Alternative and holistic medicine and exercise continues to grow in popularity, and now downtown Milwaukee residents and workers have more places to participate in Pilates exercises.
One of the newest downtown Pilates studios, Core Concepts, opened at 807 N. Jefferson St. in May. Andrea Dow, owner of Core Concepts, offers Pilates classes through Body Mechanics, a multi-specialty studio that has been at the Cathedral Square Park location since 1995.
Dow’s slogan is "strengthening the body and mind from the inside out," and her business offers Pilates, personal training, yoga and nutritional consultation.
"I strongly believe in Pilates as a system of exercise to achieve optimal wellness," Dow said. "Pilates is a great way to develop stability, strength and stamina."
Dow has access to massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncturists, personal trainers and alternate yoga classes through the services offered by Body Mechanics.
"People want the whole package under one roof," Dow said. "I think our client retention is high because we can offer all of those things."
Pilates exercises focus on what Dow calls the core or powerhouse of the body: the legs, back, gluteus and abdomen. By strengthening the core and learning to move with the mid-section of the body, individuals will see more efficiency in workouts and less overall injuries, according to Dow.
A Pilates session is conducted either on a mat or on equipment and requires participants to perform a series of exercises and movements that isolate specific areas, beginning in the deepest layers of muscle throughout the core of the body.
When the exercises are completed, the participant will have utilized every muscle in his/her body, according to Dow.
"The philosophy is to have complete control of body, mind and spirit to the point where there is a body and mind connection, and you can actually move your muscles exactly the way you want to," said Debby Orlando, owner of Innovative Health and Fitness, 8800 S. 102nd St., Franklin.
Joseph Pilates created his series of exercises in the early 1900’s because of his muscular weakness from childhood illnesses. He overcame his condition by creating a new exercise method and went on to aid immobile hospital patients during World War I, according to Dow.
Dow said Pilates is based on yoga, Zen and ancient Greek exercises.
Dow and Orlando said strengthening the core of the body allows for efficiency in other forms of exercise, posture improvement, and a long, lean muscle definition rather than the bulky appearance some see from weight lifting.
"Pilates is like pushing a reset button on your posture," said Jennifer Goldbeck, of Pure Pilates (www.purepilatesmilwaukee.com), which recently moved its downtown location to 1556 N. Farwell Avenue. "Getting your joints and alignment back to where they are supposed to be so when you do cardio workouts and strength training you are not hunched over and struggling."
According to Dow, Pilates can be similar to yoga in the idea that breath work is as important as the movements, and both require complete concentration. She said breathing is the tool that weaves the mind and the body together in both methods.
"Yoga and Pilates both focus on the same core benefits but they approach the outcome from two different yet complementary methods and frames of mind," Goldbeck said. "Personally, I suggest that individuals partake in yoga once a week and Pilates once a week along with strength training and cardio."
Pilates is not normally used for weight loss, but for toning and stretching every muscle.
"Pilates is a tool utilized to achieve a number of goals, including weight management. It realigns and changes the shape of the body through the core by lengthening and toning," Dow said. "I do encourage clients to do some running, walking or biking in addition, because although Pilates strengthens and tones, it does not always provide the constant aerobic exercise that the body needs for cardiovascular benefits and added weight loss."
Orlando said she has taught people who participate in triathlons, and most have said they were able to run faster and in a more flexible way after learning Pilates.
Pilates is also popular in the dance community and is used to rehabilitate injuries from strained muscles and pulled tendons, according to Orlando.
Although Pilates introduced his method in America in the 1920’s, the exercise program has just recently caught the Milwaukee public’s eye. Goldbeck said it has been popular on the coasts in New York and Los Angeles for about 10 years.
"A big reason Pilates has recently gained popularity is because in the 1980s and 1990s, exercise was all about aerobics and pounding. We had this mentality that if you weren’t hurt, exhausted or spent, then you had not done enough," Goldbeck said. "People were doing all of this work and not getting ahead, and some have since looked to Pilates and yoga because they see results, they feel good and they aren’t stiff anymore. It is a total shift in the way people think about fitness."
As the only employee in her month-old company, Dow hopes to eventually hire two more employees and spend 30 to 35 hours per week teaching clients.
Dow offers 55-minute sessions for both individuals and small groups. She will take groups of up to 12 people for the mat classes and up to five on the equipment.
Dow also intends to become active in the community she serves. She has already teamed up with Stephanie Sherman and Carrie Arrouet of Lela in the Historic Third Ward.
"My goal is to be out in the community and a part of events happening around the area," Dow said. "I love the energy in working downtown, and I hope to attract more clients by relating to them on a personal level."
June 11, 2004 Small Business Times