Get to Know Lily: The Path to Pilates as a Data Scientist & Runner
For nearly 4 years, I have been tethered to my desk as a data scientist. Each day I face thousands of lines of soft programming codes that requires me to process millions of data points. I love my job because it can be very creative and full of new potentials. I am able to leverage my skills to extract lots of useful information from huge volumes. Thus I often work overtime; I eat lunch at my desk and spent no time during the day moving or even stretching my body. And though my job brings me great joy, it was only recently that I realized how much it overwhelmed my body.
Upon entering the working field, I gradually found that it became hard for me to reap the benefits of my running. In college, running was a perfect way for me to deal with stress. I would squeeze 1~2 hours on the daily for the moments of endorphins and adrenaline pumping through my body. But after long hours at a desk, despite that only my fingers and eyeballs were the most “active” parts of my body, I felt I was not ready for a run. Running began to feel like a burden. It no longer was a remedy. This was majorly because I ignored the negative side effects of being overworking at the desk, such as muscle aches, stiff neck, anxiety and depression. Things did not change until I started practicing Pilates.
In 2018, I joined IBP as a client and was totally impressed by the mind-body focus that the exercises demanded. I never had a workout that required so much attention to detail, especially body alignment and breathing. When I found the correct body alignment, it was incredible to feel that I could make most out of an exercise, and breathing gave good rhythm to each movement. As I performed more, more good changes gradually happened in my life:
• The first direct improvement was my posture. It usually creates a kyphotic head‐forward posture to spend hours gazing at a computer screen, along with overly tight trapezius muscles and shortened pectoral muscles. The neck muscles grow tense, and tend to trigger stress and headaches. A lot of exercises in Pilates actually focus on neck and spine alignment, back extension and chest opening, such as Pulling Straps, Swan and Chest Expansion. They all help me release those muscle tension, reduce strain on the shoulder joints and find the balance again.
• Pilates also guided me towards a stronger sense of body awareness. Previously I definitely would not pay attention to my breathing when I was driving to work or sitting in the office. After performing Pilates, I learnt breathing is the foundation of our existence and it is essential for our health and well being. I started practicing diaphragmatic breathing during my working time. Because it requires engaging abdominal muscles, when I was breathing that way, my spine would be pulled back to its natural curve and I will be sitting in a better posture. I also found breathing in a right way helps decrease stress and calm my mind and spirit, so I was able to handle those heavy duty projects in a clearer mind, and survive hours of high concentration in work.
• Pilates helped my body get more prepared for a long distance run. I have been a big fan of running for years, but I don’t think I gave enough credit to my core, especially those deep core muscles that support my spine and keep me steady and upright. After months’ of consistent Pilates training, I found I was able to save more energy for a same distance run than before, and my breathing became much more easier. This was largely because I built the strength of my core to keep my upper body in an efficient running form, so I do not have to drain energy reserves to fight an incorrect posture.
Currently, when I am back to trail, I feel so much more energy, from my body, mind and spirit. I am able to focus on my day-time job, yet stay active in running. Pilates definitely makes a big contribution to this transformation. Besides, it provides me a perfect way to stretch out my body after running or after work. A few of my favorite Pilates stretch exercises are lunges at the reformer, mermaid, elephant, footbar stretch and side lying leg stretch on trap table. I used to skip stretching after my workout. But now, it becomes an enjoyable experience utilizing all the apparatus in Pilates.
I strongly believe Pilates is an avenue to find a healthier, happier and balanced version of self, and every body will be able to find their own unique connections to this versatile practice!