The locker room: Chatting with Pilates guru Alan Herdman

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Find out how to change your body forever with Pilates, from the man who brought it here...

Not many people can claim to have been responsible for one of the biggest fitness crazes in the UK, but Alan Herdman can.

Credited with introducing Pilates into the country back in the '70s, Herdman still teaches Pilates today and remains it's biggest advocate. Firmly believing that to understand something you must go back to the source, we stole ten minutes with Alan for him to impart some diet and fitness wisdom...

So you brought Pilates to the UK. how did that happen?
'I studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance and went on to become a dancer and subsequently a dance teacher. In the late 1960s, I was invited to New York to learn about the Joseph Pilates Method, which at the time was well known amongst the New York dance community, but not appreciated outside that group.

I worked closely with two instructors who had been trained by Pilates himself, Carola Trier and Bob Fitzgerald, and returned to the UK in 1970 when I set up Britain's first ever Pilates studio – and I've been teaching ever since! It's been rewarding to have been a part of the growth of the regime – at first nobody understood Pilates, but now many of my clients have taken up Pilates on the recommendation of their Doctors to help with recovery.'

So, why should we all be doing it?
'Pilates is brilliant because it's a low impact regime meaning it's suitable for almost anyone. Although it is low impact, if you stick with it, it's extremely rewarding and can change your body forever. The everyday benefits are remarkable - it helps with strength, flexibility, posture, stress relief and helps to shape and tone.'

What is your best tip for people wanting to take up Pilates?
'For beginners I'd suggest finding your local class and going to a few sessions to start with, as the teacher can make sure you're doing each exercise correctly. Once you know you're executing the moves correctly you can put them into practice every day, whether you're sitting at a computer, walking the dog or working out at home.'

What is the ultimate killer move?
'This could be different for everyone, but for me it is 'the teaser' leading into 'the open leg rocker'.

Start by lying flat on the floor with your arms stretched out above your head. Use your abdominal muscles to lift both legs and your shoulders off the floor, until you are in a 'V' position. To move into the open leg rocker, keep your legs straight and hold onto your ankles. Rock backwards onto your back, and then rock forwards into the 'V' position using your abdominal muscles. Not easy to do, but stick with it – results are guaranteed.'

What is the most common excuse you hear for people giving up?
'"It's not working fast enough." I always encourage people to stick with the regime for a minimum of six weeks, as by then you should start to notice and feel a difference. It's important to be patient with any regime, don't give up and think about the long term picture.'

How often do people really need to be working out a week?
'I don't think it's the time people spend working out that's important, I think it's the effort someone puts into their workout. It's important to make sure what you're doing really counts – do a solid half an hour where you really give it 100%, rather than an hour and a half of working at 20%.'

What is the key to a healthy lifestyle?
'Everything in moderation. Of course it's important keep fit and eat healthily but a little bit of your favourite treat every now and then won't do you any harm.'

What's the best thing people could do at home to stay in shape?
'Walk more, be careful what you eat and eat less of it, recognise your strengths and weaknesses and create a balance between them.'

What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a normal day?
'I tend to eat quite healthily, so breakfast is porridge or granola with fresh fruit, lunch is a bowl of soup, and then for dinner I have fish or chicken with fresh vegetables and potatoes.'

Do you ever just veg out on the sofa with a tub of ice cream?
'The temptation is often there, but no I do not.'

What are the most common diet mistakes people make in your eyes?
'Dieting is so restrictive and always leaves you craving the things that you're supposed to be avoiding. Any changes, whether it's your eating habits or your exercise routine, should be considered as part of a long term lifestyle change, not a short term quick fix.'

What's your secret slimming weapon?
'Make sure your posture is correct – it might not sound much but if you stand up straight you instantly elongate your body and look slimmer.'

Give us your ultimate fitness mantra?
'Realise that change takes time, so plan long term and enjoy the gradual feeling of wellbeing.'

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