Remember back in high school when your trigonometry teacher asked you a question after lecturing for an hour on the applications of the Pythagorean theorem? That familiar dread as you admitted to the whole class that you weren’t paying attention? The knowledge that, even if you liked the subject, its delivery had been repetitious, boring, and ineffective, leaving you completely ignorant of the beauty of a simple equation?
It might help to think of your normal gym workout as a boring math teacher. We’ve all experienced the dread of the gym — not because we don’t enjoy physical fitness, but because we become bored, under-stimulated, and unmotivated by our repetitious workouts. Oftentimes we include so many repetitions of that same bicep curl or lunge that we become dreamy and unfocused, our muscles sore and tired, our bodies out of alignment rather than invigorated and centered.
A sloppy or forced workout creates a barrier between the mind-body connection, rendering the results of a workout less effective as we go about our daily lives. Nobody wants to be sore in the checkout line of the grocery store or too muscle-fatigued to grab a late meal with friends. Rather, we want to feel strong, able to shine in every activity we undertake. Here’s where Pilates comes in. Because Pilates relies on the balance and focus of fewer repetitions to achieve overall fitness, you’ll feel a whole-body integration throughout your day.
Joseph Pilates wrote, “Contrology [his original name for Pilates] is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ad-nauseam.” You won’t catch yourself yawning or tearing muscles during a Pilates routine, because Pilates uses a variety of exercises (around 20-25 for beginners) that build on and flow into each other with fewer repetitions (an average of 5-10 reps). Based on the six major Pilates principles, these targeted movements with low repetitions can only be beneficial.
- Precision. Joseph Pilates said to “honor every movement,” meaning that every single movement within an exercise requires integrity of purpose.
- Concentration. Bringing one’s entire attention to each exercise exponentially raises the benefit of the exercise because it keeps the whole person engaged in the activity at hand.
- Breath. Proper breathing actually enhances each movement by oxygenating the blood, thereby increasing circulation and flexibility in the body. Proper breathing, then, requires fewer reps.
- Control. Control is about the awareness we feel in connecting our minds (concentration) to our bodies (movement). Control utilizes mental fortitude and bodily awareness, which reduces the risk of injury because you know what your body is experiencing.
- Centering. Pilates concentrates on proper alignment and core strength that radiates to our peripheral muscles. People with injuries on one side of the body can benefit from centering because healthy benefits radiate from the core and have a positive effect on both healthy and injured sides of the body.
- Flow. Each movement should be fluid, almost like a dance. Exercises are woven together with seamless transitions. Variety in a Pilates workout maintains overall symmetry and grace.
In his book, Pilates, Rael Isacowitz writes, “Pilates encapsulates the concept of ‘less is more’ (quality versus quantity), which holds the key to deeper work and enhanced performance.” Active people can’t afford to be laid up with the soreness, stiffness, and muscle fatigue of an unbalanced workout. Nobody wants to ignore overall fitness because of injuries. Certainly nobody wants to be bored at the gym! Pilates’ low repetition/high awareness system ensures success on every level.