Welcome to Your Ultimate Pilates Body® Challenge!
As many of you know, Pilates is one of those wonderful phenomena that has broken through the surface of the collective consciousness in the last few years to emerge as a "hot new trend." Fewer people realize that Pilates brings almost one hundred years of history with it.
Created by Joseph H. Pilates to strengthen his frail and sickly body, Pilates was then translated to specific apparatus to help those unable to support their own body weight. It debuted in 1920s New York City as the lengthening, strengthening, and rehabilitation secret of stars, starlets, dancers, and acrobats and then all but disappeared for the next few decades, remaining known only to the small population interested in physical fitness. Today that demographic extends to include most everyone looking for strong, long, lean muscles, inspired either by the media culture or touched by an injury.
Dressed up or dressed down, at the core of the Pilates movement today still beats the heart of the Pilates of yesteryear. Designed to use the art and science of muscle control—what Joseph Pilates termed Contrology—to help you achieve the body that looks good, feels good, and sustains you for a lifetime, Pilates is ageless, colorless, and genderless; and once incorporated into your subconscious, it marries the joy of movement with the efficiency of your most challenging workout.
Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities. Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind capable of performing everyday tasks with ease and perfection. They also provide tremendous reserve energy for sports, recreation and emergencies.
(Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph H. Pilates)
Many of you are old friends, readers I know from The Pilates Body. I hope, too, many of you are new friends, readers who have picked up Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge because you are intrigued by expanding your awareness and your body's potential. And, finally, welcome to the reader who is not yet in shape—or who was in shape and is somehow, now, mysteriously, feeling as if he or she were living in someone else's body, because I can relate! Halfway through the writing of this book, I had a baby—and suddenly became my own audience. So, as I wrote and rewrote, read and reread this book's philosophy I also relived the work from the ground up.
I began writing Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge before I was pregnant. Why? Because I was seeing what I felt was an alarming trend. Every day I had clients coming in and doing amazing work, then abandoning basic posture and alignment before they got to the sidewalk. I began to do some research. What I discovered was a twofold problem: Clients were stagnating within their solo workout sessions, and they weren't applying what they had learned in the studio when they were off the mat. Off the mat? Yes. Because Pilates is more than the exercises performed in a studio. It's about personal responsibility, active self-care, and feeling good as you move through your day and your life. More than a series of movements, it's a philosophy and a mind-set. Because, if your brain is not active and engaged and working, it won't matter how good you look; you won't feel your best. Without your conscious brain, your body is like any piece of equipment without an owner's manual. Usable, but too often a mystery.
And, as I said, I understand that feeling of mystery! After having my beautiful baby, I discovered that even though I had been physically fit, and educated, my body had become a mystery. Although I knew intellectually where I should be lifting from and which muscles I should be engaging, the communication lines between my brain and my body appeared to have been disconnected. I needed to reread the owner's manual. So, Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge became that manual. Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge asks you to take a real look at your body—beyond the number that appears on the scale. Can you discover why you've hit a plateau within your workout? Why you always end up with knee pain? Why your neck feels strained at the end of the day?
I want you to get moving—and have fun and be efficient while doing what you do. One thing I've learned as a new mom is that time is of the essence; I needed to get more out of less time. Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge is full of both new mat routines and ways to take what you've learned in the studio off the mat and into the world with Pilates Interval Training at the Gym, the Invisible Workout™, and Pilates for the Sports Minded.
People need three things out of their fitness programs:
* Cardiovascular conditioning
Pilates has all three! Too often, however, it is thought of as a system that is specific to dancers, rehabilitation, or meditation.
I wrote Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge to help Pilates beat this rap, to change the perception that Pilates is limited to an arena outside your daily scope of living or working out. Like many of you, I am busy multitasking the many matters that make up my day-to-day life; and when I am ready, willing, and able to work out, it can't be so complicated as to put me off, so boring as to not challenge me, or so ineffectual as to waste my precious time. With those principles in mind, I put together the building blocks of Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge so that they can be stacked and moved around as best suit your needs.
With the principles you'll find in Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, those of you just beginning can create a safe, challenging, and efficient workout, and those of you who have become bored with your routine can infuse an old workout with renewed energy and purpose. Interval challenges are included to enhance your cardiovascular output and help burn more calories and dissolve fat.
When you're in the gym, I'll teach you to use your Pilates principles to turn a stale workout routine into a fat-burning, muscle-producing, efficient use of your time. No more plugging away for hours on the same old course, stomping up the same hills, or hanging over the same handlebars.
As a self-confessed gym junkie, I was compelled to create the Pilates-Conscious Cardio Circuit. Armed with the information in Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, you will be able to complete a Pilates-aware circuit at the gym on a variety of machines that will burn more calories in less time. Once you have completed the circuit, you can hit your mat for a 10- to 20-minute Pilates mat routine while your heart is still pumping in the target zone. Fast, fun, and extremely challenging the Pilates-Conscious Cardio Circuit is a high-powered, superconscious workout that engages you both mentally and physically.
For my fellow die-hard Pilates Matwork fans Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge is chock full of new movements, engaging visual and verbal metaphors, tips to progress or modify your matwork, and four fantastic body-specific programs. Adding Abs, Lean Lower Body, Perfecting Posture, and Finding Flexibility contain both the fun and the challenges you need to target your main areas of concern while still giving yourself a total-body workout.
Athletes and sports fans alike will gain insight into their game from the information in the sports section. Here, I took the principles of Pilates and applied them to four of the sports so many of us know and love: tennis, golf, skiing, and snowboarding. As you begin to incorporate this information, you'll add depth and proficiency to your game. Every great athlete must combine artistry with technique, form with function. Pilates is steeped in the art and science of body movement/physiology and a few great visual cues or Pilates form tips can be the difference between good and great when it counts. Whatever your sport of choice is, the guidelines of this section apply.
But what about the days when you can't get to the gym or hit the courts, the course, or the slopes? Unique to Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge is my Invisible Workout, which will serve to keep you tuned in and toned up throughout the day by using simple Pilates-conscious moves that you can execute anywhere and everywhere. Whether a handbag or a hand weight, a child or a chest press—the Invisible Workout will teach you to use the world around you as a tool for improving your fitness and physique.
The Invisible Workout helps you incorporate basic Pilates principles into your daily activities, making the world your gym as well as your oyster. Before my son was born, I had the misguided assumption that I would snap back into shape with little to no effort at all. My Pilates practice served me incredibly well throughout the entire pregnancy, and there was no reason to believe anything but a miraculous recovery was in store. What a rude awakening to discover that my body had a different game plan. I am thankful I had Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge to work on. Every activity and movement in my daily life became another chance to regain my strength and control over my body. Although they seemed like baby steps at times, they added up to more.
The Invisible Workout asks if you can learn to apply the fundamentals of Pilates to real-life situations. For everything from taking out the garbage to sinking a hole-in-one. What will it mean when you can? It will mean you will be working your body naturally throughout the entire day, instead of working your body inefficiently for 1 or 2 hours every other day at the gym. Becoming observant, training the body from the inside out, beginning to rely on its deepest muscles to sit and stand and walk properly, means not only carrying and lifting but running, skating, swimming . . . all your favorite activities begin to flow with ease and efficiency. One of the ways I know my work with clients is starting to pay off is they come in with observations about how they have begun to sit or stand or jog differently, with awareness, and how much better this has made them feel throughout the day. This tells me that they have begun to realize that fitness is not something to put on with their sweat socks—fitness has become second nature, a way of being as they move through the world. What will that translate into? Pounds melting away. Why? Because incorporating these principles into everyday activities means constantly working the body intelligently. And a constant workout needs more muscle. And muscle burns more calories than fat. All of which raises your metabolism, and voile! a supremely toned and shapelier you.
One of the things I've discovered is helpful in this process is to use what I call Metaforms: visual images, or metaphors, that will remind you of your best body form. That's why I've provided visuals throughout the book that will make your brain your best coach. Think of your brain as a muscle—the strongest you've got.
I've also included challenges in each section to help keep brain and body engaged as you move forward. Some of you will take to these immediately, some of you will get there soon—we all define challenge differently.
Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge removes the need for excuses as to why you're not where you want to be physically. It jump starts the beginner and challenges the experienced. It removes the element of boredom because of its multifaceted design intended to mix and match exercises for any situation. This book works as hard as you do (or will) to make sure that your workout time is efficient, exciting, innovative, and ultimately produces the effects you desire.
Are you ready?
Before we begin, a word about the man himself, Joseph Pilates, who has done so much to influence so many people's lives.
Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. A sickly child, he suffered from asthma, rheumatic fever, and rickets. Having a father who was a gymnast, and a mother who was a naturopath, ill-health wasn't his destiny, however. He began studying anatomy in textbooks and in life—hiding in the woods for hours to watch the movements of the animals. He also studied yoga and Zen meditation. By the age of fourteen, he had developed his physique to the point that he was modeling for anatomy charts. He went on to become an accomplished gymnast and boxer.
During World War I, he was interned in England. While working in a hospital as an orderly, he noticed that many patients recovered more quickly if they were given exercises to do. Because many of them were incredibly weak, he devised a number of exercises that made use of the bedsprings for resistance. This is the foundation of one of his more famous pieces of equipment, the Cadillac. Ultimately, his series of exercises numbered approximately five hundred. He named it "Contrology," and defined it as "complete coordination of body, mind and spirit." The exercises focused on developing the core stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, or powerhouse, which frees the rest of the body for greater mobility and flexibility—ensuring everything is working at its best.
The last few years of fitness fads have left us craving something with staying power. While other fitness trends may lack longevity, Pilates has been practiced for almost a century. Joseph Pilates developed his method in the early 1900s, and today it's going stronger than ever. Why? Because it's based on solid physiological methodology, not gimmicks. This section looks at a couple of Pilates's principles that support the ongoing Pilates challenge:
Taking responsibility: Pilates believed that you have a personal responsibility for your health that extends beyond an hour's workout. Incorporating Pilates's principles into every area of your life brings your fitness awareness to another level and subsequently allows everything you do to contribute to your well-being and, consequently, your self-esteem. When you're off the mat, or out of Invisible Workout mode, you can still do more: Is there some health research you've been meaning to do? Eating habits that you've been wanting to incorporate? A fitness class you've been meaning to try? The responsibility for your health begins with you.
Your mind is a muscle! The concept behind the challenges and Metaforming: Pilates believed that it is as important for your mind to be engaged as it is for your powerhouse to be engaged. In other words, mind and body, not mind or body. Pilates learned from everyone and everything around him. For example, one of Pilates's mandates was to watch how animals move: their economy of motion, their seeming effortlessness, their total-body control, their ability to stay injury free. I challenge you to do the same: What can we take away from their innate intelligence? Similar challenges appear in special "Challenge" sections throughout the book, which are designed to take your mental and physical workout to the next level. I have also employed a fail-safe way to add enjoyment while boosting the efficiency of your workouts through my system of creative visualization: Metaforming.