Health and fitness is a vast topic with so many different views and theories around it, it’s no wonder that we often get confused about what and how much we should be doing to stay fit. To make matters worse we are also bombarded with media images of tall, slender bodies with six pack abs or arms sculpted to perfection therefore it’s hard not to associate fitness with a certain look or body shape. We are also falsely given the illusion that we have to be a certain size or shape to qualify to be called fit. I don’t know about you but I find this very upsetting because we all come in different shapes and sizes and I do not believe true fitness or health has a size and I certainly don’t want my daughter to grow up believing it does. So the more I think about it the more I realise what fitness actually means to ME.
To me healthy means you wake up most mornings feeling energetic, ready to tackle the day and can get on with your daily tasks with ease and without any niggling aches and pains. It also means you are happy and confident in your body feeling strong and not having the need to strive for perfection (because there’s no such thing) or try to fit a certain mould. What I believe in is setting realistic fitness goals that will keep us motivated instead of setting us up for failure. I believe in moving and exercising on a daily basis BUT also finding a balance and working out in a way that will energise and nourish the body rather than depletes it.
There were times when we were told and we believed that we had to put ourselves through long, grueling workouts in order to be fit. I also went through a phase myself when I felt unless I was drenched in sweat and felt exhausted I didn’t work hard enough and I almost felt guilty when I missed a workout (even though I was practising Pilates several times a week I still thought I had to push myself harder). However, after picking up a few minor injuries due to poor form or alignment I soon realised this was not what my body needed so I brought my focus back to Pilates entirely to avoid further injuries or chronic pain. I still do cardio because I know variety is important but I don’t do punishing workouts anymore. Now I listen to my body and honor it by doing something that fuels my body instead of depleting it. I love exercising because of how it makes me feel but I’m not obsessed with it anymore. I’m also aware of the negative impact of too much high intensity workout so I created a balanced exercise regime that includes non-punishing cardio sessions and Pilates. Just to be clear I’m not trying to tell you what to do or not to do, I only want you to be healthy, exercise safe and encourage you to become the best version of yourself instead of chasing after a certain look. Choose an activity that makes you happy, brings you joy and have a routine that allows you to figure out how much cardio you need to stay balanced. Don’t measure your success by your weight or the intensity of your workouts, listen to your body and observe how it feels while exercising.
One of the reasons why I’m such a big fan of Pilates is because it taught me how to exercise effectively and how to strengthen and tone my entire body without the risk of injury. I learnt how to be body aware so I can maintain correct form and alignment to keep my joints safe even off the mat or while doing other physical activities. Pilates is a type of exercise where quality is more important than quantity and once you understand the method and acquire the principles of Pilates you will enhance your performance in any other activities. You don’t have to pick either just one activity or another, add Pilates to your existing regime and you’ll do everything better. Contrary to what some people wrongly assume Pilates is not a stretching, relaxing type of workout. It’s about building a stable torso and a strong core to keep the body in correct alignment therefore effort and work has to be invested. As Joe Pilates puts it (and I love this quote):
” Physical fitness can neither be acquired by wishful thinking nor by outright purchase”
Although you work hard using so many muscles in your body, Pilates never leaves you feeling depleted. By practising Pilates and paying attention to your body, you’ll not only gain strength and tone your body but the more you do it the more at ease you will feel in your body. Mr. Pilates created the method with the intention of making us understand how to take care of our body so that we can move in every direction with ease and control. He also wanted us to use every muscle in our body from top to toe to build flexibility as well as strength so no muscle group is left under or over trained. Through Pilates we also learn how to breathe properly to increase circulation (delivering oxygen to the muscles and vital organs) and how to connect the breath to movement so we can stabilise the torso and generate powerful moves. It may come to you as a surprise but you can actually burn a substantial amount of calories with Pilates. While an advanced 30 minute Pilates routine can burn around 300 calories, a 60 minute beginners’ mat class could help get rid of between 120 and 300 calories based on the person’s weight and according to several articles written on the subject a 50 minute beginners’ class would burn an average of 175 calories.
However, as exciting as it sounds don’t measure or judge the benefits of Pilates just by the number of calories you burn. It gives you so much more than just losing calories. It will also give you a stronger physique, flatter tummy, tall spine and better posture and regardless what the scale says your clothes will fit better. It sounds good enough to me so create that balance by adding this great method to your fitness regime, get ready for a fantastic workout. Listen to your body, it knows best. Feed and move your body well and it will do the rest. 🙂