Pilatespocalypse: Moving beyond the fad!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Two weeks ago New York Magazine ran an article, “The Pilatespocalypse: How the Method that Started the Boutique-Fitness Trend is Going Bust”, which basically stated that boutique Pilates studios were about to go the way of the dinosaur. Although there have been major industry rumblings on the accuracy and research methods of the article, it at least has people talking. Pilates instructor and Balanced Body Education Program Manager, Joy Puleo, weighs in with her thoughts.

After reading the New York magazine article I, as a Pilates practitioner and educator, was relieved!

Joseph Pilates in snowFinally, Pilates can move past this idea that it needs to fit into the boutique fitness trend or keep up with the fitness rage du jour and return to what it was always intended to be, a powerful whole body movement modality with the capacity to transform how people move.

Movement: A crucial ingredient for a fuller life…
Joseph Pilates believed physical fitness is “the first requisite for happiness”. His ideology was born from influences of ancient tai chi, yoga as well as more contemporary physical regimes such as boxing and gymnastics. During World War II, when he was interned on the Isle of Man, Joseph Pilates used his method to strengthen fellow detainees. He would use the mat work with the heathier detainees and for those confined to beds, he added springs and straps to bed posts to get them moving.

Moving is the key word here.

The method has evolved over the years to include current bio-mechanical principles. But the root equation remains the same: healthy movement = a healthy body + a healthy mind.

It can be hard to keep moving today…
Movement is fundamental to who we are as humans. Our fast-paced, technologically-driven society has taken its toll on our physicality as evidenced by:

  • The presence of chronic fatigue, pain and diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease are directly linked back to what we are not doing physically.
  • Businesses losing millions of dollars in productivity due to chronic pain such as low back, carpal tunnel and other physical ailments due to repetitive stress and lack of movement.

It is modalities like Pilates that lets us re-establish the foundations of healthy movement and reintroduces us to who we are physically. It helps to reset what inactivity has removed from our movement pallet. Its importance in today’s society is paramount.

A re-invention, not a re-creation
I agree with Joan Breibart’s quote in the article that now is the time for the industry to pause and re-invent itself. There should be no room for elitist Pilates – those days are indeed gone. I do not agree, however, that re-invention means creating the next fad by simply making it harder or sweatier. With good foundations I can make a client sweat doing what seems like a simple move. Yet the move has a purpose to what that client needs as it is a movement that is relevant to their daily experiences.

I also agree that movement comes in many forms and diversifying modalities such as adding suspension system training, cardio training and more circuit oriented training is excellent, particularly if taught through the Pilates lens. These are ways to provide diversity of training, stimulate clients in new and sometimes unexpected ways and to bring new clients to studios and fitness facilities.

Strong teachers = strong businesses
I feel passionately that the comprehensive, thorough and thought provoking manner in which Pilates practitioners are taught makes the difference in how the method is experienced on the client level. Most Pilates education programs require a minimum 450 hours of total training. As a result, there is a legion of instructors for whom Pilates is a career and who are passionate and very well educated.

Retention, Retention, Retention
One glaring omission in the article is the importance of client retention for studios, which is really based on two simple tenets:

  • Understanding your client’s needs
  • Continuing to find new and effective ways to meet those needs

Again, education is imperative in attaining both. Find a studio that practices teaching strong movement foundations combined with interesting programming, you’ll find a thriving business with happy and loyal clients.

And speaking of clients we talk to people on a daily basis who report, without exception, that they feel better, stronger, leaner and generally healthier after each and every session. We see golfers report more ease in their swings and greater precision on the drive. We see players in the NBA, NFL and MLB report greater flexibility and performance. We see the exercise expanding into fields like rehabilitation and getting mind-blowing results in areas like breast cancer treatment and spinal cord injury.

So don’t call the paramedics just yet. Pilates is way more than simply a fad and it isn’t going the way of Zumba any time soon.

In fact, I think we are just getting started.