Working her way back


How Pilates helped one woman learn to live again

By Mark Ambrogi

Jane Flanders has been dealing with her cerebral palsy her entire life.

However following hip replacement surgery and then suffering leg injuries in a car accident, the 56-year-old Flanders was severely depressed about her difficulty moving.

“I was at the low of the low,” Flanders said. “I was about ready to give up because I was having so much difficulty that I was about ready to go to a wheelchair.”

That changed when her brother Scott suggested she give Pilates a try because he had been doing it. Scott, chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises, Inc., who lives in California, told her he would pay for her sessions. Pilates is a system of physical conditioning training with low-impact exercises and stretching on special equipment.

“I had checked out a couple places and either they didn’t call me back or I had a bad feeling about one person I talked to,” said Flanders, a Westfield resident for six years who previously lived 15 years in Carmel. “They said we’ll get you in a class, and I knew I needed individual work.”

After looking around, Flanders found the perfect fit with Carmel’s Reforming Indy and senior instructor Tod Baker. Flanders calls it a miracle she found Baker.

When Baker, a Carmel resident, learned he would have his first client with cerebral palsy, he did a great deal of online research and spoke with doctors and physical therapists he knew.

“We kind of grew together,” Baker said. “She was new to this (Pilates). She had done a lot of physical therapy. With me, it was a whole new ballgame.”

Flanders was thrilled that Baker took so much interest in learning about Cerebral Palsy to formulate a plan for her.

“He has worked with people with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and then he works with all kinds of athletes, men and women,” Flanders said. “He does the gamut.”

Before her health setbacks, Flanders was used to being active despite her cerebral palsy.

“I would snow ski with help,” Flanders said. “I taught my son how to play soccer and play hoops. I’ve always walked differently. I’m functioning but I want to keep functioning.”

A dietician, Flanders said she hasn’t been able to work for a few years because of her cerebral palsy getting worse.

“Some say I’m a miracle walking,” Flanders said. “There are lot of people with CP who are worse. I could be top heavy and go to a wheelchair. You think I want to be in a wheelchair. I want to be dancing.”

Flanders had hip replacement surgery in February. Then as she was recovering from that, she was in a car accident in late April.

“I had my kneecap broken and it twisted my feet,” Flanders said. “I was so depressed. I’ve learned to walk at least four times in my life, but this time it has been very hard.”

That changed after Flanders started at Reforming Indy in October. Baker said after a few sessions she started walking better. Proper stretching has been one key factor.

“Tod knows every tiny muscle so he tries to work those muscles and tendons,” Flanders said. “Stretching is the No. 1 thing that helps me. It’s very hard to get a good stretch yourself.”

Baker said her balance is much better.

“She walks faster without the crutch,” Baker said. “She feels mentally better and physically better.”

Baker works with Flanders on simple tasks like getting in and out of the car or getting up off the floor.

Flanders has had at least four personal trainers in the past, but Pilates has been a better fit for cerebral palsy.

“As people get older we have to think more about not falling and keeping our strength up,” Flanders said. “It’s given me strength and balance.”

Her work with Baker is motivating, she said.

“This (Pilates room) is no crying place,” Flanders said. “No being down on yourself. When I leave and I walk, my posture and everything is awesome.”

Get to know Tod Baker

Personal: Senior instructor at Reforming Indy, 12505 Old Meridian St., Carmel. Single, age 42. Has a gymnast/dancer background.

Favorite place to relax: “There are places that I like to go to on Mass. Ave. (in Indianapolis). I call it my Sunday Fun Days.”

Favorite restaurant: “I know it doesn’t sound healthy, but I do like hanging out at Brockway Pub (next to Reforming Indy in Carmel).”

Favorite TV show: “Major Crimes.”

Favorite music: “I listen to all genres. Being at Opryland and doing things in Nashville for so long, I have a great love for country music. Being a performer and doing shows, I have a love of all genres. I like Motown and ’70s and ’80s music.”

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