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Why Pilates?

With Kathryn Coyle

Season 4, Episode 10 | November 9, 2021

Pilates is a system of exercise designed to train the entire body— from the core out — and it can offer benefits to nearly everyone, regardless of fitness ability or level. In this mini episode, Pilates expert Kathryn Coyle explains the far-reaching advantages of Pilates and offers tips for getting started.

Kathryn Coyle is a Pilates industry veteran who has owned a successful studio and worked for Life Time as the national Pilates program manager. She’s currently the Life Time Training leadership development manager and a member of the Peak Pilates advisory board.

In this mini episode, Coyle offers advice for those who are interested in adding Pilates to their exercise regimen:

  • Know nearly everyone can benefit from it. There are rehabilitative, sports-performance, stress-reduction, and aesthetic advantages to Pilates. “Pilates is for every body,” says Coyle. “It truly will improve any physical activity that you are interested in doing, even if that activity is just playing with your kids or being able to sit at your desk all day.”
  • Combine classic and mat Pilates. Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method, designed the two disciplines to work together to give participants the best results. The equipment used in classic Pilates will aid in changing the way your body moves faster, while the mat is the greater source for building strength, especially in your core.
  • Work it regularly into your routine. Coyle suggests two to three times per week as an ideal cadence. However, she says that doesn’t always have to be in-studio efforts, as good instructors will provide at-home work to do as well. It can fit nicely into established programs as a recovery day effort or a flexibility or core component.
  • Find a reputable instructor. Coyle advises that a reputable Pilates instructor have about 500 hours of training. She recommends asking where the instructor was certified, how long their training was, how long they’ve been teaching, and if they only teach on equipment and/or the mat. They may also have specialty training, such as in working with back injuries.

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Transcript: Why Pilates?

Season 10, Episode 10  | November 9, 2021

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, Life Time’s national digital performer brand leader. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode, we’ll break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman

And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

In this mini episode, we’re talking about Pilates with Kathryn Coyle. Kathryn — a.k.a. Kat Attack, as I like to call her — is in Pilates and she’s an industry veteran who has owned a successful studio, has also worked for Life Time as a national Pilates program manager, and is currently the Life Time Training leadership development manager. She’s a member also of the Peak Pilates advisory board. So knowing that — making classical Pilates accessible, Kathryn brings her years of experience of teaching students and certifying teachers to illuminate the magic in this method.

So let’s get right into it. What exactly is Pilates?

Kathryn Coyle

Pilates is a system of exercise designed to train the entire body as a unit from the core out.

Jamie Martin

It’s so straightforward and so simple. One thing that I’ve heard of is Pilates makes you lean and long. So tell us a little bit about how, if I wanted to do Pilates, I would get started and what the benefits are beyond lean and long.

Kathryn Coyle

Yeah, so Pilates will flatten your abs. It’s going to build tremendous core strength. It mobilizes the entire body, so not just stretching muscles but helping with joint mobility as well. It’s great for improving posture. It can alleviate back and joint pain. Basically, anything you need, Pilates is going to help you accomplish that.

David Freeman

I see that Pilates itself has been very humbling in my experience when doing Pilates. I’m so used to going fast-twitch or going super fast, so when I come into Pilates, we tend to slow things down. So can you talk about a little bit of the benefits of slowing movement down and how that helps translate to coming back to that power and execution within any kind of sport that you might play?

Kathryn Coyle

Absolutely. So Pilates is an actual movement system and that makes it different than the other kinds of exercises that we may do like running or weightlifting, and part of being a movement system means that we’re actually retraining our neuromuscular pathways.

So if you think of your body like a computer, we get the computer and it’s brand-spanking-new and it works really, really great. And then things start to happen to it and it stops working so well. And so, instead of A going to B going to C, it goes to F, G, and H first. And that happens with our movement, so we begin to compensate. We begin to change the way that we move our bodies based on habits like sitting at a desk for a really long time or injury, and we become really efficient. We become prone to injury as well.

And so, by slowing down the movement and really focusing on the process of the movement, we can retrain the body to move the way that it was actually designed to move. And that’s why you’ll hear really good Pilates instructors be really particular and specific about, first, lengthen the back of your neck, next, pick your head up, now curl to this point, because they’re guiding you through the actual neuromuscular pathway, not just tapping into, do this exercise to get flat abs, but to change the way that you actually move in your day-to-day life.

Jamie Martin

I love that. So there’s classic Pilates that uses equipment, and there’s also mat Pilates. Can you tell us a little bit about both of them and the differences between the two?

Kathryn Coyle

Absolutely. So Joseph Pilates — hence, Pilates — he was the founder of the method and he created the mat method first, originally, but what he found was that it was really difficult. And when he started working with injured soldiers during World War I, he realized they weren’t strong enough to do the mat work. And so he created equipment based on what was available to him in the hospital that he was working at so that they could move, because he believed circulation healed.

And after his internment in England during World War I, he began creating a lot of different pieces of equipment. So the method evolved to actually include the mat work with the other 500 exercises that he created. There’s really only 32 mat exercises that he created, but over 500 Pilates exercises.

So it’s designed to be done as, again, a system of movement. So you will do some mat and you will work on the equipment, and those two different disciplines actually work together to give a student the best results. If you want results quickly in Pilates, get on the equipment because it will change the way you move faster than just the mat, but you’ve still got to do your mat because that’s what makes you really strong, especially in your core.

David Freeman

So within the origins that you just walked us through, he started off with mat and then introduced the machines. If somebody is starting off with Pilates, would you recommend now that reverse that you just kind of said, start with the machine and then complement it with the mat, or is there not a starting point as far as starting with mat or the machine? Which one works best?

Kathryn Coyle

Yeah. I would recommend that they go to an equipment studio and they take a classical or comprehensive approach to Pilates where they’re learning within their hour lesson some mat with some equipment work. And as their practice advances and evolves, their instructor will begin balancing their sessions, making sure that they’re working on all the apparatus so they’re getting a really well-rounded experience.

Jamie Martin

Makes sense. So who is Pilates for? I mean, is this for somebody who’s just getting started and wanting to move their body more in maybe a more gentle way? I’m using air quotes. Is it for the athlete? Is it for all of us?

Kathryn Coyle

Well, I can tell you LeBron James travels with his Pilates instructor, so it’s definitely for the athletes. But I’ll tell you, Pilates is for every body. It truly will improve any physical activity that you are interested in doing, even if that activity is just playing with your kids or being able to sit at your desk all day, which is really difficult on your back. So doctors and physical therapists recommend Pilates because it has rehabilitative benefits.

There are certainly aesthetic benefits to Pilates, which is why you see a lot of Hollywood celebrities like Kate Hudson and Kerry Washington and Jennifer Aniston using Pilates to give them the Hollywood look. And you also see professional athletes using it for its sports performance benefits as well. So you know, everybody’s going to fit into one of those buckets, for sure.

David Freeman

What would you recommend as far as frequency? So now people are getting into Pilates, they’re doing it once or twice. What would you say would be the standard as far as not only consistency but what should be the starting number if I’m getting into Pilates?

Kathryn Coyle

Yeah. Ideally, you’d want to look at doing Pilates two to three times a week. And you know, it doesn’t always have to be going to the equipment studio for three equipment classes or private sessions a week, but good instructors and good studios provide homework as well. So the great thing about Pilates is you can accomplish a lot by doing 15 minutes a day. So the more you do, the faster you’re going to see results because Pilates is naturally balanced in the system so you can’t over-train in it.

It also fits really nicely if you have an established program. So David, I know you’re a great lifter and an athlete and you have your training program established, and Pilates will slot right into that, helping you with a recovery day or adding in a core and flexibility component at the end of a really taxing workout.

Jamie Martin

I want to just tag onto something you mentioned in the midst of that is a good instructor. And how important is it when you start Pilates to go to somebody who’s certified? What are the certifications for it and how do you check for that?

Kathryn Coyle

Oh, I’m so glad you asked that, because some of the challenge with the fitness industry is it’s not well-regulated. I can go online and pay $25 and become a Pilates instructor just by taking a 10-minute course on the internet, right? I certainly wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who is similarly credentialed.

So a really reputable Pilates instructor is going to have about 500 hours of training. It’s a complex system and it’s your body, so you want to make sure you’re working with someone who is not doing a quickie certification but is fully committed to learning the method in its entirety and has done a program that also includes, probably, some specialties like how to work with somebody who may have a back injury. If you have orthopedic considerations, ask more questions of your instructor.

You would not go to any other kind of professional that you weren’t sure what their credentials are, so I would tell our listeners, do not be shy. Ask your instructor, where did you get certified? How long was your training? How long have you been teaching? Do you teach on the equipment or do you only teach on the mat? Ask some pointed questions and arm yourself as a consumer and as a body because you’re putting your body in their hands.

Jamie Martin

Those are great tips.

David Freeman

I know you spoke a lot on rehabilitation. I want to think of — since it’s such a foundational piece that is intricate within what it is that we do, how young could you start Pilates?

Kathryn Coyle

Yes, so it depends on equipment or non-equipment, but I used to teach a class for five-year-olds called Playful Pilates. And I was shocked the first class I taught because I was the most flexible person in the room, and these are little five-year-olds. They’re babies and their bodies have already been significantly impacted by sitting in little chairs at school. And movement is a healthy thing. Now, class was 20 minutes long and it was a lot of physical movement games kind of ingraining those skills, but you really can’t start too young.

If you want to look at getting on the equipment, because the equipment is built for adults, they need to be of an adequate size to actually fit the equipment. And you want to have a little bit of neurological advancement. So children’s nervous systems are not as well-developed as an adult, so typically I use 14 years old as a general rule of thumb for getting on the apparatus. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but that’s usually a pretty safe age to get started with the actual apparatus.

Jamie Martin

Great. OK, Kathryn. So anything else you want us to know about Pilates before we sign off on this episode?

Kathryn Coyle

It’s not yoga. I hear that all the time when I tell people that I’m a Pilates instructor. Joseph Pilates did study some yoga and yoga’s wonderful. I teach that too. But Pilates is its own discipline and it has many benefits beyond the physical. It’s great for stress reduction. It’s good for improving memory as well as your ability to just focus, and it’s like an hour-long meditation on movement when you really focus in on it.

So it is not the same thing as yoga. So if you tried yoga and decided it wasn’t your bag, don’t write Pilates off. And if you’ve been curious about Pilates and you do yoga, you very well may love Pilates too, but they’re not the same thing.

Jamie Martin

I love it. Well, thank you so much, Kathryn, for coming on and sharing all these insights and tips. This is awesome. Thank you.

Kathryn Coyle

Thank you for having me.

David Freeman

Thanks, Kathryn.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram, @lifetime.life@jamiemartinel, or @freezy30, and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at el.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to rate and review, and share on your social channels too.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and video production by Kevin Dixon, Coy Larson, and the team at LT Motion. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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