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A Modern Day Fairy Tale

August 17, 2010
by

A really tall girl and her Pilates Godmother.

Once upon a time, there was a really tall girl (RTG). She wasn’t really a girl—38 years old, actually—but this is a fairy tale, so go with her here. In her head, the RTG was finally cool with being the tallest in the room, the school, the mall. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the Gap finally started making pants with 36″ inseams and a site called Barefoot Tess, which she randomly stumbled upon wasting time while “working”, offered a variety of cute flats and sandals the likes of which her size 14 feet hadn’t seen. Ever.

But the RTG digresses. Excuse her.

Physically, though, the RTG was not standing tall. Although she did her best to stand with her shoulders back and her spine long, she spent too much time with her hands on the keyboard or steering wheel to have good posture. Plus, 37 years of slouching is hard to undo.

Then one day, RTG, who co-wrote a book, was doing a reading and doing her best to stand tall. As she was signing books afterward, a really short girl (RSG) appeared and introduced herself. She was a Pilates instructor named Marcia—also not a girl, but you know the drill—and she came to the reading because she liked what the RTG had written about core strength in the Denver Post. (Little did the very RSG know, the RTG had lost what little strength she had left there.) In fact, the RSG was so inspired, she wrote a very nice post about the story on her blog.

On a day soon after that encounter, the RTG went to a doctor to get the results of an MRI for her aching, sad lower back. The smart doctor, who the RTG didn’t think was smart at the time, suggested Pilates. The RTG wanted a cortisone shot or another magical cure that didn’t require effort or thought from her. (This is a fairy tale, after all.)

So RTG called the RSG, and they went to work. Only after, though, the RSG laid out her one ground rule: no criticizing or getting mad at one’s body while she was on watch. Dang it, thought the RTG, especially after she verified how truly “strong” her core was. One Pilates breath, a loud, strong exhale that shrink-wraps the entire torso, and the RTG’s legs were shaking. A few more breaths, and her back ached (the good way a back aches, if there is such thing). With her torso tight, lifting her legs off the ground was impossible. “Just visualize that you’re lifting them,” suggested RSG, a very intuitive teacher.

It looks like RTG is just standing. Which is the truth. But she's standing on unstable, functional footprints, and her legs are shaking.

And so it went. (And continues to go.) Week by week, the RTG and RSG met, and there was, unfortunately, no magic. But there was a ton of hard work by the RTG, doled by RSG, who was very patient with her slouchy student, very methodical with her exercise progression and very generous with her time and spirit. She weathered the RTG’s occasional breakdowns (how can just moving her leg a few millimeters be so hard? and why does her back still hurt so much? why do I have to hold this stretch for so long?) and cheered her on in the way that all girls, RT or not, deserved to be cheered on: with honesty, love and the attitude that real success is taking small baby steps forward, and occasionally glancing back to realize how far those baby steps have carried you.

In other words, in RSG’s world, there are no wands to wave.

Except maybe in very special situations, when balls and beautiful gowns–or triathlons and lots of Lycra–are involved. RTG thinks RSG sprinkled fairy dust on her before a sprint triathlon two weeks ago.

The evidence? No, no sprinkles in her hair. But RTG got her first running picture ever, in 20 years of running, which shows posture so admirable that any mother–and especially a Pilates Godmother–would be proud of.

Running as the 6' almost 4" RTG has always wanted to. Finally. Thank you, Marcia.

54 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 4:31 am

    LOVE the story and the pic. So creative! Glad that you are feeling and looking so tall

  2. August 17, 2010 6:36 am

    Great pic of a very strong RTG! Love, love, love pilates because it also helped me heal a pissy back that kept me from running for 3 long months. My PT recommended it as the best way to strengthen my abs and back. It took one class to get over the fact that the exercises on the surface seemed so subtle, how could they possibly be working? But I walked out of there feeling tall and stretched and stronger. And I carry that posture in my everyday life, even when I’m not running. I still have a little sticker shock when I renew my classes, but without out it I don’t think I’d be running strong and without running there wouldn’t be a “happy ever after” here! Happy first day of school for you!

    • August 17, 2010 11:46 am

      Thanks, Jo. Glad Pilates has soothed your angry back. Yes, Pilates isn’t cheap, but I rationalize it like a rationalize a great, but kinda expensive haircut: I wear it (hair/posture) everyday. $$ spent on a session is worth more than it is on new clothes: good posture makes all clothes, new or decades old, look better. 🙂

  3. Lisa permalink
    August 17, 2010 6:38 am

    At 5′ (almost 11″) I can almost feel your pain- I was always the tallest, everywhere.
    But when I slouch I can still hear my mother telling me I’m lucky to be tall & to stand up straight. 14 years of ballet, a pilates cousin, doesn’t hurt either.
    I feel like all of this has translated to good running posture for me.
    Congratulations! And awesome picture!

    • August 17, 2010 11:54 am

      Hey Lisa: If I hear “You’re so lucky to be so tall,” or “I wish I were your height” one more time, well, I really won’t mind, but I’ve heard it plenty. Cool about your ballet background. I’m hoping my daughter, who is already 4’6″ at 7 years old, will be able to pick up on my new spine and not fall into the same traps I did.

  4. Katie permalink
    August 17, 2010 6:49 am

    Dimity, you’re beautiful. I love the running tall photo. I’m sure some of it has to do with your new running form, but good for you for making such a change! I never would have known you had an issue with your height. You wear it so comfortably and confidently.

  5. August 17, 2010 7:12 am

    Dimity great photo and post! I fell in love with pilates a couple of years ago and it still amazes me how some of the smallest moves can be so hard but can make such a difference! Hope you continue to enjoy it!

    • August 17, 2010 11:55 am

      *So* hard, Michelle. Like tilt your pelvis an inch? Why are my calves seizing up when I do that? Glad you also found the Pilates palace…I think I’m hooked for life.

  6. August 17, 2010 7:25 am

    I’m a sloucher, too. I’m trying to fix that. 🙂 You look good at that height!

  7. Natalie permalink
    August 17, 2010 7:27 am

    That is one rocking race photo!!

  8. August 17, 2010 8:22 am

    Dimity you look amazing!!

  9. August 17, 2010 8:27 am

    Dimity, that is an AWESOME photo, chickie. Seriously. And your body is amazing. A. Maz. Ing.

    I’ve got a neighbor who does Pilates and she keeps pushing me to take the plunge…. might have to think more seriously about it, considering all the hunching over I do at this computer every day.

  10. August 17, 2010 8:39 am

    What a wonderful tale! I love that you admit you wanted that magic pill. (Don’t we all want that sometimes?!)

    You are a beautiful RTG! Keep getting those amazing photos. You look wonderful.

  11. August 17, 2010 8:39 am

    It’s great, Dimity! Wonderful news.

    (I enjoy Pilates considerably less than yoga, it’s too dance-based for me, but I have to admit that I think it is the single best thing to prevent running injuries – the core work is invaluable…)

  12. CaRoline Eakle permalink
    August 17, 2010 8:59 am

    I love this post!!!
    Great picture!! I had a race this last Saturday and my husband said To me ” you Stand very straight when you run” with a really negative tone like this was a bad thing but I could not have been happier to see the pictures he took. I am a TG not RTG at almost 6′ and I have been that height since the 6th grade so I am really good at slouching shoulders and bad posture!!
    I hated being the tallest on all my class pics and until I started playing basketball being tall was a curse to me. I even 3 more years of experience then you in bad posture!! I think I should give pilates a try!!!! If it works for a RTG there is hope for TG!!!!!

    • August 17, 2010 11:44 am

      Hey Caroline–To a TG to a RTG who never played basketball–too much pressure–I definitely recommend Pilates. I seriously have never felt like I’ve “owned my space” more than when I walk out of class. It is truly an empowering, novel feeling–and I’d love another TG to experience it. 🙂

  13. Megan permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:13 am

    That picture is just awesome

  14. August 17, 2010 9:19 am

    That is a great running pic! Woohoo for being able to “stand tall!”

  15. August 17, 2010 9:46 am

    Great story! Having a great, supportive instructor (of whatever variety) makes such a HUGE difference. It really IS like being sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust. Happy for you and your back 😉

  16. August 17, 2010 9:47 am

    Hi Dimity,
    Great post and really inspiring to another Tall Girl (left out Really). I’ve also found that a strong core (all the way around, not just the front aspect of the abs) helps so much with running faster and with, of course, back injury. This was inspirational, as is so much about your RLM communities…

    • August 17, 2010 11:42 am

      Thanks, Kristin…strong backs are just as important. Good to be tall, but *so* much to support. 🙂

  17. Andrea permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:54 am

    This post makes me very interested in finding a pilates instructor… And I am a RAG – as in really average-height girl. My only excuse for slouching is that I got into the habit as a teen, and learned it so well that I haven’t let it go!

  18. Heidi permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:55 am

    What a great post – and that has to be one of the best race photos I have ever seen. I would seriously pay good money for a race photo like that!

    Congratulations on having some physical evidence of the hard work you’ve been done and how it’s paying off. Pilates has made a world of difference for me with my hip/leg issues – but I have yet to have photographic proof. 🙂

    • August 17, 2010 11:41 am

      Hi Heidi–I *did* pay good money for that photo: both to get to the point physically where I could do it, and then actually to buy it (Brightroom has such a corner on the market…). But it was worth it, in every respect. (I’m framing that sucker and putting it above my desk. 🙂 ) Marcia often reminds me how much it’ll pay off. Amazing how much little movement can create such huge changes. Glad it’s working wonders for you as well.

  19. August 17, 2010 10:15 am

    Excellent post, Dimity! I’m a wimpy five feet, five inches but grew up in a Southern household where my mother and her mother were constantly pulling back my shoulders and yelling, “Stand up straight!” Mainly because I hit my full heighth at age 11….Your experience shows how important posture is at any age, at any size, and no matter what our race times are -or could be. Thanks for reminding me to stand up tall.

    And for those of us thinking of trying out Pilates – should we go private lesson(s) first, then group? Machine versus floor? My one time was at a group floor class and it was less than memorable.

    • August 17, 2010 11:39 am

      Hey Ellison–
      I learned on a mat from Marcia. We scheduled 6 private lessons (2x a week) to start, and then flowed me into her group class. (Private lessons add up quickly, so wanted to minimize that expense.) Like so many things, Pilates instructors are all over the map as far as philosophies, teaching experience, certifications, etc. Marcia teaches a neutral spine–so your back is as it is in everyday life, no pressed into the floor–which I think makes sense to make it translate into real life and running. My guess is that any Pilates instructor who is serious about getting you as a student and about teaching you well would require at least one private before joining a group. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hitting a group class at a Y or your local gym, but I think there’s a real difference between those who specialize only in Pilates and those who teach a range of classes–and you’ll feel the difference accordingly. I’d start with a Pilates-only studio, and again, find an instructor who cares enough to require an hour of your time before you dive in. Hope that helps.

      • August 17, 2010 11:44 am

        Good advice, Dimity! Especially your point about a designated Pilates instructor versus someone who’s an overall instructor. Many thanks, E.

  20. August 17, 2010 11:00 am

    Awesome! Yep, core strength and running posture is everything. Mid-sole striking and chi running cured my IT, glute, hammy and PT issues that I’ve suffered with for years. (I know I’m a broken record about it. 🙂

    • August 17, 2010 11:33 am

      Hi Laura: We’re broken records together. I was going to make this post about Chi-running too, but got too long and boring. Stay tuned…amazing what tuning into your bod can do.

    • August 18, 2010 8:17 am

      I have never tried Chi running, but I barefoot run now and have noticed a huge difference in my running posture!

  21. August 17, 2010 11:47 am

    Great post. The before and after pictures show how determination, a plan and a goal pay off. Core work is so important – and easy to forget. It’s good to see evidence of the pay-offs.

  22. Kerry permalink
    August 17, 2010 4:48 pm

    You look kickin’ awesome. yup, all those small moves pay off…now I’m off to do my August homework (lots of “small moves” for PT) with your picture as my inspiration….I will be running again soon, fall weather is too good to miss!

  23. August 17, 2010 4:57 pm

    What Princess Little D didn’t mention is that she came to the RSG (and I mean really short girl – 4’11 w/really great posture) a really strong and beautiful woman who had made the decison to take the best care of her body possible. She went with it when I said, “if it’s too hard to lift your legs, just pretend like you’re lifting them in your head.” And she let me nag, nag, nag her like it was my job. But like all the princesses we love – she didn’t need anyone to rescue her – she did it all her self. Just look at those photos!

    Princess Little D is the kind of girl that inspires other girls – really tall, really short and in between. She’s smart and brave and strong and now she knows how to run with a “wide back, wide back Dim!” As her fairy godmother (the nicest thing a client has ever called me), I am so honored to be a part of the team. So all you RLAM’s tall and short, use your core, wide back and be as tall as you can be – every day. Oh, and for goodness sakes – hold that stretch! So proud of you Little D!
    Sincerely –
    DPM (Dimity’s Pilates mama)

  24. August 17, 2010 5:26 pm

    I’ve been off and on with Pilates, mostly taking mat classes at the Y. I know when my core is strong everything else works better. Really. I know that. So why is it so hard to get to class?

  25. Christine permalink
    August 17, 2010 7:45 pm

    GREAT pic!!! Stand tall, your beautiful!!

  26. Iliana Zuniga permalink
    August 17, 2010 8:21 pm

    I think of myself as a Zenish runner in the sense that I dont wear a monitor, and rarely do I time myself. I still run for the sake and love of running and for how I feel, however, I am always looking at myself in the reflection of car windows and most times, I am not super happy with what I see. I used to be really good with Yoga and I think that helped. I started as a yogini and evolved into a runner as I got fitter and thinner, then little by little, I started becoming more of a runner and less of a yogini.
    I need to get back into Yoga and improve my posture. Now that I saw your beautiful race photo, I want to look like than when I do my first half-marathon in October.

    My favorite running quote from Pre:
    “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”

    And from Plato:
    “The most beautiful motion is that which accomplishes the greatest results with the least amount of effort.”

    Great Job Marcia! Great Job Dimitiy! you look beautiful in motion

  27. Courtbomb permalink
    August 17, 2010 8:28 pm

    SO GREAT to see you STANDING TALL!! I’ve always had faith….and so happy to see that the perpetual college-slouch/I’m-leaning-over-cause-I-can’t-hear-what-you’re-saying-in-this-crowded-bar has been replaced by I’m-proud-of-my-gorgeous-6’4″-frame-and-running-tall-and-kicking-ass-in-my-sprint-triathlon. 🙂

    (love that there appears to be an equally tall male sucking wind behind you in the shadows)

    • August 18, 2010 9:18 pm

      hey court: unfortunately, he passed me with about 1/2-mile to go. but I still stood tall. 🙂 xo.

  28. JnetRuns permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:08 pm

    What a wionderful story, so inspiring, and that photo is terrific. I really need to be more consistent with Pilates to improve my own posture, once every couple of weeks or so just isn’t gonna do it.

    • August 18, 2010 9:19 pm

      hey janet: you’re right. like anything else you want to stick, you have to stick with it regularly. I’ve been doing it 2x a week since May, so it’s only been 3ish months. marcia keeps saying: wait until it’s a year. a year?*!

  29. Amy permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:14 pm

    I am a fellow RTG and an RBBG (Really Big Boobed Gal), so I have been slouching for years for all sorts of reasons–to be shorter and to hide the boobs. That slouching caught up with me in the form of running injuries and sure enough, the PT prescribed pilates. And now I stand tall and proud of my height and everything else! But sadly, it took me 40 years to get there.

    • August 18, 2010 9:20 pm

      hey amy: I’m just 2 years behind you, so don’t be so sad. look at it this way: we’ve still got more than half of our lives to show off the results! glad you’re standing tall with me, RTG. 🙂

  30. August 17, 2010 10:47 pm

    this story makes me so happy that i posted it on facebook as both myself and as my ‘pilates studio page’ 🙂

    beautiful, nicely done ladies.

    • August 18, 2010 9:21 pm

      Thanks, Angela. Means a lot coming from somebody like yourself. Thanks for the repost. 🙂

  31. Erin permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:14 am

    Fabulous story and beautiful posture!! Well done, girls!

  32. Dawn permalink
    August 18, 2010 5:56 am

    WOW, that photo is fabulous Dimity.

    After bending backwards carrying 4 babies, (not all at once I hasten to add!!!!!!!!!) my posture is in serious need of some magic! My husband has very kindly told me that I run lop sided, a comment which I didn’t take kindly to! Although having seen the photo he took of my last 5k I have to agree with him! 😦

    So pilates class here I come! (once the kids are back at school)

    Dawn x

    • August 18, 2010 9:23 pm

      Dawn: great to hear. 4 kids? Your body will thank you. I used to run lopsided too–and am fairly certain I still do when I get tired (or in anything beyond a 5k race where there are photographers), but it’s all a work in progress. Hope you find it as helpful as I have.

  33. August 18, 2010 8:16 am

    The race photo is great!! I have not tried Pilates, but the sports chiropractor I have gone to has me working out on a Bosu ball as well as doing a bunch of yoga moves. It has helped me so much and I can tell a difference in my core strength and my running posture.

  34. August 18, 2010 10:02 pm

    Oh Dim, I’m so happy to see you OWNING your gorgeous body! I remember when I met you how lovely your shoulders were, and later when you showed me your wedding pictures, I thought – “now there’s a woman who should always wear strapless dresses!”

    And to your faithful readers: Dimity is every bit as beautiful, funny, giving, and gifted as she appears in her book and on her blog. She’s one of the best people I know, and in my mind, she’s always running. 🙂

  35. August 18, 2010 10:15 pm

    I may not be 6’4″, but I am 6’0″, so I can relate to RTG!!! I feel compelled to respond because I feel like I spend everyday of my life focused on improving the posture I have neglected for the past 26 years of my life. My husband (who is 5″11 on a good day with heels) constantly tells me to “stand up straight, stand tall!” But I agree with RTG; it’s hard to undo years of slouching! I am working at it, and I’ve noticed that strengthening my core has improved my running.

    Stand tall, tall friend! Shoulders back, core engaged, eyes fixed dead ahead (well, really…eyes gazed down at the people below – but either way!). Thanks for making a fellow RTG feel good about being RT. 🙂

  36. August 18, 2010 10:28 pm

    This RTG loves your race picture. I aspire to have one like it. Pilates is wonderful; I discovered it long before I discovered running. It’s really amazing how your body can respond so differently when your core is strong and you’re well-balanced.

  37. Sheryl permalink
    August 26, 2010 11:48 am

    I started doing pilates about 3 years ago…. I stand taller, feel so much stronger and have completely cured my chronic low back pain (over ten years!). Such a great compliment to running.

  38. September 22, 2010 4:37 am

    Dimity,

    Glad to hear you confirm yourself your beautiful size 14 FEET! Remember me measuring them as that size after you had crewed for Mark Patten in the 2000 Race Across AMerica (RAAM)? I am now two thirds of the way towards my goal of bicycle riding over a million miles. I very rarely come upon women with feet as big as yours!!!

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