Saturday, 25 September 2010

A few thoughts on Pilates

A few weeks ago a physio advised I look at doing some Pilates as a way of supplementing/replacing the core stability work I'd done (and sometimes not done) this year.

After taking advice from the good people at I booked myself in on three classes at the gym as well as booking a course of 1:1 instruction sessions with Kath, an experienced Pilates specialist at Here's my experience to date.

The gym classes
The Esporta gym classes are all taught by outside instructors and the three classes I've attended were all taught by different people.

Class 1 - Taught by a guy in his late 20s. All mat work. Nine people attended, 1 other guy, generally older people. I enjoyed this session. There was a decent amount of time spent on warm up and correct posture then a range of simple positions with very clear instructions and lots of pointers on what to watch for and how things should feel. I didn't get any corrective individual comments but don't know if this was because with clear instruction I could master the basic moves involved. Afterwards there was no soreness and I felt flexible and energetic; with the sciatica that had been bothering me disappearing too.

Class 2 - Taught by a lady in her early 40s, again all mat work but with the use of head block and resistance bands. More like a dozen people attended, all women, mainly older. This wasn't bad. The novelty of a guy on the class seemed to appeal to the instructor and I got a lot of 1:1 corrective instruction but some of the moves were more complex and the initial instruction maybe not quite as comprehensive. after this one I felt the tiniest hint of DOMS in the core.

Class 3 - Taught by a larger than life lady in her 30s, using mat, resistance band, stability ball, head block and half foam roller. Around fifteen attended, all women. It might be because the instructor was 10 minutes late and trying to cram everything in but this was a very tough session. I found it difficult to follow some of the moves and had to repeat some of them through to (muscle) exhaustion. A couple of the positions/moves I simply couldn't do or at least couldn't do effectively and I've found since that they are some of the most advanced positions in Pilates. I got no feedback during the class and felt a bit like the oaf in the corner that it was best to ignore! Afterwards my ribs and core muscles were sore as well as the area round my tailbone feeling rubbed and bruised from the failed attempts at one position.

1:1 sessions
I've just been to 2 of these. The first one was largely made up of being massaged around left groin, both piriformis and on my neck. The groin has felt looser since and pain free, the neck likewise but the massage on the tight piriformis seemed to trigger the sciatica again. The second session was lighter massage and stretching on the groin along with working through a series of basic positions (hip twist, bridge, one leg stretch, scissors, hundreds and clam). Lots of feedback on specifics. Sciatica is still present afterwards but lessened. The positions are all to be practised daily.

I've got 3 more sessions of 1:1 and at some stage I will be doing a session on the 'reformer'.

Overall they've been very good though I can't afford to keep them going in the longer term.

Interesting to see where I've come across Pilates without realising. Many of the initial exercises the physio gave me back in March seem to be Pilates positions, the ideas on posture seem very similar to chi running and many of the exercises Matt Fitzgerald lists for core stability in his books are also Pilates positions.

I can see Pilates helping me a great deal. I'm going to continue to do the Monday class at the gym but will drop the other two. I have the 3 more 1:1s and after that I'll either book in for occasional 1:1s or may book a weekly class at the centre. Either way I'll keep it up as a valued supplement to running.


runningcupcake said...

Interesting thoughts on it. I always find that the classes are down to the instructor more than the actual class. I don't normally like aerobics but the one class I go to is fab and high energy. It is always much better when they help you too- in body pump the instructor is good (maybe because their tends to be 4 regulars plus a few others)- always coming over and helping to correct posture and so on.

Alison @ Running From, Running To said...

I, like you, have found that I am familiar with pilates and yoga from running stretches and strengthening exercises. The principles that surround these things are very similar, but I know that there are lots of different ways of teaching. So it sounds like your strategy of sampling a few different ones over the mid-term is a good way of assessing what's best for you. Perhaps report back to your physio too, to get a second opinion. On a side note, isn't it funny that guys give these things such a wide berth..

Fudgey said...

I've not tried Pilates yet but had seen a poster at my office for pilates for runners which I thought might be worth a go.
Good to hear about your experiences & good on you for representing the male population!

Laura said...

I've never tried pilates before. I've tried yoga from a dvd which I liked and went to one class which I didn't like.. The instructor didn't give any feedback so I might as well have been watching a dvd and she wanted everyone to do vocal exercises which made me feel pretty awkward!

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