Stephanie Perez, left, certified Pilates trainer, and her student, Deb Bergmann, pause together on their mats Thursday morning at Holistic Health & Fitness. Bergmann is one of about 10 people who started doing Pilates with Perez more than six years ago.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Stephanie Perez, left, certified Pilates trainer, and her student, Deb Bergmann, pause together on their mats Thursday morning at Holistic Health & Fitness. Bergmann is one of about 10 people who started doing Pilates with Perez more than six years ago.

Pilates adds to residents' workout routines

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When Deb Bergmann first heard the name, she had no clue what it meant.

She pronounced the new exercise regimen "pie-lates" and thought it had something to do with aviation.

"What is that?" she remembers thinking. "Is it like flying a plane?"

Bergmann knows better now that she's experienced the recent exercise phenomenon first-hand.

Pilates, pronounced "pi-lah-teez," is a once little-known form of physical fitness designed by Joseph Pilates, a German self-defense instructor in the early 1900s.

It has since developed into a trend that has local women bending, stretching and core muscle building.

The results, they say, make a difference they can feel.

Pilates exercises are low on impact but still deliver a quality workout, said Tammy Workman, a certified Pilates instructor at Trapper Fitness Center.

"It's just not fast," she said. "It's very relaxing."

Slower-paced exercise wasn't something Workman was interested in.

At least, not at first.

"I never thought I would like it," Workman said. "I'm a very hard-impact person."

Nevertheless, slow stretch and the abdominal workout Pilates provides eventually won her over, she said.

"I don't know about yoga," she said, laughing. "But, I like Pilates."

Pilates bears the name of its German creator who introduced his fitness program as "contrology." He published the basic workouts of the new discipline and the philosophy behind it in 1945 in a slim volume titled "Return to Life Through Contrology."

A recent edition of his work shows a grainy black-and-white photograph of a robust-looking Pilates sporting well-defined pectoral muscles and broad shoulders.

When Stephanie Perez was earning her Pilates instructor certification, she consumed all the information she could about the exercise and the man who pioneered it.

He may not have had a rosy outlook on life.

"He was an old, grouchy German dude," said Perez, who teaches Pilates at Holistic Health & Fitness.

But, in her estimation, his approach to physical fitness was "phenomenal," she said.

"He is the most amazing man ever," Perez said. "He was so far ahead of his time."

Pilates targets the body's core muscles, which include those in the abdomen and back. Once the core muscles are exercised, better posture and strength follow, Perez said.

Exercises can be adapted to almost any age and fitness level, she said.

In general, and in Craig especially, Pilates is sometimes seen solely as a women's exercise, Perez said.

However, the stereotype doesn't always speak to reality.

College football players are starting to use Pilates as part of their physical training, Perez said, adding that actors and entertainers also take up the fitness regimen.

Throughout the years, Perez has had three or four male participants who regularly attend their classes.

"The men who have been in the class love what it does to their back," she said.

Unlike some fitness fads that came before it, Pilates practitioners said the exercise does not leave people in pain.

Exercisers may be sore the morning after a Pilates workout, Perez said.

"But, you're never crawling out of here crying," she said. "Ever."

That alone can contribute to a person's long-term health.

"Once you start feeling better, you're more apt to take a walk (and) be more active," Perez said.

Bergmann said she switched to Pilates after step aerobics became painful on her joints.

Her body has become stronger since she started doing the exercises, she said, making household chores a little easier, and giving her better posture.

Craig resident Terri Voorhees can relate.

She started Pilates about four years ago. Since then, she's lost 35 pounds by doing the exercises regularly, she said.

Voorhees, who takes Pilates classes taught by Workman, said the fitness system has had multiple effects on her body.

"It's definitely changed my body's strength," she said, adding that Pilates has also helped her lower her blood pressure.

Voorhees, a self-professed "avid walker," said Pilates has added another element to her already active lifestyle.

People often take up Pilates with the hopes of getting slimmer, Perez said.

The reason they continue with Pilates usually involves another motivation.

"As it evolves, you want to feel good," Perez said. "It makes you feel so dang good, you don't notice that you're body's getting stronger."

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