Photo of Lynne Robinson: Dvora @fashionistable

‘If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young,’ so said Joseph Pilates. I am reminded of this quote when I attempt to take up running again and it’s a bit stop-start-y. On the day I buy a new pair of running shoes (Asics Gel Kayano 24; I overpronate) my back seizes up. Law Of Sod. The problem is I’m inflexible and stiff and I spend too long at a computer screen. I need to do more Pilates.

You are never too old for Pilates – and there are loads of videos on YouTube to prove it. I started at 48 and there was a man in the same studio who was as fit as a fiddle at 81. Pilates is good for strengthening and toning muscles and improving posture and flexibility; I got into it because I have a dodgy back, my Pilates Pal Janey had a shoulder problem and neither of us wanted to be subject to the condition we nicknamed ‘Croning’ (the hunched over posture associated with osteoporosis). Once a week I go to a mat class (mainly to have a lie down and a laugh). The 66-year-old Polish tutor Bagusha has an amazing physique and a unique way with words. Thus, tilting the pelvis is called ‘Michael Jackson Hips,’ there’s also the ‘George Clooney on the Beach’ manouevre and ‘The Sainsbury’s Bathroom Pose’. As well as being fun, Pilates can be a brilliant way to meet like-minded people and everyone’s sorted for HRT. Plus, it can also provide psychological strength. Joe Pilates had to overcome numerous struggles in his life, including being interned during the First World War, in a prison camp on the Isle of Man (this is where he developed his ideas). His philosophy is based on the principle that having more control over the body allows you to feel more relaxed and in control of other aspects of your life. And stretch…

Pilates is the New Clubbing has been updated from my first book Style Forever.

27 thoughts on “Pilates is the new clubbing

  1. Running has resulted in back pain for me due to right hip flexors (I overpronate too). I really should do Pilates and yoga – and spend less time at the computer!

    Emma xxx

  2. I’m with you on this one Alyson. I’ve gone to Pilates mat classes for years. Recently I’ve interspersed Pilates with a couple of yoga classes a week. They feed into each other and help with muscle strength flexibility and toning. Not to mention physical confidence. My current Pilates teacher uses hand weights in the form of soft balls and stretch bands for arm exercises simultaneously with leg exercises. Triceps ache afterwards which just shows they are working. No need for elaborate gym clothes to attend. Some form of leggings, t-shirt and light hoodie. We wear special socks with non-skid spots on sole. And yoga is performed bare foot.
    Good luck with your running training. Spring is coming and longer lighter days with spring flowers blooming in the parks will make it all more agreeable.

  3. This was a great read Alyson, your mate sounds brilliant.
    I’ve been doing Pilates for a year since I developed Osteoarthritis and, as you say, it really is effective for mind and body. Perfect for us mid-lifers and beyond. It has strengthened me so much I’ve taken up weights – every bit of future proofing helps.

  4. I love running and have run since secondary school. Outside running is a great stress release and running in 5k fun runs is very sociable! I’ve done Pilates classes in the past but, after awhile something gets in the way and I fall out of the habit. Thanks for the reminder to get back into Pilates.

    I’ve run in Asics Gel Kayano (currently running in AGK 23) and have always been happy with them.

    Good luck in getting back into running, Alyson! Thanks also for such an inspiring blog!

  5. I LOVE PILATES.Think I have been at it for about 5 years now!\It is BASICALLY, the old BALLET stretches one learned as a KID!
    I attend class THREE times a week and would GO MORE If LIFE permitted!
    I would LOVE to have a REFORMER out in THE GARDEN!!!!!!

  6. I’ve done some Pilates – like it a lot – but yoga has been my thing for over 10 years now. I even teach it. To me, yoga creates for strength and flexibility. But whereas Pilates is pretty systematic, you have to really look for a good yoga teacher. Since I started yoga I’ve not had any back pain at all.

  7. I have been running since the 70s, it’s always been my go to exercise. Last summer I started to have back pain and my 3 mile run was miserable. I stumbled over this video, and did it every night for weeks. It totally helped my pain and I try to do it a couple of times a week or if my back is tight. It’s Pilates and definitely helps stretch all the tight pieces, plus Sarah’s voice is great. . I also do hot yoga a couple of times a week which is a great counter balance for my running. Good luck with the running, Alyson!

  8. I only started Pilates 3 years ago . . . however wish I had started much much earlier as both my head and my body absolutely thrive on on it. I am also a huge fan of Lynne Robinson who taught my excellent teacher who first introduced me to the practice.
    And yes our star pupil was in her 70’s with a couple of hip replacements behind her. I love how each person can work to their own pace whilst they individually strengthen their bodies. Lynne also has some brilliant youtube videos which I work with as her instruction on proper breathing is excellent.

  9. Love pilates! And have been doing it on and off for years. In terms of clothing I wish the grown up shops would come up with something other than skin tight stuff to exercise in, I am far too lumpy for leggings and crop tops!

    1. You’re so right Liz, I find the yoga pants uncomfortable and synthetic feeling. Also, I like wearing comfy underwear which just doesn’t work with a shiny sheath. I just wear T shirts with a pair of thin track shaped bottoms from Sainsburys (which I think might be pyjama bottoms).
      Even very lithe people of my age (not me) don’t necessarily want to wear garments which are so tight and revealing.
      I have seen some ‘mature’ work out gear but it all seems to be quite dowdy and pastel so an edgy but practical range would be great.

  10. I qualified as a mat work Pilates instructor last year and run 3 Classes a week at the moment, I love seeing the results and I have clients telling me how relaxed and looser they feel afterwards, it makes me happy! I started Pilates a couple of years ago after I had a frozen should and pelvic floor problems, I love it! Good luck with the running xx

  11. I qualified as a mat work Pilates instructor last year and run 3 Classes a week at the moment, I love seeing the results and I have clients telling me how relaxed and looser they feel afterwards, it makes me happy! I started Pilates a couple of years ago after I had a frozen shoulder and pelvic floor problems, I love it! Good luck with the running xx

  12. About twenty years ago, a physiotherapist referred me to a delightful and talented Pilates trainer because I had painful arthritis in my lower spine. I’ve been seeing her about once a month and doing floor exercises and stretches at least five days a week ever since. At 83, I am standing tall and living a full, virtually pain free life. Hooray! If you stick with it, I truly believe that Pilates can change your life. Never give up!

  13. I’ve taken Pilates reformer classes three days a week for the last six years. After taking Pilates for a year I went in for my every-two-years bone density test and found I’d “grown” three quarters of an inch. The technician asked me if I took Pilates. I’m in my sixties and am extremely pleased I have not lost any height which is so very, very common for women my age. Three quarters of an inch may not sound like much, but my doctor thinks it’s remarkable––she can see no evidence of spine compression at all.

  14. To London Liz and others some suggestions for affordable exercise clothes that are comfortable. For yoga which I’ve been doing for more than twenty years I don’t wear crop tops or very high end Sweaty Betty leggings. Mostly I wear Uniqlo t-shirts cotton with some stretch so they don’t budge when hanging upside down. I go up a size so not too tight. Have had some success with Gap Fit tops again bought so looser and their leggings though I also have some leggings more in tracksuit bottom shape with ankle cuffs. Saw quite a decent range of workout clothes in M & S not too long ago. They do a wide range of sizes. And Evans might do exercise clothes. One should be comfortable and not self-conscious certainly. Hoodies I have bought from Uniqlo who have sports range and also from H & M who do sports range too.

  15. Ooo fab two of my favourite things, Pilates (12 years) and running (only 2 years properly and taken up aged 53) and I also overpronate (which orthotics have sorted) I do or rather did still get lower back pain after running. I have recently read a book called Chi Running that was staring at me as I was leaving the library. It was interesting especially the body looseners and in particular the hip circles!!! They sort my back out especially after a run although you are supposed to do them before. It’s like doing hula hoops one way then the other. Maybe I will see you at a Parkrun or a 10K xx

  16. Gave myself Pilates 3X a week as my 60th birthday present. Reformer. The best thing since sliced bread.
    10 years later I am still loving it all. Pilates & acupuncture have kept osteoarthritis under control. Lovely
    mix of people along the way and a FABulous trainer. Hope to never give it up.

  17. Another Pilates fan here! I started it about 20 years ago, in my early 40s, but got away from it due to demands of job and small children. About four years ago I was diagnosed with bulgy discs and bone spurs in my neck, which caused pinched nerves & all sorts of other issues. After my prescribed six weeks of physical therapy, I started up twice-weekly private sessions with a Pilates trainer. My neck rarely bothers me any more, I stopped getting migraines, and I’ve developed some darn good core strength (sad that my abs are padded rather too much, but still). My neurologist also told me I had improved symmetry. I took up playing tennis three years ago, and have fewer aches & pains than most of my younger teammates.

    During my first go-round with Pilates, there was a beauty salon next door to the studio. I would go on Saturday mornings, and we’d watch the elderly ladies park their cars & shuffle over to the salon for their weekly wash-n-set. My trainer would say, “that’s why you’re coming here, so you don’t end up shuffling when you’re old!” I still always think of that when I’m briskly walking somewhere.

  18. I started Pilates five years ago when I turned 60 – with a background in ballet, I took to it immediately. Tried to attend two classes a week (one reformer, one mat) but it became, with my work schedule, too hard. And expensive! When away on business a couple of years ago, I found on YouTube (by searching “Pilates”) a great channel, “efit30” which offers a variety of Pilates teachers and classes. From that I found my very favourite teacher who has her own website, “Ange’s Pilates”. Ange is a 50-something Kiwi and offers just the right balance of challenging exercises and guidance, with a large variety of classes (some utilising theraband, ring, balls, etc). I take about three of her 30 minute “classes” a week in the comfort of my own home, and at my convenience. I love Pilates!

  19. Hi Alyson
    Love your article. I teach Pilates and had training at Lynne’s studio in London and very much agree with your article and the positive comments.

    I work with all ages but find that more and more over 50’s joining my classes

    Would you mind if I share your Article on social media quoting your name of course.

    Let me know your thoughts

  20. I am sixty nine and have been doing reformer Pilates for about fifteen years now. I have long- term (thirty years) rheumatoid arthritis also. Without weekly Pilates exercise I would not be able to move and I feel that the flexibility and strength I have gained enable me to have a more active life. I can not recommend Pilates highly enough if you want to hang onto your vitality into the later years!

  21. Some helpful suggestions here. Since reading this post I’ve looked at Lynne Robinson videos and checked out Asquith which I’d never heard of.
    Anna suggests You Tube Pilates videos to follow. I shall check these out also. Much as I would like to block book a term of Pilates and Reformer classes in addition to my Yoga classes, discounted for over 65s in blocks of six, I’m on a budget for what I can spend on classes per month. As an adjunct if one knows how to do the movements properly already doing it at home following an online tutorial may be the answer. I’m certainly going to try it.

  22. I love going to my weekly Pilates class and wish I could go more often. Our lovely teacher comes around to us individually to correct our posture – sadly she is unwell this week so our class has been cancelled. Two years in and I can manage to roll up and down without too much effort and it has done wonders for the nerve pain in my hand as a result of a prolapse disc in my cervical spine. We are mostly 50 somethings aiming for that elusive six pack, giggling when we lose our balance and comparing Pilates socks.

  23. I agree with you, I love my Pilates class. After years of running and aerobics classes, I started Pilates in my late forties after a back injury. I am now almost 70 and continue to incorporate it into my routine with great benefit and some modification. I started to add Deep Water Aerobics two years ago and love it! The water where I go to class is heated and there is no pressure on my joints. Plus you can be incredibly flexible in warm water. I feel better now and my overall fitness has improved, plus a good Pilates class in the morning can rid me of my joint pain and stiffness better than medication.

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