When it comes to getting stronger, leaner, more flexible and enjoying a life with less pain, a fitness program called Pilates may be right for you.
Pilates (pronounced: Puh-lah-teez) is an exercise system that involves a series of controlled movements to engage both body and mind. It focuses on building strength without bulk while improving muscles, flexibility, circulation and posture.
Pilates exercises are developed with modifications that can make workouts safe and fun for people of all ages and exercise levels. Athletes, dancers and seniors love it, as well as women getting back on their feet after pregnancy, and people who are at various stages of physical rehabilitation. It can even help prevent injury, according to Amanda Crawley, a Pilates trainer at the Cleveland Family YMCA.
“For people who have experienced injury, all our exercises can be modified to accommodate them,” Crawley said. “It really works on training your ‘stabilizing muscles’ and that helps with injury prevention. The way the exercises are designed — Pilates trains muscles in a way that you can’t get on standard machines and free weights. They just can’t target those deep ‘stabilizing muscles’ the way Pilates can.”
Crawley, who graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and is currently a senior at Lee University, said, “I’ve lost a lot of weight over the last two years — 80 pounds — and it’s due to Pilates because it’s an exercise I can stick with. It trains your muscles like they were intended to be used. We use spring training.”
One feature of Pilates is a mat session where Crawley uses floor-level exercises that allow you to engage core muscles, increase your range of flexibility and improve your posture. Unlike the mat session, the Reformer exercise session uses elevated equipment with adjustable springs, cables, bars and pulleys to set up various flexible exercises. Crawley then guides the progress of each person at an individual pace. There is also the Cadillac/Trapeze Table which allows for more than 80 different moderate exercises to highly trained routines that are challenging and exciting to learn, according to Crawley.
“Stretching is boring,” she said. “But Pilates integrates flexing into the exercises. For me, Pilates is more fun! Anybody — kids, the elderly, active people, healthy people, people who are just beginning to exercise — they can all practice Pilates. We have three different systems: Beginners, intermediate and advanced. All of the beginner exercises can even be modified to make them easier. Plus, all the exercises on different Pilates equipment are integrated together.”
Experts say Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving, stimulates the spine and muscles, decreases back, neck and joint paint, and gives off the same sensation as exercising the entire body. It is considered one of the most sought after exercise methods to address back pain and muscular problems because it is not strenuous to undertake.
Crawley, who is in the process of applying for physical therapy school at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, made it clear she is not a physical therapist and is not trained to give therapy to injured clients. She said it depends on the nature of an injury to determine if Pilates is right for you, adding, “It would have to be with a doctor and physical therapist recommendation listing what their precautions are,” before she would consider training a person recovering from an injury.
“We don’t rehab injuries. I have to make that distinction,” Crawley said. “I do train with a woman in Chattanooga. She trains with a woman who had a hip-and-knee replacement. The woman still does Pilates. She’s done it for 10 years. We still have to modify exercises for her, but there are 700 exercises we can use for her, so there’s plenty to choose from.”
In 1965, at age 86, Joseph Hubertus Pilates said, “I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
Crawley said her instructor in Atlanta had 89-year-old women taking part in his classes. She said he told them, “You’re only as old as your spine is flexible.” According to Crawley the growing popularity of Pilates is a clear confirmation that wellness activities are taking hold in Cleveland as it is the rest of the country.
The 26-year-old Pilates instructor offers private training sessions at the YMCA in Cleveland. For further information, contact Amanda Crawley, Power Pilates trainer, at: Pilateswithac@gmail.com or call Princess Snyder at the YMCA at 805-3373 to set up a 30 minute free private session.