Start Pilates is with private sessions in a dedicated, specialized Pilates studio.
"People who don't do it think it's baby stuff.''
That is Rick Lieberman talking about the Pilates method. I was delighted to meet him recently, because I have long wanted to write a fitness profile of a man who does Pilates. But I had not found a good subject until now.
Lieberman is a great one. Retired from a successful career as a litigation attorney, he is now a full-time author with two business books published and his first novel with his editor. He has to convince people that he’s as old as he is — 70. He has no lower-back pain, in spite of many hours that he spent and still spends at a desk. He writes for five hours a day. And he will tell you that Pilates has a lot to do with his excellent posture and overall condition.
My interest in Pilates for men stems from certain knowledge that it is especially appropriate for addressing some of their biggest issues. Even a gym rat who lifts heavy weights almost daily can have a big belly. (Sorry, fellas, but that’s telling it like it is.) Guys certainly suffer from lower-back pain. And most would be happy to have a leaner body. I am not suggesting that Pilates will magically solve all that. But with its focus on the core, it is a high-potential strategy as demonstrated by Lieberman’s story.
Lieberman started exercising in his 30s with swimming, in his words “A great exercise but not enough, with little or no core or flexibility conditioning.” He lived in Chicago in the 1990s when the late Romana Kryzanowska opened a teacher-training facility in Evanston, Illinois. She was the chosen heir of method founder Joseph Pilates, who was born in 1883 and died in 1967. Hers was the area’s only Pilates facility, a big place with tons of Pilates apparatus. Students trained with teachers who were studying for their certifications.
Lieberman’s wife, Tina, discovered Romana’s studio, worked out there and suggested that Rick give it a try. At first, Lieberman says he was, “Weak and inflexible with no core strength and forward head posture."
"One of my coaches commented on that and told me, ‘If you walk like that across a courtroom, you’ll lose your case.’ That was a big motivator,” he said.
At first, he found it “very difficult” to master the Pilates exercises, which must be done in a specific way on unique equipment including the Reformer, Cadillac or Trapeze Table, the Barrel and the Wunda-Chair. But he started to see results in six months to a year, and he attributes to Pilates “greatly improved posture, enormously more flexibility and much greater core strength.”
So I asked him, “Why do you think so few men do Pilates?” His reply: “They’re afraid of it. They look at the machines and postures, and they’re afraid. I gave a friend a gift of two sessions and he only used one. The instructor said he seemed ‘petrified.’”
That’s valid, though I suspect it’s only part of the story. Another part is in the headline: people who don’t do it think it is baby stuff. Ha! Pilates exercise demands strength, courage and concentration. Yet another part may well have to do with the mostly female students — and trainers. Guys who can get around that stuff have a lot to gain.
The best way for anyone to start Pilates is with private sessions in a dedicated, specialized studio. You want a dedicated environment and specialist instructor at the very beginning.
Lieberman works weekly with Kathy Dandois Boivin at Dynamic Fitness in the Colonnade strip center on Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota’s original Pilates studio, 929-9885. Other good options with great credentials and decades of experience are Michelle Sibilia of Pilates Is A Workout, located in Studio South on Palm Ave, 207-329-5869, and Cinde Carroll whose studio is in the Gold Tree Plaza on Ringling and Tuttle, 203-8156. The cost will be similar to personal training, $65 to $85 per hour. Once you have learned the basics, you can opt for group sessions or mat classes at less expense.
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals I and II, SCF “Active Aging,” and Power Pilates Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. E-mail her at [email protected].