“Oh, you teach Pilates? That’s great. I know I should try it, but I really don’t have time to fit it into my already busy workout schedule of running/CrossFit/cycling/lifting/yoga/golf/fill in the blank. I’m not really a Pilates person, you know?”
Yes. Yes, I do know. I hear it all the time. But here’s the deal. If you want to keep doing all those things you do enjoy, you need to take out an insurance policy on your body so you can do them for a long time.
It’s called Pilates.
Pilates is not stretching, relaxing, low-key, or whatever synonym you choose to use that basically means easy. Joseph Pilates was a tough-as-nails boxer who demanded intense dedication from his clients. Check out this archival footage and tell me the man wasn’t intimidating…
Pilates is about strengthening your core. Pretty much everyone knows that. But the point of creating and maintaining a strong core isn’t just so you can do more advanced Pilates work. It’s also about creating proper alignment in the body so you don’t have muscle imbalances that lead to a host of problems. The goal is to have a strong core and proper alignment so your body functions properly and you can do all those activities you love for the rest of your life. I promise you use your core for all those other activities…and if it’s strong and healthy, you will do them better. If your muscles are properly balanced, you aren’t going to create wear and tear of your joints that lead you down a road full of pain, arthritis, injuries, tears, surgeries, physical therapy, or worst case, not being able to do your favorite activities ever again. And the physical implications are just one side of it…the emotional toll of it can be equally debilitating.
If you’re not convinced yet, let’s take a look at some popular activities.
The stereotypical runner has over tight hamstrings. Hamstrings are the muscles on the backs of your thighs that if tight prevent you from touching your toes or straightening your legs when sitting on the floor. If your hamstrings are tight, then they will pull on the muscles in your backside and eventually the lower back. (Side note…your lower back is part of your core. Your core is not just the abdominals. Think three-dimensional!) Now let’s flip over to the front. If your hamstrings are tight, then your quadriceps are typically overstretched and weak as a result. I cannot tell you how many runners I’ve encountered over the years who have lower back and gluteal muscle issues because of tight hamstrings, or knee problems because of weak quadriceps. And trying to get runners to stop running in order to restore their bodies to balance is practically impossible. There is definitely such thing as a runner’s high, and they crave it! In my experience, they are the first ones to jump back into exercise before their bodies are ready, which in return causes a setback or further injury. There is an obvious emotional response to not being able to pound the pavement, so they get caught in a nasty cycle of injury/rehab. So if you are a die hard runner, I beg you to find a good Pilates instructor to get you to a place where you can keep on feeding that high.
Now I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t get this craze. And that’s just because I’m not a fan of exercising to the point where I feel like I want to throw up. That does not make me want to do it again. But I know loads of people who love it and have transformed their bodies into works of art as a result of this fitness trend. And I’ve been captivated watching the televised competitions. From my couch. So let’s address this population’s need for Pilates. CrossFitters are dealing with heavy weights, full body weight resistance, and pushing themselves to accomplish the WOD’s number of reps. When you do these things, your body reaches a point of fatigue. But that’s the point…being able to push past that fatigue to do more than you did before. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s how you get stronger and increase muscle mass and endurance. But what oftentimes is a side effect of reaching fatigue is the loss of good form. When you sacrifice your form, something’s gotta give. And those things are usually your core engagement and/or your alignment. That’s where your insurance policy comes in. With a regular Pilates practice in conjunction with your CrossFit workouts, your core will be stronger, your body will be more aligned, and your mind will be trained to always engage your core and focus on your form to squeeze out those extra reps or lift that extra weight. Without it, there are greater possibilities of joint damage and injury.
So unless you have a super cool ambidextrous talent, most people are righties or lefties when it comes to their golf swings. The game of golf sets players up for muscular imbalances because of the nature of a golf swing. The muscles on one side of the body develop and strengthen differently than the opposite side. It’s important to put some effort into stretching and/or strengthening the opposite muscles to even out the body. A golf swing requires use of your neck, shoulders, arms, spine, pelvis, knees, ankles and feet. Neglecting to address the imbalances of those joints can cause a lot of problems down the road. What’s awesome is that the professional golf community has grown to really embrace Pilates. It’s common to hear PGA golfers talk about how Pilates has helped their game and improved their bodies in general. There are many workshops available for Pilates instructors to learn how to work with golfers, so search for a trained instructor in your area. Chances are your body will benefit and you may shave a couple of strokes off your game.
I know these are generalizations that do not apply to every person out there, but hopefully you can see the need for strong, healthy cores and proper alignment. Don’t be one of those people who figures this out because hindsight is 20/20. Invest in Pilates now and reap the benefits today. Let me know if you need help finding a qualified Pilates instructor/insurance agent. I for one kind of like the idea of calling myself a certified Pilates agent.