Pilates: Another Weapon in the Arsenal, Not the Magic Bullet – by Tanya Dillard

Celebrating 5,000 hits on the blog! In honor of this momentous occasion, I am excited to introduce another guest blogger to you! Tanya Dillard is a friend of mine who owns ReformBode, a Pilates and Fitness Studio in downtown Greenville, SC. She’s the one I took Pilates from for ten weeks when I rewarded myself with classes for losing weight! She’s a great instructor and has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to write this article for us! So, enjoy, post a comment so she knows what you think, and better yet, check out her studio! Her classes are exciting, challenging, enjoyable, and competitively priced! Visit www.reformbode.com for her full class schedule.

Tanya Dillard, Owner of ReformBode, Greenville, SC

Pilates: Another Weapon in the Arsenal, Not the Magic Bullet

by Tanya Dillard, Owner of ReformBode in Greenville, SC.

As a fitness studio owner who specializes in Pilates training, I am commonly asked to perform near miracles using the Pilates method.  True, the workouts are invigorating and the feeling it can produce is certainly euphoric if not miraculous, however I have yet to train a client solely using the Pilates method and  observe 1) dramatic weight loss (10 lbs or more), 2) improvements in flexibility rivaling that of the Cirque du Soleil, or 3) a dress size drop rivaling that of Daisy Fuentes.

So, why all the hype?  We Want To Believe!!!!  I think we all want to believe that there is an easier way to stay in shape that we may have overlooked.  It can’t be so hard as to have to sweat nearly every day of the week AND make intelligent choices when we eat. Throw on top of that the amount of sleep we should get and throw out (most of) the alcohol we do get and we start wanting to believe there’s another, easier way, right? Enter Pilates or any other fitness craze (insert infomercial name here). The difference is Pilates is so much more than a fitness craze du jour; it’s been around for 80 years and counting and offers so much more than its rivals.

To understand what Classical Pilates is it may help to start with what it is not (I cannot speak to the benefits of contemporary Pilates, which is a subject for another time).  It is not an ab workout (although your abs will get worked hard); it is not stretching (although you will stretch considerably); and it’s not merely breathing techniques (although we employ one of the toughest breathing techniques around). Finally, it is not a weight loss method (although you may lose some inches and will definitely reshape your body).  IT IS a structured workout discipline developed by creator Joseph Pilates, complete with a specific and special technique that distinguishes it from any other exercise type.  Unlike many of the other crazes, this is not a flash in the pan marketing ploy, this method was “Joe’s” lifework.  Achieving and employing his technique called the “critical connection”  is the goal when we take our participants through a host of muscular endurance exercises and stretches either on the mat or on a piece of specifically designed Pilates equipment.  IT IS mind-body exercise but not in the same sense as yoga (as one of my clients said “you check out for yoga, for Pilates you check in”).  Pilates was first named “Contrology” by Joe and is probably the best descriptor for the method.  This control over your body will help change the way it functions, feels and looks and improve your abilities in just about everything else in which you participate. However, it is NOT a substitute for those things.

That’s right; you must continue to do other exercise. In fact, it was my Pilates mentor/trainer who woke me up to this fact. It was at a time when I had changed my professional focus which meant I was no longer teaching 10-15 fitness classes per week, running 20+ miles weekly and teaching kickboxing certifications on the weekends (imagine 10 hours of kickboxing in a day!).  Instead, I dramatically geared down and was mainly running and doing some resistance training (not Pilates though). You’d think with the slowdown in activity I’d be less prone to injury and “tweaks” but the converse was true. So what was with the new aches and pains?  My mentor pointed out that even though I may have been exercising quite heavily and frequently, I was so varied in my activities that it gave my body much needed balance. When I stopped those things and only did one mode of exercise, I gradually lost that balance and as a result became prone to small misalignments that became magnified over time.  Worse, I had to run longer and/or harder to get the same metabolic effects because of the efficiency I had gained as a runner. This only magnified the problem(s).   It seems obvious looking back but at the time it didn’t occur to me.  That year, I nearly ruptured my Achilles and spent the next year rehabbing it.

So here’s the lesson, kids: Running was not my magic bullet any more than Pilates should be yours.  My rule of thumb: pick 3 or 4 modes of exercise with a ratio of 2:1 in terms of time spent on cardio vs. resistance training, and do them each 2-3 times per week for body balance, strength, and a healthy body composition.  Eat well and sleep and you’ve got a complete toolbox as opposed to one over used (possibly rusty) tool. 🙂

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