When we think of the images we often relate to Pilates, we conjure up the image of sleek, sculpted bodies doing crazy exercises on fancy equipment. In reality, Pilates is perfect for anyone and any body. From an elite athlete to a fitness newbie, Pilates is a system of coordinated exercises that can truly benefit any body, any age bracket and any physical limitation or need. The Pilates studios of today service a wide range of clients with all types of needs, varying ages and genders. Populations served range from elite athletes to beginners, including men, baby boomers, teens, runners, and, yes, average folks, not just celebrities!
We believe there are 5 main benefits of a Pilates program that help all ages and physical needs: An increase of body awareness, balance, strength, coordination, flexibility and mental clarity.
Firstly, the execution of Pilates exercises requires the client to focus on their bodies and the different muscles required to properly do a movement pattern, thus increasing body awareness. By increasing body awareness, clients are able to work on a deeper level and have their Pilates movements transfer into promoting safer daily activities. A teen may benefit from this development of body awareness and is suddenly sitting up straighter in math class at school or finding themselves engaging their core when kicking a ball at soccer practice.
Secondly, all Pilates exercises require a combination of balance and strength. Balance in the sense of actual balancing (e.g. single leg work) and balance in the sense of using the body evenly to correct imbalances (a weaker hip or asymmetry in the shoulder joints). While clients work to increase balance in their bodies, the weaker muscles are also strengthened in order to correct these imbalances. A client with a specific condition such as scoliosis may benefit from the unilateral work on the Pilates reformer to correct imbalances in the spine and hip area, allowing for a greater range of motion and more physical comfort.
Most Pilates exercises utilize multiple muscles in order to execute the movement, resulting in the strengthening of many muscles at once, and also the increased coordination of muscles. Several Pilates exercises require balance and strength in the body to work in harmony together, challenging our coordination. An elite athlete may benefit from the use of multiple muscle groups working at once to further enhance their overall fitness level and performance. By not just focusing on the muscle that performs their sport (e.g. runners working only on leg strength), athletes are able to properly train and strengthen all muscle groups, helping prevent injury.
Flexibility is another great benefit of Pilates. Not only are there many specific stretches incorporated into a Pilates routine, but all Pilates exercises work to stretch and lengthen the muscles while they are working. Think of a basic bicep curl. In Pilates, we focus on the curl (pulling inward) just as much as the return, so clients are working the muscle in both directions, creating those long, lean muscles. Stretching is very important in any fitness routine. We can only be as strong as we are flexible, and Pilates helps us to attain this flexibility. Every population can benefit from increased flexibility. This will help to prevent injuries in older clients by working on rotation and lateral movements executed in everyday life that can cause injury, such as picking up an item off the floor or rotating their head to back out of a parking spot. And for our youngest clients, increased flexibility will help them to train their muscles safely and properly as they’re developing and increasing their activity levels.
Finally, mental clarity is increased by a Pilates routine. Taking the time to work out, breathe deeply and focus on the body can help clients relax and focus on themselves. The busiest person needs to learn how to connect with their physical selves and Pilates gives you a point in your day to focus on your body and, therefore, increase mental clarity. You can’t read a book or watch TV when you are doing Pilates exercises; clients are forced to focus on their bodies and how they’re moving.
Think back to those sculpted, sleek Pilates images we have all seen related to Pilates. While Pilates can help us to attain our fitness goals, think of your Pilates workouts as a place to deepen your foundation as well. Your house can only be as strong as the foundation it sits upon. By incorporating a strong focus on the five areas in a Pilates program, your foundation will be strong, flexible and in balance. Pilates is for everybody.
Elizabeth Dewey Founder / Co-owner of studio 47 @ Barrington Pilates
Elizabeth is a fully certified Pilates instructor in both Mat, Standing, and Tye4 Pilates and all levels of the Pilates Equipment, as well as having a dance minor. She received her Pilates Mat Certification in 2004 and her Pilates Equipment Certification in 2006 through The PhysicalMind Institute New York, NY. She has completed additional courses in Pilates for Golf, Rehabilative Pilates, and advanced level exercises on the equipment. She has also completed her certification in BarSculpt levels I and II. Elizabeth has recently completed her training to be a teacher trainer through The PhyscialMind Institute, where she is able to train Pilates students to become instructors. Additionally, she recently completed the first level of training on the CORE ALIGN. Elizabeth loves Pilates because it not only gives her clients long, lean, muscular bodies, but most importantly because her clients are strong from the inside out.
Mora Babineau Co-owner of studio 47 @ Barrington Pilates
Mora is a fully certified Pilates instructor in both Mat, Standing and Tye4 Pilates and all levels of the Pilates Equipment. She received her Pilates Mat Certification in 2009 and her Pilates Equipment Certification in 2011 through The PhyscialMind Institute New York, NY. She has completed additional courses in “Bringing the Reformer to the Mat.” She has also completed her certification in BarSculpt levels I and II and enjoys the mix of Pilates and barre classes. Additionally, she recently completed the first level of training on the CORE ALIGN. As a former dance teacher, Mora loves Pilates because it challenges clients to make a mind/body connection. Clients love Mora’s classes for her energy and motivation.