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Pilates for Every Body Strengthen, Lengthen, and Tone -- With This Complete 3-Week Body Makeover
By Denise Austin
Rodale Press Copyright © 2003 Denise Austin
All right reserved.
As a health and fitness professional for 25 years, I have taught just about every form of exercise, including strength training, aerobics, and yoga. I firmly believe that regular exercise is the best form of preventive medicine. Great for you both mentally and physically, regular exercise helps you to feel good about yourself. And that's what it's all about-being healthy and happy!
Of all the forms of exercise I've taught, Pilates is one of my favorites. I love Pilates because it helps condition the body without punishing the body. Now that I'm 45 years old, that's important to me.
Invented by gymnast Joseph H. Pilates (pronounced puh-lah-teez) more than 80 years ago, the Pilates method involves a series of exercises that place intense concentration on your abdominal muscles, particularly the deepest layer of muscles in your abdomen. Besides helping you to form a beautiful flat tummy, strong abdominal muscles will improve your balance and coordination as well as help you perform other types of exercise with more ease.
In addition to firming your abdominals. Pilates also helps strengthen and stretch the entire body from head to toe, helping you to stand taller. This unique system will create long, lean, toned muscles similar to the muscles of a dancer.
The Pilates method combines these exercises with mental concentration and breath-work. The result is a mind-body fitness program that not only helps you create your best body ever but also helps you feel mentally and emotionally balanced, calm, and refreshed.
Pilates for Every Body is a complete Pilates program. You will be focusing on the total body: the abs and back, the upper body (arms and shoulders), plus the lower body (hips, buns, and legs). You'll see and feel the results in just 10 sessions.
I've added my own unique twist to Pilates. My approach is more than a series of body moves-it can be customized to individual needs. I've included a number of routines from which you can choose. Some Of these routines will help you target particular trouble spots, such as the hips, thighs, and buns. Others will help you address particular health concerns, such as a bad back. Some are designed for on-the-go people with little time to exercise, whereas others offer a more complete, vigorous workout.
I've also included numerous variations on exercises-from beginner level to more challenging. Because many exercises can be done from a seated or reclining position, they can be performed by people who are overweight or have bad knees and therefore can't take jarring exercise like jogging. No matter what your fitness level, health background, or time constraints, you'll find a routine that helps you build a lean, strong, balanced body in as little as 3 weeks.
The Story of Pilates
Contrary to what many people assume, the Pilates method is not new. Joseph Pilates first developed the Pilates method of body conditioning to help rehabilitate bed-bound patients at a hospital in England where he worked as a nurse during World War I. To enable patients to regain strength, Pilates attached springs to their mattresses for them to pull and push against for resistance.
When Joseph Pilates moved to New York City in the 1920s, he brought the conditioning method he'd perfected with him. At first, injured dancers would come to Pilates for help. He put them through a series of exercises on a machine he called the Reformer. This bedlike apparatus featured a horizontal sliding platform with springs that could be adjusted to allow for differing levels of resistance.
Some of Pilates' first clients included the famed dancer, teacher, and choreographer Martha Graham and renowned choreographer George Balanchine. Soon, dancers all over New York City were knocking on Joseph Pilates' door. Even one of my closest friends and colleagues Cal Pozo, then a Broadway dancer, went to Pilates for help after he injured his hip while dancing in the musical West Side Story in the late 1950s.
I met Cal many years later, in 1988, when he helped me choreograph one of my first exercise videos. He's been a mentor to me ever since, and his expertise in Pilates encouraged me to create my Mat Workout Based on the Work of J. H. Pilates and Pilates for Every Body videos.
Because Joseph Pilates wanted to help as many people as he could, in the 1960s he developed a series of exercises that could be performed on mats, without any machines, and accomplish the same benefits of improved body mechanics; lean, supple muscles; and overall body conditioning. Over the years, Pilates' mat method spread, and now Hollywood celebrities such as Madonna, Sharon Stone, and Julia Roberts and professional athletes, including professional football players such as the San Francisco 49ers, are doing Pilates.
As more and more people tried the Pilates method, word continued to spread. Soon, Pilates studios began popping up all over the country, in big cities and small towns, making the method accessible not only to the rich and famous, but to everyone. Today, the Pilates method is used all over the world by a diverse number of people, including spa goers, fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and those in the performing arts.
To me, that's the most exciting aspect of Pilates. It doesn't matter who you are-athlete or couch potato, toned or flabby, man or woman. young or old-you can do it.
Every body can benefit. That's why I've included so many different routines in this book. Each routine helps address a specific goal, so even each reader can use this book for different reasons at different times.
You can choose the routine that best fits your needs right now, and later on choose a different routine if and when needed. With Pilates for Every Body, you will always have the variety you need to stay motivated!
Your Abs Are Your
The secret to the success of Pilates doesn't lie in the actual Pilates moves. Many of them look no different than your basic situp, crunch, or yoga pose. The real key lies in what we call the powerhouse-your abdomen, your center, the core of your body.
Pilates works the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles to completely realign and reshape your body. Unlike weight lifting, which focuses on one muscle at a time, Pilates works your body as a unit, starting with your core and lengthening upward and outward. During weight lifting and even during a stomach crunch, you strengthen as you shorten your muscles, essentially bringing the ends of each muscle closer together. During Pilates moves, you work your muscles through a fuller range of motion. You strengthen as you lengthen the muscle, so the ends of the muscles are farther apart, not contracted. This combination of stretching and strengthening helps you create a lean, toned body, like a dancer's.
Four muscles make up your abdominals: the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis. Your rectus abdominis forms the "six-pack," the front of your abs that reaches vertically from your sternum to your pelvic bone. Many people-even those who do daily crunches-have a weak spot at the bottom of their rectus abdominis, below the navel. That's where most tummies tend to bulge. My Pilates exercises will address that weak spot and zero in right where you need it.
Pilates will also target your internal and external obliques, the abdominal muscles that form your waist along the sides of your abdomen, and your transverse abdominis, a deep abdominal muscle not worked in many other forms of abdominal exercise. Your transverse abdominis supports your back and holds in your belly. A strong transverse abdominis is the key to good posture, a pain-free back, and a flat tummy.
Pilates will also strengthen and stretch your erector spinae, the muscles along your spine that hold your spinal column straight and upright. It will keep your entire torso strong and supple from front to back.
All of that works together to create a strong core, giving you more balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. We call this the powerhouse because, truly, that's where you find your power. Pilates is part explosive (short burst) power and part endurance, the combination of which gives you both strength and grace.
How I've Benefited from Pilates
Pilates has brought my sports and fitness career full circle. I started training in gymnastics at the age of 12 and practiced 4 to 5 hours a day, competing and even earning a full athletic scholarship to college. It was my life. As I look back on my gymnastics training some 30 years ago, I realize that Pilates-like exercises were a part of our warmup and conditioning. (Joseph Pilates was also a gymnast.) Moves like V-sits (called the teaser in Pilates) and T-stands prepare gymnasts to do kip-ups on the uneven bars and handstands on the balance beam. But don't worry, I won't expect you to do flips, somersaults, or cartwheels!
I began doing Pilates-type exercises during the early 1990s and soon realized that Pilates was fast becoming one of my secrets to staying young and fit.
In my personal fitness plan, I began to do Pilates three times a week, fitting my sessions in after my morning power walk. I've also altered some of my regular toning moves to make them more Pilates-esque. The combined approach allowed me to effectively condition my entire body while simultaneously feeling the lengthening of my muscles.
The results were undeniable. Various people, including my husband, told me that my legs looked leaner. Though my abs have always been my forte, Pilates helped me to keep them flat and strong, even after having two babies. At 5 feet 4 inches tall, I've always wanted extra height, and I definitely didn't want to shrink as I aged. Pilates helped me to stand taller, making me feel as though I'm 5-foot-6.
Discovering Pilates during my late thirties was a blessing. I realized I needed a simpler, gentler way to stay in shape without any bouncing or jarring to my joints.
The smooth, gentle, flowing movement of Pilates provided that answer. Pilates helps me balance my cardio workouts and build strong, flexible muscles. While I still walk/run and lift weights, Pilates offers me a combined toning and stretching workout, helping me to create a more balanced body from the inside out.
Even on my busiest of days, I do a little Pilates, even if it's just 5 or 10 minutes. My mini-workouts help me to feel stretched and toned from head to toe. They also help keep my spine strong and healthy, another great benefit of Pilates.
What My Fans Tell Me
After studying with some of the top master trainers at the time, I began incorporating Pilates into my Fit & Lite show on Lifetime TV, combining the Pilates moves with my own total-body toning exercises and cardio routines.
Viewers loved it. I received thousands of letters from people telling me how much they enjoyed and benefited from the show. Fit & Lite soon became the number one fitness show on television, and it still is today.
I was so excited by my results and the positive feedback from the Fit & Lite show that in 2000, I came out with my Mat Workout Based on the Work of J. H. Pilates video, and it became the top-selling exercise video in the nation. I soon began receiving wonderful e-mails and letters from so many people, telling me how my Pilates workouts were helping them.
These excited women and men told me they felt stronger and leaner and had no more back problems. Plus, they felt more balanced and coordinated. Pilates had completely changed the shape of their bodies. They had lost inches in their waistline and thighs. Some had grown as much as an inch taller! One marathon runner told me that only Pilates-and not all those miles on the road-transformed her body, flattened her tummy, and lifted her buns.
Here's what some people had to say:
"I do your Pilates video and Fit & Lite show every day if possible," says Tammy, age 40. "I have gone from a size 18 to a size 12. I feel so much better, but I'm not through. I will get even slimmer, thanks to you."
Diane, a college student about to be married, wrote to say, "I do your Pilates Mat Workout and Power Yoga Plus videos every other day. The 20-minute sessions help me to alleviate the stress of everyday life. Last semester I got a 4.0 and a healthy body! I really do feel taller and leaner, and for the first time in my life I have muscle tone and the washboard stomach that I've always wanted. I am now planning my wedding, and I am going to look great in my dress!"
Pilates also helped Merlinda Seis, 29, a hairdresser in Colorado Springs, get her weight under control. "Last March I got on the scale and didn't like the number I saw-160 pounds! I bought your Pilates Mat Workout video, and 9 months later I was down to 144 pounds," says Merlinda. "Thank you for working out with me at home. I really enjoy it!"
Men and women alike see amazing results. "I first discovered Pilates on your Fit & Lite show," says Erin R. Myers, 24, a financial representative in Baltimore. "It has really increased my abdominal strength-much more than doing crunches ever did. You have even inspired my husband, a Marine, to try Pilates. He was so impressed by the results that he showed the moves to some other Marines in his squad."
Combining Pilates with regular cardio exercise makes it a total conditioning program, with mind-body benefits. "A year and a half ago, I was 75 pounds over my goal weight. I saw a picture of myself and finally realized how out of control my life had become," says Kelly Brandt, 30, of O'Fallen, Montana. "For my daily routine, I now wake up each morning and do the Pilates moves on your Fit & Lite show. Then I do 30 minutes of some type of cardio exercise. Every other evening, I do 20 minutes of your Pilates video. I am now at my goal weight and have never felt better. I feel so invigorated after doing the Pilates moves. I feel stronger, leaner, and full of energy when I'm done. I can truly say that you have changed my life. I would definitely recommend Pilates to anyone who wants to feel better physically and mentally."
Many viewers report that Pilates worked in ways that other forms of exercise did not. "The Pilates method is the only exercise I've done where I actually achieved results," says Charyl Cammarota, 46, a legal secretary in Collingswood, New Jersey. "My tummy has always been a problem area. It was never flat, even after I lost 35 pounds.
Excerpted from Pilates for Every Body by Denise Austin Copyright © 2003 by Denise Austin. Excerpted by permission.
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