Joe and the Snow

Uncle Joe, why do you like exercising in the snow? Inquiring minds want to know…

This winter as I looked anew at the photos of Joe exercising in the snow (for images, google search “Joe Pilates in the snow”), I decided to finally put all the bits and bobs of information that I’ve gathered on the topic into writing.  Joe Pilates had some habits that were determined by what he knew rather than what was considered “normal”. (Remember that Joe had his own standard of “normal health” which surpassed mainstream expectations and most certainly influenced his choices.)  We can come to a better understanding of the subtle underpinnings of the Pilates method through looking closely at Joe Pilates’ choices around his own health.

Look at a few photos and you know that Joe preferred bare skin to being fully clothed, he was interested in naturism and adhered to the idea that it was important to let the skin act as a means for absorbing nutrients from the sun.  While his “eccentricity” of letting his skin “breathe” may have caused some to raise their eyebrows, there was actually good sense in in.  Our skin does need to be unblocked in order to properly function.  

To know why this is true, we need to understand our skin functions with the passage of materials through its many layers.  Think of any dispenser of liquid that has some sort of valve to open or close in order to release or retain the liquid.  At regular intervals air needs to replace the released liquid otherwise the valve ceases to be able to release any more.  Similarly, when the outer layer of our skin is blocked, the passage of materials through the various layers is inhibited.  One of my hobbies before being a mom was skin care and I once attended a conference where I learned of a research project that had been conducted comparing the health of skin cells to which two different products had been applied – one contained waxes, the other didn’t.  The difference in the cells was obvious, the cells that had been coated in wax appeared compromised, the ones with the wax-free products appeared to be in good condition.  

Wax-free skin products are one thing, and do require a commitment to an uncommon standard.  Even if we do chose to start using higher quality skin care products it isn’t likely that we’re going to start wearing bathing attire for most of our waking hours.  While we may not have an interest in joining the “skins” team, choosing natural clothing fibers rather than synthetic will make a subtle difference.  Personally, I can feel the effect of clothing made of plastic on my skin and it feels just as uncomfortable as wearing nail polish – as if my pores and my nail beds are being suffocated (go ahead call me strange).  Now we don’t just wear plastics while we are going about our regular activities, we wear them especially to exercise.  I do feel that it is noble to re-use plastics rather than letting them float around in the ocean, it’s not great for our bodies to essentially shrink-wrap ourselves and then have a good sweaty workout.  I can only imagine what Joe would think of that practice!  All in all, it seems to me that once again Uncle Joe’s wisdom prevails as worth our respect and attention.

But I haven’t even gotten to the snow yet.  First, I was compelled to first delve into why Joe may have been exercising in the snow in just a pair of shorts.  With that out of the way we can proceed to considering the practice of exercising in the cold.  When it comes to being in the cold, we can look to the old Scandanavian traditions for some insights (here’s an article on the practice of napping wee ones in the great outdoors just for some extra fun).  And we can learn from Wim Hof who has created a methodology for good health of which I’m pretty sure Joe Pilates would have approve (cheers to working class hero for the introduction!).

Wim’s e-book discusses the scientific studies that have examined controlled cold exposure.  In short, being in the cold amplifies the benefits of breathing and concentration techniques.  We know this based on a few key indicators that have a lot to do with the body’s imperative to keep warm

  • increased metabolic rate
  • enhanced immune system functioning
  • increase of brown fat in the body

If you’re interested in fortifying yourself in order to experience what Joe did and surely gain some insights and improved health, consider joining me in my foray study into the Wim Hof Method which works with the three components that Joe Pilates was working with when took his exercise out to the snow – breathing, concentration, and cold exposure.