By Pamela Debiase
Auto-correct scares me. Not because I might send a message saying good duck! instead of good luck!, I think we all enjoy a good laugh sometimes. It scares me because I have become accustom to relying on it and my brain seems to have let go of my aptitude to spell. Not so good. Technology has offered us conveniences, we can do things often quickly with minimal effort on our part, but some of them do dumb us down somewhat. This gets me thinking about where/how I do want to keep exercising my brain and why.
A couple years ago I began to notice a common mindset in my clients. I don’t want to think, I just want you to tell me what to do - was a statement I was hearing more and more often. A lot of people seem to want to put minimal brainpower into their workouts but expect physical results. We get this on so many levels in our lives these days, so why not with fitness? While I can understand this, and have felt too tired to think many times, bells starting ringing loudly in my head. Ding Ding Ding!!!! Pilates is MIND BODY exercise, you just cannot do it mindlessly, this is what makes it so fantastic and I cannot let them get away with that….. well because then we simply are not doing Pilates anymore.
When I am exercising, THIS is a place I want to be mindful and exercise my brain and my body at the same time. I want to be aware of what I am doing, learn the details of the exercises and how to change my body so that it can translate it to the rest of my life. My Pilates teacher (yes, teachers have their own teachers too!) is not going to be following me around all day saying pull your shoulders down your back, suck your belly in, stand up straight! So I better pay attention in class, so that I understand how to have a strong balanced body in the rest of my life.
Scientific research has shown you can harness the power of your thoughts to create real physical changes in your body. And on the flipside, physical activity can also lead to positive changes in your brain. A lifestyle that encourages both of these modalities is likely going to give you the most benefit now and as you get older.
So I asked myself, how is the way I teach Pilates keeping my clients in this loop of relying on me to remember everything for them?
At Joseph Pilates’ studio in New York, back in the day, you did not have Privates forever. You came in for a few Privates to learn your exercises and order, then it was treated more like a gym. You’d come in and do your workout and teachers would float around the room giving you corrections and teaching you new exercises as needed. So I decided to give something similar to this a go with one of my group classes, which we called the Independent Hour. I taught them to become more independent in their workout. They learnt their order, set up their own equipment, ran through their exercises under my guidance and cleaned up after themselves. So what happened you ask? This is what we accomplished in a year:
1) They were able to work at their own pace and level, regardless of who was in class with them. By having personalized workouts they got exactly what their bodies needed. No one was held back, no one was pushed beyond his or her capability.
2) While initially this change seemed intimidating to them, once they started to realize they could do this, their confidence grew tenfold!
3) They became more in tune with their bodies and empowered by their independence. I could see them self-correcting, remembering last week’s corrections. This meant I could give them a new thing to work on instead of repeating the same correction week after week, and this is how bodies change!
4) Their understanding of the exercises improved. Not only did they remember what the exercise was, they really started to get why we were doing it.
5) Excited to see their improvements, they naturally wanted to come to class more frequently. Taking class more frequently meant seeing even more growth.
6) Previously group classes were only on the Mat or the Reformer, as we didn’t have enough Chairs, Barrels and Cadillacs to accommodate a group of 4. Now with this format we could use all these other wonderful pieces of apparatus in the studio. This opened up a whole new world of exercises for them, which only made their Reformer and Matwork stronger.
7) They are now able to do the Matwork at home without me. There is never any reason for them to stop their practice if they go on vacation or if I’m unavailable.
8) They are having fun! They come in and tell me what they want to work on and get down to it. Still enjoying the company of others while they all sweat together.
There have really been NO CONS to using this format. I am trying now to give my Private clients this same experience. The more independent I can make them, the more work we can fit into the session. If I have to talk them through each and every exercise, set up their equipment and clean it down for them – that leaves a lot of time for them to just wait for me. I want you moving for that full session! This is how I get my clients out of the loop of repeating the same things and really making changes to their bodies. The more you know and understand about the exercise, the deeper you’ll be able to dig into it and the more juicy and delicious your Pilates workout will become!