Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge by Brooke Siler

The author runs a prominent Pilates studio in Manhattan and trained with one of Joseph Pilates’s original students. However, despite that background, this book is less of an encyclopedia authentic Pilates exercises and instead a good shot at helping ordinary people (especially women apply Pilates to real life.)

Her point is that she’s seen too many students do well for an hour while being taught or working out, but then forget their Pilates when they leave the studio. They walk with a slump, slouch and so on.

She wants everybody to use Pilates when it’s meant to be used — all the time. You can’t do the exercises contuously, but you can and should keep your posture straight, you weight evenly distributed, your spine in alignment with your muscles.

It does little good for your health to practice correct movements three to five hours a week, but fall back into your unhealthy habits the rest of the time.

She starts off with basic background on Pilates and its principles, and on the concepts of Pilates movement: stability/mobility, resistance/operation, leverage, articulation and balance.

She goes over the benefits of good posture and breathing the Pilates way, as well as advice on how to sit and stand with good posture, so you don’t stress your joints.

Then she includes an unusual section: how to apply Pilates principles to working out on various pieces of exercise equipment: treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, stair machines, and rowing machines. She gives four variations on the usual way of using these machines, and advises spending two minutes apiece on them (the usual way plus four variations equals five), for a total ten.

Her advice here is to use each machine for the ten minutes total, then move on to the next one, for a workout that last nearly an hour. This is a cardio circuit.

She then gives a series of exercises and variations you can do at home and on the mat. Lifting free weights, jumping jacks, using flexible bands, jumping rope, the roll up, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, single straight leg stretch, double straight leg stretch, crisscross, spine stretch forward, open leg rocker, double leg kicks, and low back stretch.

She also includes information on the correct stance for common every day activities: sitting, standing, carrying bags of groceries, holding babies, sitting in front of your computer, using a photocopy machine and driving.

Another chapter covers applying Pilates to various sports such as golf (according to the author, Tiger Woods did), skiing, snowboarding and tennis.

This is a great beginners book to remind them to take their Pilates success from the studio into their daily lives. I doubt many people can do it by themselves unless they’re too young to have already developed a lot of bad habits.

But if you’re already in Pilates classes and therefore already strengthening your core, learning to align your spine, working out your muscles in a balanced way, and increasing your flexibility, this is a great guide on taking Pilates into your daily life, for increased progress and better health.