Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pilates Pick -- Ana Caban

Today I did Pilates as an add-on to my upper body strength training. I have been doing Pilates for 6 or 7 years now, but I've never been consistent with it long enough to say that I'm really a Pilates person or anything. But I'm striving to do it 3x a week right now at the end of my other workouts (with yoga as the add-on the other days) and I really enjoy it.

The funny thing about Pilates is that it can be awfully repetetive, yet it never gets old. I had my preconceived notions about Pilates when I first tried it -- like many have said, thinking there weren't enough reps or I didn't feel a "burn" when I did the moves or I wouldn't enjoy doing the same thing over and over. I learned that I had to shift my thinking from athletic-style exercises when I do Pilates. Reps are able tuning into the core and getting quality work done. They aren't about feeling the muscle burn and getting the muscle to fatigue by the last rep. It's about connecting to the core with each and every move.

Another discovery is that Pilates gets harder the more you do it, not easier. The more you do it, the more you realize how you're supposed to be doing it, the more aware you are of the inner muscles of your body. So it's always a challenge.

And somehow I just love the repetition. I don't get tired of eating yummy food over and over all week long and it's the same with doing Pilates. When I do a single leg circle or the seal or (ugh! it's tough) even the teaser, I'm glad to be back on the mat doing it again.

Most of my Pilates experience is from doing videos. I've only taken one Pilates class and it was very similar to what I'd one at home. I think if I took private lessons, I'd learn more about how my body is moving to ensure proper form, but I don't feel like the group class I took taught me anything more than I'd learned with the videos. The instructor seemed to think my form was right.
My favorite Pilates videos are led by Ana Caban (produced by Gaiam). She is down to earth, has perfect form, uses a variety of moves, has stunning photography and production in her videos, and always provides plenty of moves in 30 minutes. I've found that I just don't like doing Pilates for much longer than that. I get antsy. Maybe it's because the videos I've done that are 45-60 minutes long don't actually do any more moves than Ana does, they just stop for longer periods of time in between to set up each move or go more slowly.

If you'd like to read some reviews of her videos, you can see plenty at the Video Fitness website . I'll just share with you my favorites and let you know what levels they are so you can match it to your Pilates experience.

Most of Ana's videos are filmed outdoors -- somewhere scenic like the beach. Her first two with Gaiam (Beginning Mat Work & Intermediate Mat Work) were filmed indoors, but used fun and perky photography that I've always enjoyed. It alternates black and white to color -- sort of early MTV style. I still do the Intermediate one often. I've held onto the Beginning one in case my daughters want to try it sometime.

The ones I do most are Pilates Abs and Maintenance Pilates (did the latter today). Pilates Abs has more reps than I've seen in any of her others. Maintenance Pilates has some fun moves towards the end that I don't see in many Pilates workouts. I also enjoy her Body Band challenge.

Ana's videos are available most anywhere online and are in retail stores from time to time too. (I've even bought them at Costco before). is a great place to buy them because their prices are always low, they don't charge for shipping, and the delivery is quick. I've ordered from them for years. They also have a 20% off sale for a week or two every November and I think May. I'll let you know when the next one hits.

Here's a ranking of difficulty that was listed by Kathy on a VF review. I've done all of them but the Core Challenge (I want to try that one soon), but I agree with her on the rest:

Beginning Pilates Matwork
Easy Pilates
Quick Start Pilates for Weight Loss
Cardio Pilates

Intermediate Pilates Matwork
PM Pilates
Maintenance Pilates for Weight Loss (both audio and video routines)
Energy Boost Pilates (I and II)
Pilates for Abs
Pilates Core Challenge.

I don't really care for the cardio on Cardio Pilates, but it's chaptered perfectly to be able to skip her short cardio segment and just do the mat work.

I hope to take a teacher course in Pilates sometime, maybe when my youngest starts Kindergarten next fall. I don't know that I want to be a Pilates instructor, but I'd love to understand it better and become stronger in all the moves.

Guess that's it -- I want to tell you about Brooke Siler and Hillary Burnett too (and two other Pilates dvds that I really love, but only have one by each of those instructors), but I'll save that for another time. My children will be home from school any minutes (oh the joy of having a teen driver who can pick them up on her way home from high school!) and I have to do a few things before they come. TTFN!

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