At 90 years old, the Pilates method of strengthening and stretching the body has withstood the test of time –it is not the latest fitness fad, and it has proven its effectiveness again and again. From ordinary Joes and Jills to A-listers like Sandra Bullock and Lucy Liu, every body benefits from the brilliance of this workout.
German immigrant Joseph Pilates was self-taught and developed his method to bring his own sickly body to peak physical condition in his youth. By studying the movements of animals in their natural habitats, and scouring medical journals and texts, Pilates analyzed how the body moved optimally, and set out to build a repertoire of exercises to achieve and support this. He originally called his method “Contrology”
In his words:
“Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily "ad-nausem. Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit. The art of Contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life.”
Fast forward to 2014 at MOVE! Meet Rae Gutkowski, a long-time client and Pilates enthusiast. A life-long exerciser, Rae discovered the benefits of Pilates recently.
“When I first started exercising, I did it to have a toned, slim body. I was 33 years old. I started working out at a gym after the birth of my second child,” says Gutkowski. “Today, my goals are the same, but I also want to be strong, have stamina, and good posture as my body ages.”
Like many MOVE! clients Gutkowski struggles with juggling the demands of parenting, life and fitting exercise into a full schedule. “When I had small children to care for at home and also work, I found I needed to make a plan to fit exercise into my schedule formally. Otherwise, it was the first thing on the list to get cut.”
In addition to maintaining a very regular weekly exercise schedule, Gutkowski enjoys outdoor activities including lots of yard work, riding her road bike, walking or running on weekend, and snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing in the winter.
“I started taking Pilates sessions once a week about three years ago,” she states. “My shoulder joints were not flexible. I did BODYPUMP® and had developed muscle, but I couldn't lift my arms overhead without my shoulders riding up,” she says. She noted that while she was toned, her posture needed improvement and she wanted better core strength.
“When I first began Pilates, I thought how strange it was - I was so used to working out in a high impact aerobic manner. It took some time to get to know the Pilates philosophy and techniques.” She explains that it takes time to train your body to use your core and posture muscles. “Once you get this part of it mentally, your body becomes physically stronger in these areas.”
Once she started feeling the positive changes in her body, she added a Pilates Tower class each week.
“The thing I like most about Pilates is the endless variety of exercises that are available,” she says. “Every session is always different, even though there is a certain set of baseline exercises. With a Tower class, I like the amount of overall stretching I get, especially in the hamstrings, shoulders and spine. I do not think any other exercise class addresses the lengthening and flexibility of the spine like Pilates. The work on the Reformer does a lot for my feet.”
Today, she says “My posture muscles are so much stronger and more flexible. And, to my surprise, my feet are much more flexible and well balanced. I really notice this when I walk and run outdoors, or walk in bare feet on the sand. My balance is much better also because my feet and core muscles are stronger.”
Gutkowski has seen these benefits transcend her regular Pilates workouts: ‘Everything else I do - whether it's exercising, working in the yard, walking for pleasure - is more controlled and stronger.”
“I get something different out of each of these classes and am forever "hooked!” exclaims Gutkowski.
Gutkowski’s most profound take-away from establishing exercise and Pilates as a life habit is the effect she has had on her children. “My daughters watch what I do, what I eat, how I live my life. The best thing I think I have done is set an example of living a healthy, active lifestyle. They both workout and understand the commitment and importance of being fit”.
Well before his rise to level of international presenter and master trainer for Les Mills fitness programs, Kurt schooled himself in the classical Pilates method. Eighteen months and 600 hours of training with Power Pilates in New York city set the foundation for an exciting career in Pilates and fitness. At the ten year mark, he is as passionate today about exercise and fitness, and loves to teach and progress clients through the exciting and varied library of Pilates exercises.
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