Touching My Toes: What Goal Have You Achieved?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For the past 4 1/2 years I have spent the better part of my exercise routine on the elliptical, treadmill, walking outside, running, and doing some strength training to boot, but I spent very little time on flexibility. I have managed to exceed my cardio and strength training exercise expectations well beyond my dreams, but the one thing I have not done in many, many years is to bend over and touch my toes.

I am not kidding when I say that I lacked the flexibility to do what seems so natural to so many. Just look at little kids--they think nothing about touching their toes, but for me this was a feat that I have not been able to do for ages--that was until I took up Pilates 12 weeks ago. And last week I achieved what I never imagined and that was to bend over and touch my toes!

Having spent almost 4 years in the gym and running for well over 3 years, nothing prepared me for the challenges that awaited me in Pilates. To say it was awkward, well let me just say, running seems so much easier than doing some of the Pilates moves. But I love the challenge.

So what has Pilates taught me in just 12 short weeks?

  • Slow down I spend so much time working on speed or endurance with my running that when I go to my Pilates class it's as though I am put into slow motion. The music is soft and slow and the movements are as well. Each move is deliberate with focus on resistance and being centered.

  • Focus is essential While I have been using visualization techniques for quite some time in my running, I am really learning to put this theory into practice in class. I am forced to focus on doing each movement with precision and in perfect form. This means I may not be as advanced in my own form as others are in the class, but I need to work with my own body and not just do the movements.

  • Breathing Good golly I thought breathing was important in running, but slowing down the process truly helps with the Pilates movements. You cannot hold your breath in class, that's for sure. Breathing through your nose and out through your mouth only enhances each movement.

  • Patience I have been running for so long now I can't quite remember what it was like when I first started, but Pilates is teaching me the patience it takes when tackling any new workout. It's allowing me the patience it takes to adapt to anything new that we do.

    So for all of you just embarking on the journey to a healthier you, know that you are not alone in your endeavors to reach your goals. It takes time but as the old saying goes, "time is going to pass whether we like it or not." Here's to all of us willing to go out on a limb and try something new, even if it takes time, courage and patience to reach our goals--even if that goal is just to touch your toes.

    Have you reached a goal that you never thought you would when you started this journey? Are you willing to take on new challenges that you wouldn't even think of doing before you started this journey? What small goal have you met that has had a big impact on your life?

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    After having spinal surgery, I stretch each day for further flexibility. Report
    I have started working on flexibility. I can touch my toes but have a lot of work to go. Report
    thank you Report
    Pushups! I was never able to do them before, not even when I was 20 years younger. But I started doing just 1 a day, adding just 1 more every week or so. I still can do only the "girl" ones, but I can do 100 if I break them up into sets. Report
    I have never been able to do this

    I have stopped using the car and walk a lot more Report
    In spite of my injuries I can touch my toes and do more than they thought possible Report
    In spite of my injuries I can touch my toes and do more than they thought possible Report
    I like Pilates also, I just do not "perform" it enough. Unfortunely, I won't ever reach my toes - I have steel rods in back that prevent a full bend from the waist. But I am going to try and regain as much flexability as I can. Report
    I did a sit up for the very first time in my life yesterday! Two weeks ago I started pilates and I am hooked! I have never seen results so fast in any other exercise I have tried! Although I am still very new at it, reaching that one goal has motivated me so much! Report
    I've acheived so many goals I never thought were attainable... I've run 7 miles in one run (without walking), I've lost almost 30 lbs and I'm smaller than I was when I was a lanky teenager, I eat fruits & veggies that have never would have allowed cross my lips before... I'm healthy and I'm happy and I just plain feel good.
    My challenge now is to maintain all of this & to keep finding new challenges & goals. My first challenge is this Sat... an 8 mile run.
    Wish me luck!! Report
    This past weekend I earned my black belt in taekwondo. I never imagined that I would be able to do it. But with slow and steady progress, I reached that goal. Report
    Now that I am an avid cyclist, I am think of trying to be a runner.
    This is totally a foreign thought to me! Report
    Well, I'll never touch my toes. The fused and broken vertebrae in my back took care of that. However, I've been able to lose weight and that has never, ever happened before. I had to send a pair of pants back to the store because they were too big. I'm now able to buy clothes off the rack in a place like Wal-Mart instead of special ordering. I don't have to be disappointed when I do shop online because the thing I really wanted was just a few measurements too small for me. Most importantly, I'm happier with me. What I look at in the mirror is something I can live with, not something I avoid seeing. If I never lose the weight or tone up, that's worth its weight in gold to me. Report
    Last Friday, my husband and I took our dog out for a walk along the riverwalk. I was feeling pretty good and felt this urge to try something I hadn't done in a looooong time. I looked around to see if there were people coming up behind us and there weren't, so I decided to give it a shot... I jogged for the first time in over 18 years!!! I did a 2-minute interval jog/walk 6 times. I could not believe I was actually jogging!! My husband was encouraging me and the dog was running up to catch up with me. I had this big smile on my face and a sheen of tears in my eyes. I NEVER thought I'd EVER get to this point--and I'm still 130 pounds away from my goal!! I thought for sure the next day I'd be so sore, but I wasn't too bad at all. I felt some soreness in my thighs and arms, but not pain. It was one of the biggest moments on my lifestyle journey I've had so far. I felt so blessed to have come so far, with still having so far to go.

    Shannon~ Report
    Yoga has taught me to relax at will . Very helpful at time of stress. Now will add Pilates to my week's schedule. Report
    I can straighten both legs and touch my toes. After I practice yoga for 60 min I can place my palms under the arch of my feet. I couldn't do that last month, I'm making progress! Report
    I did achieve my goal when I set out on my journey i.e. to become a healthier (and lighter) person. That I achieved. However, I achieved much more along the way. I'm more aware of how many different things influence my health. Example, when I started to lose, I didn't know anything about strength training. Yes, I did a little, but not nearly what I should have been doing. Today, not only do I do my cardio workouts, but I strength train as well AND I do pilates and yoga.

    I added pilates and yoga over two years ago and it was the best decision I ever made. Both have had a huge impact on my health. Who knew how important flexibility and core strength could be ? but, the fact is, adding yoga and pilates has made me a much stronger athlete. They've enhanced everything I do. I couldn't be more thrilled.

    I'm still setting goals for myself. some are more modest than others. I've been working on increasing my lean muscle. I know it's going to take a while, but yoga has taught me patience.

    I don't know about reaching a goal, I have never reached my weight goal lol but I have lost more than 100 pounds and kept it more or less off for 10 years despite some small ups and downs on the scale, but 100 pounds has stayed off and I work at it constantly (maintaining is much harder than losing).

    I have exercised consistently during this 10 year period (but I did so before, even when heavy) but never so consistently as this year when I set a goal to have a streak of intentional exercise the entire 365 days and I have done that so far with no day missed, although I vary the FIT (frequency, intensity, time) and activity to avoid overtraining, I have logged the exercise time (the easiest way to quantify exercise for me) and am closing on 18,000 minutes so far, feeling great.

    I can't say these are things I never thought I would do. When I decide to do something, I generally do it.

    This is a great blog topic.

    I really like the Spark Daily Blog and perhaps over comment here sometimes. Sorry, there are a lot of good topics to read so when I have time to sit and read them I am moved to comment. Report
    I bought pants. At a normal store. In a regular size.

    Consider my mind blown. Report
    Your blog brings to light the often-overlooked importance of flexibility. This can help prevent injury. I've always been flexible, but as I begin this journey, I am happy to gain pain relief and better quality sleep from the exercising. Report
    Being about to get myself off the floor without having to crawl to a piece of furniture to lean on to get up! Sounds silly, but it has been years since I could get up on my own. Report
    After 24.3 lbs I can buckle and tie my shoes w/o passing out!!! That's a great feeling! Report
    For me was being able to walk again and leave the house before I found spark I had started my weight loss journey. I had become housebound due to my weight. I was trapped in my fat and couldn't hardly get around. I was also wheel chair bound at the time.

    2-1/2 yrs later I am able to walk a mile. Not quickly but walking any distance to me is a miracle!!!

    Hugs Martha n tx Report
    A goal I have made is to control my portions. I have been eating much healthier and doing exercise and even the dreaded strength training for 7 weeks now, I am beginning to see some progress. I do not look my weight of 150, people always guess 110-120 since I have lots of muscle due to years of martial arts training. I had to stop a few years ago and wish to get back to my fitness level I had back then, I have always had weight problems ( either over or under) due to some hormone issues I was born with- but now that I am finally seeing progress and feeling better about myself I can really picture myself going from my size 8s to size 4s in a year! Report
    Even at my largest (355lbs) I was flexible enough to reach my toes, both standing and seated, without bending my knees. Though 355lbs at 6'1" still landed me well over the "Obese" rating on the BMI chart, I did not have the typical waddle that most obese people have, nor did I have any trouble getting around unless I had to run or jog for an extended period. Also, if I asked someone what they though I weighed, the answer usually came back around 250-275; I just carried the weight very well.

    Now that I'm down to 220lbs, I can reach well past my toes when seated and can place my palms flat on the floor next to my toes when standing. People generally guess that I weigh around 180-190 now. I'm glad I carry it that well!

    I may look into some pilates DVDs to try at home to help with flexibility. I'd like to be able to fold myself in half, pretty much. :-P Report
    My doctor recommended Pilates over a year ago. When I first tried to do them, I pulled a groin muscle. If you've never done that, trust me, it's extremely painful. She put me on hold for 6 weeks then started me gradually back on them again. I'm finally able to do even the more strenuous ones and not have too much discomfort. I thought I'd never be able to! Report
    I'm currently less than half the person I was over 4 years ago. I just keep finding new challenges for myself. Report
    Funny I read this tonight (Thursday, 8/13). When I started this journey I was in a wheelchair with a broken leg that kept me in it for over 10 months! So, I was beginning to think I'd never walk again.... But, in my last few months in the cast when I was allowed to put weight on my leg I started taking belly dance lessons. I figured I'd never be good at it and could never get up in front of others and perform with some of my body (MY body!!!) showing! Well, tonight was my first live performance and I did it with my tummy covered, but little else.... We did a special hula show for an assisted living home and I wore a low cut bathing suit with just a wrap tied around my waist! I did very well too! The other thing that happened just today was that I said to myself during my strength training class, boy these planks are getting easier.... I never thought I'd reach the point of being able to hold a minute without feeling like I was dying! I held 90 seconds today and felt good and even ready to hold more! Besides all that, I led the conga line at the end of the show tonight and I am blind.... how cool was that? Donna, our instructor, told the audience how I came to class blind and in a cast and it inspired others, including residents, to get up and conga with us! What a feeling to inspire others to move too! What a feeling to dance and feel so good in my own body! What a night! Stay tuned for coming pics of the show on my page.... Report
    I can completely relate! I used to be able to deadlift 225 lbs. easily, but touching my toes without flexing my knees was a challenge! I have learned that my body has been extremely out of balance. I have been working with a muscle balancing therapist who gives me specific exercises in addition to the other strength and cardio routines that I do. I think it's helping my flexibility Indirectly. Just this week I've noticed that when I stretch after a workout, bending over is getting easier and I'm able to keep my knees straighter. Many of the exercises he gives have a Pilates-type component to them, so maybe that explains it. I've considered taking a Pilates class, but I have a weird schedule and wouldn't be able to do it on a consistent basis because the classes aren't offered when I'm free to work out. I am excited, though, with my progress and hope the day comes when I can touch my toes if I'm sitting on the floor as well as standing up. Report
    Yes. Running a 5K and an 8K this summer was a big accomplishment for me. Biking 42 miles in one day also gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

    I am reasonably flexible, but I think I need to work more on my muscles now, and keep up my running, in spite of bad weeks like this one. Report
    Soooo many things - the main ones are
    *climbing a hill to and from the beach without stopping and still having breath
    *dh and I ride bikes on trails (15-25mi) - this time last year I would not even get on
    * run a few minutes on the treadmill - and elevation without the pain in ankles
    Thanks SP Report
    I no longer have to use a mart cart at the grocery stores and can enjoy shopping in other stores that don't have them. Have a long way to go but I am encouraged. Report
    the major goal that I've achieved is the process of SETTING goals. I finished my first Half Marathon race, placed in my age division in 5K's, set a goal of a triathlon (Sept 13 - WooHoo!) Report
    Simply losing weight and having the ability to keep (most) of it off is astounding to me. I can't believe I have made it this far. My current goal is to stop worrying so much about my cardio and concentrate more on strength training and flexibility. I used to do yoga and pilates. They were all the exercise I did back when I didn't have the energy to do anything else.

    But I gave both up in favor of calorie-scorching cardio. Burning more calories is good, but flexibility and strength is so important! Report
    I was a pretty flexible teenager and now at 30, often forget I am not one anymore. I got a Wii Fit when they came out and was thrilled on my first body test my 'real' age was younger than my years. I thought the exercises would be relatively easy for me. I tried the Yoga and when the virtual instructor said "now touch your toes" during the sun salutation I was shocked at my discovery. Apparantly I had grown taller because my toes were much farther away than they used to be! I am happy to report that after a few months I was again able to reach them and do many other things I did not know I was no longer able to do! Now to do a set a push-ups without going 'girly-style'..... Report
    This question really started me thinking about my short term' activity goals'.
    I am toning my arms. I am going to have very well defined arms, legs, abs, and back muscles.
    I am going to walk the Las Vegas Marathon this December.
    I am losing the next 50 pounds!!! Report
    Flexibility isn't much of a problem, but imagine my surprise in learning (at my favorite "Stretch & Tone" class) that I have a very poor sense of balance.
    But my early goal that I am still proud to have achieved (despite some recent setbacks in weight gain) is being able to shop for clothes in a regular store. No more Avenue, no more Lane -- great stores, but much more fun to shop in Penney's or something similar. Report
    It seems the only time I had ever been flexible was when I was pregnant! Yoga has helped me immensely. I am so much more flexible and stronger! Report
    I regularly hike 10+ miles with a 30 pound backpack. Working my way up to be able to handle 2 nights inside the Grand Canyon and the associated hikes in and out. Report
    I wasn't able to do Pilates at all before. The first couple of classes I tried had us imprinting on our backs for like twenty minutes, and back then, if I was too still for too long, my back would stiffen and it would hurt to move it again after that. I couldn't even get my knees up for the hundred. It's not a problem now. Report
    I love pilates... I used to practice them at home but I dont do it anymore... I would love for my gym to have more Pilates classes... they are the best :) Report
    For me it is the simple task of crossing my legs. When I had dropped 40 lbs in the past, I could cross my legs with ease & my legs were actually together when I did it. With the extra pounds, when I cross my legs, they are now too large to keep them "together". Hence.... the old TRIPPER hanging out there for everyone to run into. So I have to physically pull my leg in to let someone walk by. I look forward to being able to cross my legs once again without the tripper hanging out there. :) Report
    I was able to put on a pair of jeans the other day--with a zipper and button! It's been 11 years since I could do that. The problem was they fit fine in my hips, but were way too big in my waist (even with side elastic). That's why I'm sticking with elastic waists for now, until I get rid of more of the 'pooch' in front. But just the fact I could zipper up a pair was wonderful. I'm now able to walk for long periods of time without huffing and puffing. Makes me walk with my head just a little bit higher now. Report
    Flexibility has never been a problem for me. My goal was to have actual muscles in my arms. Now I love it when I put lotion on and can see and feel the muscles in my arms. I always just accepted that my arms were not strong and now they are. How exciting! Report
    I can now exercise for longer periods of time--something I thought I'd never do when I started this journey! I too can touch my toes again! Thanks for the article, Nancy! Report
    This is one of my goals as well - I'm definitely going to start Pilates or Yoga sometime soon. I've NEVER been very flexible. I think I would cry with happiness if I was ever able to actually touch my toes! Report
    I've always been flexible. Even at 400 pounds, I could bend down and tie my shoes (i.e., I could touch my toes). However, one thing I never thought I would do is run again. Even after losing 245 pounds, I had a lot of extra skin that literally hurt when I would try to run. I recently had the bulk of the extra skin removed, and that has helped immensely. Now, I'm incorporating a walk-run-walk into my exercise routine, and I'm feeling proud that I can run a little bit without a lot of pain. Baby steps! With all the people on Spark who talk about their mini-triathalons and their 5k and 10k runs, I am getting motivated to make one (or more!) of those my goals, too! Thanks for the inspiration, everyone! Report
    nancy, once again, you hit the proverbial nail on the head. pilates is my grounding, centering, strengthening influence. I LOVE IT! not only does it make me feel great, but it also whittles away while it shores up the core! with pilates, it's quality, not necessarily quantity, especially in the beginning. here's to always being able to touch your toes...and when you're REALLY limber and flexible, placing your palms on the floor! in through the nose....out through the mouth....engage the abs..... Report
    For me, pilates seemed impossible at first. The more I do them though the better I become. I could not even lift myself up from the mat without putting my hands down and pushing myself up (which was embarrassing since I was the only one in the class with this problem). Now able to raise without putting a hand down to assist. I was also excited when I was able to bend and touch my toes in a combat class. Report
    You've made me rethink trying Pilates. I'm fairly flexible, but when I tried Pilates, it hurt my back like crazy. But now I'll retry it. Report