Studio COWBOY 2

Ranch manager makes Pilates a habit

As a Montana ranch manager, I’m probably not your typical Pilates practitioner. I would wager that there aren’t many people in the ranching community who prioritize a weekly Pilates workout, but I do. 

My commitment to weekly workouts with Alison Laundrie at Move Missoula Pilates and Barre Studio has helped me to remain physically strong and flexible enough to continue to live the life I love. I’ve realized that Pilates is for everyone, even cowboys. 

I began practicing Pilates four years ago after I suffered severe back pain from a herniated disc that kept me out of work. Admittedly, I was floor bound for multiple weeks. After resting my back and working to heal it naturally through acupuncture and chiropractic sessions, I still had a weak back and core.

It was a hard stone to swallow—accepting that the physical demands of my job, which I had been able to perform with ease before, could no longer be approached so cavalierly. Having been strong and fit my entire life, my body was no longer going to let me take it for granted. I was concerned that swinging a saddle onto a horse’s back or contorting my body into some awkward position to repair a piece of equipment might trigger another painful episode of debilitating back pain. 

Other than passing references, I hadn’t really heard much about Pilates. Thankfully, the smart and successful women in my life sung its praises—told me that I needed to give it a try. I’ve never been a class or group exercise guy. The fact that it was only women who were cajoling me into this was, indeed, my first hurdle. I was surprised to learn that Pilates was an exercise started by a man—Joseph Pilates—as physical rehabilitation for himself and other soldiers returning from WWI. This bit of knowledge gave me the reassurance that was necessary for me to take that first step into the studio and deflect the sideways looks from my male friends when I told them I was going to my Pilates session. 

Let me tell you, Pilates equipment is not love at first sight. It looks like something you might find in a medieval torture chamber. There are springs, racks, straps, chairs, and a machine called “The Reformer.” My semi-private sessions allow for more variability in the selection of exercises depending on ability. Carelessness with form and function is not an option in these sessions; you’re there to do it right with instructors there to make corrections and help focus energy into specific muscle groups. Conceptually, Pilates is a piece of cake. Doing it correctly and remembering how to breathe makes it a true challenge. 

Since I started Pilates, my back is strong like it ought to be. While it’s the time and dedication within the studio, it’s also a consciousness that I carry to work with me—remembering to use good form in work and in play. I no longer live in fear of what physical demands might do to me. Building my core strength and improving my overall body mechanics have helped me to manage and protect the herniation in my back and have ultimately given me a new lease on my own life. 

A co-worker asked me, “Does it work?” When I think about where I started when I first walked into Move Missoula and where I am now, I can’t afford to not do Pilates. So my answer is, “Yes, it does.”