I have just dropped Zeb off at his first school disco at the grand old age of 8. He had football club beforehand so I dutifully spent the 30 minute gap between one finishing and the other starting making sure he had his disco togs on and was fuelled up with Mini Cheddars and apple juice, ready for action.
As he charged in to the school hall, lights down, disco lights flashing, his buddies were already starting to make some shapes (or whatever it is that the kids say these days) and it reminded me of a question I'm often asked about kids and Pilates. Do I think young children should be doing Pilates and if so, why don't we offer it on our timetable?
I'm aware as much as anyone that the sports we play as children shape our bodies, our posture and our attitude to fitness, health and wellbeing. Rather than harp on about the hangover from my sports, I look instead at Zeb. As mentioned, he plays football. All the time. He's got through two pairs of school shoes in under two terms, don't you know. You could argue that he's already developing movement patterns that will determine his future posture and therefore possible future issues. I noticed last week how he's already starting to become turned out from striking the ball with the inside of his feet. So, should I be addressing this and trying to prevent this change from how he was built? Should I be doing Pilates with him to ensure he's balanced in the hips, pelvis and legs?
After an awful lot of thought, my answer is a resounding 'NO'. Don't get me wrong, there will come a time, most likely in his teenage years where I will be marching him off to Reformer classes and starting to do some mindful rebalancing of his body if needed.
In the meantime, I recognise that children are meant to move. Without thinking. They are meant to run, jump, skip and generally be physical and lark around. Pilates, in contrast, is a method that focuses on mindful movement and absolute control. It encourages us to think of the layers and make-up of our bodies and strengthen all within to restore balance. I don't think that is something that children as young as Zeb should be trying to achieve.
Pilates also requires a longer attention span than children should have to have. It would be trying to push them in to adult behaviours before they're ready. We also aim to stabilise some parts of the body while moving other parts. I want Zeb to move his whole body - to learn balance and to build strength while moving, having fun, keeping healthy and finding a sport that he can be passionate about. It is stopping this freedom of movement as we get older that tends to get us in the end!
In the interim, I will be taking some gentle steps to minimise the risk of injury. I already make sure that he stretches daily - we're not talking big structured stuff here - Zeb's idea of stretching is 5 seconds and jigging around a bit as he does it. But it is just gently introducing the idea that for every sport there is maintenance to be done to prevent getting hurt.
Zeb doesn't mind doing his stretches as he knows that if he stands any chance of becoming a footballer he has to make it through his childhood without injury - he sees enough guys being stretchered off on Match of the Day. He also loves the idea of working on the Reformer when he's older, and as for the Cadillac, you can't get him off it when he's in the studio - usually hanging from the fuzzies. But I won't be pushing him to do structured Pilates for some time yet. I will let him enjoy finding his passion for sport and movement and keeping healthy. That alone will give him the best chance of a fit, strong and flexible future.
Time to pick Disco-Zeb up, so signing off for now!