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Pilates Myths…Debunked

My favorite thing about my job as a Pilates instructor is empowering clients to find their movement potential through Pilates. It is my job to help my clients find body awareness and connect with the body they are currently living in. It is a privilege and a pleasure to watch the process unfold; there are the lightbulb moments, progressions to pain-free movement, goals being reached and new goals to aim for.

By Kristine Cracknell  ::  Photography by Kelsey Grudle

Then, there is my second favorite part of being a Pilates instructor. This part happens outside the walls of a Fitness Center. It happens most often when I’m at a social event. Sometimes it happens when sitting next to a stranger on an airplane. Most recently, it happened while I was getting a flu shot. My second favorite thing about being a Pilates instructor is answering the question, “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you work?” 

When I tell people that I am a Pilates instructor, I find myself answering a lot of questions about what it is, how you “do” it and why. But more often than not, I find myself debunking common myths out there surrounding Pilates. If you’re still reading this, chances are you may have some questions yourself. In case we don’t run into each other in the grocery store or have the opportunity to chat in the Fitness Center, allow me to set the record straight regarding some common misconceptions about the wonderful world of Pilates.

Allow me to set the record straight regarding some common misconceptions about the wonderful world of Pilates.

1. “I have a bad back, knee, hip….”

Get the green light from your doctor and then let’s talk. Wear and tear, loss of bone density, childbirth, repetitive faulty movement patterns and traumatic injuries all wreak havoc on our joints and in our spines that can result in pain. Restriction of any kind, both psychological and physical, can lead to compensation patterns. As a result, compensation can lead to malalignment. If you’ve been advised or given clearance by your doctor to begin an exercise program, Pilates can be a safe and effective way to manage the body you’re living in. An experienced, comprehensively certified Pilates instructor can choose appropriately modified workouts with the goal of quality functional movement, increased range of motion and alignment. In a Pilates session, there is no gain from pain. When you walk away from your Pilates workout, the goal is to feel stronger and supported. Carla Northington began Pilates 10 years ago to relieve back pain and says, “My regular workouts on the Pilates reformer have been extremely beneficial in keeping my joints healthy and the muscles around them strengthened. Because of Pilates, I’ve been able to live an active life enjoying all of the things I love doing.”

2. “Pilates is geared towards women. I have zero flexibility. I don’t own yoga pants.”

Guys, I get it. But consider this: the same benefits that women gain from a Pilates workout also apply to men. I have yet to meet a male client who did not benefit from a core-focused workout. I’m not talking about the proverbial six pack abs; I’m talking about the deeper, stabilizing muscles that help support the spine. “Pilates was recommended to me after my back surgery eight years ago. It has been key to keeping my back healthy and it’s been a great core-strengthening exercise that’s benefited me in snow-skiing and golf. And it’s harder than it looks; I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to diversify their workouts. It improves flexibility, which is a key in overall strength,” says Charlie Hill, a regular at Pilates. Pilates targets and tones the small, supporting muscles needed whether you’re lifting the heavy weights in the gym or the tired toddler looking up at you. And guys, if your flexibility rivals that of a laptop, the Pilates reformer will meet you where you are. Practicing Pilates on a reformer, when the limbs and torso are being supported and not fighting against gravity, is the perfect place to create better range of motion. Some of the biggest gains in flexibility have come from my male clients. So far, none of them have shown up in yoga pants.

3. “It’s like a glorified stretch session, right?”

Not exactly. While the stretching components can sometimes feel glorious, the strength piece is equally important and plays a major role in each exercise. In a Pilates session there is a big emphasis on lengthening muscles through eccentric movements (thus, the stretch label.) The reality is that Pilates focuses on both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions which work to achieve a balanced body. Member Erin Walker practices Pilates two to three times per week and says, “I love Pilates because it fits my body type. It’s not stretching but long, lean muscle toning. It’s my happy place. I feel ready to face the day after a workout with Kris on the reformer. My body and mind feel stronger after.”

Ready to discover more truths about Pilates? Group reformer and mat classes are offered Monday through Friday. Check the group exercise calendar for class descriptions and times. Private sessions and/or consultations are required before joining a group reformer class. Private sessions can be set up by contacting one of our certified Pilates instructors at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch.

Kris Cracknell can be reached at 210.860.7322 or pilates@cordilleraranch.com.
Amy Steinwald can be reached at 773.218.9816 or amysteinwald@gmail.com.