The Ever-Evolving Challenge of Pilates

March 13, 2018

By Cathleen Leszczynski

I first joined the Pilates community as a student in high school. In the last couple years have become fully dedicated to not only practicing it, but instructing it. My exercise repertoire has expanded quite a bit and continues to as time goes on, challenging my mind and body in new ways with new movement patterns. Ironically, more familiar exercises that I once thought would become easier somehow got even harder. Upon discussing such a phenomenon with a client recently, we both came to the same conclusion: Pilates never truly gets any easier. It is an evolving challenge for everyone, at any stage of training.

There are a multitude of reasons that I fell in love with Pilates, and this is just one of them. It’s fascinating how exercises are initially so challenging in terms of engaging the right muscles, maintaining focus, understanding the coordination of movement patterns, and generally executing a series of exercises. Once you further yourself in Pilates training you would expect it to get easier as your body grows stronger and your mind learns the exercises, right? Well I’m here to tell you it just gets harder—in the best way possible!

Clients are advanced by learning new Pilates repertoire that presents a whole new series of coordination, strength, and concentration challenges. Instructors also begin to hone in on technique and execution details of previously learned exercises, giving the clients an even deeper understanding of the work they are already performing. The pace of the lesson may change in order to challenge a client’s endurance and stamina. Variations of Classical exercises can be applied to give clients a new perspective or advancement of an exercise they’ve perhaps done for months (or years). Certain exercises can even be transferred to various apparatus, completely changing how the same exercise may feel in one’s body.

Let’s use the famous Hundreds as an example. One of the first exercises anyone learns in Pilates, it somehow remains one of the hardest. Whether it’s performed on the Mat, Reformer, the Cadillac using a rollback bar/arm springs, or the Wunda Chair, it is an ab-burner. Plain vanilla Hundreds are enough of a Powerhouse challenge—add in a moving surface, small base of support, spring resistance, or props, and there’s a whole new set of challenges for the body to adapt to while performing the exercise. None of the aforementioned options is easier than the others. Each one presents its unique twist to the Hundreds, and a teaching opportunity for the clients.

This ever-evolving challenge of Pilates is fun for everyone involved, clients and instructors alike. Not only do I personally love advancing my own technique and expanding my knowledge of Pilates, I love sharing it with clients and watching them grow. It is a gift to work in a field where everyone is always learning, discovering, bettering themselves, and refining their mind, body and spirit connection. It is essential to one’s well-being and demonstrates how the Pilates method withstands the test of time.