The Beauty of Flow (and Jen’s Lack of It)

“Change happens through movement, and movement heals.” ~Joseph Pilates

In this blog series we are unraveling the six principles of Pilates:

~Control

~Concentration

~Centering

~Flow

~Precision

~Breath

Flow is the fourth principle of Pilates.

In Pilates we aim to move fluidly. We plan smooth transitions that help us flow from one exercise to another. We aim for grace and beauty. This is a quality ballerinas, gymnasts, and ice skaters exemplify.

You don’t have to be a ballerina though to need flow. A soccer player needs it to dribble a ball; a basketball player needs it to shoot a hoop. Being a triathlete requires fluidity for two critical components: swimming and transition times.

Swimming in open water prevents many runners and cyclists from becoming triathletes. The vast openness of the water and the idea of unknown creatures lurking under the surface can be quite frightening.

To succeed in this environment, one must learn to move smoothly and efficiently without fear. If you work with the water, you will travel quickly with minimal effort. If you attempt to fight the water, you will have a rough swim.

I know this from experience.

It was the morning of my first triathlon, and I stood on the shoreline full of jitters. I wasn’t worried about the other athletes. They weren’t my competitors. I was my only competitor, and I wanted to finish.

The gun sounded, and I plunged into the water. The very instant I put my face into the water, I knew I had overlooked a critical detail while training. I had practiced open water swimming in this very same lake, but during the middle of the day. IE when the sun was shining through the water, and I could see several feet around me.

But, at the beginning of the race, the sun wasn’t even up yet. I found myself in pitch black water. It was as if my eyes were closed, but worse, because I could not control this abyss. I started to mentally panic. My heart raced. The blackness closed in. I literally began to dog paddle to calm my pulse.

As my heart slowed, I attempted to place my face back in the water and make up lost time. But again, I immediately sputtered and thrashed. I returned to swimming with my head above water. Just as I calmed myself, the next wave of swimmers gained on me. Suddenly, I had countless arms clawing at me and feet kicking in my face as they passed me. The fear returned.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times this pattern persisted. I fought and thrashed against the water the whole time; there wasn’t a moment of fluidity during the entire swim.

Eventually, I made it back to shore. I was third from last of the entire triathlon. But I made it.

The race wasn’t over yet.

Next came the first transition. Luckily my friend had prepared me for this. He said, “A slow transition is a smooth transition. And a smooth transition is a fast transition.”

Many triathletes get caught up in the race and try to rush the transition. They are careless and end up dropping and fumbling their items. Ultimately they lose precious minutes which has a profound effect on their final ranking.

I completed the transition fluidly and had the advantage of chasing down other racers. In the end, I achieved the goal I set for that day: Complete my first triathlon.

Since that day, I have practiced swimming in dark water and have made a dramatic improvement. But the Pilates Principle of Flow is still a difficult concept for me.

Sometimes instead of being graceful, we crash and flounder. And that’s ok, because we are still out there moving. We’re still reaping the benefits of exercise.

As we strengthen and lengthen our bodies through following the six principles of Pilates, we are also growing and changing into the best versions of ourselves.

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Author:

Jen Tyra

Dr. Jennifer Tyra helps women feel amazing so they can confidently conquer their day without pain, stiffness, or even pelvic problems (like leaking or painful sex).