If you could unleash a genie from a bottle and be granted three wishes for your body, what would you change? Would you ask for stronger legs, a flatter tummy, a toned backside? Would you plead for your back to stop hurting, your jeans to zip, or your golf game to improve?
Genies in bottles are hard to come by these days, but if you are willing to put in some time and energy, the instructors at Pilates Hilton Head have everything you need to achieve those longed-for results and more.
As exercise trends come and go, Pilates has stood the test of time, and for good reason. Developed by legendary physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates teaches controlled movements using resistance and counter-resistance.
“As you age, it’s important to understand that weight resistance training is much better than lifting weights,” explained Martha Stichweh, certified Pilates instructor and owner/founder of Pilates Hilton Head. “Weightlifting can be hard on the joints. Resistance training, whether it’s with bands or on the Reformer (a bed-like frame with a flat platform that uses springs for assistance and resistance), is much gentler on the body, and it’s very strengthening.”
“You’re getting more bang for your buck, too, because you have resistance in both directions on the springs,” said certified instructor Kathleen Moran, who came on board at Pilates Hilton Head in 2020. “The Reformer is a very supportive piece of equipment. When you’re pulling or letting it go back, your muscle is working.”
Whether you’re recovering from an injury, dealing with back pain, or simply wanting to feel better and move better every day, Pilates can help by maximizing muscle efficiency. “It is work you can carry with you in your daily life,” Moran said. “There’s functional movement involved. As you bend down to pick something up or make the bed, you may be thinking about pulling your navel to your spine. You’ll hear your Pilates instructions in your head as you are moving.”
“You learn what you should be doing all day every day—using the core—whether it’s pushing the vacuum cleaner or swinging the golf club,” Stichweh added. “Pilates is the safest form of exercise I have seen. It’s a gentle way to exercise the joints and the muscles and do it safely with control.”
One of the main attractions at Pilates Hilton Head is the personalization made possible by the intimate studio and available training formats, which include private sessions, duets, and small group classes (limited to six participants).
Retiree John Willis, who attends twice weekly for a duet session with his wife Joanne, can attest to the effectiveness of Pilates and the value of the individualized program at Pilates Hilton Head. Willis came to the local studio with hip flexor discomfort that was affecting, among other things, his golf game. “Pilates has pretty much fixed all that,” he said, attributing the improvement to greater flexibility and core strength.
Willis especially appreciates the personalized approach and emphasis on form and technique. “Martha is constantly reminding us how important form is. She’s focused in on us. She’s observing, and she corrects us. She’s great!” he said.
“I think people like an intimate setting and smaller classes. They like more of the interaction instead of being in a gym-like atmosphere,” Stichweh said. “We’re not a one-size-fits-all program. We are focused on taking care of the individual needs of each client. If we have six people in a class, we can modify the same exercise for all six people so that they can each do it safely and effectively. We’re cueing every person to help them understand what muscles they are activating and engaging and how they are supposed to be engaging. It’s all about learning how to focus on the core of the body and learning how to connect your mind to tell the body how to move.”
“The breathing part of Pilates is also a good thing. It informs your nervous system,” Moran added. Sometimes we do fast breathing to ramp it up and get the circulation going. And other times we use the breath to tell the nervous system to be slow and controlled.”
Medical writer Julie Stimmel began her Pilates practice over 20 years ago. As a former runner plagued by overly tight muscles, Pilates helped improve her flexibility. But it also helped relieve stress. “I really like the mind/body connection you get with Pilates. It calms you down,” she said.
Having drifted away from the exercise, Stimmel knew she wanted to get back into it when she moved from North Carolina to Hilton Head Island last year. She praised the local studio, touting the full array of equipment, quality of instruction, and affordability.
“In addition to the reformers, [Pilates Hilton Head] has the Wunda chair, the barrels, and the towers. They have everything—all the equipment to give you a lot of variety—and the prices are the same as what I was paying 20 years ago—very reasonable,” she said.
“Kathleen is probably the best instructor I’ve ever had,” she continued. “She’s not checking boxes. She’s into doing what’s best for her clients. She listens well and focuses on the areas you want to work on. And it’s never the same. I’m never bored. My strength is back. I had some lower back discomfort, and that has gone away. My flexibility is a lot better, and my core is stronger. I’m so happy I’ve gone back to this.”
If you are just beginning, you may wonder how long it takes to notice results. Joseph Pilates said, “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body.” Results vary, of course, but Stichweh says people start feeling better relatively quickly.
Willis was noticing a difference within a month—eight sessions, he said. “As each week has gone by, it’s gotten better and better. It’s something I look forward to.”
The workout is designed for both men and women of all ages and fitness levels to sculpt and tone the core, upper body and leg muscles. “It’s for everyone, no matter where you are in your fitness journey” Moran said. “It is exercise you can do your whole life.”
Pilates Hilton Head is located at 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite E2, in The Village at Wexford. Appointments are required. To schedule an appointment or class, call (843) 715-4545 or visit pilateshiltonhead.com for more information.