Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates
Please note: The following is of my own experiences only. Check with your health care provider to see if Pilates is right for you.
I vowed this would be the summer of new experiences. With only one week left of summer break, I can honestly write that I kept that vow! One of the most impactful of those experiences is one I will continue long after summer is over ~ Pilates at Life Time Fitness’s LifeStudio with Pamela Barich. I can’t say enough about Pam’s Pilates class. My posture is more aligned. I walk taller. I look slimmer. I am more toned. I am more flexible. In a word . . . I feel better.
At LifeStudio (a part of Lifetime Fitness), I am supervised by a specially trained instructor named Pam Barich. Pam earned her Pilates certification in 2005 after a few years of teaching aerobic classes. She was taking Pilates classes herself and found that it was the one practice that was enhancing all other aspects of her life. As Pam explains, Pilates “develops core strength, giving overall strength. . . When that is strong, you can have strength all over.” She advocates Joseph Pilates focus on concentration to achieve mind/body connection that “works the body from the inside out,” as Pam states. Pilates gives you a work-in that makes other workouts that much more effective.
How and why did Pilates begin? As Medicine.Net defines, Pilates was created in the 1920s by the trainer Joseph Pilates for the purpose of rehabilitation. Pilates’ first clients were soldiers from war and dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine (to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches and pains). His techniques are maintained today as dancers, athletes and anyone looking to improve their overall physical and emotional fitness are utilizing the method. I remember my dance teacher years ago recommending enrollment in a Pilates class to enhance poise and technique; but, back then Pilates classes were much harder to find in the suburbs. In fact, when I hunted for a class in the early ’90s, there was only one studio in downtown Chicago offering a few classes. I would have had to travel to New York if I wanted to take any comprehensive Pilates sessions. Today, Pilates is conveniently offered at my own gym with highly specialized instructors! Very few health clubs are as comprehensive as Life Time Fitness . . . offering Pilates, yoga, aerobics, spin, marathon trainings, boot camps . . the list goes on.
What exactly is Pilates? Pilates is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, without building bulk. The method is a series of controlled (and I mean very controlled) movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus (in our class, that is the Reformer) or on the floor (mat work). Pilates is resistance exercise, not aerobic; although, the heart rate will certainly rise. I sometimes wear my heart monitor and my heart does raise to my Zone 2 & 3 levels. It’s closer to weight lifting than it is to aerobic activities, and so it should be considered resistance exercise. As an avid strength trainer, I use Pilates to refine my posture and core strength – things that I can’t perfect with weight lifting alone. It actually makes me sit and stand more properly and comfortably!!!
Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength and spinal alignment. There are movements in my Pilates class that work muscles I’ve never worked before! Pilates is unique in that it truly targets the core, including the very hard to train lower abdominal muscles. Everyone talks about using your “core” but what exactly is it??? The “core” consists of the spine, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. Some of the main core muscles are the erector spinae (located in your back along your spine), the internal and external obliques (the sides of your abdomen), the transverse abdominis (located deep in your gut, this muscle pulls your belly button in toward your spine), the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack”), and hip flexors (in your pelvis and upper leg). Now, who doesn’t want to tone those muscles?!?
During a Pilates session with Pam, whether it’s on the Reformer or on the mat, she continuously prompts us to concentrate deeply on those core muscles, as well as on our breath, the contraction of our muscles, and the quality (not quantity) of our movements. Practicing that coordinated concentration enhances our life outside of the studio as well as we carry the control through to our lives. It helps us connect our body, mind and spirit to create peace withn.
Pam pushes you to stretch to your most optimal level without overstepping your limits. As an example of her highly individualized instruction, on the first day of my small group class (there are 4 of us), Pam had us perform basic stretches on the Reformer and mat to identiy our current (or pre-Pilates) flexibilty and strength levels. As she approached each of us throughout the hour, she demonstrated differentiated movements for each of us to tackle according to our own body’s abilities. Now that we’re each acclimated to the Pilates fundamentals, every session consists of choreographed movements that push each of us at our own paces and alignments. Individualized instruction at group pricing!
Grading Girl gives Pamela Barich’s Pilates class an A+ for a healthful way to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Men and women of various ages and fitness levels take Pilates. I walk out of class feeling lithe and light with a super-straight posture. I guarantee you will gain from it as well.
CHECK OUT MY SECOND POST IN THIS SERIES HERE: Progression in Pam’s Pilates
** Try a class!! Pam offers a FREE introductory session to anyone interested. You don’t even have to be a Lifetime member for the free trial. Email her at email@example.com. Don’t forget to tell her Grading Girl sent you! 🙂 **
Want more proof of how much Pilates can do for your strength and flexibility? Here is a video of Alejandra Randazzo, a veteran Life Time Fitness (Schaumburg) Pilates Instructor, performing on the Reformer:
Come to Life Time Fitness to improve your fitness for a lifetime!
STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ON GG’S PILATES PROGRESS. GG WILL POST TO THIS SERIES EVERY FEW WEEKS.