I am out of alignment. When I feel stress coming on I just take a nice big inhale and realign myself. Unfortunately, stress is a risk factor for heart disease and that's how I lost my husband. However, it's not going to get me! Pilates taught me how to calm me down and breathe as well as learning to take big diaphragmatic breaths that I now enjoy. Pilates can be taken to a level of aerobics if you choose to do so - certain exercises and props can increase the heart rate, which is also great for keeping us heart healthy. However, I've learned recently that you do not need a high impact workouts to reap the benefits of being healthy through exercise.

I'm so excited for my future as I know I will be able to continue enjoying Pilates as I age. I went through some dark days. However, the days I participated in my Pilates class rejuvenated my mind and helped me focus on my well being. My sense of balance, flexibility, and stability are stronger than ever which will only benefit me as I age. It's amazing when you learn to slow down and really focus on a move your performing, how you can feel those muscles work. You don't even needs weights to fire up and activate your muscles, it's amazing! There is no way I could continue the workout regimen that I was doing 20 years ago. This is definitely a less strenuous and healthier workout "high" for any age.


Lori and I met when she went through the Pilates Sports Center Pilates Teacher Training program. She is trained to teach Mat Pilates and has such an appreciation for it! I love her passion for life, and after hearing her story and reading her final paper, I knew her story had to be shared. She will be picking up a few Mat classes at Studio7 to cover vacations and can be found teaching in her home studio at Personal Best Pilates Studio in Overland Park.

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