Getting healthy and in shape can feel like overwhelming goals if you’re just starting out. But, according to Andrea Odenwald, owner and instructor at All Bodies Pilates, which moved to Excelsior in April from its former location in Navarre, “Whether you are overweight or suffering from chronic pain, the one thing doctors can agree on is that exercising every day is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
And Odenwald knows a thing or two about chronic pain. In her late teens and early 20s, she experienced a series of serious injuries, including being hit by a car on her bicycle, suffering from a severe knee injury during her college years, and facing a run-in with a drunk driver at age 22 that left her with a damaged hip and back. At the end of it all, by the time she was 35, doctors informed Odenwald that she was in need of a total hip and knee replacement.
Her response? “I don’t think so.”
A native of Shakopee, Minnesota, Odenwald moved to New York City in 1990 to pursue training as a massage therapist. She moved in part because she was struggling with alcohol addiction and instead of giving up drinking, she wanted to move to a place where she didn’t have to drive. “That way,” she explains, “I felt I could continue drinking without consequence.”
In New York, she practiced massage therapy both with independent clients and as contractor with several hotels. This job continually brought her into contact with people suffering from chronic pain and various health problems, struggles not unlike her own.
With Western medicine telling her things she didn’t want to hear as she tried to cope with the pain, she turned instead to holistic health as a way of improving her life and coping with addiction and chronic pain.
“I had been doing Pilates here and there over the years,” she explains, but she began incorporating it more regularly into her routine with the hopes of strengthening her body and managing her pain.
Pilates is a whole body exercise regimen created in the early 20th century by German-born Joseph Pilates. It was originally developed as a rehabilitation program for injured veterans of the World War I and focuses on the connection between the body and the mind. In fact, Pilates referred to his method as “Contrology,” since the exercises were largely based on the idea of consciously controlling the muscles of the body.
In addition to dealing with alcoholism, Odenwald had always struggled with her weight and eating habits, especially in terms of the amount of sugar she consumed. That too, she says, was an addiction.
At the same time as she was increasing her Pilates activity, Odenwald began to learn more about nutrition and the use of fresh, whole foods to increase both physical and mental health. “Before, what I thought was healthy was a joke,” she says. “The foods I was putting in my mouth were so damaging, both to my body and to my brain. What we think is healthy these days is really not.”
Between turning her eating habits around and strengthening her body through her Pilates practice, the pain Odenwald had been living with for so many years didn’t stand a chance. “Before I started Pilates, I was probably an eight or nine on the pain scale all the time,” she says. Since starting a regular Pilates regimen, her pain dropped down to a four or five, and after changing her diet, “my pain is less than a one. My life is totally changed.”
Because she’d seen the power of Pilates and healthy eating firsthand, after moving back to Minnesota, Odenwald opened All Bodies Pilates in Navarre . In addition to Pilates classes, All Bodies offers other aspects of holistic wellness coaching, such as yoga, massage and even a cleanse for people who want to improve their health through eating the right foods.
“It’s a trickle down effect,” Odenwald says. Helping herself has allowed her help the others in the community to be the best, pain-free individuals they can be.
One such individual is Beverly Wiper of Mound. Wiper had practiced Pilates regularly while living in California more than a decade ago. Since returning to Minnesota, however, she underwent a hip replacement and found that she wasn’t able to continue her practice on her own. Instead, Wiper tried working out at a traditional gym with a personal trainer to try and regain some strength and mobility.
“All that happened there was that I built up my muscles,” says Wiper, “but I wasn’t getting a whole body workout like I want to be.” So, after an unsuccessful year at the gym, she began looking for other options. She had driven past All Bodies’ Navarre location many times, and one day decided to stop in and see what it was all about.
“The rest is history,” Wiper says. Today, she attends Pilates classes at All Bodies twice a week. Part of the draw is Odewald herself. “She’s so dedicated and passionate about helping you,” says Wiper. “She really knows her business and she does a great job at it.”
Odenwald loves serving the community she’s in. “Most of my clients are in their 50s or older,” she says. “It’s just fantastic to hear them come to me and say that they feel like after attending All Bodies, they’ll be able to go into old age gracefully.”