It is no real secret that within Rebalance Pilates and Yoga, as with most Pilates studios around the world, females form around 90 to 95% of our membership base. And like us, most studios will tell you that they are still looking for that magic formula that brings men rushing in to try some of Joseph Pilates’ finest moves. I know I went kicking and screaming my first time but I survived and now even enjoy it as do others. I even know a few male Pilates instructors and passionate attendees of all things Pilates. So if we can do it, then so can others. Why then are we in an extreme minority?
Should Men do Pilates?
There are plenty of reasons why males should be doing Pilates. Simply type the words “male Pilates” into your favourite search engine and you will find a number of articles (and blogs similar to this one) outlining how Pilates can help us fellas in areas such as improved flexibility, posture, core strength, balance and coordination. Not to mention stress reduction and improved focus. It’s also been discussed that a solid undertaking of the science that is Pilates can also improve performance in some other, more discreet areas too.
Oh, and for the sports nuts among us, Pilates has become a crucial part of the overall training programs of elite athletes plying their trades within the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL as well as many Olympic athletes. Finally did I mention that this whole schebang is named after a MISTER Pilates?
Why Don’t Men do Pilates
So the real question is why don’t men do pilates, it would be wise to start with the realities. Before you look to the anatomy text books, I must note the following is the humble opinion and observations of myself and a few of our male members – let’s call them Josh, Gary, Warwick and Paul*. All of the aforementioned joined us on instruction from their doctor, physio or wife (in my case). I asked them what was the hardest thing they experienced when they started Pilates and why they wouldn’t have come along unless pushed. Here we go:
The classes are full of women
Let’s face it, walking into an exercise class full of women is a daunting experience for even the strongest willed amongst us masculine beings – they are all looking at us – judging, whispering, laughing. Add to this that they all appear to be able to hold all of the poses that we cannot. This is a tough one for the good old male ego let me tell you… At least in a gym where we pretend to lift massive amounts of weight we are amongst our own kind and therefore willing to keep the lie alive!!
So I asked the Ladies why they look, judge, whisper and laugh when a male is in the class. You know what I found out? They really don’t care that we are there and in fact seem to like it. Yes they laugh when we fall over during a matwork session, but they do that to each other and that makes it more fun. I know from experience that once I accepted that and actually – god forbid – interacted with the feminine members of the class I instantly felt more at ease. Eventually they will also admit that any ‘look’ they are shooting is a look into their future as they also concentrate on not imploding on their plank set.
We look like ice skating elephants on the reformer machines with all the coordination of newborn giraffe
This sadly is a true fact. I thought I was the only one, and yes, as someone who runs some of these classes, we men really do look a little funny on them. Our legs don’t ‘sit’ the same way, and even the taller ladies don’t hang out all over the place like we seem to. However, after just a few classes everything pops into place and suddenly the gracefulness appears and we are off. Yes it hurts, and yes, after your first class you will curse the instructor’s name all the way home and even more so when someone has to help you up the stairs when you get there (so I am told 😉 ). But you know what, I promise you that the reformer machines definitely do not hold a gender bias.
To put the mind further at ease, some ‘real life’ facts for you:
- It is very hard to fall off of a reformer machine
- Unless you strain your neck to the side, you cannot really actually see what someone else is doing when you are on the reformer machines
- You can smash upper body sets and show off the guns.
Most importantly however, my most common feedback from males is that after just a few classes, back pain is severely reduced or even non-existent.
Holding tabletop makes our quads explode
Sounds easy enough.. Lie on your back, inhale, bring one leg to table top.. exhale.. inhale, bring second leg to table top…. Engage your core… knees on top of hips… inhale to prepare.. and go!
You think :
“This is ok.. I am doing this… issues 1. and 2. above are forgotten.. I am off… Hang on, my quads are hurting… They are screaming… Can’t… hold… table top…. Women are looking, judging, whispering, laughing…”
Yeeaarrrpppp!! Another common thread… Did Mr Pilates not have quads? If so, he would never have injected holding and pulsing into his passion surely. Mine burned like nothing before, and to a man, my four intrepid subjects complained about the same thing. The ‘fact’ (again, now, I have no actual scientific information to back this up) is most men that have come into the studio appear to be quad dominant so this muscle will overtake others first. Pilates helps this, trust me and again, in time it gets easier.
So There You Have It
Myself, Josh, Gary, Warwick and Paul are not stereotypical athletes, but we all manage to come here a few times a week and successfully complete classes. For the very credible, manly and rational issues listed above, here are the real world advantages we have discovered:
- We can handle squash, touch football and veterans basketball now without injury
- Physiotherapy visits are no longer required
- We can lift heavier weights at the gym
- Back pain is no longer
- We can last that little bit longer in our HIIT sessions
- And most importantly to a man, we just FEEL BETTER.
We can do it and we do do it.. The environment is always welcoming and we really do see improved flexibility, posture, core strength, balance, coordination, stress reduction and improved focus. (Wasn’t quite game to ask the last question, after all, we are still in a class full of ladies).
*Real names have been used to protect those with fake names.
Written by Paul Watson, Rebalance Pilates and Yoga Coffs Harbour, Owner