Sunday, February 10, 2013

10th February, 2013 Pilates

It’s funny how people come along when you most need them. Not only did I meet Sally my brilliant Personal Trainer when I went to help her with pony, Indiana, but more recently I met Theresa, who is a fantastic Pilates teacher, when I went to work with her youngster, Sampson.

I have been struck by just how many parallels there are between Pilates and training a young horse. Pilates looks at small but critical movements, the tiny muscles in the body and how to engage them in the most efficient way. To learn it properly you have to focus on form first, focus on your breathing and do everything incrementally – gradually stretching your muscles rather than forcing them into submission. In the same way training a young horse involves establishing a foundation, breathing properly, doing everything incrementally and not forcing things to happen.

Theresa reminds me that there are three stages of learning in Pilates: cognitive, motor and automatic. Cognitive,  is when the skill is being attempted for the first time - concentration needs to be high and the participant will  tire easily; movements need to be broken down into simple components and lots of demonstration and instruction is required. The second stage, motor, is when the participant knows what is required to achieve the skill, they simply do not have the refined motor control to achieve it. Repetition and practise is essential at this stage together with reinforcement and correction of technique. Moves can be linked together but concentration is still high but the results are much smoother. Participants should remain at this stage until the movement patterns are correct. The final one, automatic, is when the movement patterns can be performed smoothly and at full speed without conscious attention. It can also be performed well under stressful conditions. The skill is more or less permanent. Unfortunately if the skill is learnt incorrectly in the first place it is very hard to modify once it has become automatic.

Sound familiar?

Theresa’s older horse is predictable, safe and reliable (on the whole) whereas Sampson needs to mature, to strengthen and to learn to learn. In the meantime I am developing a six pack of muscles (instead of crisps) for the first time in my life.