By Hershel Sarbin and Jim Brown
Golf After 50 Editors
Most revolutionary, can't-miss, you-gotta-try-this exercise programs have very short life expectancies. Infomercial today, gone tomorrow.
But there is one -- Pilates -- that first appeared almost 100 hundred years ago and now appears to be gaining momentum. Talk about slow growth. The Pilates method is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility and strength for the total body while also enhancing posture, balance, and coordination. It is particularly effective in developing core strength. The core is your trunk, from shoulders to the pelvis, which is vital for after 50 golfers who seem to have two missions in life: hitting longer drives and avoiding injuries.
"Several things set Pilates apart from other exercise programs," explains Daniel Loigerot, co-owner of Pilates Edge in New York City. "It is based on quality (fewer repetitions) rather than quantity. The movement is more focused and intense. It is a safe and effective approach that provides the benefits of stretching, strengthening, and control, while keeping the whole body balanced. It's about focus, keeping the mind connected to the body"
As with any hot program, Pilates has its celebrity supporters. Proponents (not paid endorsers) include Arizona pitcher Curt Shilling, NBA star Jason Kidd, and the Buffalo Bills' 300-pound offensive guard, Ruben Brown. The movement is really becoming popular with golfers, including Rich Beem, Grace Park, Annika Sörenstam, Tiger Woods, and Rocco Mediate.
The question isn't whether or not it works for famous golfers, but whether it will work for the rest of us. Here are some of the things that are especially appealing to senior golfers.
• Pilates requires a certain amount of focus (there's that word again) and so does golf. There is no proof that one carries over to the other, but a connection seems plausible.
• Pilates is based on movement from the center of the body, as do most shots in golf.
• Pilates improves flexibility (so do other exercise programs), and after 50 golfers are losing that physical attribute as we speak.
• Pilates enhances balance and stability, which become increasingly important as we get older.
Are there limitations to the Pilates method? Yes. There are limitations to any single approach to fitness. Fitness coach Bill Hartman points out that it was not originally designed for golfers (and therefore not sport-specific), it does not include exercises that increase swing speed, and it requires a specific type of exercise equipment. Says Hartman, "A basic barbell and medicine ball will cost you a fraction of the money that Pilates equipment or Pilates sessions with an instructor will cost."
Is Pilates for you? You won't know until you make a commitment to try it. "Once a week is not enough," says Loigerot. "Two times will provide benefits and three sessions a week is ideal. Measurable results depend on the fitness level of the person at the start and on the number of sessions per week, but it will take several weeks." This is not a quick-fix deal, although some advocates claim benefits right away.
Loigerot's book, The Pilates Edge: An Athlete's Guide to Strength and Performance, will be published by Penguin Books early next year. In it, he explains that there are 500 Pilates exercises, so there is always room for improvement and variety in the workouts. Many after 50 golfers are not on any kind of strength, stretching, or fitness program. If you are ready to start on one or if yours is not helping you achieve your fitness, strength, or golf-playing goals, Pilates may be the answer. One thing is for sure: Doing nothing to maintain fitness after 50 is a free ticket to injuries, missed playing time, and diminishing performance on the golf course.
Let us know how it goes. Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or Hershel at HershelS@aol.com.
©2003 Hershel Sarbin Associates