Why Don’t More Men do Pilates?

Usually, I’m the one who is writing the blog posts on here about my experiences and knowledge but Bryan and I have been talking about him doing a post for a little on his personal experience with Pilates and how it has affected him. So now that he has been doing Pilates for over a year here is his opinion on Pilates and the benifits he has seen.

Until about a year ago, I never fathomed the possibility of ever taking a group fitness class. I was your typical former high-school athlete, way less limber and flexible than I was a decade ago in my glory days. My typical workout routine consisted of stationary weight lifting, with a few bouts of cardio throughout the week, occasionally mixing in a run or hike. This type of working out was a way for me to ‘maintain’ my muscle, stay fairly trim and still feel like I was putting in the time and work to my physical fitness.

Who knew that some of the best and most elite male athletes utilize Pilates as a way to master their craft? Steelers All-Pro receive Antonio Brown and Phillies pitcher Jake Arietta are two star-studded athletes just to name a few. Both of these athletes employ Pilates as a way to maintain both physical and mental well-being. Perhaps this can help remove the ‘stigmas’ that surround Pilates and its efficacy.

Fast forward to today… I am 10 years post back surgery. In 2009, I had a minimally invasive back surgery consisting of a lumbar discectomy, which in layman’s terms essentially meant I had two herniated disks in my lower back (L4, L5, S1) that were pressing on my sciatic nerve. I used to make excuses about not being able to run, my inflexibility and lack or core strength to support my back. Enter Pilates. I had never taken Pilates before, let alone even really understand the basic principles and concepts. Add in the fact that my workouts, like most, got stale over time. My body was used to the same movements, even if I switched up exercises, and I knew it was time for something new. I also had no need to keep the bulky upper body muscle that I once used in sports. What started out as a simple date idea with my current girlfriend, turned into a lifestyle alteration.

Over this past year, what I once thought was a workout meant for ‘woman’, has turned out to have more benefits than I could have imagined. Sure, the majority of my mat and reformer classes have been female-dominated, but I now have a new appreciation for the art of functional movements, flexibility, and core strength. I have developed a real affinity for the different types of Pilates I have been able to experience recently. Maybe Men just do not like being told what to do…

In my opinion, Mat Pilates is probably the most underrated form of Pilates. It requires balance, body awareness and the ability to utilize your own body weight. Most folks think you need a ‘machine’ in order to work out, but truth be told, I personally think Mat can be more of a balance challenge. The core principal relay on core strength (no pun intended), where basically every move requires some type of abdominal engagement. This engagement has been particularly useful to someone like myself, who would rather find different ways to work my core (to support my back) in ways other than your standard sit-up, which can cause back pain. The movements of Pilates are very mindful and the flows are meant to limit compromising positions and allow for modifications if need be. It isn’t just about having abs and a six-pack, but rather a strong core to support my upper body strength and back needs.

Mixing in one or two Pilates classes a week has really helped out in many aspects of my life, both mentally and physically. There are the obvious benefits, such as increased hamstring flexibility, a stronger core, as well as more toned legs. The intangible benefits for me have been less daily back pain, and the ability to run and sprint at places such as Barry’s Bootcamp (11.5! what what). Though, I still try and steer clear of intense jumping movements, I’m able to jump squat, do jumping jacks and jack squats no issue! I have been able to perform more HIIT-focused workouts, helping build more lean muscle and provide valuable fat loss.

The other major benefit for me has come in the form of snowboarding. Snowboarding has long been my favorite athletic activity. I began skiing when I was 3 years old and have been skiing/snowboarding consistently ever since, including living in Colorado for 5 years where I racked up over 100 days. The 2009 winter was the first and only winter I had missed due to injury. This was a major blow to me, as my surgery recovery spanned about 7 months from Sept- April of that year. Post-surgery. I was limited to only being able to go one day and not feeling up to going a second day in a row due to back pain. However, Pilates has changed that and allowed me to shred back to back days, without the effects I used to feel after a hard day.

Having a strong grasp of these basic Pilates principals allows me to practice flows anywhere I have a mat and some time, even without professional instruction or a studio. Hopefully, I have inspired some of the men out there or at least informed their significant others that there are amazing benefits for your male counterpart. Remember, it’s not just about the physical result, there is a strong mental component to Pilates. Whether working on your breathing, letting go of real-world stresses or just needing to ‘sweat it out’, exercising in general is a great release and way to keep you strong mentally. Pilates is a great form of exercise, something I will continue to do as I get older, plus it is a great way to get a couples workout in. You know what they say, “Couples who work out together, stay together”. My regular workouts now consist of gym workouts (3-4 times), with Pilates and HIIT workouts weaved in once a week, keeping things fun and interesting for myself.

My goal is to help break down stigmas and educate my male counterparts on this unique type of fitness platform. Young, old, short, or tall, there is some type of mindful movement for everyone.