Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Has Hell Frozen Over?

Yesterday was a big day for me. I often preach about getting out of your comfort zone, so yesterday I went ahead and did something that would get my card pulled in the strength world.

I did a Pilates class!

Thankfully I did it with Tony Gentilcore, which helps my argument a little bit. Regardless, it's something that I've never done before and needed to try. Why did I need to try it? So that I could understand it better. Like Bruce Lee said "Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  I believe that I can learn from almost any situation, and Pilates is included in that. 

(Note: here is Tony's breakdown of the class.)

Admittedly, I was skeptical going into this. My boss asked me if TG had ever done Pilates and if he would be interested in trying it out. I emailed him and we got things rolling. I chose Shelley as our instructor since she and I have always had a good relationship and I've gotten a pretty good sense of her style from our conversations.

We met up yesterday and, in a totally bromantic coincidence, Tony and I were dressed nearly identically. After a brief history of Pilates from Shelley, we headed into the group exercise room for our lesson. Our session was mat-based because Shelley felt the reformers we had wouldn't quite do it for us. 

I was immediately humbled by our experience. A lot of Pilates is based around isometric contractions, which is something I don't often do. On top of that, we were doing what basically amounted to an isometric crunch. It didn't stop there though, it got harder in ways I wasn't really expecting. Tony talks about this in his blog too, but the breathing was the hardest thing for me. Absolutely everything in strength training teaches you to brace your core. Push out against your weight belt, fill up your belly, get tight. These are some common cues to give people when they are lifting. Instead, it was draw in your belly button and breathe. Huh? Really? How the hell am I supposed to do that? I instinctively felt myself brace during every movement we had to do, and had to really think about breathing the way we were told. 

I'm not going to lie: it was tough. By the end we were both pretty ragged. I'm sure one of the reasons it was so tough for us was because we were both able to follow Shelley's cues and activate the right muscles at the right time. (I'm writing this the day after, and I am acutely aware of my glute medius).  At no point did I think "this is a joke", rather I kept thinking about the ways which Pilates could help some of my clients. A surprising number of the cues share some similarities and I couldn't help but picture the strength training correlate to some of the cues she gave us. 

Yup, there were glute bridges involved. As were pushups, and planks and lunges. My training sessions also involve those exercises...weird.

As state before, this Pilates session really made me think about activating particular muscles. Shelley did a great job explaining what she wanted from us and did an even better job getting it every time. She was hands-on and would guide us into doing what needed to get done. Movements were either regressed (for Tony) or progressed very quickly and everything was challenging. 

I personally wasn't thrilled with the amount of time spent in a crunch position since I feel most people over-train their rectus abdominus anyway. It was evened out with some time spent in the plank position, though. Also, there wasn't really a way for us to challenge our backs, something that I think a lot of people need work on. Clearly there are ways to remedy this on a reformer, but for now I can only speak on what I experienced.

Would I do it again? Sure I would. It's another tool in the toolbox. It could be a good recovery day activity that would awaken/activate muscles all over your body, while simultaneously providing some static stretch to your body. I would also recommend it to a client who needed a day of activation in order to "learn" their body a little more. Learning how to engage your core and keep a stable pelvis is one of the keys to getting strong and I can see how Pilates would be able to help teach/reinforce that motion. 

Pretty much how we ended our Pilates session
I'm certainly not going to stop lifting heavy shit and start buying slim fight LuLuLemon pants, but I wouldn't be opposed to doing Pilates with Shelley every once in a while. Learn what is useful and reject what isn't, right?

Step out of your comfort zone today. See what you can learn!


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