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“I just wanted to try something different.”

November 15th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Breaking news: The End of Pilates as We Know It?

According to The Globe and Mail, Pilates is no longer on the Hot List of workout routines. To most of us, this isn’t a big deal, as Pilates is just another workout fad to most people … just like Step Aerobics, Jazzercise and Tae Bo.

So what does RnR have to say about this? Let’s use point form, because I’m in a hurry!

  • People who advocate slow, careful, introspective fitness correction are like mechanics who insist that people know how their car works, whereas most folks just want to drive the damn thing. (This analogy has less power in these days of computerized cars, of course) Don’t tell me how to find my center, I just want to feel the burn, baby!
  • The hotness of an exercise routine has less to do with its value than its appeal. In other words, it only has to do enough good to satisfy a basic feel-good factor. After that, it has to give people what they want at that slice in time. If their wants change, they move on.
  • An important factor in making a routine “hot” is how people feel when telling their friends about what they do. Trust me, I don’t tell people I’m doing Yiquan or Mizongyi when they ask what I’m up to — “tai chi” will do, and that’s acceptable only because I’m over forty.
  • Some fads may do a lot of good, while routines viewed as “old school” and “normal” may not be optimal.
  • As long as people have short attention spans, serious “refine and repeat” fitness routines that require patience and introspection will never be popular.


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  1. November 19th, 2010 at 09:25 | #1

    Hi Steve.

    Can’t disagree with you at all.

    People are just too busier and putting themselves under too much artificial stress.

    One wayI have discovered is to help myself is to learn one of the shorter forms of tai chi. I like to use the 24 form set regularly. Only 24 moves and can be done in a few minutes. I usually do it two or three times per day.

    Another set that is fun and can be done in a short time is the 37 Yang style set as modified by Cheng Man-Ch’ing. He used the 108 set as his standard and basically took out most of the repetition of moves resulting in a set that has all the benefit of Yang tai chi but in less time. Even a busy person can find 10 minutes twice a day.

    There’s. Lots of samples of these sets on YouTube.

    All the best buddy.

    P.S. These sets are more fun to perform as well.


  2. SteveR
    November 19th, 2010 at 11:26 | #2

    I agree, Bill. If I taught Tai Chi, I probably wouldn’t teach the long set, since I’d want the students to get the principles first, and repeating a short set many times will ingrain the principles much better than doing a long set a few times … in my opinion. Refine and repeat?

    Along those lines, I don’t agree with the attitude that the long set is the “only” set, and that shorter sets are wussy or diluted. In fact, I believe that the long sets might have been created out of the shorter sets to keep students interested, and to make them think they’re getting their money’s worth. Yes, even in the old days.

    Take care,

  3. Caprice
    January 22nd, 2011 at 17:38 | #3

    Neither I, nor my teacher, nor my colleagues (we all teach pilates for a living) seem to have been affected by this shocking news. I think that article says a lot about how pilates is presented in a gym setting. A few years ago, workshops entitled “How to boost profits at your gym with pilates” started popping up at fitness conferences. This led to a flurry of personal trainers going out and taking weekend courses so they could teach group mat classes to members who thought that pilates was all about killer abdominal training.

    The very idea that an exercise system, that Joseph Pilates began developing in WWI, started to change people’s lives beginning in the late 1920’s is somehow passé is rubbish. If a gym sets out to lure people into pilates classes with catchy marketing, at some point it will be interpreted as a fad.

    Someone asked me yesterday if it’s true that pilates can change your body in 30 days, because they read that on a flyer somewhere. I really couldn’t say. I’ve been doing pilates since 1999, and my body has changed a lot. If you do any one thing for several hours every day for 30 days, you’re bound to experience changes to your body. But with marketing like that, do they really think their participants will stick around after the 30-day mark passes?

    Lifetime journeys are intimidating for most people, aren’t they? And in our western culture, who wants to commit?

  4. SteveR
    January 23rd, 2011 at 11:06 | #4

    The quality of something is irrelevant to its hotness, no? The appeal of something has two components: the thing’s inherent value, and the impression that the market has of it. The more superficial the focus of the marketplace, the more influence the latter has on the appeal of the phenomenon in question, right?

    So, no matter how good Pilates may be, it may indeed be “passe” to those who only value something by the subjective opinion that others have of it. Perfectly good things come in and out of fashion. How often have you returned to a store only to find that a perfectly good shoe has been replaced with an inferior model because the old one is “out of fashion”? Don’t get me started on running shoes. Again.

    I attribute this fashioniness to two influences (for the moment!): 1) when we were young, social acceptance was everything, and we were shunned if we weren’t engaging in the latest fashion of clothing, gadget or whatever — and we haven’t grown out of this, and 2) we love the stuff we create: if a technique is new, it must solve the problem better than the old technique did. So P90X beats Pilates. For everyone. Until the next thing that’s sold to us as a technological advance comes along.

    Sheesh. If only we paid attention, and thought critically.

    And yes, lifetime journeys are intimidating. If we commit to A, we might miss out on B. Can’t have that, can we?

  5. SteveR
    January 23rd, 2011 at 11:10 | #5

    By the way, the racquet club has just added two Pilates reformers to the general workout area, offering 30-minute coaching sessions (if I recall) on how to use them. I haven’t seen them used yet, but maybe I show up in the off-hours.

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