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Pilates, it's not just for girls

By Mitch Rustad

Listen up, gym boys, fitness fanatics, and he-men out there. When someone says "Pilates," which of the following comes to mind?

  1. Kim Cattrall's Samantha crediting it for her fabulous "Sex and the City" body
  2. Madonna's infamous "American Life" rap (let's be honest: Does it really rhyme with "lattes"?)
  3. A sissy sport for girls
  4. An extremely effective strength training workout named after founder Joseph H. Pilates, resulting in a strong and ripped core
To many gay men, "Pilates" is nothing more than a fleeting pop culture reference (see 1, 2, and 3 above) or, at best, the ugly stepsister of yoga—easily dismissed for more worthy fitness pursuits.

But if you're looking for a truly effective means to a better body, you might want to get past any negative preconceptions. Getting a killer body—especially those ever-elusive ripped abs—might depend on it, says Sharyl M. Curry, a certified Pilates instructor and owner of Park East Pilates, a private Pilates studio in New York City.

"The Pilates method is perfect for all men," says Curry. "The active athlete will experience Pilates as a natural cross-training resource that provides improved coordination, balances muscle strength, and sharpens focus."

So just what is the Pilates method? It's a series of more than 500 exercises that engage the mind and body together to build muscles, strength, and endurance. Every exercise works the entire body with a strong focus on your core, including your abs and lower back—while opening the chest, elongating the muscles, and creating a more flexible spine.

If you're just getting started in fitness or are a reformed couch potato, doing Pilates for one hour, three times per week, will quickly improve your strength and flexibility, sculpt a more attractively toned body, and improve your posture. "These kinds of benefits can enhance confidence and competence in all areas of your life," says Curry.

For those with an injury that keeps them out of the gym or playing field, Pilates offers a great workout while the body is healing. "Pilates has the potential to enhance your entire life, your overall wellbeing, and even your sexual health, as many doctors, therapists, and trainers now believe," says Curry.

Convinced yet, naysayers?

If you're ready to be adventurous and give Pilates a go, Curry recommends that you take a series of private Pilates sessions in an accredited, fully equipped studio that teaches the authentic Pilates system. At a studio, "you will acquire the tools necessary to workout safely, properly, and on your own," she says. You can take that learning with you when you expand your practice to a class at your gym or simply on a mat in your home.

To find an accredited teacher or studio in the United States or abroad, log on to Classicalpilates.net. The site offers a free worldwide directory.

If you're not ready to invest that kind of money, Curry suggests starting with a single class at an accredited studio that teaches the authentic Pilates method. Be sure the instructor is similarly certified so that you learn the proper form, since form is everything in Pilates and your best efforts will be wasted if you do the exercises improperly.

Mitch Rustad is a freelance writer who has written for numerous fitness and health publications, including Men's Fitness, Tennis, and Shape. A former tennis professional, he resides in Manhattan.