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Andy Garcia Loves Pilates

Ocean's 13 star Andy Garcia may be staunchly old-fashioned when it comes to his family, but he is also a devotee of Pilates, the quintessential Hollywood fitness craze.
By Melanie D. G. Kaplan
WebMD the Magazine - Feature

Ocean's 13 star Andy Garcia is a committed family man -- he’s been married for nearly 25 years and has four children ranging in age from 23 to 5 -- and he’s just as devoted to maintaining his physical health. While it’s true that he has been photographed toking on the odd cigar, it might surprise you to learn that the actor, director, and golf enthusiast is no stranger to a Pilates mat.

Pilates? For an actor who launched to stardom playing tough-guy roles in such films as The  Untouchables, The Godfather: Part III, and the Ocean’s trilogy? Pilates suggests images of Hollywood ingénues bending and stretching to keep their figures long and lean. But this core-strengthening fitness regimen is also great for anyone who suffers from back pain -- as Garcia does.

Garcia, 51, has always been physically active. In fact, back when he was a boy and living in Miami he played a lot of basketball (as point guard) and baseball --and even had hopes of taking his athleticism beyond high school. But now he dismisses those big-league dreams as pie-in-the-sky fantasies of a teenager. “Every young athlete has illusions of being a professional athlete,” he says now, laughing softly. “Certainly, we all grow up with those.”

A nasty bout of mononucleosis he picked up as a junior dampened those pro-athlete aspirations. While most teens who get mono recover within a month or so, Garcia says, “I got derailed,” he says. “I couldn’t exercise for awhile.”

Flash forward 30-odd years, and you’re much more likely to spot Garcia in a trendy Pilates studio than on a basketball court or baseball diamond. He says he did try to practice power yoga for a time, but “I had some disc issues, and I would get hurt often doing power yoga. Pilates seems to be a lot better for it.”

Pilates -- which focuses on core muscles that keep the body balanced and support the spine -- is an excellent antidote for back pain, and is a good way to prevent it, says William C. Lauerman, MD, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and chief of the spine surgery division at Georgetown University Medical Center. He recommends Pilates for his patients who have scoliosis and disc problems, whether they have had surgery or not.

“It is a core and trunk muscle strengthening regimen,” Lauerman says. “You basically build up all of those muscles in the core of your trunk, and it unloads the strain on the disc in the spine.”

And for Garcia, Pilates also has the benefit of keeping his back in prime shape for hitting the fairway, an activity more obviously in keeping with his “Terry Benedict” Las Vegas casino boss image (the role he is reprising for the third time this summer, alongside fellow Ocean’s 13 stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon). “Pilates seems to be essential to keeping a healthy back,” he says, “especially if you want to play golf once a week.”

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