As you can imagine, Rio de Janeiro, a city bordered by the ocean, and surrounded by mountains, with a sunny climate, is a mecca for the keep-fit crowd. There are cycle paths all over town, but especially along the coastline, tracks for hiking and biking, various beach sports – including surfing of course – and even hang-gliding for those who like the thrill. Much in fashion over recent years, indoor gyms have flourished, and offer various types of exercise, from weight-lifting to more relaxed exercise, such as Yoga and Pilates.
Pilates Principles: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow
For many, these six principles are the foundation of the Pilates approach to exercise. Their application to the Pilates method is part of what makes it unique in the fitness world.
Pilates focuses on trying to relax muscles which are tense and provide strengthening of the numerous muscles of the body.
Why I chose Pilates and why I like it? Well, it depends a little on your age and gender. I notice that most Pilates videos on the internet are aimed at women. The young like to pump iron and run the treadmill, but I am elderly – over 80 – so I need something not quite so demanding. Pilates builds muscle in a less strenuous way, at the same time looking after your tendons and joints. I had a hip and knee problem when I started Pilates, with quite a lot of pain. The hip gives very little trouble now, and the knee stiffens up every now and again. I need to give you a little of my medical history, but before that I would like to mention the relax part of Pilates. Breathing is a part of every Pilates exercise, and when you first lie down on the bench they call the Cadillac, and start with breathing exercises, you feel a sense of peace and tranquility (with some relaxing music playing in the background). In all the exercises, standing, sitting or lying down, the mind is also important, as in coordination, balance and posture.
I have practiced many sports in my lifetime, from athletics to rugby to tennis to golf, but soon after arriving in Brazil, at the age of 20, I broke a femur in a motorbike accident and that slowed me down for a couple of years. I was immobilized in plaster for three months, and although physiotherapy gave me back movement in the leg, the intermittent swelling and stiffness today are the long term results. Later in life I had by-pass surgery, then abdominal surgery, so there are after-effects, such as a stretched abdomen, so important in Pilates.
The instructors at the gym I go to (Echoes) are all skilled, and well trained by their Master Instructor of Pilates and CEO Carolina Bicudo, sympathetic to the needs of their students, catering to their idiosyncrasies and making the class not only positive in terms of physical improvement, but also fun.