Tuesday, November 23, 2010


There was an article in the Globe and Mail last week that made me very happy. Titled "The End of Pilates As We Know It" , it discusses the drop off in popularity of pilates classes and a resurrgence of popularity in intense cardio classes at North American gyms.

Now don't get me wrong, I love pilates. I have now replaced my biweekly yoga with pilates sessions in my living room and after a few weeks, I am seeing a real improvement in my pelvis/hamstring. In fact, this past week is the first time that the pain did not increase between physio sessions. Nevertheless, I was very frustrated when pilates became the new fitness trend 5 years ago. Why? Because people replaced cardio classes with it and it is not a replacement for cardio. Sorry folks, you still have to sweat. With the number one problem for most of us being too many calories in and too few out, you cannot overlook the importance of cardiovascular exercise for weight maintenance and prevention of a myriad of chronic illnesses. Pilates is functional exercise that is ideal for (1) rehabilitation, (2) prevention of injury, (3) facilitate everyday activities, and (4) improve sport performance. Do not replace cardio, or even resistance training with pilates.

Should you add pilate to your workout routine, if you have time? Absolutely! But be clear on what it is and what it is not. According to the Globe article, the reason interest in pilates is waining is because former devotees have realized that (1) it does not really help you lose weight/fat on its own, (2) results are gradual and slow.

That leads me to my review of pilates DVDs. I currently own 6 and some are excellent while others not so much. I've ordered them from best to worst.

Denise Austin - Hit the Spot Pilates
I cannot tell you how much I love this DVD! It is broken up into 7 segments, all 10 mins except the last one which is 15 minutes. If you do them all, it is a KILLER workout for your core, you can REALLY feel it. The segments are titled by what body part they supposedly focus on (thighs, buns, etc.), but really just ignore this BS, all the exercises are designed to primarily target your core, and they are really effective for that. It is fast paced and ideal for people with previous pilates experience. There is no focus on breathing and very little discussion of pilates principles or techniques, so not very suitable for beginners. I actually find Denise Austin very annoying (she comes across like an infomercial host), but you can actually mute her out of every segment. I guess I'm not the only one who is irritated by her! The last segment is done standing and is a very creative twist on traditional pilates exercises, I really love it!! I have started using this DVD most often and am not sick of it yet. I highly recommend it to anyone who is intermediate/advanced.

10 Minute Solution Rapid Results Pilates
This DVD is also broken into 10 minute segments based on body parts it focuses on. Unfortunately, one section is arms and shoulders, which is useless to me because that is not what I need to focus on. Nevertheless, it is straightforward and effective and I like the instructor, Lara Hudson. This workout is good for intermediate level folks as it also does not go through basic pilates principles and techniques, although Lara does cue breathing.

Stott Pilates Intermediate Matwork
This DVD is one integrated workout just under an hour. It is very true to classic pilates. Moira Merrithew and the Stott Pilates company are widely known as being a leading authority in the pilates world...and their head office and studio are in Toronto! Pretty much any Stott DVD is guaranteed to be high quality. This is a good, solid workout, but I got bored of it pretty quick.

Pilates for Life - Pilates on the Ball
This is produced by another studio in Toronto! I like the option of using a stability ball for the exercises and some of them are extremely challenging. What I don't like about this DVD is it claims to have 2 20-minute workouts, one beginner and one intermediate, however, it is the same workout both times, you can just focus on the instructor doing the beginner or the advanced option either time. False advertising, if you ask me!

Kathy Smith - Peel off the Pounds Pilates
I realized once I viewed this DVD that the reason it claims to help you lose weight is, it includes a 20 minute cardio workout! Well okay, but that's not pilates! In fact, I'd say that only 10 minutes of the whole DVD (the lower body and core mat workout segment) is actually pilates. So I would say this DVD is good for a beginner who wants a total body workout with low intensity cardio component. Useless for me, unfortunately.

Kathy Smith - Fat Burning Pilates
This one also has a cardio component. But it also has two other segments that are pilates focused. I like Kathy Smith and she does a good job going through the basic principles and techniques so I think this is a good DVD for anyone who is new to pilates. Unfortunately, this one is also just not very useful for me.

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