As you may be exploring different fitness formats to accomplish your New Year’s exercise intentions, I wanted to share a love of mine, which is Pilates. I didn’t come to practice Pilates until after I moved to Michigan in 2005, at Mid American studio in Farmington Hills, but in hindsight, I would’ve been able to benefit from this tremendous exercise method back in my college days. You see, I grew up in a family restaurant business and from a very young age was carrying trays loaded with dishes over my head as I navigated crowded tables. In the summer of my junior year in college, I bent over to pick up a suitcase and boom! I ended up in the hospital and later learned that I had two herniated discs. From that point on, needless to say, I truly appreciated back health.
So I practiced Pilates for a few years since 2005 but didn’t think seriously about training in it until I was ready to make a career move from digital marketing, and into fitness and wellness. In 2011, I certified at Equilibrium Studio in Bloomfield Hills for my 300 plus hours of training and apprenticeship. After teaching Pilates for more than five years now, I can see the benefits every week as I work with my clients at The Sports Club of Novi.
What are those benefits?
Pilates, especially STOTT Pilates, is grounded in safety. Pilates emphasizes working with the most shock-absorbing spinal alignment from which all the exercises can be done efficiently and with the least chance of strain or injury.
Pilates builds the mind-body connection. Breath work is foundational and assists with getting the most out of any exercise by emphasizing proper breathing at each segment. Clients build an awareness of their body and control their movement into a smooth and measured flow.
Pilates is probably best known for its work on the “core” or center of the body. The core includes four larger abdominal muscles, but also includes smaller muscles closest to the spine, and Pilates develops and strengthens all of these muscles.
How is Pilates different?
Pilates is methodical and sometimes called intelligent movement, because alignment and quality of movement are valued over the number of repetitions or the amount of weight used. Exercises are designed to balance the muscles, large and small, for full body function and performance.
Traditional workouts tend to bulk you up, with short muscles that bulge and may be more prone to injury; whereas Pilates develops long and lean muscles as you build strength. These longer and leaner muscles have more elasticity and improve joint mobility.
Pilates exercises are precise as you train several muscle groups at once in smooth, continuous movements. Be prepared for your instructor to correct you to make sure you’re in alignment and that you execute the proper technique, all towards performance, good posture, and optimal health.
What to look out for?
Confirm that your instructor has been certified, whether by Balanced Body, STOTT or Polestar, for example. These programs are comprehensive and include anatomy, exercise instruction, and often apprenticeship. It’s important that the instructor is also current with certification requirements to ensure the most recent research is integrated with his or her instruction.
You should feel comfortable in the Pilates exercise setting. The studio or gym should be clean, properly equipped and with adequate space for your work out. Some clients prefer more or less privacy depending on what motivates them and their comfort level.
Lastly, your connection to your instructor is key. Try out a few sessions to assess the instructor’s cuing and correction style. Given the mind-body aspect of Pilates, you’ll want to be sure your communication and rapport are strong foundations for your Pilates practice.
‘In 10 sessions you will feel a difference; in 20 sessions you will see a difference; and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.’
Joseph Pilates made this now-famous ‘Pilates promise’ after repeatedly witnessing the dramatic results his own clients experienced when working with him consistently on a daily basis. While daily may not be practical for you, I challenge you to try the number of sessions out for yourself and see what your body tells you!
STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach