Power of Pilates: How time in the studio helped heal Jackie’s foot

An everyday task — carrying laundry downstairs — led to a foot injury and a winter of rest, healing and rehabilitation for Jackie Fiegel.

“I missed the bottom step of the stairs,” recalls Jackie, a longtime instructor at Pure Pilates, of the early December incident that caused shooting pain in her right foot.

She’d broken the fifth metatarsal in that foot, and ultimately would need to spend her otherwise hectic winter of ski activities resting her foot so it could heal before even thinking about rehabilitation.

“I couldn’t even drive to the ski hill because it was too hard to press the gas pedal for that long!” she remembers. “No activity and non-weight bearing for 6 weeks happens before any rehab.”

Still, she credits her longtime practice of Pilates with helping the healing process.

“Pilates was the only thing I could do for exercise since I couldn’t use my foot,” she says. “It’s amazing that I could get a full-body workout every week for six weeks without using my feet. Where else can that happen?”

Jackie's foot is now healed, in no small part because of her dedication to practicing Pilates.
Jackie’s foot is now healed, in no small part because of her dedication to practicing Pilates.

“Pilates totally saved me through that experience,” she adds. “I never stopped doing Pilates throughout my rehab … my doctor was very surprised with my recovery. He was pleasantly surprised with how far I had come.”

At the time it happened, Jackie says she felt in great shape.

“Everything felt so even,” she says.

Initially, as she battled pain and fatigue, she found her body began to feel “off” and the balance and strength she’d had prior to the accident seemed to be slipping away.

“Bit by bit, I watched everything get uneven,” she says. “It took so much everyday to get around … my body was working harder just to do simple things.”

As time went on, however, Jackie remained committed to moving her body and gaining strength.

“I did a ton of stretching. Movement felt so good,” she says. “It would relieve the pain caused by using the crutches and scooter.”

She was able to modify her Pilates moves to accommodate her injured foot; for example, she’d keep her feet in the air rather than place them on the bar of the reformer during certain exercises. This often meant she had a tougher core workout.

“Every single week, I could feel progression from the week before,” she says. “The first time I did a workout outside the studio, when I could finally use my foot for exercise, I felt completely strong and even and all I had done was Pilates. This is supposed to take an entire year to feel back to normal and I’m already there after a few months.”

It was during the final stages of healing that Jackie was able to re-hab her foot with the jumpboard: “I didn’t have to bear my entire body weight on my foot because I was able to jump horizontally,” she says. “I had everything I could possibly need to rehab myself in the studio.”

The experience also made her appreciate more the importance of feet position and how it affects other parts of our bodies and our overall alignment and balance. Most importantly, Jackie says she feels like a better instructor having gone through this. “I can understand people’s aches and pains and be more compassionate and a better listener.”

And this journey led to another silver lining: “My broken foot made me brainstorm things that I could do to stay happy while sitting. So I decided to take a 15-week piano course at NMC during my recovery. I’ve never even been able to read music. The course actually helped me open up new passages in my brain and bring more creative movements into my teaching.”

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