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Pilates: May's Great Fitness Experiment Plus Experiment Results

Posted May 03 2010 7:04pm
Admit it: Larry King is living out your dream right here.

Larry King is my fitness muse. (There's 6 words I bet you never thought you'd read.) This month found me breaking up with my cute new workout and before the ink was even dry on the gym schedule I already had my eye on a new young thing. Why? Because when you've been married 7 times - or tried 70 different workouts - what's one more? Life's too short for bad workouts. Plus, while I've never actually tested out this theory, I think I would totally rock a bow tie.

April's Great Fitness Experiment Results
There just isn't a delicate way to say it so I'm just going to come out with it: Core Performance for Women was a pain in the arse . Both literally and figuratively. The former pain in said butt cheeks was the upside of the month. The latter pain meant that it was pretty much the only upside. This workout was boring, repetitive, too easy, unbalanced and oddly non-sweaty. The only way I can reconcile Mr. Vestergren's credentials with our Experiment is to think that it would have been different had he been instructing us. Maybe we were just doing it wrong?

Several theories were bandied about over the course of the month - there was an awful lot of time for theory bandying as the workouts never left us breathless - including the printer accidentally omitting pages from the book, it being a type of physical therapy/injury rehab or the workout actually being meant as a supplement to a real workout. This was disappointing as when I first read the book I was very excited about his theories and the program. Unfortunately the workouts did not live up to the hype. I find it really hard to believe that the athletes he is paid to train, like the U.S. women's soccer team, actually do what is described in the book.

Enough negativity though - the bright spot was that there were some novel moves and the few that worked really worked. Especially in our butts. He has a warrior-three-to-standing-row-using-a-band move that will have your butt, hamstrings and back screaming for mercy. And his curtsy lunges on the slider made Gym Buddy Krista's inner thighs so sore that she called Suzanne Sommers to brag. His theory, that movements need to be driven by our gluteal muscles rather than pulled by our quads, seems solid as Gym Buddy Megan and I decided that we really could feel a difference in our running form when we focused on contracting our butts. (I'll leave it to your imagination as to exactly what we looked like running around the track clenching our heinies.)

As for results, well, there were none. Nobody made any fitness gains or lost any weight or body fat. In fact, we all felt like we lost some muscle this month because there were so many body parts he never works. Like, oh, your biceps and triceps. (Do soccer players not need their arms? I know they can't use their hands but surely arms would come in handy - at the very least for grabbing an opposing chick by her ponytail and throwing her to the ground .) It didn't help that the workouts were so repetitive, weird and boring that after 3 weeks on the most advanced level we decided we couldn't take one more week of it and switched to CrossFit for the last seven days of April. I think we made more progress in that one week than we did in the previous three.

May's Great Fitness Experiment: Pilates
My failed fling with Core Performance sent me running into the arms of a more staid, more reliable workout - and one that oddly enough I have never done an Experiment on in all my years of Experimenting. Everyone say hello to my new workout Pilates! I know it's a little awkward for those of you who were friends with my old workouts but I'm not asking you to choose sides or anything, just give the new one a chance and she'll wow you with her toned core and balletic posture.

Joseph Pilates, the inventor of the eponymous program, famously said "In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty you will see the difference and in thirty you will have a whole new body." He originally invented Pilates as a way to keep fit with the limited resources allowed him as a prisoner of war in World War I. His program was so successful that he taught it to his fellow prisoners and is credited with saving his camp from the influenza outbreak of 1918. (Random history fact: The flu pandemic of 1918 killed more people worldwide than any other natural or manmade disaster in history.) After the war he developed his techniques in to the hugely popular mat program that most of us know today thanks to Daisy Fuentes, who used to be an actress or something but now is only known for hawking billions of Windsor Pilates DVDs on late night infomercials. (Full disclosure: I bought the entire Windsor Pilates set one late late night after my first son was born. I am SUCH a sucker for a good infomercial. My favorite aisle ever is the "As Seen on TV aisle" at the grocery store and I don't even watch TV!)

Pilates is also associated with the Reformer, a machine that looks like a cross between a torture rack and a hospital bed in a psych ward. During our Experiment this month we will be trying both mat and reformer workouts. Of the two, according to Pilates himself, the mat workout is the gold standard and the Reformer is for people who can't handle the mat - a fact I find very interesting considering how crazy expensive Reformer lessons are.

For this month, in an effort to do the best Pilates Experiment I can, I will be doing only Pilates and no other strength training. I'm going to do at least 20 workouts (I'd better "see the difference"!) and am hoping to get close to 30 as I'd really like that "whole new body" behind door number 3. I'm hoping it's Kate Beckinsale's. Two of the Gym Buddies are not down with giving up weight lifting - they're already feeling weak thanks to last month's wussy workout - so they will be our control group. We will be keeping all our cardio (dance, turbo kick, running etc.) the same.

Any of you do Pilates regularly? Do you think it can take the place of a good weights workout? (Incidentally, for those of you who will suggest we do both, the book I am using says that this is a mistake because traditional weight workouts create "bulky stiff muscles" that constrain healthy bodies.) Have you seen big results from this program? Anyone else want in on this one with me?

PS> For those of you following along at home, we are using "The Pilates Body" by Brooke Siler as our primer and we will be attending 3 Pilates classes a week in our gym.
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