How Pilates got me back on track after surgery

“I honestly think that without Pilates I would still be suffering.”

The date was March 8th of this year and I’d been mentally preparing for the procedure for over a year prior to going under the knife.

 Christine - post op

Christine – post op

Over years of repeated ankle rolling, from activities such as dancing (no not on a night out, I mean proper dancing), a step class, jumping on the bed (as a child of course) and walking on uneven surfaces in town, left me with severe instability and a completely torn ligament in my right ankle.

Nothing is as heartbreaking as the sinking feeling you get the moment your ankles give in and you know you’re in for weeks of limping and of course your movement routine is savagely put on hold.

I decided to look into surgery to repair my ligaments and after a few different opinions all saying the same thing I decided to go for it.

I gave myself a year to prep for the procedure and vowed to go in as strong as I could possibly be.

This is where Pilates and Barre became my everything, even more so than before as I prepared for surgery and did ‘prehab’.

My ‘keep sane’ workout while recovering from ankle ligament surgery. Some days I don’t do the glute and side leg work because my legs get so tired from walking on crutches. So I just listen to what my body is saying that day. Today was an epic ab day. Pilates is really what keeps me sane and relieves anxiety and impatience. #Pilates #recovery #surgery #ligament #ankle

A photo posted by Chrisine Gioia (@shrimpchip) on

Doing Barre twice weekly and Pilates at least twice a week made an enormous difference to my ability to stabilise and balance as I worked not only global muscle groups but the small often ignored stabilisers, something I was going to need on my side for the 3 months of walking on crutches post procedure. I even did gentle Pilates the morning of the operation.

Post procedure was tough but I committed to doing my abdominal and upper body work as before (my physio said this was OK). I did this in bed and then, when I was more mobile, on the floor of my room. I did these alongside my physio routine.

The amazingly scary thing about being immobile is how quickly your body and muscles degenerate and wow I felt it. You could even see after 6 weeks in a cast my calves were completely different sizes.

I’ve had to work slow and hard and I’ve had to listen to my body every step only the way and still do. Most importantly I’ve had to listen to when it says ‘stop, thats enough’, to when it says ‘OK let’s go a bit further’ and to when it says ‘rest’. It’s not always convenient and sometimes just when you think you’re, healed you’ll have a sore week.

Pilates has been an amazing low impact but high intensity option for me that has really assisted in my ankle mobility (footwork is the best) and strength overall, allowing me to walk up to 3km’s 3 times a week with absolutely no pain, and I feel now, 7 months later, that I might be able to start gentle runs again.

It’s been a long journey to get to the point where I am now, teaching and doing dynamic reformer exercises involving a lot of single leg balance and stability work and I honestly think that without Pilates I would still be suffering.

Bottom line is that there is hope after surgery to get back into movement and Pilates is genuinely the safest option that yields tangible results that will get you back on track towards your goals.