Pilates: Reformer vs Mat

Getting in shape is certainly not easy. But there are ways of getting in shape and having fun at the same time. Many people are able to master the art of toning their muscles and staying balanced with the practice of Pilates.

At Zero Gravity Fitness in Ocoee, we offer Pilates classes to help people get in shape without any high-intensity workouts or heavy weightlifting. Pilates is a great low-impact workout method that shapes long, lean muscles while still building strength, stability and flexibility. Contact Zero Gravity Fitness today to find out more about our Pilates classes, or stop by our fitness studio to speak to one of our staff members.

All about Pilates

Pilates is a practice that is similar to yoga but more intense. It was created and developed by a man named Joseph Pilates and is now practiced in gyms and medical spas throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Two Different Types of Pilates: Reformer and Mat

The main promises of Pilates are always to benefit your core strength, help center your mind-body connection, increase your flexibility and build lean muscles where you want them. Many professional athletes and dancers swear by Pilates as a way to calm the spirit and get a good workout in at the same time. But when you’re new to Pilates, you may have some questions. One of these questions often concerns whether you should be sitting in a piece of reformer equipment or out on a yoga mat.

Pilates on the Mat

Pilates on the mat is certainly the most traditional of the options. When most people think of Pilates, they think of it being done on the mat. Certainly, this option can be great at getting you centered and toning your body. Many beginners start here because they can continue their practice at home or on-the-go without the need for an expensive reformer. You’ll also be able to learn how to control each part of your body better on your own if you start on the mat.

Pilates on the Reformer

On the other hand, Pilates on a reformer has some amazing benefits as well. Many people are quite intimidated by the look of a reformer, but it’s really a simple machine that can aid you in your practice. The device is made up of a sliding rack where you are positioned. It includes pulleys, straps, cables and bars for helping with different poses and movements. Resistance from pulleys and straps helps you strength train while the alignment of the device keeps you straight.

Which Style is Right for You?

If you are interested in learning more about Pilates on the mat, on the reformer or both, there are always classes available for anyone and everyone. The truth is, one of these Pilates styles is not better than the other.

If you’ve already had some experience with Pilates, you’ll be all set to start in an intermediate or advanced class, but if you are just beginning, don’t be intimidated. There are friendly beginner classes waiting for you in both of these forms of Pilates. As a side note, many people opt to start on a reformer with a few private lessons first. This gives them a taste for the device before they start in with a class.

Who Was Joseph Pilates?

At Zero Gravity Fitness in Ocoee, we offer some of the top Pilates programs in Florida for our clients, from beginners to those who have practiced Pilates for decades. Contact Zero Gravity today to learn more.

Many newcomers to Pilates may not know about its founder and how he developed the exercise program that bears his name.

Colorado-based Pilates expert Marguerite Ogle recently wrote about Joseph Pilates for www.about.com.

So here is a little Pilates history!

Joseph Pilates, a German native, was living in England and earning a living as a performer with the circus, and as a boxer. He was sent to an internment camp in England when World War I broke out. While there, he started creating floor exercises that eventually became the now-familiar Pilates mat work.

Joseph Pilates worked to help rehabilitate detainees who were sick and injured. With no exercise equipment to work with, Pilates used bed springs and any other items he could find as resistance exercise equipment for those he worked with. These odd items were the predecessors of equipment many Pilates practitioners use today, such as the reformer.

Unhealthy while growing up, Joseph Pilates became interested in self-improvement. He was drawn to Eastern practices, Zen Buddhism – and deeply inspired by the Greek ideal of the man perfected through the development of his body, mind and spirit. Pilates also studied anatomy and worked to become a multi-faceted athlete, throwing himself into wrestling, gymnastics, boxing, skiing, body building and even diving.

After World War I, Pilates returned for a time to Germany. He worked for the Hamburg Military Police, focusing on self-defense and physical fitness training.

In 1925, he left Germany on a voyage to New York City. On the way to America, he met Clara, a nurse whom he would eventually marry. He opened a studio in New York, and along with Clara, worked to develop the Pilates method of exercise, which included Pilates equipment. He began to work with students to share his knowledge.

Pilates would teach in New York for four decades, beginning in 1926 and ending in 1966.

He trained students who made his work part of their own lives, and who later taught the Pilates method to others. This first group of teachers who trained under Joseph Pilates became known as the Pilates Elders.

Some taught Joseph Pilates’ method just as he did. The approach became known as classical style Pilates. Some of his other students combined what they learned with their own research.

Joseph Pilates’ New York studio exposed his work to the city’s thriving dance community. Many well-known dancers relied on Pilates training for strength and grace.

Pilates died in 1967, but what a life he lived! He maintained his physique all through his life and remained in top condition, even into his 80s.

Pilates also enjoyed a good time. He enjoyed cigars and a good party. Pilates often wore his exercise briefs as he walked the streets of New York.

Clara Pilates continued teaching and running her husband’s studio for another decade after Joseph Pilates died.

Today, Pilates is practiced by people around the world. Old Joseph likely would have been pleased.

Pilates for Older Adults

Getting older doesn’t mean you need to stop exercising – in fact the opposite is true.

Exercise is key to remaining healthy and active as we age, and Pilates is a great exercise program for older adults. At Zero Gravity Fitness in Ocoee, we offer a variety of Pilates and other fitness and training programs. Contact us today to learn more.

The publication Mature Resources recently reported on how older adults are turning to Pilates to keep their bodies and minds as fit as possible.

Why Pilates?

Pilates is a great exercise for older adults because it’s low impact, which means it’s easier on the joints, which can be problematic areas for many older people who exercise. Pilates also helps people focus on proper breathing and movement, rather than repetitive movements.

Traditional workouts often focus on the number of repetitions you can do and the amount of weight you can lift. This approach can lead to muscle bulk, but that can lead to an increased risk of muscle injury, especially in older folks.

Pilates focuses on the body’s core while elongating and strengthening muscles. This improves mobility and elasticity of the joints. It’s a solid fitness approach – but one that is much easier on the aging body, which often is not as well equipped to handle more rigorous exercise routines.

Pilates is great for older adults because it addresses all the body’s muscle groups – weak and strong. And the stronger and more flexible you become, the less likely you are to fall – a major concern for older people, especially those who live by themselves.

Pilates also can improve posture while you walk, your balance and your gait speed.

As we get older, we often stress our hip flexors when we walk. When this occurs, falls can happen. Pilates promotes strong abdominal muscles that are essential for the body to function as a single unit.

Every movement, including walking, should be started by stabilizing the body’s core, which calls for contracting stomach muscles.

The goal is to align your body so your spine is stable and abdominal muscles become engaged. Limbs should be active, feet mobile and breathing conscious and regular. This approach will help you gain a more relaxed and fluid gait while you walk. Your speed also should improve.

Many older people walk by taking narrow and constricted steps as they propel themselves forward. Reaching and stretching forward is the better way to walk, and Pilates can help older adults improve their gait.

Pilates workouts can be tailored for older people. At Zero Gravity Fitness, we work with clients individually to ensure their Pilates and other workouts are the right ones for them.

Modifications for older adults can be made as well. Using pillows to support your head when lying on your back is an option, as is using a pillow under your pelvis when lying on your stomach to ease neck and back pain.

Getting older doesn’t mean you have to quit working out. But you may want to change your approach and give Pilates a try. It’s never too late to start!

What you should know before choosing a Pilates studio

You’ve heard about Pilates, and you are ready to give it a try.  The next step is an important one.  Choosing the right Pilates studio can make or break your experience.

When entering into any exercise program, the experience and quality of the training is of the utmost importance.  Because of the unique nature of Pilates, and the lack of oversight in the industry, it is extremely important that new students research potential studios before making a decision on the perfect fit for their individual needs.

The following tips for choosing a studio should help you get started on the right path:

How long has the studio been in business?  Experience matters.  A well-established studio means repeat clientele and a solid reputation.  Before paying for services, review the business’s history and read testimonials.

Is the studio equipped with all of the equipment necessary for the complete Pilates experience?  Pilates is a very complex form of exercise that requires specialized equipment.  Beware of studios that cut corners by offering limited services.

Is the studio sanitary? Tour the studio before committing.  The environment should be clean and well maintained.  Pilates is usually done barefoot and equipment is shared throughout the day.  Make sure the studio has a strong focus on cleanliness.

How comprehensive is the instructor training?  Be sure to ask if the instructors are certified on all of the equipment. Each piece of equipment offers unique exercises that are chosen for the individual client’s needs. Instructors should be proficient in the Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair and Barrels.  A respectable studio will be willing to give the name of the program that each instructor has attended.  There are many certifications out there, but few are considered reputable within the industry.

What are the studio’s requirements for joining a group setting?  If the studio is looking out for your benefit, and not a quick sale, they should require at least one introductory session before allowing students to join a group setting.  Making sure students are adequately prepared for a group shows responsible instruction and professional integrity.

Is the consent form and questionnaire in depth enough to highlight a client’s potential needs?  It is essential that the instructor is aware of any conditions or injuries a student may have.  Improper programming can lead to injury.

Does the studio’s schedule work with your schedule?  If making appointments or scheduling classes becomes difficult, chances are you will not be consistent.  Make sure to choose a studio that fits your scheduling needs.

Finally, trust your instincts.  After visiting a studio and talking with instructors, you should feel at ease and excited about getting on your way to wellness!

Men And Pilates

While more women than men have practiced Pilates in recent years, more and more men are discovering its benefits and using Pilates to become healthier, more fit and gain increased vitality. Male professional athletes routinely utilize Pilates to improve their flexibility and focus, and the practice, once considered not macho enough for male athletes, is gaining male converts in droves. At Zero Gravity Fitness in Ocoee, our professional, highly trained and friendly staff can teach you the benefits of Pilates, whether you are new to the practice or a long-time devotee. Men’s Fitness magazine recently reported on the benefits that Pilates can bring to men who may have been hesitant to try the program. While Pilates can be difficult, men who accept the challenging program can see benefits in many areas and improve their performance – from weightlifting and distance running to better overall health and well-being. Pilates exercises are subtle and concentrated movements that can help men and women. Men’s Fitness offered five areas where men especially can benefit. They include:

  • Strengthening muscles that have long been neglected:

Some muscles dominate everyday movements and thus are stronger than other muscles. With Pilates, you can focus on muscles that are often overlooked and do not get the attention they deserve. Pilates allows you to purposely move with motions designed to build muscles that you don’t develop while lifting weights.

  • Better flexibility:

Generally speaking, if your total muscle mass is pretty big, it’s likely that your flexibility suffers. With Pilates, you can focus on stretching. These movements help prevent sports and other injuries, including many muscle strains, while also improving your overall range of motion.

  • Creating better core strength:

Pilates exercises turn the spotlight on your core and help produce and increase limb movement. Pilates also focuses on transverse abdominal muscles, the base abdominal muscle located under your six-pack.

  • Improving focus:

Pilates is designed to increase your ability to pay attention. Focusing on breathing while performing each movement and concentration on proper form are key to Pilates success. If done correctly, a Pilates session should make you feel refreshed and relaxed, feelings which should carry into the day and even longer in some cases.

  • An enhanced sex life:
  • Pilates bolsters your core and the pelvic region. Experts report men who practice Pilates have more control over this part of the body and that regular Pilates workouts can improve your performance in the bedroom.

Millions of people around the world practice Pilates, with more and more men joining in each day. If you are interested in learning more about Pilates and how it can help you achieve better health and become more vital and into life, contact the professionals at Zero Gravity today.

Zero Gravity Fitness: Pilates can ease back pain

Is lower back pain making your life miserable?

Are easy tasks like bending down to tie your shoe laces becoming difficult because they hurt your back?

Is back pain hurting your job performance?

If lower back pain is negatively impacting your life, Pilates can help you become pain-free, healthier and live a fuller life.

Zero Gravity Fitness in Ocoee can help you develop a Pilates program to ease back pain and put you on the road to a fitter and more flexible you.
Lower back pain is common and many tolerate the discomfort in silence. Studies show 31 million people in the United States complain of lower back pain at any given time.
Did you know that:

• Lower back pain is the biggest cause of disability across the globe.
• It is one of the top reasons people miss work.
• Back pain is the second most common complaint of patients visiting their doctors. Upper respiratory problems are the number one reason behind visits to the doctor or emergency room.
• About $50 billion is spent on lower back pain issues in the United States each year.
• About 80 percent of people will suffer from lower back pain during their lifetimes.

Pilates can prevent you and your back from becoming part of those painful statistics.
At Zero Gravity, our staff is ready to help you get rid of back pain with the help of Pilates – whether you have never taken a class or are an experienced practitioner.
How does Pilates help your back? And who can benefit from a Pilates program?

Those with back pain caused by excessive movement or degenerative disc disease are likely to find relief through Pilates, which promotes better posture – and in turn cuts pressure and stress on back joints and discs.
Zero Gravity offers hour and half-hour Pilates sessions with trained and certified teachers who will help you get the most out of your Pilates program.
We can assist you in reducing back pain by:

• Teaching proper spinal alignment.
• Building up muscles that support your spine, while staying away from exercises that stress or harm your back.
• Designing a Pilates program that will keep back pain from reappearing and promote better back health.

Those with serious back pain should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
To reduce your back pain, improve your flexibility and fitness and to enjoy life to the fullest, consider the Pilates programs offered at Zero Gravity Fitness.
You have nothing to lose – except for that nagging pain in your back!
Contact Zero Gravity today to learn more about Pilates and how it can help you.

Mat or Reformer? The First Pilates Question

Many times, when a new client comes to Zero Gravity, they ask a simple but critical question: What will work better for me – the Mat Pilates class or the Reformer class? Should I do both?

The answer is   . . . it depends.

Both forms of Pilates do amazing thing for your body. In Mat Pilates, you use your weight as resistance. It focuses on core strength, balance, and muscle and joint alignment. A Mat workout will get at every muscle in your body.

Reformer Plates does all of the above, but uses simple equipment, involving springs and pulleys, to assist you with the exercises and keep your body safe.

So how do you choose? Ideally, we recommend a consultation with one of our staff members to determine which of our classes and instruction models will work best for you. However, here are some basic principles to consider:

Reformer Class:

Reformer equipment offers many benefits. When you have the springs and the pulleys to assist you, finding your core and your balance is simpler. Clients often find Reformer to be a gentle starting place, although it can be seriously challenging once you get to level Four!

Many clients also prefer our Reformer classes because they are smaller (no larger than seven participants) and thus more individualized.

Consider starting with our Reformer class if you:

  • Are recovering from a specific injury or have a history of injury
  • Have a serious and / or chronic health issue, such as Fibromyalgia or arthritis
  • Have a specific spinal issue, such as scoliosis
  • Are overweight
  • Have a very specific goal in mind
  • Need more individualized attention to succeed

Mat Pilates:

As you can probably guess from its name, Mat Pilates is done on the floor, generally in larger groups, though class size should NEVER exceed fifteen. Although participants generally use their own body weight to perform the exercises, sometimes small equipment (balls, blocks, bands, chairs, etc) are used to assist or challenge the body.

Consider starting with our Mat Pilates class if you:

  • Are in good physical shape with no injuries or history of injuries
  • Have no serious or chronic health issues
  • Are a healthy weight
  • Do not need as much individual attention to succeed or to perform the exercises correctly
  • Can manage the added difficulty of working against gravity, without guidance from any apparatus

Regardless of which method you decide to begin with (or if you decide to use both), Pilates will give you the long, strong, lean body you always wanted. For class times see our schedule, and for details of our programs, please see these links to group classes and Reformer classes.

Real Men do Pilates

Most people hear the word Pilates and immediately picture a woman on a mat, or a woman using a Reformer machine. As a result, and despite LeBron James famous tweet of himself doing Pilates, too few men are taking advantage of what Pilates can offer.

Let’s start by remembering that Pilates was invented by a man. In fact, Joseph Pilates was a German boxer and a self-defense expert. Yes, you read that correctly – a boxer and self-defense expert, as well as circus performer and fitness innovator.

At one point in his life, prior to World War Two, Pilates developed training programs for the Hamburg police as well as the German army. Hardly a feminine clientele!

It was only after Pilates immigrated to New York City that his method – then known as Contrology – became popular with professional ballet dancers, such as George Ballanchine, Martha Graham and Jerome Robbins.

For this reason, Pilates’ methods became associated more with dancers and women than with injured soldiers and police officers in training. Yet Pilates has a great deal to offer men and women both.

Here are five simple reasons to try Pilates:

  • Improved core strength: Every Pilates exercise demands that you focus on using your core. Pilates hits every muscle in your abs, including your transverse abdominals. This muscle group forms the base of your six-pack (or future six pack, as the case may be!).
  • Rebalanced muscles: In ordinary life, some muscles get used and strengthened more than others, particularly if you lift weights. Pilates works neglected muscle groups, getting at areas you don’t hit while lifting. By working these many smaller muscles, our clients gain a leaner, longer physique. Trust us on this one.
  • Increased flexibility and range: Pilates’ focus on stretching helps to prevent injury and muscle strain, and improves your range of motion.
  • Lower back pain relief: Due to all of the above, Pilates can be a potent cure for chronic lower back pain. What could be better than moving through your day with more ease and less pain?
  • Stress relief: Pilates forces you to slow down, focus your attention and use your breath. After Pilates, you’ll feel relaxed and reinvigorated, and in a better mental place. In today’s hectic, 24-7 world, that’s a pretty amazing result.

Still not convinced?  Read about men who have tried Pilates and found it to be the perfect antidote for a tired fitness regime. See this story about professional athletes and Pilates from USA today, or this story from Men’s Fitness, or this post from Sparkpeople.

And remember, if a seven-foot tall, world-class athlete like LeBron James finds Pilates a workout worth doing, you just might, too.

Zero Gravity Fitness