By Christine Aurigema
ARLINGTON, Va., -- Pilates instructor Heather Palmer called upon Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion to explain the benefits associated with moving the human body. In sum, the law states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.
“Whether it’s a Pilates class or a walk or another class, that’s what your body was created to do: move,” Palmer said.
In 2019, Palmer started teaching a Pilates course to Soldiers assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The class is part of the adaptive reconditioning program for Soldiers in the Army Recovery Care Program, which helps wounded, ill and injured Soldiers transition back to the force or to veteran status. The Pilates class teaches participants to be mindful of their bodies and listen to them.
“If they keep coming to class and listen to their bodies, they will see a difference and an increase in strength and ease of movement because they are getting to know their bodies and what they need,” Palmer said.
Sgt. Jonathan Kennedy attended the Pilates class and likes the stretching that occurs. “I definitely need it since I’m always in the gym and I don’t really properly stretch when I’m not home. It’s good to come here to do stretches and learn some new stretches.”
The Pilates classes are being offered virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adaptive reconditioning program is developing one-on-one mini sessions so that Palmer can teach the basics, provide modifications and answer questions.
“Every time we do a virtual class and I see new people showing up, I get excited because they showed up and that is the hardest part,” Palmer said.
The class is conducted with natural sunlight and no music so that participants can have a distraction-free space to focus on every movement. Palmer starts each class with a commitment to listen to their bodies. Participants also set intentions and commit fully to the exercises they are going to do during class.
There is power in mentally committing to something before starting, Palmer noted. She encourages participants to think, “this might be challenging, but I’m going to meet that challenge.” She’s found that “taking a second to commit to that before we start allows us to go further.”
During the classes, participants work on building muscle, increasing joint mobility, proper range of motion and correcting muscle imbalances. Strengthening the core, or as they say in Pilates, “the powerhouse,” is incorporated into every workout.
“No matter what our focus is in class, we will always work that powerhouse,” Palmer said.
Kennedy noticed a difference in his physical strength after going to Pilates. “It actually put more muscle on me too,” he said. “I feel a lot stronger than what I was before.”
Palmer misses being able to see Soldiers progress and regain control of their bodies but notes that the virtual class is a new place to connect. “I love that the virtual class has become a place where they are friends,” she said.
Newton’s First Law of Motion explains why objects remain in motion, but it doesn’t mandate how humans move. That is up the individual.
“The best exercise is the one you will do, and the one you will do is the one that you love,” Palmer said. “I feel passionate about moving and keeping your body healthy and strong through movement. Whether it’s through Pilates, yoga or something else, I think finding the thing that feels good to do is what we all need right now. It’s so important for physical and mental health.”