In case you are new to Pilates and the Reformer (on which it’s frequently performed) and think it resembles some form of medieval torture device, think again! Its glorious exercise that will do your mind, body, spirit and soul the world of good! I challenge anyone NOT to enjoy it.
What is Pilates
A full physical fitness system developed back in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, his system was originally called “Contrology” which gives you a good idea of the principles’ involved.
It’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels and also has tremendous rehabilitation benefits. Frequently used to alleviate lower back pain, improve balance and co-ordination as well as assisting with muscle conditioning, core strength and stability and mind relaxation.
I am a HUGE fan and can genuinely say that Pilates has helped to transform my body and most definitely helped me to manage my stress and anxiety levels. We’re talking a sleek, toned body, slimmer thighs and flatter abdomen. What’s not to love?
It’s enjoyed a more mainstream explosion over the last 20 years and has finally reached my home town! I’ve been practicing my Pilates at Contour Pilates in Brentwood now for over 6 months and loving the range of classes, the studio environment, the friendliness and inclusivity of everyone who attends and the professionalism, encouragement and diversity of all the instructors.
Always a go to exercise to compliment the professional dance community, it won’t be unusual if your Pilates class is being taught by an ex professional ballet dancer (male or female).
I can totally see where the association with “Contrology” might have come from.
It is essentially a series of controlled movements with a heavy emphasis on alignment and correct breathing to develop a strong core which is the powerhouse of the body.
The core means so much more than having a six pack!
It encompasses the abdomen sure, but also the lower back and hips, buttocks and inner thighs which is why having control of this vital area will improve your overall stability, balance, co-ordination as well as creating lovely long and lithe muscle definition. Winner.
Mind Body Connection
The connection between the body and the mind in undeniable and correct breathing is essential.
Pilates requires both focus and form which is why I love it so much – challenging my body whilst bringing clarity to my mind. It truly is amazing what the human body can achieve and when you are practicing Pilates you really are acutely aware of this.
I’m a creature of habit and gravitate towards the same 2 Reformers. No surprise that they are the ones next to the mirrors!! Not that I am vain (not at all) but I love to check my alignment and to see how my body is moving.
Correct posture is vital – I swear I’ve grown an inch!!
Focus and Flow
Everything starts with the centre and then moves out to the limbs.
The exercises encourage a natural flow of movement enabling you to build strength and stamina as you progress.
One of the reasons why I personally love Pilates so much is because of amount of physical exertion required, the discipline I can bring to my practice and the absolute unlimited progression you can achieve.
It’s also great in that respect because of the amount of regression it also provides so really, anyone, of any physical ability can benefit and continue to get benefit from their Pilates practice. It’s not an exercise reserved for women either. There are plenty of men attending Contour which is great to see and Cristiano Ronaldo who is in serious shape and known for his absolute dedication and determination to be the best, regularly practices Pilates. Enough said.
Reformer versus Mat
I mentioned the Reformer above but Pilates can also be mat based and equally as effective so don’t worry if you’re not lucky enough where you live to have a Reformer studio on your doorstep just yet!
Joseph Pilates original sequence comprised of 34 mat based exercises and these exercises are still going strong today – many of them having been subsequently adapted for use on the Reformer.
You’ll hear phrases like the hundred, roll-up, roll-down, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, teaser, the elephant, the swan and be told to pull your naval to spine frequently!
But does it help with fat burning
Well basically, yes
Pilates is essentially a form of resistance training so that means it’s been scientifically proven to help create long lean muscle, which in turn revs up your metabolism, turning your body into a fat burning machine!
All day long I might add, not just whilst you are in the studio. You get an after burn effect too.
In Pilates you quite literally work your entire body from your head down to your toe. Even doing the classic Hundred which is a targeted core exercise, you are engaging your chest, your legs and recruiting your arms into the movement too.
You really are working out from the top of your head right down to the tips of your toes!
Give it a go
If you live in the Essex area you must try out Contour. Get in touch with Amy the owner as there are always plenty of offers for newbies. Details in the link.
Invest in a machine for home use. I have an Aero Pilates Performer 4300 in my garage which I bought from QVC. It’s basic but it does the job. As usual excuse my crap home photos!!! And yes, I am wearing knickers.
You could try a service like Pilates Anytime which is a subscription based site that will literally give you access to 1000’s of videos for all levels from a host of highly skilled in industry professionals and instructors.
Stott's Pilates also has some fabulous reference books and comprehensive wall charts of sequences from beginners through to advanced for you to try out.
So what are you waiting for?
Pilates is fantastic and a great exercise to take up at any stage of life but especially when you are in your 40's. It's fun, challenging, you'll look longer, leaner and more aligned and you'll feel sexier, confident and I promise, happier! YAY!