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Karen Ingram, Peak Pilates® Master Instructor | United Kingdom

Karen Ingram, Peak Pilates® Master Instructor | United Kingdom
Posted on 23-5-2022 by Mad Dogg Athletics

I became a Pilates Instructor over 21 years ago and in many ways, Pilates saved my life, twice! 

When I was 22 and a student I had fairly major surgery on my spine for two prolapsed discs. For the 18 months before this surgery I’d been in agony and once I’d recovered from the op it seemed to have been a miracle cure. I was pain free and went straight back to racing sailing dinghy’s, skiing, cycling, all the things I loved. What I now know is that the surgery had done nothing to address the initial cause of my back problems, really bad muscle imbalance, rubbish postural muscles and glutes that did not fire… I officially had a lazy arse!

So about 5 years later my back problems came back tenfold. I lost power and feeling in my left foot, had no reflex in my right ankle, it felt like a spear had been thrust through my left calf. I couldn’t work, in fact I couldn’t do anything. I was advised to have a second operation but this time there was a risk of permanent damage and even paralysis. I was terrified. I decided to try everything and anything first. I tried massage, physio, chiropractic, osteo, I gave up cheese, had reiki… anything! Then I read an article about Pilates. My journey began.

After a couple of false starts I found an excellent Pilates class and my road to recovery began. At the time there was hardly any Pilates in Wales and I really wanted to learn more, so I enrolled on a course in London to train as a Pilates instructor.

As my body changed and my knowledge grew, my pain grew less and one day my consultant said he no longer needed to see me. I was taken off the waiting list for surgery. 

So that was how Pilates saved my life, the first time…. The second time? Even though I was getting stronger and stronger my day job was killing me. I worked in government policy and spent all day either at my desk writing strategies or in meetings. It was stressful and relentless. I realised I would never be 100% well unless I changed my job.

I’d just come home from a week off work doing nothing but exploring movement on this amazing course.  I was pain free and feeling alive. After one day back at my desk I was back to being stiff and in pain. So I quit!

With my partner, we went on to open Barefoot Studio, the first Pilates studio and wellness centre in Wales. I taught Pilates and Nordic walking full time, we had a shop that sold many of the things that had helped me like swopper seating, healthy back bags, MBT footwear, and we sold women sportswear. Our team grew and we became Peak Pilates education centre for the UK

Over the years people who have had similar journeys with chronic back pain have found me and we have worked together. For many pain has never previously fully gone, it circles round and round like a hungry wolf, never very far away. The least trigger brings it right back. I love working with people to help them recover from chronic pain. Movement is key to breaking this circle and finding a pain free life, but in many ways is only half the story. Over the years I have studied pain and learnt more and more about the amazing biology of pain and how the body creates pain to deal with life and the stress we are under. In recent years I have trained as a SIRPA Practioner and studied the work of Mosely & Butler. This year (2022) I graduated from the University of South Australia with a post grad in Pain Science and Education. Understanding pain and explaining it to others is a key part to living a pain free life and is a cornerstone of the work I now do with people. 

My journey exploring movement and learning about pain has given me a pain free life. And I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to work with people who’ve been dealt a similar hand to me and to show them how to use all these tools to get their life back too. 

Teaching Pilates for a living turned my life around and I love to work with people who share a similar dream. Training people to teach what they love and become world class Pilates Teachers is incredibly rewarding and great fun.

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