Pilates: Balls and much more....

Lucy Whitehead on the Pilates Chair in the One Grove Private Studio

Lucy Whitehead on the Pilates Chair in the One Grove Private Studio - Credit: Archant

‘Resounding Balls’- that’s what Roger Lewis, Times & Mail journalist, thinks of Pilates.... and I suspect his view is common amongst many self-certified ‘professional grumps’ heading into their 60s...

Mind you, I commiserate. Roger’s aging process will not be a bed of roses... And he has been hoodwinked if he has never experienced Pilates in a professional Pilates studio with a vocational instructor and the inestimable Pilates equipment. The sort of session we provide to everyone at One Grove, our specialist studios in Cheltenham next to Waitrose.

You see, Roger is an academic (MLitt Oxon) who uses his admirable brain to conduct his life but has a poor relationship with his body (his sentiment- not mine!). And if you use your mind just to think and not to move, your neuro-muscular system starts to degenerate. It’s not that you just become unfit but your muscles simply forget how to move properly.

One of the most common debilitating conditions that our physiotherapists witness is ‘Lazy Gluts’ syndrome. This condition, also dubbed Gluteal Amnesia, is where we have sat on our bottoms- at desks, in cars, watching telly- for so long, that our gluteal muscles forget that they should be the main powerhouse of all our gait movement.

We should be driving our bodies forward in walking and running like Sizing John and his paddock consort, with magnificent round, horsey hindquarters...not shuffling about with bent backs and crooked necks incapable of firing up our rear - not to mention pot-bellies drooping because of our inability to activate our deep abdominal ‘corsetry’ muscles.

Even someone with medium fitness levels could take up a sport or aim for more exercise with all good intentions but injure themselves in the process. All because the brain has forgotten how to innervate the right muscles in the right order!

And THIS is what Pilates is exceptional at: teaching your body how to move correctly.

Led by a seasoned professional on Pilates equipment, you are able to get immediate feedback on how your body is moving in space. You learn to determine your core (hint- it is not just your navel area- it spans your back to your inner thighs). You understand how to rebalance your left and right sides and your front and back lines. You gain balance and control. And you develop strength in all your muscle groups, the big showy ones that bodybuilders like and the smaller, lean ones that define ballerinas.

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An efficient movement pattern developed through Pilates will not only minimise your aging (wear and tear degeneration of the joints) but will give you an augmented mental agility from your new-found coordination (proven to improve cognitive function).

Presenting yourself as an upright, strong individual will also purvey a sense of power and ease to people you meet- who wants to be considered a frail, bent man or little, weak lady?

Roger may well have fallen into the trap of thinking that Pilates is a stretching class for ladies- this myth being perpetuated by under-qualified gym teachers offering mass group classes in gyms. Likely to be boring, simplistic and un-instructive, I could sympathise with his viewpoint...

But I would dearly love to drag Roger and every other professional grump to One Grove so he could witness proper Pilates. And hear countless stories from our clients who have recovered from strokes, cardiac incidents, hip and knee surgeries, spinal pathologies and all manner of conditions and who have felt the power of Pilates transform their lives.

He can even get to work on ‘Rebounding’ with our Pilates balls. Yes, it’s a thing...Perhaps ‘Resounding Balls’ was a typo?!?!

Lucy Whitehead (MA Oxon and dedicated Pilates professional) and her team of instructors are available at One Grove studios for small group and private client training for all ages and abilities.

For more information, visit the One Grove website, email info@onegrove.co.uk or call 01242 255111.