Last year I did an entire season's worth of blog posts dedicated to exploring what is out there for fitness options aside from the standard gym visit. I tried everything from yoga to pole dancing and along the way one of my visits was to local business and Modern Woman vendor, Lead Integrated Health Therapies.
I actually did a private class with Lead's founder, Jana Danielson, during which I learned the basic principles behind Pilates and what the studio was all about. Up to that point, I only knew Pilates as whatever the hell my dad was doing in the living room at 5am every day while I still lived at home. Its funny, because now I understand why he did it and while he actually still does.
Jana gave me a list of classes to try at the studio that she thought would benefit my body specifically and while I tried many of them (I do recommend taking a full class session of Mat to get the basics down), I kept going back to Essentrics. It was strange because I really didn't understand what it was, but she recommended it so I tried it out despite my previous hatred of all things new. (I no longer fear new things, but that's a story for another day.)
So what is Essentrics anyway? I could go into a long, garbly Wikipedia-like description that nobody would care to read, but long story short, its a workout that lengthens and strengthens muscles in their extended position, as opposed to contracted. We live our lives using primarily concentric (contracted) movements all day, every day. It limits our mobility and range of motion without us ever realizing it.
So what does a class look like? Well, there are lots of different ones and teaching styles out there based on these principles that can be geared towards pain reduction, turning back the clock on physical aging, barre, focus on arms, legs, booty, and core. However, I take Jana's class at Lead (sometimes I take the other girl's too, they are all awesome...) and I can only describe it as 50 minutes of constant dynamic movement where all the tiniest muscles in your body shake and burn. In a good way. Just when you think you cant move in a certain way for one more second, you switch it up and the next movement creates an entirely new sensation that helps you actively recover while working another part of your body.
If you looked in on a class you would probably think, "What the hell are those people doing??" It really doesn't look like a typical cardio class or bootcamp. It kind of looks like a wacky mix of Pilates, Tai Chi, dance, and Booty Barre all at once. Trust me, its harder than it looks.
Imagine stretching any given body part out to the fullest extent and then working it out in that position. It's not easy. Our bodies aren't adapted to move that way because we are conditioned to move the way modern desk jobs, driving, smart phones, and even conventional workouts teach our muscles to work.
Right down to how we move our eyes, the way we use our feet, and the internal and external rotation of our hips, knees, wrists, and ankles are addressed in a way that jolts your whole body into realizing how limited we've allowed it to be. These are things that traditional workouts just don't address. Should you eliminate those other workouts? Of course not! All kinds of fitness is great (haha, ya, fitness whole pizza in my mouth...), but as I've said time and again, Pilates will give you the tools to do them better. Way better. Just ask weight lifters who have improved their personal bests by huge amounts just by strengthening their pelvic floor. Or ask golfers how it has improved their swing... although, full disclosure, nothing improves my swing. I really only excel at drinking and hurling my irons down the fairway in rage. #worst
Sound weird yet? I hope so. It is kind of weird. It's nothing like I had ever done before. However, truth be told, the feeling I get after a class is also like no other feeling I get after any other fitness class either. I would put my money where my mouth is and say that if someone committed to doing nothing but Essentrics in place of their regular routine for a month, hell, even two weeks, you would feel as though you had a totally different body.
If I had to choose one workout for all eternity to keep me in the best overall physical condition long-term, Essentrics would be it. Hands down. Its incredibly effective, takes my love of control and fluidity, and then adds in cardio, strength, and stretching without using anything but my own body. It's awesome, and everyone should try it.
Your first class at Lead's beautiful, top of the line facility is always free. Check them out at 214 Joseph Okemasis Dr. in Saskatoon, or online a www.leadpilates.com. You can also visit them at the Modern Woman Show & Exhibition at Prairieland Park April 14 & 15. 2018.
So, while you might look a bit eccentric, get in there and do some Essentrics. Your body will thank you.
Until next time!