What Does it Mean to Dig Deep?

I was on the bike, climbing the last big hill near the end of spin class, and my legs felt like lead, so heavy as I tried to push through to the end of the song. Every 15 seconds the instructor called out for us to add a little more resistance, to shift our hips back, to take it up a notch. It took so much focus and determination to turn that knob to the right and keep pedaling with the same, or even more intensity. To hit that lead leg over and over and over without faltering, without slowing down, without dropping back into the seat and giving it up for the day.

I started thinking about what it means to dig deep, and what that might look like or feel like in terms of Pilates. How do you expand or intensify your practice? Maybe trying a Power class isn’t the answer, but becoming more intentional or mindful is? Some days in spin class I can be very focused and really push myself 100% to stay on the beat, to consistently hit those resistance and RPM goals, and other times I’m distracted, or I give myself a pass because I’m tired or hungry or just not feeling it. As a Pilates instructor, I regularly observe people not really listening in class, just doing things by rote, especially during exercises like footwork or feet in straps. But how do you stay present and connected doing something you’ve done a hundred times before? How does staying engaged and focused for 50 straight minutes make a difference in your practice? How does slowing down or picking up the pace change your experience of what you’re doing? Intentionally breathing, purposefully pushing into those straps or that footbar with every repetition? What difference does it make when you keep your heels lifted the whole series? Or hold that imprint? When you truly articulate the spine and connect with your powerhouse? I get frustrated when people add more springs or unnecessary props because they want to feel something or push themselves, but the change they make is often contrary to the goal or changes the exercise entirely. Is digging deep about loading up that weight even though it compromises your form, or is it about precision and control? Or is it about both? Is it about testing your limits and stretching yourself within them?

To dig deep means to make an effort with all of your resources. Digging deep refers to your ability to look inside yourself, to see your potential, and use everything you’ve got to reach your goals. It’s about resiliency, and your ability to bounce back after every setback, overcoming obstacles and living your values.

I stumbled across this Instagram post that said, “If you do this for 30 days straight (no cheating) you will be unrecognizable.” It was a list of things like, turn off your phone before bed, or read at least 10 pages a day, get at least seven hours of sleep every night. So I wondered, What might I do for 30 Days Straight (No Cheating) in my Pilates practice to feel unrecognizable? Is it simply a matter of tweaking my form and staying mindful?

Digging Deep for 30 (Make that 31!) Days Straight (No Cheating) of Pilates


  1. Show up for class 5 minutes early. Be ready to go!
  2. Turn off your phone (or your watch). Unless you’re a doctor on call, you’ve got a kid sick at school, or your refrigerator is being delivered, you don’t need to check your notifications during class.
  3. Make sure to adjust the settings on your equipment (move that footbar, grab that head cushion, move that bin of props within reach, etc.) before class begins. Like I said, Be ready to go!
  4. Consciously breathe.
  5. When given an option to choose a spring setting, make thoughtful consideration about what would be challenging or helpful in that moment, instead of defaulting to the easiest, most comfortable setting or loading on the heaviest springs offered.
  6. TUNE IN. Listen to every instruction and attempt to apply each individual cue given by the instructor.
  7. Stay active in your body with each exercise–for example, when you’re doing something like feet in straps, it’s not just about the legs; be mindful of your head position, the pressure against the shoulder blocks, the space under the lower back, your pelvic placement, what your arms are doing, the contraction and release of the abdominals, etc. Don’t be a wet noodle!
  8. Ask questions if something doesn’t feel right, if you don’t understand a direction, or if you feel nervous to try something for the first time. Knowledge is power.
  9. Attempt to be precise and efficient with every movement. Full stop.
  10.  When and if your mind starts to wander or you start to give in to fatigue, do your best to reconnect and stay with the exercise–at the very most you’ve probably got 30 seconds or 5-10 reps to go!

I can’t be certain that these ten things will make you unrecognizable, but I do know that the most experienced Pilates students and instructors can take a Core Principles class and be sweating bullets and shaking like a leaf, because they consistently do all of these things, so why don’t we give it a try? See you in class!

Pam Ferguson
Retrofit Master Instructor
Lead Instructor/Operations Associate

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