Matt Ekstrand came to Pilates Defined unconvinced and unwilling, coerced by a friend helping a friend complete her teacher training hours. “I was told to be here at a certain time, and I showed up,” the 27-year-old deadpanned. “It was all downhill from there.”
His love-hate relationship with Pilates comes through in his grudging praise. Asked for three words to describe Pilates Defined, he chose Happy Torture House.“There are some other adjectives I would add in there, but three is three,” he said.
Matt complains, particularly about the side leg series, and the hanging, black-strap smiley faces that he says mock him from the end of the reformers, but four years after he first walked in the door he continues to beg for “brolates,” or Pilates for bros. Once he finishes a workout, he says he feels ready to go head-to-head with a rhinoceros. The amateur fighter and muay thai instructor says Pilates is different from other training modalities — harder, because “it never gets any easier.”
“Doing things properly is a pain in the …” he trailed off. “Having to be aligned and move from where you’re supposed to move from is physically and mentally frustrating. I imagine it’s what an infant feels like learning how to use a spoon.” Matt had a partial disk removal in 2010, and despite his youth and fitness level has struggled with chronic pain. “This is the only thing that has helped my back consistently,” he said.
He credits his regular Pilates practice for leaving him in less pain, everywhere, and unlike most Pilates Defined clients, he also gauges his progress by how much better he can take a punch. “Body shots don’t mean anything to me anymore,” he said.
What benefits have you seen from Pilates?
“I don’t get hurt anymore, like twisted knees. I can take more of a beating. I guess it boils down to more efficient movements, specifically for muay thai, using the core and the posterior chain. I’m less in my delts for punching, and the same with the quads for kicks. I’m better balanced, weight-distribution-wise. I don’t shift terribly anymore.”
What is your favorite exercise or piece of equipment?
“I like the barrel, when we do those side bends. I hate that one so much, but the rhinos know what is coming after that.”
What would you say to someone thinking of starting Pilates?
“Just do it. It will be the best, worst decision of your life. You’ll get fantastic results, and you’ll suffer the entire time.” <grin>