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Our proud Pilates Community; we are stronger together

www.chrishuntwellness.com

Usually in my blog I try to bring a more light-hearted look to Pilates and health. I was going to write today about Pilates in Russia following my latest visit. But if you have been reading my articles over the past months you will see that I have a big interest in the issues of mental health and depression and their link to physical exercise. I do not seek controversy, but I am not afraid to talk about the topics that some people would rather ignore. I could write interesting articles about Shoulder Bridge, but I leave such articles to other people.

I lost my father to Alzheimer’s (see my blog “I lost my father, don’t lose yours” and I have also talked about depression and the link between mental and physical health in several previous articles. So it was with great sadness that over the weekend I read about the suicide of a 34 year-old Pilates teacher in New York last week, who jumped from her Upper West Side building.  My deepest and sincere condolences to her family and friends. I am sure that some people reading this article will know the lady in question, so I hope you will forgive me for writing about this tragic event.

There are suggestions about incurable disease and mental health issues. I have personal experience of the dark places that can lead people to depression and even suicide. I lost a close friend many years ago and I found it very difficult to understand how I did not see the signs. But the truth is that as teachers we are performers, so most of us have a great “game face” that we switch on during those times when we would rather be anywhere else than standing smiling in front of a group of people. As much as we all love Pilates and bringing our knowledge to the communities that we live in, we are human as well, so we have difficult situations to deal with and we are allowed to be sad sometimes. “The show must go on” is an old cliché but it has a lot of relevance for many people every day.

I love being a Pilates teacher, and I love helping people to change their lives (it is important to remember that we do not change people’s lives, we simply give people the knowledge and belief so that they can change their own lives). I also love the Pilates community. Sure, people criticize me and the things that I write in my blogs sometimes, and of course I do not and cannot expect everyone to always agree with my point of view. And there are also always people in every walk of life who try to make a name for themselves by being negative as they find it easier to criticize than praise. But everywhere I travel from Russia to the US, and every Pilates forum and group I am a member of,  I always have a strong sense of community, a sense that the vast majority of Pilates professionals want only to help each other, want to share their knowledge and experience.

It is for this reason that I love our community, and I always try to give more than I receive. It is also for this reason that I created Pilates Carnival, conventions that give all profits to children’s charities and where I ask everyone including the presenters (and of course me) to work for no money, donating their time and energy for the good of our community. Of course some presenters are horrified with this thought and I have been accused of cheapening Pilates and devaluing the system. Whilst I always respect the opinions of other people, I think these people simply do not get it. They are so commercially orientated they fail to see that by promoting themselves and Pilates in an environment that benefits charities as well, they are creating a positive energy that no money can buy. And of course it is not rocket science for these people to realise that if you do a Pilates convention for charity attended by over 100 Pilates teachers/studio owners and hundred’s of member’s of the public, you might just get some good exposure and new clients from the experience. But I respect their life choices, thank them for their time, and I simply do not work with them because they are not “my type” of people.

But I am happy that the majority of Pilates people are my type, they give more than they take, love much more than they hate. To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, in the end the love we save is equal to the love we gave. So let’s keep supporting each other, looking after each other and looking out for each other. Most things in life are more important than money or reputation. Much more important.

In the U.S.: If you are contemplating attempting suicide, there are people who can help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

In the U.K.: For confidential support call the Samaritans  on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. For more information about Pilates with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway?

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Exercising on the beach: Is it more than sandcastles and ice-cream?

Healthy Beach Barcelona

www.chrishuntwellness.com

I am excited. Those who know me will also know that I get excited a lot, and it’s usually to do with either snowboarding, surfing, a new guitar, TRX training, ice-cream, or most typically Pilates.

Today I am excited about my new project in Barcelona, Healthy Beach Barcelona. I have said many times that health must be holistic. You cannot just run, life weights, eat tomatoes or even only do Pilates. To be truly healthy, sure you can do all those things and more, but you also need spiritual and mental health. And we all know the psychological effects of feeling and looking good. Wellness is a word that is used a lot nowadays, and for me wellness encapsulates (a word that is not used enough nowadays) the holistic nature of health. So Healthy Beach Barcelona offers Pilates (naturally), fitness, nutrition, massage, meditation, NLP, Life Coaching and a range of beauty procedures.

So why am I excited about Healthy Beach Barcelona? It is because Pilates specifically and wellness generally has historically been the reserve and the domain of more mature people, but with Healthy Beach Barcelona I am introducing many concepts to a much younger audience. Starting here on the beach in Barcelona. Which brings my onto the purpose of my article, what are the benefits of exercising outside?

I grew up with Aerobics Oz Style on Sky Sports, which is certainly not a bad way to start the day. But there are other more serious benefits, and I think the most obvious is that the scenery and fresh air (assuming you are not exercising next to a major road) simply raise the spirits and are great for emotional well-being.

But my favourite place is the beach. Sand is constantly shifting and changing, demanding various muscles in the body to come into play that might not normally engage on a pavement or gym floor workout. For example when doing Pilates, sand is on different levels, and you have to adjust to that difference which brings a new element to exercise. It also removes the issue of the hard surface on your knees. When you kneel on your mat laid over the sand, your joints are cushioned.

Running in the sand is also kinder on the joints than running on pavement because there is less impact on the body. I am using my bodyFUNC© functional training system for Healthy Beach Barcelona, and running and movement through sand forces you to use a fuller range of motion as it requires the body to move through a full range of motion, which stretches your muscles more than running on the pavement. Studies suggest that it is possible to burn up to 1.6 times as many calories for that extra effort. Sand develops the arch strength in your foot, the calves and all the muscles below the knee, as well as the quads.

However, a word of warning, you need to work up to a sand run or workout because it might be very different to what you and your body are used to. Start by the shoreline where the sand is flat and it’s packed down. When you feel comfortable, you can mix up your run by moving into the softer sand for a minute, like doing an interval workout, and then moving back into the harder sand. Tread carefully and go at a slower pace than what you’re used to.

Barefoot is a popular today (I have previously written articles for Barefoot Running Magazine and I will write about that next week) as it is argued that it is good for building up muscles in the foot and creating a more natural gait, as opposed to shoes dictating the gait. Beach running is a great way to try the method out. When I train people on the beach, I build them up in their running shoes by the shoreline and then the softer sand and then go for a short run on the harder sand with no shoes on.

Obviously there are considerations to be aware of when training on the beach. Look out for debris, such as bottles and sticks, wear sun-block, don’t trend on people sunbathing or little Johnny’s sandcastle,  and most important for me (see reasons why I get excited above) keep clear of ice-cream sellers.

By the way, for those who were wondering where my celebrity was today, my picture today is of actress Ileana D’Cruz, someone who regularly does Pilates and exercises outside. She credits Pilates with her health so that is how she earns her place in my blog today. Celebrity watchers can now relax. I nearly went a whole blog without a celebrity! It’s not possible…. 😉

Health and wellness are all about feeling good, and for me there is no better place to feel good than in the fresh air on a beach. If you haven’t tried it, then I recommend that you do. And next time you are in Barcelona, click on Healthy Beach Barcelona and pop along for a session, or contact me before you arrive and we can organise a beautiful retreat.

If life is a beach, then why not be a healthy beach?

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. For more information about Pilates with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway?

 

Pilates in Barcelona: Do qualifications and experience matter?

Pilates Barcelona

www.chrishuntwellness.com

Barcelona is a multi-cultural City blessed with many things which makes it very popular as a place to live and a place to visit.

When I arrived in Barcelona from London, the first thing that I did was to establish my own Chris Hunt Pilates group Pilates and functional training sessions and also Pilates and functional training personal training sessions. There is a culture in Barcelona of being outside as much as possible, so it is wonderful for me to be able to teach inside, but to also offer classes and training on the terrace, in the park and on the beach.  I have always wanted to have regular exercise sessions on the beach, and Barceloneta, Barcelona’s main beach is just perfect for that.

My article today is not only about Pilates in Barcelona and Spain, but also about my experience of qualifications and experience, and the relevance of these things.

Pilates in Spain is still developing, and in my experience does not yet have the regulation and certification that I have seen in the UK and some other European countries such as Germany. For this reason it is very important to make sure when you visit a health club, Pilates studio or Pilates teacher in Barcelona that the person who will be teaching you has appropriate certification, and also appropriate experience.

In the UK, the days of weekend Pilates certifications are thankfully long gone. Certification is regulated to ensure that the necessary standards are adhered to. This is a vital starting point for anyone who wishes to pursue a career as a Pilates teacher, and a professional qualification is something that any member of public should look for in any teacher who they think about training with. During one of my visits to Madrid some years ago, I met a Pilates teacher who proudly told me that the extent of her qualifications were the four Pilates books she had at home!

A common comment to me here in Barcelona that worries me is that I have been told by several people that Pilates is not an interesting or worthwhile system. No surprises, it usually turns out that they had one or two sessions with a poorly trained teacher and are judging the whole system on that brief experience.

Experience is an interesting component of overall knowledge. I have 20 years experience, but as with many fields of knowledge, to me it’s not enough to say “I have 20 years experience of Pilates”. That could mean 20 years of doing Pilates wrong. It could mean that in 20 years I have not travelled to experience any different or new ways of teaching. It could mean that for 20 years I have been doing the same things. It does not also give any indication as to the type of experience either. For example my 20 years includes group sessions, personal training, matwork, equipment, Pilates for rehabilitation, Pilates for athletes and Pilates for children etc.

Again in my experience (I can of course only talk from my own experience and I fully appreciate that other people will have different experiences) even when some Pilates bodies insist on their students completing sometime many hours participation in Pilates classes, this still does not guarantee a major benefit because often there is no control over exactly whose sessions are being attended.

Whilst I would usually (but not always) say that having experience is better than not having any experience, when I travel around the world to teach my system of Pilates, Pilates EVO, what I look for in a potential Pilates EVO teacher is yes how long they have been doing Pilates, but what I find in many cases more relevant is what they have been doing for the past few years. Often what they were doing 5, 10 or 15 years ago is now of little real benefit to their teaching today. It is also interesting to me that on occasions meeting a newly qualified teacher can be better than someone who has many years of teaching and thinks they know it all. None of us know it all, and if you ever meet anyone who says they do, smile politely, shake their hand and walk away quickly because whatever experience that will follow will not be a good one, trust me.

And let’s return to the question of qualifications. I am sure that we all know someone who has every qualification going, but is incapable of getting that knowledge across to clients in an interesting and stimulating way. So clients soon get bored and stop their training, or move to a different teacher.

It is about balance and common sense. Yes, it is essential that a teacher has a recognised qualification to show they have the basic knowledge of Pilates and anatomy. But this is only the start of the story. I like to work with teachers who have tried several different schools of Pilates, and who have travelled to experience how different Pilates can be in different countries. I also like teachers who have experience of different types of clients, and importantly who have an open mind to new medical and scientific discoveries.

Perhaps the most important thing I look for in potential Pilates EVO teachers is where they teach from; their heart or their bank balance (when I am speaking at conventions, at this point I double pat my heart, and then double pat my back pocket). We all need to make a living and pay the bills, but if this the only motivating factor in what someone does, whether it is Pilates, any form of teaching, or any job for that matter, then after a while (usually a very short while) it is clear to everyone that their heart is not in what they are doing. And if your heart is not in it, if it is not your passion, then you will never be able to be the best you can be.

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. For more information about Pilates with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway?