Former Olympian gets new lease on life with Pilates

Submitted by: Jennifer Roberts

Risto's Success Story

I met Risto, a 60-something, former Olympic Fencer and Pentathalete, in 2012 when I began teaching group Pilates mat classes at a private Pilates / Yoga studio in San Antonio, TX. Risto was at point in his life where chronic injuries and muscle imbalances from his years of fencing were beginning to hamper his quality of life and ability to work full days as a TMJ dentist in the practice he owned. In particular, Risto suffered from: restricted movement and weakness in the both the stabilizing and mobilizing muscles of the shoulders (especially the left shoulder); outward torque, enlargement and arthritic symptoms of both knees (especially the right knee as the right foot was his lead in fencing and took the brunt of the work); bowed legs; muscle imbalances, weakness and stiffness in both legs, ankles and feet; core weakness and lack of core muscle endurance; lateral torso flexion to the right with elevated left shoulder; and excessively forward head posture. He had been swimming to help rehab his shoulder on his own, and although the swimming seemed to help somewhat, it was painful and had only minimally improved his shoulder strength . After a month or so of coming to my group class and learning some important Pilates fundamentals which he had not been taught before, we discussed and agreed it might be in his best interest to try some one-on-one sessions at my home studio where we could utilize the Reformer and Stability Chair to better address some of his issues. We worked together in this manner for about 2-3 months. During this time Risto experienced a marked improvement in his shoulder range of motion and strength along with decreased pain; the ability to swim further and relatively pain-free; more body awareness and ability to detect and correct improper body alignment both statically and dynamically; reduced pain in his knees which allowed him to resume more regular and pain-free walking with his wife; and the ability to work a full day at his dental practice with decreased pain, stiffness and tiredness at the end of the day. I then started working at local YMCA which offered group Pilates classes. Risto and his wife both joined the Y in order to attend my group Reformer classes. Within 6 months Risto and his wife moved from novice students on the Reformer to intermediate students. Both Risto and his wife feel their participation in those Reformer classes enhanced their overall fitness in the areas of increased flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance, proprioceptive awareness, body posture, and overall ability to do more daily living activities and work with greater enjoyment and less pain and stress. Additonally, Risto and his wife have both been able to resume competitive fencing, traveling and recreating with more enjoyment than they have in years. Way to go, guys!


Risto Before


Risto After