Pilates: It’s a Good Thing!
This summer I got the Pilates bug. In the past, I occasionally participated in mat Pilates classes and even used the specialized machines called reformers. But this summer I consistently took semi-private classes with Charissa Hines at the Forever Fit Foundation (newly relocated to Midway Fitness Center) and I am now addicted for life.
As a fitness professional I am always encouraging my clients to cross train. As we age, it’s especially important to choose activities that are kind to the body while focusing on functional strength.
Pilates is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises. It tones and strengthens muscles, improves balance and posture, and creates a tighter, taller body. “The Art of Contrology”—or muscle control—was created by Joseph Pilates over 100 years ago. Plagued by rickets and asthma as a child in Germany, he developed this system to strengthen his frail body. He began with a series of mat exercises so beautifully demonstrated in the book The Pilates Body, by Brooke Siler.
Siler points out that in order to maximize your Pilates experience, participants must understand the elements that are in play. All Pilates exercises initiate from the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks. The band of muscles that circle the body just under your beltline is termed the “powerhouse.”
When Joseph Pilates was an orderly in a hospital he began working with non-ambulatory patients. He attached springs to hospital beds to support the patients’ ailing limbs while he worked with them. The doctors noticed that the patients were improving faster. These spring-based exercises became the basis for the reformer apparatus that is used in Pilates studios.
I’ve been working in gyms since the early 80s and have used every exercise machine you can imagine. What I love about the Pilates reformer and mat work is that they teach you to focus on your form, balance, and inner strength.
Joseph Pilates believed that in order to achieve happiness it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at age 30 you are stiff and out of shape, then you are “old.” If at 60 you are supple and strong, then you are “young.” This is my goal as a trainer: to keep my clients “young” in body, mind, and spirit.
Listen to your body and use your best judgement when performing any exercise. No exercise in the Pilates method or in any other area of fitness should ever cause pain. There is a difference between pain and the feeling of working a muscle intensely. If you ever find an exercise putting an uncomfortable strain on an area of your body, stop, adjust your form, and continue. You might need to lower your weight or resistance and/or modify your position. ▼
Jon Adler Kaplan is a health coach and fitness trainer both virtually and at Rise Fitness and Adventure. Email Jon with any fitness questions: email@example.com.