There was a time when men’s eyes would glaze over if they heard the word Pilates.
But attitudes are slowly shifting.
The exercise regime that focuses on breathing, posture and strengthening the muscle chains is slowly gaining popularity with men. It’s a hit with golfers, because it works on back and shoulder mobility, plus it strengthens important ankle and knee stabilizers. Soccer teams in Europe are buying the equipment for their training rooms. And the online Men’s Fitness magazine says it improves your sex life.
Hoping to cash in on this trend, Pilates Fusion Men’s Gym opened on Donegani Ave. in Pointe-Claire’s Valois Village last Sepember. The studio is an offshoot of the 12-year-old Pilates Fusion facility, also on Donegani Ave.
Yves Portelance swears by Pilates. The 54-year-old health-industry executive is an avid golfer. Around six years ago, he began to develop chronic back problems. The pain got so bad, he couldn’t walk 18 holes. His wife, Marina Di Girolamo, is a Pilates aficionado and insisted he give it a try.
“I thought it was like Yoga, feminine. I’m a typical jock. I thought real men don’t do Pilates,” Portelance said.
He finally gave in and visited the Pilates Fusion Men’s Gym where he met instructor Jim Roberts.
“It was about fixing chronic problems I felt I was too young to have,” Portelance said.
He was immediately taken by Roberts’ approach to the discipline and equally impressed with the Pilates machine — called a Reformer. Although it may look like an instrument of torture to some, the machine helps people sculpt their bodies and fix their aches and pains — no matter one’s age, body size, gender or physical fitness level. Various moving parts, straps, chains and springs are adjusted to customize exercises which target particular muscle groups and improve flexibility and range of motion. Instructors constantly monitor positioning, posture and breathing.
“I took one class a week for three weeks and now I’m taking two classes a week,” Portelance said. “I haven’t lost any weight, but I’ve dropped a pant size and lost my belly.”
Pilates Fusion is a family-run business. Founder Christine Clark and daughter Katherine Murray and their team of instructors focus on instruction at the original studio and Clark’s son Kyle Murray and her life partner Roberts focus on the instruction for men.
Getting beyond the male “no pain, no gain” mentality can be a challenge for instructors when they first meet clients.
When Murray’s athlete friends joke about Pilates, he invites them in for a session.
“I kick their butts a bit and get them shaking pretty quickly,” Murray said with a grin.
Pilates was developed by German physical trainer Joseph Hubertus Pilates in the first half of the 20th century. He believed that mental and physical health were intertwined and stressed the importance of both mental and physical engagement when executing his exercises.
Pilates participants work on mat exercises, the Reformer, the Halo (stabilizing) trainer — which consists of a big ball and a metal support — the stability chair and various hand-held objects.
A significant number of Pilates Fusion customers are sent to the facilities by medical professionals. The training helps patients with their rehabilitation process.
“Pilates is great for pain management,” Clark said. “It calms the nervous system and rebalances the body. Women recovering from breast-cancer surgery use the Reformer to break down scar tissue.”
“It was really gratifying when one of my (male customers) told me, after a couple of classes, that he could finally put on his shoes without sitting down,” Roberts said.
For information about private, semi-private and group sessions, call 438-889-5953 or 514-770-3799, or visit www.men.pilatesfusion.ca.