Part 1 – Pilates 101: Weight-Free Toning and Strengthening

Pilates pose

Pilates is a popular workout for body toning without weights or fancy gym equipment. It is something you can do anywhere and is very effective when you are consistent. It was originally invented by Joe Pilates, who wanted to help people align the spine, strengthen the core, and be aware of their muscles.

One of my best friends and I took a Pilates class at a gym in Atlanta almost 20 years ago. That didn’t go well for us.

We both had done a lot of cardio and weight training – we were in good shape! Both of us had been dancers in our younger years – I had been on the high school and college dance teams. This class would be a piece of cake, right?

We rolled into the class…

Muscles we had never used properly (obviously) were sore after that, and we both swore off the practice. Youthful foolishness!  Ironically, we have both changed with age—cardio is not the holy grail any more. We have opened our minds…

Here are some things to know about this exercise.Pilates 101 pin

Why Pilates?

The first thing you might ask is why would you do this type of workout? It’s similar to yoga, but it isn’t the same thing, nor should you have to choose one or the other. Yoga is great, but Pilates provides some unique benefits for your body. These moves really work out your core. It helps to flatten your tummy and strengthen your ab muscles. It also targets some other areas of your body, including your legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, and back.

Can Work Out Anywhere, Any time

Another thing to know about Pilates is that while there are classes, you can easily do this at home. There are videos online, DVDs you can purchase, and even books that provide images and descriptions of the different moves. However, if you don’t like working out alone, you might like the classes instead. The great thing about this workout is that you can travel and still do it in your hotel room.

Different Styles

There are many different types of this exercise style. There’s the classic form, with Joe Pilates’ 23 basic moves. Contemporary Pilates mixes some different techniques, often including yoga or cardio workouts. There’s reformer Pilates, which uses a workout machine called a reformer. This moves your body in different ways but provides more stability for the different workouts. Then, there are specific types of Pilates like Power Pilates and Stott Pilates.

Reformer Pilates

Reformer pilatesThe first type we will look at here is called Reformer Pilates. This style uses a workout machine called a reformer. It has actually been around as long as the classic form and was invented by Mr. Joseph Pilates himself. The original reformer included a frame similar to a small bed with a flat platform that moved back and forth. This would allow the participant to do different types of workouts, depending on where the body was positioned. Newer versions of this same machine exist depending on where you get the machine and the types of moves you want to do.

Yoga-Pilates

This isn’t just one type, but a concept based on different variations. There are fitness instructors online (Blogilates, for example) as well as local instructors that have classes where they combine yoga and Pilates into one workout. This often includes some of the important core workout you learn in Pilates, helping to strengthen your abs and work on your core muscles, but also incorporates a lot of the classic yoga moves as well. This helps to provide a solid foundation and to provide a good full-body workout.

Stott Pilates

Another form is called Stott Pilates. This type was invented by a dancer; therefore, it includes quite a few dance moves and conditioning exercises along with the classic moves. The combination of more modern workout moves with the standard moves provides a full-body workout.

Some other types of Pilates that you might hear about are Fletcher Pilates, Power Pilates, and Winsor Pilates. There are also instructors at different fitness centers that teach classes but incorporate their own styles and workout moves. You should try several different workouts until you find the one that works best for you.

If you decide to try this exercise, don’t feel too pressured to get everything right the first time. It does take some practice. Some of the moves can be a little advanced, but the more you do them, the easier they become.

Benefits of Pilates

There are many health benefits, both fitness and non-fitness ones, for this form of exercise. Here are some reasons to consider Pilates.

Get a Long, Fit Body

First of all, Pilates can help create a long, lean, and strong body. No bulking up with this exercise; only core work, muscle strengthening, and body elongation. It can improve your balance, posture, and flexibility as well.Yoga/Pilates stretching

Want 6-Pack Abs?

Pilates can give you those abdominal muscles many people desire and goes far beyond crunches and sit-ups. Those core movements provide strength but also can develop your ab muscles—the upper and lower abdominal muscles, as well as the obliques.

Possible Memory Improvement

All these benefits aren’t strictly for your body. There are also mental benefits, including improving your memory. There have been studies that show Pilates helps you to focus better, which in turn can improve brain function and memory.

The Calm of Pilates

Pilates is often grouped with yoga because some of the moves are similar, and many of the benefits are the same. One of the same benefits is that Pilates helps to relax you and create a state of calm. It’s not a high-paced cardio workout or even a hard weight-lifting workout. It’s a slow, methodical exercise where you focus on your breathing and the movements.

Remember, you should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness routine.

Unfortunately, my doctors won’t allow me to do any ab work yet—I am 4 months out from the transplant, so they don’t want me to develop a hernia around my incision. It’s a fair point…

However, I would love to discuss possible modifications with someone who does Pilates regularly. Share your experiences in the comments.

Loving Life—The Reboot!

Dominique

 

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