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Men’s (and my) insecurities in Pilates

February 24, 2022

For some years I dated a ballet dancer. She used to head off to practice ‘Pilates’ at her ballet school, while I headed off to clash heads on the rugby pitch.

What possible synergy could there be between the two activities? It took me a long time to realise there was.

I really had no idea what Pilates was… some dance related exercise drill I assumed. I didn’t even enquire or probe further. Shame on me. Of course, we are more tuned in to the world and practice of Pilates these days, but the misperception of Pilates remains strong. Men still often think it’s the domain of women or dancers. Or simply a rehab course.

Many men (we) feel that it’s a lot of stretching and aligning and core. Well, that’s right but there’s more, much more to it than that. I think we’ve just been scared to explore it further.

In later years a business bust, divorce and a chance encounter with a Reformer Pilates instructor would change the course of my life and my profession. I just didn’t know it yet.

Looking at the Pilates instructor, then peering at my block frame in the mirror, how was I going to bend and move like she could?

Having spent years heaving weights, playing rugby, and barely touching my knees, how was I possibly going to perform the movements she could? Not to mention, how intimidating and off putting is it that almost all Pilates studio brands consist of a svelte woman adopting an impossible pose.

How was I not to be intimidated or feel insecure about my ability to follow suit?

Then, I eventually took a deep breath I signed up for my comprehensive training. And there again, more fuel for my insecurities. I was the only male in a group of women. They could bend it more than Beckham, they could touch their toes, they could contort in ways that makes the mind boggle.

My first attempts at some of the exercises had me trembling and sweating furiously within minutes. No grace, no form… just struggle, awkwardness and puddles of unsightly tears of toil.

There are many reasons we can find not to try it. It makes me smile when I think of the number of times I have invited PT’s and sportsmen to come have a Reformer session with me.

“Oh yeh, that would be great. I’ll check my diary and give you a shout”
“haha, I’m not very flexible”
“I’ve heard its tough”
“I know I should, I need to open up a bit”
“Oh yes, I heard the All Blacks do it but…”
“My wife said I should try it”, a euphemism for ‘yeh but that’s more for her and her friends’.
Blah blah blah.

They (we) just don’t get it. And we swerve it or fear being shown up. Or fear of embarrassing ourselves in front of women. Or or or…. The reaction is still common place and familiar.

Until… I see that light bulb flicker on when I take one of my male brethren through his paces.

Because I know, I was there, I was on that page. I know how to cross the hybrid of gym to Pilates. Combine strength and stretch. Tackle posture and power. Deliver an experience that helps turn the corner for Men into Pilates. If you’re brave, be brave, be a man (lol) and throw yourself into this practice. You’ll be both surprised and rewarded.

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