Joseph Pilates was a fitness pioneer who came up with a comprehensive system of exercises for complete body fitness — blending both traditional Western and Eastern (especially yoga) exercises. He also invented many pieces of equipment.
This can be somewhat intimidating for the Pilates beginner, because it’s easy to think that to practice Pilates you need to invest in all this equipment, plus a large gym in your home in which to keep it and actually do the exercises.
EVERYDAY PILATES says you can get started at home without anything except a mat or carpet to cushion your back and two 1 pound weight.
She describes four separate workouts consisting of twelve separate but related exercises, designed to take about fifteen minutes. At first you may take longer than that, as you’re learning the exercises and the sequences in which to perform them.
The workouts are: Day by Day — performed on the floor, emphasizing abdominal muscles and spinal stretching. From the Top Down — performed standing up, for upper body strength. From the Bottom Up — more on legs and abdominals. Up, Up and Away — overall strengthening.
This book is short, but printed on glossy paper with many pictures to illustrate the exercises. And if you don’t get them from the pictures, there’s a DVD included. In the DVD, a woman goes through all the workouts so you can see them performed in real time. Plus, the sound explains all the exercises. Therefore, while you’re learning, playing the DVD will help you a lot.
One aspect of Pilates that I believe is unique, is that it emphasizes not only good form while you’re actually performing the exercises, but that you maintain that form while you go from one to the next.
It’s somewhat equivalent to diving. A diver is judged not only by how they perform the dive, but their posture, style and bearing as they approach the board and then while they’re on the diving board.
Pilates would add that they should be judged on their style and form as they swim to the side of the pool, get out of the pool and walk away.
Ms. Ungaro makes it clear that Pilates is exercising for your life. She makes fun of fitness events where she’s people do exercises — and then resume their poor posture once they’re no longer competing.
Although Ms. Ungaro says that Pilates is also for men, the pictures are of only her and a young woman. The exercises are not as obviously strenuous as some men may want. However, the exercises that work on the abdominal muscles are quite challenging.
Besides, as you become stronger, you should increase repetitions and weight, and perform the exercises more slowly and intensely.
I’ve no doubt that many men would benefit from these workouts just as much as women. Ms. Ungaro suggests combining Pilates with weight lifting, swimming and yoga.