I recently attended a seminar/workshop weekend at Movement's Afoote Pilates Studio in NYC. The subject of the workshop was "Innovations in Pilates: Therapeutic Muscle Stretching on the Pilates Equipment" with Anthony Lett.
I love going to events like this workshop. They're not inexpensive, they require that I cancel my own client appointments for two days, they involve significant travel time and effort, and they always necessitate a strong follow-up effort and intense study to get a handle on the information and the various hands-on techniques that are presented in the workshop.
Sounds like fun, eh?
Yes! I am a knowledge-nerd! I love getting together with people who see the world through the prism of anatomy, motor skills, physical training, rehab, physiology and all the many components of somatic (body) awareness, conditioning and experience.
When I walk down the street, what I see is people's posture, their gait (walking bio mechanics), their physical challenges or their physical gifts. Much the same way a police officer sees suspicious individuals in the vicinity, my awareness is drawn to the world of human physicality, to physical movement/function. It's my filter and through that perspective I experience my life.
So when there's an opportunity to expand on that perspective and go a bit deeper into the experience, I jump at it!
This workshop was just that sort of golden opportunity. Anthony Lett is an Australian Pilates instructor with 25+ years of experience. His approach to teaching Pilates is wide-ranging and creative, and the focus of this workshop was (to quote Anthony) "an attempt to further develop the stretching aspect of Pilates original work. Many of the other central ideas of Pilates, like the notion of “core strength” have received considerable development, but the stretching work had been given less attention".
Now, as a practitioner of Fascial Stretch Therapy I am a true believer in the many benefits of stretching. Strength is another vital component of any good fitness program, and there's no shortage of people doing strength training. Stretching, on the other hand, is often neglected and ignored, and the consequences of that are joint pain (particularly low back pain), restricted movement, balance issues, stress and tight muscles generally.
So the workshop took place over a two-day period, 8 hrs per day. Which if you think of it is a lot of stretching! I have to say I felt a little beat up after 16 hours of muscle elongation!
But what a great time - a ton of new stretches or modified old ones. A brand new tool for maximizing stretch results by using the Reformer - set up as the ideal aid in getting the body in the proper positions for taking full advantage of the stretch. The sliding platform, the springs and straps, the adjustable foot bar that is part of each Reformer can be used to support any position that is required - while allowing the person stretching to relax into the position and thereby increase the stimulus to the muscles.
As part of what I call my "Integrated Training" approach to fitness, I need to have a broad collection of physical props and conceptual tools in my "fitness toolbox". I have found that clients can often be helped by the application of stretching both generally and targeted, and that without that experience most clients will eventually be challenged with joint pain and at least partial disability. Exercise by definition requires putting stress on the body to stimulate physical adaptations. The regular application of "overload" to the muscles/bones is the trigger that starts the adaptation. But adding stress and overloading the body's systems and structure is only effective when the body is strong enough and flexible enough and functioning well enough to tolerate the extra load.
So a prop like the Reformer is a fantastic addition to the toolbox because it allows safe positioning, proper support for the client's body weight, relaxing movement and positive results that act to reinforce the motivation that got them there in the first place. The only surprise here is that it took so long for somebody to come up with this idea. And I want to thank Anthony for being the one to manage it, to do the extensive research and creative work required to bring it all to fruition.
In the coming months I'll be immersed in the text, trying all of the stretches on the Reformer and generally getting to the point at which I feel confident enough that I can share this with my clients and make it my own.
And I hope to have more reports for my readers on more workshops I will be attending throughout the year. These learning opportunities are too valuable to overlook! Particularly when I think back to my early days as a personal trainer, back when Exercise Science was in it's infancy, before all the various certifying bodies had been set up, before personal trainers, before the explosion of fitness/wellness magazines and books, before the web, before blogs!!