Today’s blog post comes from a wonderful colleague, Blair Green, PT, MPT, OCS, CSCS, who practices at One on One Physical Therapy (an amazing clinic!) in Atlanta, GA. Blair is an excellent clinician, and is an expert at integrating pilates into clinical practice. We are so honored to have Blair write for our blog, and we know you will enjoy her fantastic writing!
Fitness trends seem to come and go in the blink of an eye. However, Pilates seems to have stuck around for several years, defying conventional beliefs. Perhaps that is because Pilates is not just a fad but rather a method that has been proven over time to be beneficial for many individuals with a variety of health and fitness goals.
Pilates began back in the early 20th century when a man named Joseph Pilates developed a system of exercise to improve and maintain health. He named his method Contrology and even wrote 2 books about it. Those who learned from him passed on his method and changed the name to Pilates in his honor.
What is Pilates and how will it benefit me?
Pilates is a method that embodies whole body health. It is based on several principles, including breath, control, precision, and whole body movement. It is a system of specific exercises that are designed to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, posture, alignment and balance. It emphasizes the deep core muscles, which include the transverse abdominus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor. When these muscles are at their best, the whole body works more efficiently.
Do’s and Don’t’s of Pilates
1. Don’t assume that all Pilates instructors are created equal.
The training to become a Pilates instructor is a long process. Most comprehensive training programs can last one full year so that trainees can learn all of the apparatus and the mat work, and practice in their own bodies as well as on others. The professional association for Pilates instructors is the Pilates Method Alliance (www.pilatesmethodalliance.org). You can find a list of certified instructors and more information on types of training on their website.
2. Do ask the following questions before you get started:
How many people are in your mat classes?
If the answer is more than 10, know you may not get the attention you need to improve in your movement
What training did you have?
See above regarding instructor qualifications
I’m injured, what should I do?
Most instructors should know how to modify workouts for injury and/or have a good relationship with a physical therapist who is familiar with Pilates. The answer should never be “we can just skip …” Some studios will have particular instructors and classes that cater to individuals with injuries.
3. Don’t expect a workout where your heart is racing and you feel like you’ve just run a marathon.
Pilates focuses on the deep core muscles. These muscles are endurance muscles and they function to stay active over long period of time. These muscles hold you up when you are doing other activities; they turn on before you perform other movements. You may find yourself doing more thinking than exerting; this is okay! Pilates is about efficient movement, not burning calories. It is meant to compliment other types of sport activity and exercise.
4. Do expect it to be a process that improves over time.
Again, Pilates is training movement strategy. Remember the principles: breathing, precision, control, centering. Pilates is not meant to be mastered in a week or a month. Many people practice for years and are still refining and fine-tuning the process. Working with a qualified instructor will help you find the movements and exercises that are most beneficial to you. And keep in mind, these may change over time as well. Once you have built awareness and you are familiar with the apparatus or the mat exercises, the emphasis moves from doing the exercises to doing them well.
5. Don’t work through pain – tell your instructor!
Again, most qualified instructors are familiar with injury and can refer you to a physical therapist who will help you get back to Pilates. If the movement or exercise does not feel right to you, stop and get help. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” does not apply in Pilates. In order for muscles to work well, the movement needs to be pain-free. If you experience pain or other symptoms the best thing you can do is let someone know. Exercises can be modified so that you can continue.
6. Do have fun!
Pilates is a method of exercise that is appropriate for all people at all ages. It may be hard work but it pays off. Remember, it has been around for nearly 100 years. It has stood the test of time, and the fitness industry. Go out and enjoy it!
Blair Green is a physical therapist and partner at One on One Physical Therapy and Back 2 Motion Physical Therapy in Atlanta, GA. She is comprehensively trained in Pilates through Polestar Pilates and is a PMA Pilates Certified Teacher. Her practice focuses on women’s health, including pre- and post-natal health and pelvic floor dysfunction. She is Board Certified in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.