You may remember that at the start of this year, I set the goal of doing Pilates on a regular basis in 2013.
This goal was set for several reasons. I think Pilates would help with my poor flexibility. I am sure it would help with my terrible (non-existent) balance. By improving core muscle strength, it would help counter the back difficulties that stem from mild scoliosis. It may also reduce my vulnerability to injuries when running.
In short, there are lots of reasons why Pilates might be beneficial. And yet, prior to this year, I have said many times that I will do it and many times I have done it once, perhaps twice, and then stopped. It has made me realise what exercise is like for lots of people - they start with the best of intentions, there are lots of reasons to do it, and yet for various reasons it doesn't happen.
I am fortunate that I don't need to force myself to exercise, but it seems that only applies to exercise I am already in a routine of doing. Cardio work, no problem. Stretching, absolutely. Weights, sometimes.
Pilates? Mmm. Tricky.
This is why it needed to be a goal.
Even with my goal setting, I wasn't quite sure how I would achieve it regularly. My gym does Les Mills Body Balance classes, which incorporate Pilates, yoga and tai chi. I have done them at an average rate of one class per year for the last four years. The class schedule just doesn't match my schedule. Paying for Pilates classes elsewhere seemed too expensive, and doing it at home has never really happened consistently.
Towards the end of January, a friend recommended that I try Xtend Barre. She thought it might appeal to me more than regular Pilates, and told me about a DVD series by the creator of Xtend Barre, Andrea Rogers.
Xtend Barre could be described as Pilates with a twist. It includes Pilates movements, and has the same focus on building core strength, flexibility and balance, but it also adds elements of ballet and dance. In so doing, there is more movement than in a typical Pilates class and it relies on cardiovascular fitness as well as strength.
As with Pilates, the focus is on using your own body weight and on honing small, specific movements that tone specific body parts. I ordered the Xtend Barre ballet workout DVD, which has tracks for warming up and cooling down, upper body work, core strength work, and a barre workout section that focuses primarily on the lower body.
I have now used the DVD four times (usually doing half of the 55 minute workout in a session) and also attended one Xtend Barre class at a local studio. The home DVD work is scheduled in to my Thursday, and I can see it continuing. The class I tried was fun, but at $20 per class, won't be happening regularly.
I was initially worried that Xtend Barre wouldn't offer all of the benefits I wanted from Pilates. I get enough cardio work and wanted to make sure the core strength, flexibility and balance I was after would come through. There are parts of the DVD routine where I know I'm not using perfect form, and I also wanted to make sure I didn't trigger any injuries.
Despite the above, I am now a convert. I really enjoy it! It is active enough to keep me engaged and interested, without being so active that it becomes a heart rate workout rather than a conditioning one. I inevitably feel the effects the following day (the first few times, I felt the effects to the extent that walking was painful...). It is clearly activating muscle groups I don't usually use. I finish feeling calm, limber, and like I have done something worthwhile.
Will I get all those benefits I was hoping for from Pilates? Only time will tell. However, I think I have finally found my match for Pilates-type work and I am quite excited to keep it in my routine. I never thought I would be someone who did home exercise DVDs (I still can't think of myself as someone who is), but this may prove to be the exception.
Have you ever tried Xtend Barre? Or do you regularly do 'normal' pilates?
For another Fitness Fridays contribution, see Theresa's excellent post on eating to fuel exercise, at The Tropical Vegan.