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Move Well, Live Well with Mayfair Pilates Founder Simon Gilchrist.

As a Sports and Spinal Physiotherapist for over two decades, was Pilates something you practised with your patients from the very beginning?

Pilates was something that I started training in 2001 and was a great method to compliment my clinical skills as a Physio. I graduated in 1998 and soon recognised the benefits of a structured training program like Pilates for helping with rehabilitation so have now been using with clients for over 20 years. I have used a clinical aspect of movement for spinal stability since graduating and Pilates was a natural extension of this.

What makes Pilates the go-to method for rehabilitation?

Pilates is fantastic for lumbo pelvic control, core control work and working on muscle patterning and imbalance issues which almost all patients have to varying degrees. It is a systematic approach that can be regressed or progressed to the individual and the equipment allows a huge array of exercises and movements to be performed very safely when other things cannot.

What is the difference between Pilates and conventional exercise for rehabilitation?

You can’t trick the body with Pilates! Pilates is not the only form of rehab we do, strength, endurance and cardio is also very crucial, but it forms a fantastic basis for improving control, postural awareness and retraining how someone moves, which a high majority of our clients need. We will often combine both aspects of traditional strength and conditioning work with Pilates work when doing our rehabilitation.

Pilates helps to retrain the muscle patterns to really improve efficiency of movement, which strength training rarely gives you. It also retrains the small stabilising muscles around the joints that often are not targeted as effectively in traditional rehab exercises. Pilates can be as gentle as we need it, or as challenging as we need to make it to ensure we can progress a 90 year old female or an elite level athlete.

Can Pilates alleviate the psychological toll an injury places on an individual?

Pilates alone will not alleviate the stress of an injury. We often involve Sports Psychologists and Pain Psychologists to help patients assist with their recovery as it can be challenging for patients to rehabilitate after a prolonged injury. Pilates does however have a very meditational aspect to the training as it requires a great deal of focus and emphasis on appropriate breath control which can help to regulate the sympathetic nervous system involved in our stress response.

Pilates is known to enhance proprioception; can you explain a little about what this is and its benefits?

Pilates can help to improve proprioception, which is an awareness of the body’s position in space. Our joint and muscle receptors feed information back to our computers, but these receptors are often damaged in an injury which leads to altered proprioception and an increased risk of reinjury. This is where Pilates can help assist to retrain this feedback, especially with equipment Pilates, as it gives direct feedback to the legs, pelvis and arms with the resistance.

Proprioception is critical in sports and life, as being aware of how you are holding yourself can reduce the incidence of overuse and postural injuries. Having great proprioception is critical to all sports in order to prevent that sprained ankle or have greater awareness of how to dribble past those defenders and still manage to keep on your feet with terrific ball control!

Whilst Pilates is used to rehabilitate those with acute injuries, how can it protect us in a preventative way? In particular we have in mind ‘Weekend Warriors’, those living sedentary desk-bounded lives during the week before hardcore weekend exercise

Pilates is brilliant for preventing injuries and helping to improve someone’s stability and efficiency of movement. Life as we know it can be sedentary and the amount of time we sit causes lots of altered muscle imbalances and movement dysfunctions throughout the body. Training can help to alleviate these, but I have not seen another system of movement that is so effective at improving the local stability of our spine and other joints as Pilates.

Pilates is brilliant for the weekend warrior as it allows them to maintain the local support around all those postural muscles and pelvic region, that often get particularly tight and weak when sitting for long periods, whilst improving their strength and endurance. This helps someone to reduce their injury risk by maintaining good mobility and strength.

Can you explain the difference between Clinical and Fitness Pilates?

Over the last 10 years there has been a Pilates studio popping up on every corner! Fitness Pilates has really boomed as a way of exercising with large group classes, some on the mat but reformer group classes in particular have really exploded. Many of these sessions are targeting people’s desire to want to push themselves hard, to sweat and feel like they have really exhausted themselves for the workout. This will often compromise people’s form and lead to overload in certain areas of the body as people are pushed way beyond their capacity to tolerate the load, or be able to control it.

Clinical Pilates has been used for many years with Physiotherapists who broke down the movement patterns and brought an evidenced based approach to Pilates based on current literature about spinal stability. The movements are broken down into smaller or more structured patterns and slowly progressed based on the person's underlying pathology. It is an incredibly safe and effective method of building core control and stability through the body with a skilled clinician that will only progress the levels or load as the individual’s injury or progress allows. It is a style of Pilates more often run by Physiotherapists or highly skilled Pilates Instructors like our team.

What led you to found Mayfair Pilates and what can the studio and your team offer to patients?

I founded Mayfair Pilates as I wanted to continue to offer bespoke rehabilitation services to our clients. It was the perfect opportunity to combine my company Mayfair Physiotherapy and our Pilates skills within a high end studio. It allows us to  offer a mixture of Clinical and Rehab Pilates with a highly skilled team, along with 1-1 Fitness Pilates for those patients who have progressed beyond the Clinical capacity.

We have an experienced team of Specialist Physiotherapists who lead our Pilates service and a brilliant team of Pilates Instructors who have all had years of extensive training. We offer a bespoke service that is designed to maximise the potential of each individual and to assist in the rehabilitation of injuries.

The Covid pandemic has affected the fitness industry in a myriad of ways, how has the last year impacted Mayfair Pilates?

Covid has definitely presented us with challenges. Closing the studio was tough but we have pivoted well like most people and have now generated other revenue streams with live streaming sessions. The team have been amazing in rising to the challenge and creating more bespoke services that we can run remotely, as well as in studio.

Mayfair Pilates has come out of the pandemic stronger and in a better position due to our bespoke service and only running a 1-1 service.

We are open with all the standard precautions and have been able to continue offering the Clinical Pilates services to help our patients rehabilitate from their injuries.

Have you seen a rise in certain types of injuries relating to lifestyle changes during the Pandemic?

There have been a few groups of clients that we have seen during the pandemic; the ones who have been working from poor workstation setups coming in with neck, shoulder and/or low back pain. Many of these are still coming into the studio or our physio clinic now.

There has also been an increase in clients that started doing  a different exercise or without the same levels of supervision that they were getting previously, so have actually worked themselves into new injuries due to poor mechanics and poor exercise selection.

The other group of clients have been the ones who hadn’t been doing much and then suddenly tried to jump back into playing football again when things opened up or someone who hadn’t done any HIIT sessions but thought their body would suddenly cope with 5 HIIT sessions per week for a month! It's been an interesting time to see these various groups and the mindset of people as they are all dealing with the pandemic and trying to cope in any way possible.

For those new to Pilates; what can consistent practice give you and where should they begin?

Consistent practice of Pilates can help to improve how you move, make you feel more resilient and make you stronger. It helps to injury proof your body and can ensure you de stress due to the meditational aspects of Pilates.

We see two streams of people aiming to start Pilates; those returning to exercise after injury, giving birth or just unsure where to start with Pilates and our Pilates Assessment run by one of our Specialist Physiotherapists is excellent for this group.

Secondly, our Pilates instructors see new clients directly without an assessment if they have no current injuries, they will help to map out the goals and what the ideal program will look like for each individual client.

Either way, when starting Pilates it is important to take some time and consolidate the basics to really build a solid foundation, you can then progress well through the levels to exercise and feel better.


For more information on services offered at Mayfair Pilates, click here, and follow for updates @mayfairpilates


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