How Fitness Changed Me: Pilates Helped Victoria Auzston Realize What Her Body Is Capable Of

Victoria Auzston as told to David Robertson

Name: Victoria Auzston 

Age: 33 

City: Austin, TX 

Reason for working out: For the first time in my life, I’m learning what my body is capable of doing and how physically strong I can be.

Victoria auzston

Victoria’s journey

I spent my entire life thinking I was double-jointed. It was a fun party trick to show people I could rotate my hands 360 degrees on a table or stretch my shoulders and hips completely out of place. Even my fingers can extend all the way backwards.

When I was in my early 20s, I suffered from a migraine that lasted every second of every day for four years. I tried physical therapy in hopes that it could relieve the migraine (it didn’t), but my doctors did casually mention that my joints go 11% past the normal range of motion. I didn’t think much of the comment at that time, once again attributing it to being flexible and double-jointed.

Everything started to make more sense when I began taking classes at Club Pilates, and I realized all of the instructors were adding in cues for those who were hypermobile and to add soft bends to their knees or elbows. I thought they might be talking about me, but I wasn’t entirely sure. When I began teacher training to become a Pilates instructor, I chose “Hypermobility” as the group to focus on for my Special Populations project and soon realized that I wasn’t just double-jointed but hypermobile.  

person on pilates reformer

Before finding out I was hypermobile, I didn’t manage my symptoms. I would work out hard, hurt a joint, pause working out for a few days, and then get back at it. I was in a constant cycle of hurting myself with no idea why. I used to go to City Surf, which consisted of working out on a surf board balanced on three balls. It was my first group class experience, and it was amazing. However, I was constantly hurting my back, knees, elbows, neck, or shoulders. High intensity can be great in a workout, but only if you know the proper way to move your body — and I did not!

I began researching different modalities and learned that my friend’s sister taught Pilates, which caught my interest. I searched for a local Pilates place and saw that Club Pilates offered free introductory classes, so I went to an intro class with my best friend. The lead instructor, Monica, taught the intro class, and I was amazed at how clear her cues were and how she was teaching what muscles were activated in each exercise. I never took dance class or athletics when I was younger, just basic PE in school where we ran miserable laps around the track, played dodgeball, and learned to juggle. I never actually learned the basics of proper form and how to use my muscles during movement. Once I started Pilates and learned more about muscle activation, everything changed.

person doing lunge on pilates reformer

Surprisingly enough, I learned that I wasn’t actually flexible. Anytime I would try to stretch, I was essentially stretching my joints and not the muscle because I didn’t know how to identify the difference. No matter how much I tried to stretch and ease tense muscles, I wasn’t even able to reach my toes. Because my joints were so loosey-goosey, muscles in my hypermobile body protected themselves by tightening up to provide some stability in my body.  

After the introductory class, I started watching Pilates classes online and learning more about how my body should feel while doing slow, controlled movements. I wanted desperately to sign up for a membership at Club Pilates, but we were closing on our first home in two months and that wasn’t a financial option at the time. I continued with the free YouTube lessons online for a few weeks.

Then one evening, I received an email from Club Pilates corporate — I won their giveaway of a free month of unlimited classes! I was ecstatic and fell in love even more with Pilates during that month, taking 44 classes in 30 days. As part of that giveaway, I also received a free month with Profile to help with food planning and 3D full body scans.

One of my biggest discoveries of the month was the fact that despite taking so many classes in such a short period of time, I didn’t get hurt once. I felt so healthy, full of life, and strong after that month. And for the first time in my life, I was feeling physically strong.  

Not only did searching for a solution to my hypermobility introduce me to this incredible way of moving my body, but it also led me to a satisfying new career. Shortly after falling in love with Pilates, I quit my job in insurance of 15 years and became a Pilates teacher. 

pilates instructor with class

One of my favorites things about Pilates is learning how to control your muscles. In fact, Joseph Pilates originally called his practice Contrology. As a student of Pilates, I keep constant attention on what muscles I’m activating and why I’m doing certain exercises. Now, as a teacher of Pilates, I work to teach my students those same things. We aren’t just moving our hips up and down: we’re using this muscle and that muscle, and it’s strengthening us for a reason. I love Club Pilates’ instructors because they’re passionate about what they do and focus on the founding principles of Joseph Pilates’ Contrology, while also keeping things fun in each class.

Victoria’s fitness advice to others

  • Keep looking: What works for one person may not work for you, but it doesn’t mean you won’t find a routine that you love.
  • Try group classes: The thought of being the most out of shape led me to believe I would hate group classes. I would go to the movie theater room at the gym and work out where no one could see me. Nonetheless, once I started going to group classes, I discovered that no one other than the teacher even noticed me. We’re all focused on our own journey! But that instructor who’s watching you? They’re there to help you be safe, push yourself, grow in your strength, and help you on your journey. You’re an encouragement because you’re working to improve your health and life!
  • Think about why you want a fitness routine: For a lot of people, myself included, one reason was to lose weight. But is it really just to lose weight? Think more deeply. Do you want just that? Or do you want to feel stronger? Do you want less pain in your daily life and movements? Do you have bad habits like poor posture that you want to fix? Do you want to just be more active each day and be that person that wants to go for walks/runs because you enjoy nature and not because you want to burn off calories? Find a deeper reason, not a superficial one.
person showing off muscle

Victoria’s favorite fitness gear

  • All of the leggings from Fabletics: I never have to worry when I bend over that my leggings will sheer out. They’re definitely squat-proof, so comfy, and super cute. 
  • Portable Pilates Bar from Walmart: I can imitate a lot of my class exercises from the comfort of my home at any time of day or in any weather. 
  • Fitness watches: I had a Fitbit Blaze that broke recently, but I was so encouraged by seeing how hard my body worked during classes. I don’t sweat with Pilates, which used to be my old meter of how hard I worked in a workout. Now that my workouts are all about muscle control, I don’t build up a sweat, but I could see my heart rate at work on that watch. It feels like a much healthier way to gauge output than just checking to see calories burned. My goal is to get a Samsung Galaxy Smart Watch this year so I can keep track of my workouts again. Plus, it has a handy timer so I don’t destroy my students when do they cardio jumps on the reformer or while they’re holding a plank!
Move Recovery & Mobility

About David Robertson

David Robertson has been teaching group fitness for over nine years. He has degrees in Advertising and Kinesiology from the University of Illinois and is certified in Les Mills BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYJAM and Core, among other formats. Based in Chicago, he currently teaches at the Chicago Athletic Clubs and Fitness Formula Clubs. Previously he has taught at Flywheel Sports, CycleBar and OrangeTheory Fitness. By day, he works as a publicist for several lifestyle brands at a local public relations agency.

2 thoughts on “How Fitness Changed Me: Pilates Helped Victoria Auzston Realize What Her Body Is Capable Of

  1. Excellent article! Couldn’t be any prouder of my daughter what a wonderful example & one I hope to learn from.

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