November 27, 2010 | Posted in:Fitness
It seems too good to be true. I found a fitness framework called Pilates that doesn’t have to kick my butt to be effective.
I have my friends, Bob & Walter, to thank for urging me to try Pilates. Although when they wrote, “Wear some underpants underneath your exercise shorts to prevent embarrassing displays. Many of the exercises will have you upside down with your legs spread apart. But not in a fun way,” I was reconsidering their advice.
What I learned, however, was that Pilates focuses on the quality and form of specific muscle movements through their range. It doesn’t require enormous effort and good form is more important than speed.
It also promotes stopping each exercise after the exact number of prescribed repetitions rather than working a muscle until it is exhausted. A Pilates routine balances work among all of the main muscle groups so none of them gets tired.
Additionally, movements in Pilates are slower and shorter than aerobics, weight training or Xtreme mountain biking.
For me the results of slightly more than 20 Pilates sessions has been increased muscle flexibility, strength, control, and balance. I’ve also reduced a shirt size from XL to L and have eliminated my daily dose of ibuprofen for chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.
To succeed in Pilates (after buying a pair of underpants) you MUST find a good Pilates instructor who is certified in both mat and equipment. I found that combining mat exercises with equipment (Reformer and Cadillac) exercises is the best solution. Mat exercises are convenient because I can do them in hotels or other fitness centers during my frequent travels. Equipment exercises, however, teach form and control.
The first Pilates class I took about 10 years ago was a group mat class. It was brutal and kept me away from Pilates until Bob & Walter convinced me to try individual instruction. Now that I’ve found, Beth Montanez, a gifted and certified instructor, I understand and enjoy the benefits of both forms of Pilates as coached by an experienced and watchful coach.
Beth studies each movement in excruciating detail and constantly makes small adjustments that result in a world of difference. She knows most of my posture, flexibility, and chronic back pain issues stem from my open-heart surgery 20 years ago. After that surgery, my shoulders rounded to protect the incision in my chest and my lower back locked-up my rib cage so it wouldn’t move and cause painful cramps. After 20 years of rounding, stooping, and locking, I was starting to look and feel as old as I am. That was unacceptable!
Beth constructs a personal and varied regime of exercises for each session that have slowly and consistently loosened my lower back, reduced the hump in my back, and extended my range of motion is every direction.
Beth was introduced to Pilates in 2001 when she attended a Jennifer Kries workshop. She has practiced ever since and received her professional certification in 2007. She is currently expanding her Pilates repertoire with the STOTT Pilates certification courses. Beth has worked with dancers, seniors, injured athletes and pitiful pupils like me for nearly 4 years and is passionate about helping people change their bodies and reach their goals. I accuse her of staying up late at night to think of new exercises to challenge me. She is currently teaching group, duet and private lessons at Aloha Pilates in West Seattle and Soma Pilates in Redmond.
Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method, felt breathing was central to Pilates. He believed that increasing the intake of oxygen and then circulating this oxygenated blood had a cleansing and invigorating effect. During Pilates movements, you breathe in with the effort and out on the return. I found this difficult to master as it is the opposite of Yoga and meditation, however, as I gain experience I’ve learned that Joe was right.
While I never acted my age, thanks to Joe and Beth I’m now starting to not look or feel my age!
About one bubble left of center, Scott is a serial entrepreneur, dog dad, in a committed relationship, and worships daily at the Church of the Rising Bright and Shiny Objects.