Pilates. Who is it for?

Pilates.  Who is it for? It is for rock stars, tennis pros, swim stars, NY Giants and other boys of the NFL. For gymnasts, the NBA and NHL, and all amateur and professional sports, including professional and aspiring dancers. And, of course, all celebrities: male, female, and yet undefined, wishing to remain svelte and stunning in their $200K bikinis and loincloths.  It helps the aging, those burdened with such physical challenges as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and our younger generation with other such neurological disorders. An excellent means of cross-training with cardio-vascular workouts, Pilates leads to long, lean muscles and better all over control of the body with proper muscular initiation. Developed by Joseph Pilates – who called it Contrology – and who utilized it to train army troops, interned prisoners, and men and women from all walks of life – it is just as good for us normal humans who have careers, families and the regular tensions of 2014 as part of our daily regime.

All over the world, men and women are practicing Pilates for its health and conditioning benefits, for a multitude of great reasons, including the following five:

Increased Flexibility

Pilates uses specific exercises and techniques to increase range of motion in all joints and movements of the body. The structure of the male body is different to women and usually tighter, and Pilates can help make a big difference. But it ain’t just a simple stretch people – we are talking eccentric contraction of muscles so they are both the primary muscle(s) in the initiation and completion of a motion, while ALSO lengthening in the process. Kill two birds with one stone! Perfect for our speedy lifestyles of today, right?

All-Over Balanced Body Strength and Awareness

Pilates offers functional strength, meaning the body must maintain correct posture and muscle patterns while building strength. This brings the often-neglected muscles into engagement; building equal strength with agonist/antagonist muscle groups (such as building the triceps muscle to match the biceps) and offers a balanced body less prone to injury. This combines with a conscious awareness of proper motion verses incorrect movement that could possibly be en route to injury. This awareness transcribes into our daily routines – all forms of sports-related movement and daily motion, from the perfect wide receiver’s leap into the end zone to bending over to pick up a delivery in the office. Not just our execution of Pilates vocabulary, but LIFE! 

Great All-Over Core – Front, Back and Sides Combined!

Pilates has unique and targeted repertoire for working the lower and upper abdominals, internal and external obliques, and the opposing lower and middle back muscle groups; unmatched to date by any other method (our biased claim – not yet verified). The Pilates apparatus offers ways to work the core on a deep, skeletal level, and give the real twenty-four-pack strength – not just six-pack – inside and out. This also leads to improved posture, less likelihood of spinal injury, and a healthy addiction to proper alignment for life!

Stay Younger and Happier

It has been claimed, though not yet statistically validated, that Pilates workouts release internal anti-ageing and stress relieving chemicals known as endorphins into the body, giving a natural “high” after each session, similarly known as the “runner’s high”. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. As well as endorphins, various forms of exercise also release adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals work together to make you feel good; a euphoria following a session! But maybe a little sore a day or two later…happy, good, challenged muscles sore! Pilates is not considered a cardio-vascular workout, except when certain exercises such as the spring board on the reformer are incorporated, but many Pilates addicts also claim it is great as a tension and stress release/relief, while improving the mood. The focus upon proper breathing, stretching, and correct, aligned motion in space can help release negative emotions in the body whilst relaxing you, and often “feeling two inches taller!” following a session.  However, if none of the above works in releasing tension, then put that Pilates ring between the thighs, picture the head of that person at work who is DRIVING YOU CRAZY and SQUEEZE AWAY.  That should do it…

Prevent and Repair Injuries

Pilates, for all the reasons above, is one of the best ways to prevent injuries from occurring. Sports medicine MDs, physiotherapists, and physical therapists alike highly recommend Pilates for continued rehabilitation.  You know the feeling – whether or not you are healed, according to dear American Medical Insurance, all you need are eight physical therapy sessions and once that is done, no more for you! 

BUT do Pilates NOW - BEFORE the injury, and you are less likely to be injured in the first place!

So, your first exercise:

1. Sit upright in front of your computer, you pelvis upright with your ischial tuberosities (sitz bones) the primary weight-bearing site, with your thighs together, feet resting on the floor, the back of the neck long, ribs soft, open across the collar bone, shoulders soft and wide, and breathing gently.

2. Exhale to lift your dominant hand off the desk and onto your mouse, with only a soft grip.

3. Slide the mouse over onto www.uptownpilates.com and book your first appointment today!

Do 10 times without slumping into your shoulders, so you have at least 10 sessions/group classes booked within the six weeks ahead.

And enjoy!

By Mary S. Burns, Ph.D.