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Be Healthy and Fit at the Forest: Pilates

Movie stars do it. Grammy winners do it. Professional athletes do it. Socialites do it. You can do it, too collegiettes™.
Unlike your regular workout routine—30 minutes on the elliptical, 30 minutes of weight-lifting, some crunches, and stretching—Pilates combines all aspects of fitness into one workout. Cardio, resistance training, stretching, and toning all in a one-hour workout. And all you need is a mat or towel.
Joseph H. Pilates developed the technique that now bears his name during World War I. Working as an orderly in a hospital in England, he created exercises for patients that focused on core stability and flexibility. Today, Pilates has become an international fitness fad.
The central principle of Pilates is core stability. Every movement begins from the center of the body and strengthens core muscles: abs, obliques, lower back. From there, exercises help increase hip flexibility, muscle tone and posture.
I began practicing Pilates in high school as a way to gain strength and stability for dance. But I noticed other changes: I sat up straighter, I had more confidence, I had more energy, and I fit in my skinny jeans. Pilates transformed me.
 One thing I love about Pilates is that you barely break a sweat and yet you feel your muscles really working. Similar to yoga, you use your own body weight as resistance and gradually become more aware of your own body. However, Pilates is more intense than yoga: there are push-ups, a full abdominal series, and specialized leg exercises. You will feel it the next day.
Now Pilates classes can be expensive. Reformer Pilates has become the method “à la mode”, but an hour class will put you back $30 to $60. Even mat classes can run $15 to $30 per hour. But we live in a world where mass-produced workout videos and television stations dedicated to fitness prevail, making it easy and free to get in shape.
So what’s your excuse?

If you are new to Pilates, you will want to take a couple of classes with an instructor to learn proper technique and breathing. But after you get the hang of it, you can get the same effects from Mari Windsor, Jillian Michaels, and Denise Austin. Exercise TV offers free Pilates videos. Fitness Magazine, SELF, and Shape magazines have free Pilates workout routines on their Web sites. Most gyms have group Pilates classes on site.
Pilates is one of the best fitness techniques for students. You can do it in your room, at the gym, in the lounge with friends, outside on the quad—the possibilities are endless. So get up, get out, and get yourself back in those skinny jeans with Pilates.

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