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Back in the Pilates again

A couple of years ago, I seriously injured my back picking up a young woman.

I mean literally picking up a young woman. She was the daughter of a friend, and she’d injured her knee. I decided to lift her into the car in true manly fashion.

You know it’s not good when you hear a crunch at the same time you feel excruciating pain.

I also dropped the young woman. It wasn’t pretty.

The back injury, which took a long time to heal, meant I couldn’t exercise anymore. I like doing Pilates — low-impact but effective exercise that involves stretching and pulling and flexing and, at least for me, achieves the desired results without risking injury. As long as you do the exercises correctly and don’t overdo them, the results can be remarkable.

For me, there’s a bonus with Pilates. As long as I exercise regularly, I don’t need to diet. I don’t mean I can eat a whole pie at one sitting or lunch regularly at fat food places, but I don’t have to worry about the occasional cupcake or cookie. The exercise takes care of that.

While my back was out, I gave up exercise. My back’s been well for a long time now, but I still didn’t return to exercising regularly, telling myself I might reinjure myself.

That was an excuse, of course, and it’s well past time for me to get back on the Pilates machine and restart my regular regimen.

Yes, my Pilates routine involves a “machine.” It doesn’t have a motor, but it does have pulleys and adjustable tensions that can increase the amount of lifting and pulling I do. Depending on how I’m seated or where I’m facing, I exercise different muscles, including biceps, abs, triceps and quads. It also helps to tighten up the gut, which is never a bad idea.

Pilates is more than exercise. It’s a yoga-like discipline that involves a variety of principles that were devised by instructors using Joseph Pilates’ original concepts, which he called “Contrology.” The principles include things like centering and control, breath and flow.

Despite the terminology, it’s not cult-like or spiritual in the conventional sense, at least not for me, but there is that great release of endorphins that occurs during and after exercise.

That alone is reason to get back in the routine. Well, that and those guilt-free cupcakes.

Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by e-mail to

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January 26, 2011
4:25 p.m.

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Got any recommendations for specific machines, DVDs, classes, etc.?

January 31, 2011
6:20 a.m.

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