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Ask an Expert: How Does Pilates Improve Overall Health?

Whether your motive is to get in shape, release stress, prevent physical injury, or all of the above — a lot can be achieved with dedication and consistent workouts. After all, it’s no secret that routinely engaging in the right physical activities can have life changing physical and mental health benefits.

But with so many fitness fads flying around, how can one be sure they are taught the correct workout method to improve their body based on their own individual goals?

We pulled up a mat and chatted with 2014 Best of Boston winner, Julie Erickson – owner of South End’s Endurance Pilates and Yoga studio – for the skinny on what makes Pilates such a helpful practice for those seeking an effective mind-body exercise.

Q. With 20+ years of training, teaching and earning dozens of exercise certifications, I take it your passion and endurance must explain the studio’s name?

Yes, endurance is a fight within yourself! And getting fit isn’t about age either. I’m in much better shape in my 40s than I was in my 20s. Endurance Pilates is really more about having passion and a desire to lead a healthy lifestyle — a topic covered regularly in my blog.

Q. Where did you learn the Pilates techniques you teach?

Like yoga, there are several different types of schools  that teach Pilates or Pilates based exercise. I have studied four different Pilates methods and now teach what’s known as Classical  Authentic Pilates in New York City, a method that is taught via a thorough apprenticeship and certification that takes at least over a year and has been passed on via word of mouth from Joseph Pilates.   I remain in touch with all of the teachers I trained with and spend at least once a month studying and training in NYC and Greenwich, CT in order to keep my skills and body up to speed.

Q. Describe what the school of “Classical Authentic” Pilates is all about.

It’s very focused on proper body movement and and handling the body with care. It’s also about safely increasing flexibility using opposing muscular strength to hold the greater range of motion, and correcting any improper movement patterns to help prevent future injury — whether training for a professional sport or carrying out everyday activities like running after the kids. Improper muscle patterns used  while performing even the simplest of tasks can strain muscles and cause harm without people realizing it.  For the pro athletes that I train, improper movements can end their careers.

Q. Do you train your instructors yourself?

Yes, I teach  all of the Endurance Pilates and Yoga instructors personally.   They are required to complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of training with me including classroom, observation and practice teaching and testing using the studio’s highest quality Gratz equipment before they can lead a one-on-one or small group session at the studio.

Q. Training for a minimum of 1,000 hours? That sounds intense!

Absolutely! Currently we’re in what is the 3rd generation of Classic Authentic Pilates experts here in Boston.

Q. And you’ve selflessly donated your time to train Boston Marathon survivors, free of charge. That must be hugely rewarding.

It is! I’ve trained several Boston Marathon bombing survivors to help them regain their strength. I’ve also trained a friend who is a quadriplegic  hand-cyclist who participated in the NYC  and Miami marathons this year. I put myself into his hand cycle   in order to teach myself the movement patterns to understand his needs and challenges and developed a strength training program for him. In addition to this, I’m involved with great foundations including Challenged Athlete’s Foundation, 50 Legs—which helps amputees acquire and use prosthetics and I will be running the 2016 NYC Marathon with my friend Alan who will be hand cycling again for the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

Q. Who are your typical studio students?

Classes are open to students of all kinds ranging from teens to people in their eighties. Most of our private students are male, many of whom want to get an edge in another area of their life or improve their performance in other activities like triathletes, running, or golf, and I train a number of professional NHL and NBA athletes.  Our female private students include professional dancers, tennis players, grad students and moms looking for that extra push to achieve their very best athletic performances

Q. Now for the hard-hitting questions: Booty shorts in class. Yay or nay?

Yay! To prep for class, I recommend students not only arrive early but that they dress in appropriate, form-fitting attire. Wearing baggy clothes or sweats makes it difficult for the instructor to see subtle body motions and correct bad movement. For men, wearing spandex under gym shorts is a great solution, also.

Q. How can I sign up for a class?

Visit Endurance Pilates and Yoga online to view class descriptions and access the studio schedule. Be sure to select the correct level (beginners are strongly advised to stick to entry-level workouts, as intermediate level training will work up an intense sweat). From there, enjoy the start of a happier, healthier life thanks to the power of Pilates!