Pilates was created more than a century ago by Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany, Pilates was sickly as a child, but he devised ways to improve his health and strengthen his body. He became so muscular that at age 14 he was used as a model for anatomy charts.
He began working with sick people and teaching them his methods which could be done by rigging beds with springs so that even the bedridden could perform his exercises. He eventually moved to the United States and opened a gym in New York. Because the gym shared a building with a dance studio, dancers became his clients and the dancer/Pilates relationship was cemented.
I spoke with John Garey and Mike Beauchamp, co-owners of John Garey Fitness and Pilates Studio at the Long Beach Marketplace.
Patch: What is your background and how did this studio come about?
John Garey: I've been in the fitness industry since the 1980's. I have a Master of Science degree from New York University in Adult Fitness and have been managing group fitness programs (formerly known as aerobics programs) and Pilates programs since then. I've also starred in more than 30 fitness and Pilates DVDs and I'm about to shoot a bunch more in September for STOTT PILATES ®.
We started John Garey Pilates on Broadway in Long Beach about 12 years ago. There wasn't a lot of Pilates around Long Beach then. Anyway, we were at that location for around three years and then we moved to the Marketplace and things really exploded for us.
Mike handles the business side and I do the programming.
We are the STOTT PILATES® Licensed Training Center for Los Angeles and Orange County. We are the only studio that offers Teacher Training in the contemporary approach, or STOTT PILATES®. What differentiates this (STOTT) method of Pilates is the research in biomechanics that went into creating it. I am a STOTT PILATES Master Instructor Trainer. There are currently only seven in the world; four are in Toronto, one in Boston and one in Portland.. All of our Instructor Trainers must be trained by one of the Master Instructor Trainers.
P: What is Pilates and what can people expect to gain from doing Pilates.
JG: Pilates is a complex exercise that strengthens muscles (especially the core), improves flexibility and helps posture. Some of the classes are taught on a mat and others use Pilates apparatus, for example, the Reformer.
Our instructors complete a nine-month process for their full certification. It includes 200 hours of classroom plus over 200 hours of observation and practice teaching with written and practical tests that are standardized worldwide. Our instructors can teach the mat classes as well as the reformer as well as specialized equipment for private instruction. Instructors may also choose to certify in mat only or Reformer only as well.
Pilates instruction involves very complex cuing or instruction for each participant as well as the group (if it is a group class). If it is not correct, injuries can occur. Many certification methods have sprung up that are short courses, perhaps a weekend, from competitors. Sometimes the course offered is good but it isn’t tested practically. Our instructors are trained to give different cues to different posture types. For example, if someone has Kyphosis and their posture is slumped forward, we do exercises to help bring the spine back to a more ideal position. But if someone has a sway back, we would choose different exercises to help them achieve a more ideal posture.
P: What’s the difference between the mat and the reformer? Is one a better workout? Do people tend to prefer one over the other?
Mike Beauchamp: There is different equipment used, but both focus on the same core muscles. I would say the reformer provides more resistance and focuses on the extremities more than the mat class. Some people gravitate toward one or the other but most people do both (mat and reformer). Sometimes it has to do with the pocketbook. All Pilates studios charge extra for the Reformer classes.
P: Is there anything else you would like people to know about Pilates?
MB: Pilates is for everyone. It can take a few sessions to get used to engaging some of the deep muscles that we don’t normally focus on. I have found that it starts off easier and gets harder as you get better at it.
Research on the effectiveness of Pilates has shown that the exercises for the abdominals, specifically the external obliques (or sides of the abdominals), significantly beat out the crunch (half sit-up) as a muscular endurance exercise. Pilates has also been shown to improve hamstring flexibility and upper-body muscular endurance.
Pilates classes are placed in the mind-body category along with yoga because of the concentration on specific breathing that matches the movements throughout the practice. While the emphasis is on muscular and flexibility gains, Pilates participants at the intermediate and advanced level workouts have been shown to experience a significant caloric burn from the Stott Pilates® method