This pilates exercise is called the Rollover.
Back when I was first training as a pilates mat teacher 12 years ago, I could do this movement easily on the mat with no props. It’s one of the really dynamic pilates exercises that is so exciting to be able to do, and I loved it.
Add 10 years, 2 babies, a few rounds of sciatic pain, an international move, and I couldn’t do it anymore. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to make any progress.
I told myself a story about how this was just too difficult for me now, and I that would never do it again. I worked on accepting my body as it was and being comfortable with the changes.
BUT THEN- I took the Comprehensive Pilates Teacher Training course in 2022 with Allison Kares Movement Education.
Apparently, I just needed to have a better pilates education to understand why I couldn’t do this exercise anymore, and what to do about it.
NOTE: IT’S NOT JUST A MATTER OF TRYING HARDER!
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it simply won’t work.
Working SMARTER has a far higher success rate than just trying harder.
This exercise requires a combination of spinal mobility and abdominal strength. I had lost both to some degree over the years, and I didn’t understand how to get them back.
There are so many ways to work on these things within the complete pilates repertoire, but the basic idea I needed to understand was that lining up my bones will automatically strengthen the correct muscles. Instead of trying to strengthen my muscles without lining up the bones, I needed to find props to put my spine into the position the exercise requires.
Enter one of my favourite props: THE ARC BARREL
I began by using an arc barrel under my pelvis to set up the alignment in my spine, and then I lifted my bum up as much as I could from there, every time I practiced. At first it was only a couple of inches. I persisted even though it was such a small movement that it seemed kinda silly. Then it got easier. And smoother, and more controlled.
Once I had a *little* bit more spinal mobility and strength, I tried a similar exercise using the reformer called short spine. The recommended spring choice didn’t work- I could lift my pelvis a little, but not get very high. So I put more spring on. Then more. Then ALL THE SPRINGS!!! (Don’t do this at home, kids!)
With heavy springs on, I managed to do short spine on the reformer. That was an exciting day! I took a selfie to commemorate the moment:
The short spine is basically the same movement as the rollover, but the spring resistance helps you get your bum up in the air!
After this, it all came easier, and I could practice doing the whole range of movement in the rollover on the reformer. Now I can also do it using the chair- and it is a more challenging variation than on the reformer, because although you can use your arms to help get your legs up, you have to move your lower half without spring support or a prop.
I am still working on being able to do this on the mat again, without the support of the chair, the arc barrel, or the reformer. I understand what I need to do to get there- keep working on the variations that create the same shape with my body, keep lining up the bones- which will keep engaging the right muscles- and it will come.
To sum up what I’m getting at here:
There’s a whole lot of props and support in the full pilates repertoire that can make every exercise *more* achievable.
It’s true, sometimes your body has a structural issue which we have to accept and work with. The rollover is not an exercise for people with osteoporosis, for example. This is life as we age, and the wear and tear is real, and quite often, permanent. My plan of acceptance around the situation was a good one; and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on celebrating what your body can do, rather than being stuck in the negative mindset of “giving up.”
But sometimes being smarter about it gives you the edge to push into new territory. It allows your body to adapt. I’m so grateful to my body for adapting through babies and pain and for keeping me moving and healthy. I see amazing bodies adapting every day during my classes and private sessions. The gains can be very small- I notice, but the clients don’t- or they can suddenly seem really big as it all comes together. They are all important- and all are worthy of celebration!
It’s my job to help your body work smarter, not just harder.
I am honoured that my clients trust me to challenge them with new and different ways of moving their bodies, and that they keep on showing up to practice with me.
I can help you push the boundaries of what you believe is possible.