How Do You Address Misconceptions About Pilates?

Uniting the Industry: Pilates instructors share how they handle common myths.

Dispelling Myths With Great Instruction

“‘Pilates is mostly for women.’ Because of this myth, we work hard to make sure our men’s class is outstanding. We designed it to enhance running, cycling and surfing, and all of our men comment on how the class has positively impacted their sport. It’s fantastic to see strong men get blown away by the subtle posture corrections and use of the core muscles. By the end of a session, they are sweating and high-fiving us for a great workout.

“‘You have to be flexible to take Pilates.’ We explain that we tailor our program to the needs of each client. For example, with clients who are extremely flexible, we work on stability so they are strong throughout their full range of motion. Often, dancers and gymnasts are weak at the end of their range of motion or lack integrity in their joints, and they can be vulnerable to injury.

“‘You need to have good coordination to do Pilates.’ We tell students that Pilates develops coordination. A good instructor will start you off with the simple basics of breath and movement and then slowly increase the amount of coordination and balance. The challenge of adding coordination to an exercise increases the development of strength and endurance, and challenges the nervous system. If we always do the same movement, the nervous system adapts and we no longer feel challenged. We need to learn new things to stay young and develop new neural pathways.”

--Instructor Staff, Center of Movement and Balance, Solana Beach, California

Educating Students About the Facts

“‘Pilates exercises are difficult and very strenuous.’ I tell students that when Joseph Pilates was alive, he called his method ‘Contrology’ because it is about control of the body. Everything in Pilates is done with precision and, if done diligently and regularly, can contribute to increased body awareness. Form is of prime importance, and speed in execution is irrelevant.

“Pilates is done at the pace a person is comfortable with and hence is one of the most appropriate exercise programs for elderly people, those new to exercise and even disabled people. I caution students not to be intimidated by instructors who teach group classes at an advanced level. This is a great way to get injured. I advise taking private lessons with a knowledgeable instructor so the individual can work at his or her own level, learn the proper way to do the work, avoid injury and get the most out of his or her practice.

“‘Pilates is just for women.’ It is true that lots of women enjoy Pilates, and because of this, men may shy away. I remind them that Pilates was developed by a man and most definitely created so that everyone could enjoy it. Many male athletes have discovered the benefits of Pilates. The results a Pilates practice can yield are particularly beneficial for men and [give them] something that is often neglected in traditional sports and calisthenics.”

--Josie Roth, Owner, Infrastructure Pilates, Los Angeles

Helping Students Feel Successful, Reach Goals

“‘Pilates is too hard; it's not for me.’ We as instructors have an opportunity to encourage clients who believe Pilates is too difficult. One way to do this is by sharing success stories from previous clients. Once a new client is in front of us, we can share all the benefits of Pilates. We want every client to feel successful and know he or she can accomplish his or her goals. It requires us to know when to push and when to step back, and always to encourage the person in front of us.

“‘Pilates does not engage the arms and/or legs.’ I like to address this with the ‘intentionality factor.’ I explain that every movement in class (and, hopefully, outside of class) is done with intention and purpose. So, if one's legs are not fully engaged, are the inner thighs active? Is the client intentionally reaching through the tops of the thighs and extending the legs? If the arms are lax, again, is the client actively reaching? Are the triceps muscles working? Are the shoulder blades long and wide along the back? I pass these questions and cues on to clients so that they are engaged and present throughout their entire body and not just in parts.

“‘Pilates is a weight loss program.’ Pilates has the amazing capacity to shape and hone our bodies, and to develop length and build strength, but it wasn’t designed as a means for weight loss. Clients who want to lose weight need a cardiovascular workout in addition to their Pilates regimen. Some might require a nutritionist to help make lifestyle changes. We are there to encourage and help clients reach their goals with the proper training and skills we have at hand.”

--Stephanie Hall, Turning Point Fitness, Westerville, Ohio

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Mary Monroe

IDEA Author/Presenter
Mary Monroe is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.
November 2011

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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Article Comments

Kelley Watson
On Nov 29, 2011
There are misconceptions about Pilates because of the way it is marketed - depicting perfect bodies in the most advanced positions. A normal person looks at the impossibly beautiful and fit person and thinks: " I could never look like that, or do that, so why bother? I'll sign up for Step Class or Water Aerobics instead."

Also, the majority of instructors are twenty-something dancers in great physical condition, which can be even more intimidating. These instructors generally have neither empathy nor life experience to offer the client.

If Pilates is to survive, it will need to change its image from the uber-fit, uber-young in order to appeal to a broader cross-section of the population.

Anonymous
On Nov 29, 2011
The Pilates instructors I know don't fit a certain physical ideal. They represent a wide range of physiques and backgrounds. What I notice about them is a connectiveness to how our bodies are intended tp move. They understand that each of us is built differently and, therefore, our bodies look and perform in their own unique ways. A good instructor will encourage the client to challenge themselves without competing with others in class. Instructing a Pilates class is not a performance. It requires awareness and observation of the class. Offering challenges and modifications as necessary. The benefits of Pilates include improved posture, strength, flexibility and carriage. Hopefully this is what you notice about any Pilates instructor. Why wouldn't you want to emulate that? Maybe they just plain feel good and exude that energy!

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