Pilates continues to grow in popularity | TheUnion.com

Pilates continues to grow in popularity

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Claire McAdams loves to snow ski. But when she hit her 30s, something felt different.

She found she had to stop two or three times on the longer runs of the day. Her stamina wasn’t what it used to be.

“I needed to find something that would keep me in shape,” she said. “But I wasn’t into running and I’m not really a yoga person.”

When her massage therapist suggested Pilates, she decided to give it a try.

“According to the Wall Street Journal, in 1991 there were about 200 Pilates instructors nationwide. Today there are more than 15,000.”
— Roxanna Cohen, owner of The Pilates Place

Today, more than seven years later, 40-year-old McAdams says she can ski all day without stopping — something she attributes to Pilates.

“I’m skiing better than any time in my life,” she said. “I’m stronger endurance-wise, but I’m also much better at recovering on the slopes when something — or someone — catches me off guard. That means a lot to me — it’s altered the quality of my life.”

In 2005, McAdams had her first session with instructor Roxanna Cohen, owner of The Pilates Place in Grass Valley and has been working with her ever since.

“Pilates continues to be one of the fastest-growing fitness activities,” said Cohen. “According to the Wall Street Journal, in 1991 there were about 200 Pilates instructors nationwide. Today there are more than 15,000.”

Created in the 1920s by German-born boxer and circus performer Joseph Pilates, the low-impact exercise program was originally tailored for men — as a way to develop balance, flexibility and strength.

While teaching in his New York studio, professional dancers nearby found they could improve movement — and heal many injuries — with the help of Pilates.

They discovered the benefits of the slow, controlled movements that were carried out on mats or with specially-designed exercise equipment, such as “the chair” and “the reformer.”

While the demand for Pilates continues to rise, Cohen said she is concerned that a growing number of instructors are not qualified to teach the practice, which includes exercises that involve the spine and neck.

Cohen, a certified Pilates rehabilitation specialist, started out her career as a physical therapist, and still spends some of her time working with clients in need of healing and regaining strength after an injury or operation.

Her popular 2,200-square-foot Richardson Street facility boasts three separate studios, seven instructors, a comprehensive set of Pilates equipment and offers both private and group classes.

“I threw my back out and healed it through Pilates,” said Michele Appleby, who has been practicing Pilates for more than 10 years. “It’s a nice balance between stability and strength. I initially had sessions with Roxanna and loved her approach and her energy.”

After extensive training — including a year-long reformer class — Appleby has worked as an instructor at The Pilates Place for more than a year. Clients range from fitness fanatics to post-birth mothers to people with weight challenges. Ages range from 17 to 87, all under the supervision of Cohen, who also teaches Pilates in the dance department at Nevada Union High School.

“Roxanna’s a PT — she takes care of clients, even if she’s not working with them directly,” said Appleby. “She helps develop individual programs for clients, but all the instructors are well educated.”

Instructors at The Pilates Place must be nationally certified by the Pilates Method Alliance, which means they are well-versed in equipment and how to properly screen and coach clients.

“People think Pilates is just abdominal, but it’s your core, your spine, developing full body strength and good posturing,” said Appleby. “It’s rewarding to see people come in with issues and see their posture change and their pain go away. Basically, Pilates trains your body to be in its healthiest position. These are things you can take out with you into your everyday life.”

To contact staff writer Cory Fisher, email cfisher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.

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