Tuesday, September 21, 2021

‘Pilates brought me back from the brink of deep depression after injury’ writes Faye James


After a serious injury that would have her shelve her favourite workout for at least a year, avid runner Faye James fell into a deep depression. But then she discovered Pilates, and her life changed. 

Running has always been my outlet. Every day, I would pound the streets, lost in my world, only to feel the sweat trickle down my back and the sound of my heavy breath. It was a place in which I would lose myself for hours and where I would enter an impenetrable zone where worries or concerns would simply melt away.

When I was running, I was in control. Never anxious, never sad, just calm, happy and content. But in 2018, everything came crashing down.

Ironically, it was during a photoshoot for my health and wellness book, The Long Life Plan, where I was trying to illustrate how great it is to run on the beach.

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Stupidly, I had warmed myself up insufficiently and after several leaps, I heard a deafening thud in my leg muscle. It felt like I had been whacked on my calf by a baseball bat.

I crashed to the ground and I knew I had seriously injured myself. Unable to walk, I was shortly hospitalised and told I had severely torn my Achilles. I would need immediate surgery.

An unpleasant reality

When I awoke, I was confronted with the reality of my recovery. Three weeks in bandages with no weight-bearing, and the assistance of a knee chair to get around. Then 10-12 weeks more in a moon boot.

“So, when can I run again?” I asked my surgeon drowsily.

He smiled and shook his head.

“Not for at least a year, maybe longer depending on your recovery,” he said.

At first, I tried to be upbeat and positive. I thought a year would fly by and I would be on my feet in no time.

But after the first week, I found without my outlet, anxiety and worries ran amok in my head and I began to spiral into a deep depression.

I started to become angry and impatient with my family and fed up that I couldn’t do the most simple of tasks, like going to the shops, hanging out the washing or even cooking.

For the first three weeks, I was pretty much bed-bound and on a cocktail of painkillers, mixed with a large dose of anxiety and depression.

My lowest point hit when I attempted to cook dinner on my one good leg and ended up screaming at my husband and throwing carrots in his face. I had lost my way and felt completely out of control of my life. I have never felt so alone or so sad in my entire life.

The road to decline continued, even when the moon boot came on and I was able to have a bit more mobility.

Without the regular intensity of exercise and cardio I was used to, my body and endorphins were all over the place.

At my surgeon’s suggestion

Without my running, what could I do? My surgeon suggested that I start with Pilates after the 12 weeks post-surgery to help speed up the healing process, boost strength and mobility and get me on the road to running quicker.

I had dabbled in Pilates before, but not on a regular basis, so I welcomed this idea with excited optimism, after all its creator Joseph Pilates did develop the method to help the injured return to health.

When the moon boot came off, I could barely move my foot and had virtually no calf muscle left but after two weeks of daily Pilates classes, I quickly found the muscle strength coming back. Each day after class, the heaviness in my soul lifted and I felt lighter, brighter and stronger.

And as I concentrated on perfecting each of my exercises, I began to feel my inner turmoil ease, the anger quieten and again, I could feel the sweat trickle down my back and hear the sound of my breath. I began to find my zone again.

I had found my happy place

My surgeon was amazed at how quickly I was recovering and regaining strength in my calf muscle and within six months he even said I could try some light running. I was ecstatic. After months of darkness and despair, I finally saw a light and can only thank Pilates for helping me find myself again.

In fact, I was so impressed with Pilates and its ability to speed up my healing, I decided to embark on a teaching course online with Breathe Education so I could get a certified pass on its true benefits to others and help get injured souls on the road to recovery faster.

Even though I had very little time on my hands, I managed to fit in a few hours here and there and fit the training around my busy schedule as a mother-of-two and a full-time worker.

The teachers have been amazing and I’m truly grateful I discovered the practice and got my certification. Without it, I don’t think I would have mentally survived. In fact, I do believe Pilates saved my life. Hopefully, I can save a few lives in return.

Faye James is the author of The Long Life Plan, a certified Pilates instructor and accredited nutritionist.

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