Everyone wants a quick fix to lose weight, but that can not always be achieved for long lasting results. Pilates is a way to strength you core and become better over time, not a quick fix. Some people might go at exercising hard core and feel the burn to much to start with which can put you in excess pain that is not necessary. So this article below can help with how much is too much?
By Maria Leone
Recently, my mother made me watch “The Biggest Loser” with her. I had never seen this show before and I was immediately in awe—in awe of how hard the trainers pushed the contestants and how mean they could be. I know that the contestants are monitored to some extent to prevent heart attacks, and other medical emergencies, yet even with these precautions, a New York Times article published late last year revealed that the contestants are often dehydrated and are not losing weight in a healthy fashion. The trainers push the contestants far past what I would consider a safe exertion zone for exercise. The whole thing made me wonder: What about the contestants’ joints, in particular the knees and back? How do those trainers have any idea when a disc is about to blow or a meniscus is about to give out?
I also wondered how the weight results would change if they didn’t push the envelope so hard on the physical exertion. For years, weight loss has been the big sell for the fitness industry. The harder and longer you work out the more you lose, right? Not so, says a recent story in Time magazine, called Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin. Apparently many people begin to give themselves permission to eat foods they normally would not when they begin an exercise program. Any results from the gym are sabotaged by a muffin, an iced latte or a sugary “workout” drink. The amount you sweat, pant or burn is irrelevant for weight loss if you can’t maintain a healthy diet.
Understand When to Push Clients
Often, when observing new teachers, I notice them pushing clients to perform an exercise outside the boundary of what they can execute safely. In my opinion the clients look like they are suffering, and not in a good way. To please clients, many trainers follow their lead and push them past the point of hard work into the realm of straining. Straining is different than merely working hard or deeply—it is the beginning of an injury. Most clients won’t ask to stop because their perception of the exercise is that it is “hard.” In their minds the “harder” it is, the better the result. It is up to the teacher to determine if the client is merely working hard or beginning to injure themselves. Unfortunately, many clients still think they must be beaten up to get a good workout, and shows like “The Biggest Loser” just reinforce this.
Weighing Risk vs. Benefit
Pilates instructors need to cultivate their own monitor for how hard to push clients. We should always consider the risk versus the benefit of an exercise. If you are engaged in your teaching you will know when it is time for a client to rest. Pay attention to their breath. If they are not able to breathe through an exercise, they need to stop. Even when working intensely, they should be able to relax the muscle groups that are not involved in the exercise. Their bodies overall should stay supple, not locked into any fixed position. Remind your clients frequently to move with “effortless effort”. My tae kwon do master compares the power generated by the body to that of a whip, which is fluid and graceful or a hammer which is rigid and nonmalleable. We want our clients to be whip-like when they move.
When In Doubt, Ask
I find it is helpful for new teachers to ask clients what their sensation is after an exercise. A client should never feel pain in the knees, or elbows. If the wrists hurt it should only be for a brief period of time when learning how to properly support body weight on the hands. The neck should only get tired when the abdominals are deconditioned. Never sacrifice on form when it comes to the lumbar spine. Back positions must be precise. It should be easy to identify whether the client is in a neutral, posterior or anterior position. If the lower back feels the exertion, it is important to separate muscle fatigue from the feeling of compression. Compression feels like pressure and is uncomfortable. If the client’s back is feeling tired make sure one of your longterm goals is to work the back extensors to build strength. It can be necessary at times to overload the muscles of the lower back in order to strengthen them. (Anytime we are stabilizing the pelvis in neutral and challenging that stability by moving the legs, one of the objectives is to strengthen the back extensors.)
The Pilates ‘Burn’
Many hybrid Pilates studios have opened up around Los Angeles that put traditional fitness moves on a Reformer-like machine with a sprinkling of Joe’s recognizable exercises. The clients perform exercises while being timed. The teachers wear microphones and teach over booming music. I have had clients come in and tell me, in sort of an envious tone, of friends who were “soaked with sweat” after a Pilates class. One even told me she heard of a studio where participants sometimes puked in the bathroom. Although no reputable Pilates instructor would teach in this manner, I could tell that my clients wondered if we were working “hard” enough. I quickly switched up our workout and the envious tone vanished. I often wonder if the puking clients were in any better shape than my own. I think not.
When Clients Want a Quick Fix
Even if you are a genuine Pilates teacher doing your best to match your intentions to the work of Joseph Pilates, sometimes you will find yourself with the kind of client who is interested in taking Pilates but not in really doing it. Usually they have heard it is a good way to get in shape and are looking for a quick fix. Pilates is not just arbitrary choreography on a funny looking machine; it is a mind body discipline. Cultivating body awareness and the ability to maintain focus is essential. (I once had a client who was so focused that she maintained her position while we experienced a small earthquake. I suggested next time she move away from the mirrors.) There will always be clients who take Pilates because it seems like the thing to do. There’s no need to lose these clients. I think it is possible to incorporate what the client wants with what the client needs without losing the integrity of the work. Particularly in today’s market, the more types of clients you can work with, the better.
Find Balance in Your Teaching
My mantra in teaching is balance. If you remember to keep balance in all aspects of your teaching you will not only make Joe proud, but also be able to meet the needs of a varied clientele. I do want clients to be pushed physically and sweat while I am training them. It is important to overload muscles in order to increase strength. To prevent plateaus the teacher must have a variety of different exercises on multiple apparatuses at their disposal. A client’s workout should not be a set routine that does not change. Even when going mainstream, Pilates should emphasize quality over quantity. Sometimes in a large setting it is necessary to increase reps but not without increasing the cueing. The ultimate goal should still be to reduce reps without sacrificing muscle connection.
Zen in the Work
I don’t consider myself part of the fitness industry. By that I mean that I am not selling clients on the idea that by studying Pilates they will achieve the body they want. Rather, I am in the health and wellness business. I hope my clients will discover their own Zen while working with me. This keeps my clients motivated in the process of Pilates rather than only focusing on the results. Recent promos for “The Biggest Loser” show the contestants strapped to a Mack truck. The challenge is to see which team can tow it the furthest. While this may not be the healthiest thing for the body or even the quickest way to lose weight, it does make for good television. While you’re working on balance in your teaching, you can tune in and let me know what you think.
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