Fitness enthusiast and Pilates expert Shereen Elbaz gives us all the information we need to know about Pilates-style workouts-what’s actually going on underneath the workout, and the long term effects you’ll feel beyond the burn- in addition to the best places to get your Pilates on in Cairo.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Well, where do I start? Pilates can benefit almost every part of the body. To name a few:
- Improves flexibility.
- Increases muscle strength, particularly your powerhouse, which is your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks.
- Alignment, where you get balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body.
- Postural improvement and stabilization of the spine.
- Increases physical coordination and balance.
- Helps you with stress management and concentration.
What sets Pilates apart from other forms of fitness?
A lot of fitness programs focus on muscle isolation, where you work one muscle group at a time. However, Pilates works your body as a whole. In a single session you will work your arms, back, abdominals, gluteus and legs. As a result, your whole body becomes aligned; there will not be one muscle group stronger than the other, which will eventually help you with your posture. Who wouldn’t want to have a long, lean body like that of a ballerina!
Who would you recommend to start Pilates?
The unique thing about Pilates is that it caters to everyone, from beginner to advanced. It is also great for people with injuries who need rehabilitation, as well as pregnant women. You can perform exercises using your own body weight, or with the help of various pieces of equipment, it all comes down to the individuals’ needs.
What are the other restorative benefits of Pilates?
Pilates is all about strengthening your powerhouse (core muscles), which are the muscles that wrap around your trunk. This is great for the spine, as it strengthens and decompresses it.
Strengthening and decompressing the spine will help in alleviating back and hip pain in any individual with existing injuries.
It seems that people are either split between strength training or mat workouts, such as Pilates. Do you think it is an either/or scenario or can the two actually complement each other?
It all comes down to what each individual needs. Pilates is a form of strength training in itself, as you work with your body weight, so you could rely on Pilates alone. But, you could also use it to compliment other forms of exercise that you are engaged in.
Pilates develops mind-body awareness. All the exercises performed are done with precision, this helps participants become more aware of their bodies; improving their coordination, balance and precision. This translates into efficiency of movement-less effort and greater power in whichever sport you are participating in-as you become more aware of what muscle it is that you are trying to work for each specific movement.
Is Pilates enough to lose weight, get in shape, and be toned all with one form of exercise?
Generally speaking, in order for someone to lose weight, they must burn more calories than what they consume. Calorie burning happens through the engagement of the muscles while exercising and carrying out daily activities.
Pilates can help with weight loss, as it contributes to the development of muscles. Muscles use more energy and increase your resting metabolism. This means that the more muscles you gain, the more calories you will burn even when you’re not working out.
To burn the greatest number of calories in your Pilates routine and thereby lose the most amount of weight, you could perform exercises that require total-body stabilization, such as planks. Also try to perform exercises in quick succession to maximize calorie burn.
What is your favorite Pilates move and why?
THE HUNDRED!!! It is everything! You get to focus on your breathing and it is a killer for the abs. For me, it is the perfect exercise.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your Pilates practice?
Always focus on the here and the now! Pilates is all about concentration. With Pilates, you do not need to waste your time on meditation, you just concentrate on the exercise that you are doing and the muscles you need to engage. I find this therapeutic; I completely forget about everything else that is going on with my life, I just focus on my body and the movement that I am trying to do.
Once you develop this skill, you can take it out of class. Now I find it easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand, and control my stress levels as I am a lot more focused than I was before.
What places or instructors in Cairo do you recommend for a great Pilates session?
There are a few studios in Cairo that offer great Pilates classes. For instance,
- The Mala Studio in New Cairo has mat Pilates classes.
- Reform Pilates Studio in Zamalek and Sixth of October offers reformer and mat classes.
- FitStop in New Cairo offers Reformer Pilates classes.
Photo Credits: Basma Fathy