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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Know Your Pilates Studio by Eric Stevenson

While choosing a Pilates trainer is an important task, choosing the right studio is also critical. The best studios or gyms are clean and well-maintained, but it pays to be aware of some of the potential dangers that shared exercise facilities might pose.

Asbestos

By the nature of their construction, gyms and Pilates studios may be difficult to heat. Large, open rooms and high ceilings allow heat to dissipate easily, so large or sophisticated HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) systems and heavy insulation may be required to regulate the temperature. If the building was constructed prior to the 1980s, the ducts, pipe coverings, insulation, even the walls and floor might contain asbestos, a thread-like mineral once widely used for its heat-resistant properties.

As long as these building materials are intact, they do not pose a hazard, but if they become broken and damaged, they can release asbestos fibers into the air. Once these fibers are inhaled, they can cause serious health problems including a rare and fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused with those of less threatening conditions until the cancer has advanced into its final stages, making it difficult to treat.

MRSA

Skin infections can be another hazard of Pilates studios. Staphylococcus bacteria thrive in warm, wet places on the body such as the buttocks, armpits, groin, and neck, but can also survive on the dry surfaces of Pilates mats and other equipment. Many strains of this type of bacteria are relatively harmless, though some may cause serious problems if the infection gets into the bloodstream. The gravest threat is posed by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be deadly if it enters the blood through any small break in the skin. As its name implies, this bacterium is so deadly because it is resistant to all but a very few types of antibiotics and may even develop resistance to these if they are overused.

Staying Healthy

While mesothelioma life expectancy is very low and MRSA infections cause more deaths than any other infectious disease tracked by the CDC, there are simple precautions that can greatly lessen your risk for these diseases. Look around to make sure your studio’s walls, floors, and ventilation systems are in good condition. If the building is being renovated, ask whether the construction materials have been tested for asbestos. If you are still concerned, consider trying another studio or doing whatever exercises you can at home until the renovations are complete.

Even if you take a mat-only class, you will likely need to use some of the studio’s own equipment. The CDC recommends thoroughly cleaning shared exercise equipment both before and after using it. Many studios will provide disinfectant sprays or wipes for this purpose. If your studio does not, ask the staff or bring your own wipes. Alcohol is an effective sanitizer, even against MRSA, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers will not contribute to the drug-resistance of the bacteria. Be sure to cover all cuts or skin abrasions when working out and clean them well when you are finished. Any redness, swelling, or tenderness of the skin, especially around a pre-existing wound, should be examined by a doctor.
These risks should not distract you from your usual Pilates workout, but a few simple precautions can prevent some serious health problems later on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Many Times a Week Should I Do Pilates?

This is one of the first questions that I get asked by a new client. In order to see and feel results it's best to do Pilates 2-3 times a week. Pilates is a form of exercise that is a learning process. When a client first comes in for an intro, I inform them that there are three main components that they will be learning about. These are....

1. Learning to do the movements.
2. Learning the muscles used to do those movements.
3. And the breathing.

Most clients that start off will have to give it about 5-6 sessions in order to understand the basic verbal cues and concepts involved in the exercises. The client will first start to feel more stretched out and feel like they are standing taller. After those initial sessions, clients can then begin to concentrate on really working into the muscles since the movements aren't so foreign anymore. One of the last things that will probably connect with a client is the specialized breathing. Every movement has a specific breath attached to it and very time I cue an exhale, the chances of a new client inhaling is pretty probable. It is always the last thing that comes natural....when all else fails....just breathe. Pilates is like any learned behavior. The more you practice it and the longer you do it, the better you'll get at it.

Most clients find that Pilates becomes a way of life and it's not just a workout fad. Pilates requires full concentration in order to do it effectively. People with extreme monkey mind (Me!) often find that their minds become diluted of clutter since they are fully focused on the exercises. There are also limited reps done in Pilates. The goal is to be so focused on your body and muscles that you only 5-15 of one exercise and then we move on to the next exercises. This allows us to work more muscle groups within the hour. Another plus is that within the hour you'll be working out all the muscle groups so nothing is left untouched. The body will be worked and stretched out as a whole.

Keep in mind that the Pilates method has over 500 exercises when used as a total system. Budget is always a factor, I know, but whenever possible clients should be doing mat classes, equipment class and privates. Not participating in mat class because it's too hard is totally lame. Doing only equipment because it's fun, new and exciting will eventually cause a plateau, especially if you are only working on the reformer. There is also a trapeze table, chair and a barrel to consider. Privates, although costly, can benefit individuals that are struggling in certain areas and would like a deeper insight into certain exercises. The occasional private can be a good treat to jump start some new muscles that might not get used in a group class situation.

I also never detour a client from doing other forms of exercise. Joseph Pilates meant for this system to enhance your other activities. If you still like to weight train, go for it! Your form will probably be better. I work like a dog in my Pilates studio so I like to pop down the street for a bikram yoga class to switch things up. I need cardio so I go to the gym and do the elliptical. The more you do...the better your feel.

In the next few blog posts I'll go more in depth into the initial three theories listed above. Until then, go take a Pilates class!

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