5 reasons why pilates should be on your list of priorities

5 reasons why pilates should be on your list of priorities

by Mary Huckle

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There is still a misconception that the only way you can reach an acceptable level of fitness is to thrash your body with anything that will make you hot, sweaty and knackered.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “train hard or go home.” The bad news is that there is an element of truth in that saying. However, there is a ‘but’. If you were to consistently and frequently engage in the same exercise, one or all the following could happen. You run the risk of over-training, of injury or you could unknowingly be creating imbalances and misalignments in your body. For example, a golfer may develop back issues because of the continued swing of the golf club to one side or an avid bodybuilder may bulk up to the point where he or she might lose their flexibility. Our bodies are designed to move, but the trick is to move them in various ways. Variety is not only the spice of life but diversifying your training methods will not only keep you mobile and fully functional, but injury free as well.

So, we’ve established that a varied exercise routine is beneficial, but which activities should we be doing? The answer is any that complement each other, work the entire body and create balance. A good example would be to complement running with yoga. Running is a brilliant cardiovascular exercise which primarily works the legs, but the repetitive nature could cause muscle imbalances, such as tight and over-lengthened hamstrings. Yoga on the other hand, improves flexibility, range of movement through the joints and encourages symmetry throughout the body.

This brings me onto why I advocate Pilates. Like yoga, it’s a mind-body discipline that encompasses controlled breath and a whole-body approach. It works with you, and over time, will create a stronger version of yourself. It gifts you with body awareness and the why and the how of body movement. This is the perfect mindbody connection.

I can already sense your excitement and how you can’t wait to sign up to the nearest Pilates class, but before you do that, let me clarify something. Pilates will not necessarily help you lose weight, and neither will it give you a six-pack. However, a sensible diet, cardiovascular exercise to raise your pulse coupled with resistance training might very well have that effect. Ultimately, Pilates will make you a whole lot stronger, better at any other exercise you do, and it will address any postural issues, all without you realising, just with the guidance of a good Pilates teacher.

Here are the five main reasons why I think Pilates should be in your life.

1. There is way too much stress in our lives There is no better way to counteract the cortisol effects than with a mindful approach to our exercise. The breath element in Pilates induces a state of relaxation exactly where and when it’s needed, allowing any tension to disperse whilst performing the core strengthening exercises.

2. It will revolutionise the way you exercise When you first try Pilates, you might wonder why you’re not required to move quickly and work up a sweat. This is because Pilates is slow, in fact the slower you perform the exercises, the more effective they are. Pilates is about the breath, controlled smooth movements and technique. It’s not about momentum or sloppy form. You engage and stabilise the core on the exhale while moving into the exercise.

3. You’ll wish you’d discovered it a lot sooner By the time most people try out their first class, it’s because their GP, chiropractor or physio has recommended it to them, which usually means they have sustained an injury, have issues with their back or have other postural concerns. Suffice to say that prevention is better than cure, so if you want to maintain a healthy spine, take up regular Pilates as soon as possible, before you actually
need it.

4. You can do it every day

Pilates is low-impact but this doesn’t mean that it’s ineffective. The beauty of the so-called ‘intelligent exercise’ is that you can practice it till the cows come home without over-training your body, but it’s intense enough to make positive differences to your wellbeing. I highly recommend doing at least two hourly sessions per week but even one weekly class will yield benefits. Joseph Pilates, the founder, used to say: “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.”

5. There are too many benefits

I teach the STOTT method and in the words of the provider, it incorporates modern exercise principles, including contemporary thinking about spinal rehabilitation and athletic performance enhancement. STOTT Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints. There are also more preparatory exercises and modifications to cater to many different body types and abilities.

Here’s a summary of the benefits:
• leaner muscles
• improves postural problems
• increases core strength, stability and peripheral mobility
• helps prevent injury
• enhances functional fitness, ease of movement
• balances strength & flexibility
• heightens body awareness
• no-impact, easy on the joints
• can be customized to suit everyone from rehab patients to elite athletes
• complements other methods of exercise
• improves performance in sports (running, golf, skiing et cetera.)
• improves balance, coordination and circulation.

If you’d like more information about Mary’s classes or private tuition, please email her at maryhuckle@gmail.com