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Pilates Made Easy Book Review

July 11, 2011

A few weeks ago I indulged in my addiction to Amazon and sent off for Zest’s Pilates Made Easy and Yoga Made Easy.

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I haven’t really looked at the yoga book yet, so I will save that for another day, but I want to discuss the Pilates guide.

I know there is a lot of mixed opinion on Pilates in the Blogworld – some people love it and others can’t see the point. Certainly you don’t build up much of a sweat doing Pilates, but that’s why I run. I also don’t find it as challenging as yoga, but I do find it very beneficial.

I have done Pilates on and off over the past eight years and have always thoroughly enjoyed it. Whenever I have taken classes I have felt an improvement in my posture and felt a difference in my alignment almost immediately. Pilates also works on core stability and balance, which is really important for running and a lot of other sports and very beneficial for me because usually I struggle to stand on one leg! The front cover claims that if you follow the programme a flat stomach is guaranteed. I’m not convinced that this is possible without losing weight/reducing body fat, but any improvement in core strength is a bonus.

I haven’t done Pilates at all for a year, but I was inspired to take it up again after I started getting some pain on the right side of my neck and right shoulder. The pain was at its worst when I was at my desk at work and I became convinced that it was a problem with my posture and alignment. I don’t have time in my busy exercise schedule to fit in any Pilates classes and I already know some of the basics, so I decided to give an at-home workout a go.

The book starts with an introduction to Pilates and explains some of the basic concepts. It’s then divided into four sections (basic, intermediate, advanced and Pilates for you), each with a specific workout depending on your ability, experience and aims.

In the introduction the author recommends incorporating at least four workouts a week into your routine and starting with the basic series of moves, regardless of your fitness or experience. The basic series only takes about 10 minutes to complete, so I found it very easy to slot in after my runs or when have a spare few moments. I have now moved on the intermediate series, which takes about 20 minutes. I haven’t yet tried the advanced or tailored workouts, but I think that they probably take about half an hour to complete.

Each move is illustrated with very clear photographs and the written instructions are simple to follow. However, I already have a basic knowledge of how these kinds of moves should be completed (speed, breathing, posture etc.), so I’m not sure how a complete beginner would fare. My other criticism is that there aren’t many modified versions for more difficult exercises. For example, my back is very inflexible and I find any kind of roll-up very difficult. One of my Pilates teachers showed me how to modify the move so I’m able to incorporate that into my workout, but I didn’t get any advice from the book.

I’m looking forward to testing out Pilates for you workout where you choose one of two series of moves depending on whether you are apple or pear-shaped. I found the method for determining your shape amusing – jump around and notice which bits of your body wobble most. If it’s your tummy, back and arms you are apple-shaped, and if it’s your hips, bottom and thighs you are pear-shaped. I think I’m apple-shaped, so there’s lots of waist-whittling exercises included for me.

I’ve been doing several Pilates sessions a week for about three weeks (I’ve not managed the recommended four every week) and my neck and shoulder pain has improved greatly. It could just be a fluke, but I think the fact that I’ve taken a lot of the techniques into my everyday life has really improved my posture and core strength.

I would recommend this book as it is accessible and easy to follow. However, to get the most out of your workouts I think it’s best to attend at least a few classes or try out a DVD or on-line tutorial to get to grips with some of the essential basic principles.

Have you tried Pilates and are you a fan?

Can you recommend any Pilates DVDs or on-line resources?

 

Note: I bought this book with my own money and I have not been asked to review it.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 5:16 pm

    The book sounds interesting, i’ve been eyeing up the running one myself and love the magazine. I’ve never tried pilates but it sounds like it could be right up my street; not as strenuous as yoga and good for posture.
    Glad to hear it’s made you feel better 🙂
    Happy monday!

  2. July 11, 2011 5:20 pm

    I looooove pilates. One of my favorite DVDs is most definitely Shape Pilates (http://www.amazon.com/Shape-Pilates-Workout-Firm-Head/dp/B000IJ7A2Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310404828&sr=8-1)

  3. July 11, 2011 6:39 pm

    I did like the running made easy book, which I got for myself once I had run 5K and decided to keep it up. I think what you are saying about getting advice is right- I do the yoga podcast and there are some moves that I cannot do (and the lady says in a calm voice not to worry, because one day I will apparently) but no real explanation as to how to change it. I sometimes prefer a dvd to a book because you see people doing it as opposed to a picture, but then when you are in some positions you cant look at the TV< but a book can be moved to be on the carpet/ in your sight line. I can see the benefits of both and I wound be interested as to how pilates is different to yoga, as to my untrained eye they seem the same! 🙂

  4. July 11, 2011 6:52 pm

    I’ve never liked pilates because I have a really bony lower back situation and the moves tend to hurt me, even with two mats, and much more than yoga which I find to be less on the mat work. Never say never though!

  5. July 11, 2011 8:04 pm

    I have huge problems with visualising things from a description, or even a static picture/image, so I think I would find learning Pilates or Yoga from a book very difficult.

    If people think pilates is easy then they haven’t been going to the right classes! There’s as much diversity within pilates as there is yoga (going to a Hatha class will be totally different from Ashtanga, Iyengar or Bikram for example), and some teachers emphasise a lot of modifications and basic versions of the exercises. I’ve been to many pilates classes at different gyms due to the state of the scoliosis in my back and they’ve been really beneficial for core stability, and for mobilising my lower back. I must have tried classes by over a dozen coaches over the years and not one has had the same style: some like to completely eliminate standing work and use only the mat, while others include ballet-esque training.

    I’d recommend the MTV Pilates and Pilates Mix DVDs if you’ve already got a good understanding of the moves and imprinting for example. But they might be a bit fast paced for some as they do rather rush through the exercises. Perfect for someone with a child’s attention span like me though 😉

    xxx

  6. July 12, 2011 6:26 am

    Thanks for the review! I’m really not a pilates fan, but that’s probs because I LOVE yoga (can’t beat it). Although, it is tempting for the core strength stuff. x

  7. July 12, 2011 8:13 am

    I’m keen to give Pilates another go (did it at my gym with a rubbish teacher) but, and for the same reason, I’m reluctant to do it from a book.

    I want someone watching what I’m doing and being hands on in correcting poor posture as I think that to do something wrong like Pilates could be quite detrimental (depending on what you’re doing of course.)

    Although, having said that a DVD or podcast type of thing would definitely appeal as I can stop/start it and study my own posture.

  8. July 12, 2011 8:15 am

    meant to say……

    Mr DF is having one to one pilates sessions at the moment (hugely expensive, but such a worthwhile investment for him). He has had problems with his back for years and when the chiropractor said to him on a recent visit “you have to expect that it will go from time to time, you have a bad back……” he decided NOOOOOO, there had to be something to help in the longer term.

    he’s had regular sports massages combined with the one to one Pilates, along with daily stretches at home, and *touch wood* so far, so good.

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