The Fit List -- cont.

Jun 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Girl Ray

2. It's a Stretch: Pilates
Yes, Madonna uses it to strengthen her diaphragm, and Beverly Hills housewives have found, to their great delight, that it quickly turns their asses into cherry bombs, but what the hell are the U.S. Ski Team, professional triathletes, kayakers, and Ultimate players doing in Pilates studios? They're seeking the competitive edge that comes from this 80-year-old stretching discipline, developed by a German immigrant named Joseph Pilates. With 500 exercises designed to build balanced strength and a rock-solid core, Pilates stretches are active, and the focus is on pulling the abdominals inward to support the spine. "I notice that when I'm climbing, I'm not just hanging on by my joints and ligaments," says Darla Bartlett-Jentzsch, a climber, rafter, and telemark skier who teaches at The Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado. "I pull my lats in and use my stomach to hold myself to the rock." Ten years ago, this esoteric method was practiced mainly by dancers and injured athletes, but Pilates now claims an estimated five million devotees. And no, you won't start belting out Madonna tunes after a few sessions, though you may be tempted. (For info, call 800-745-2837;

3. Resistance Training Goes Natural: Free Motion Weight Machines
Roy Simonson wants to pump you up—but perhaps not in the way to which you are accustomed. After moving from Massachusetts to Colorado, the avid weight lifter and cyclist took up snowboarding and hiking 45- to 60-degree mountainsides near Colorado Springs. Humbled by repeated physical drubbings, Simonson concluded his conventional strength training had done little to prepare him for the rugged terrain. What he needed was a weight machine that would duplicate the natural motions (heel-knee-hip-torso working together, for example) that physiologists call the kinetic chain. So he drew up plans for the Free Motion machines, now built by his company Ground Zero (877-363-8449;, which hook weight stacks to cables that turn on swiveling, heart-shaped pulleys, creating three-dimensional movement. The 15-machine line, priced from $2,500 to $5,000 per machine, now lives in 800 facilities nationwide, including the U.S. Olympic Center. Cybex recently followed suit with a cable-based unit of its own, the FT 360 ($3,995; 888-462-9239; Quite simply, a paradigm shift in the gym.

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