Can pilates make you nicer It can if you're Andy Murray! The tennis star credits the stretching exercise with making him a better person
17:05 GMT, 5 November 2012
After becoming the first British man to win a grand slam singles title for 76 years at the US Open it is no wonder that Andy Murray cannot stop smiling.
But the dramatic improvement in his general demeanour may have little to do with tennis.
Murray, 25, has been attending pilates classes near the 6 million Surrey mansion he shares with his 24-year-old girlfriend Kim Sears.
And stretch: Andy Murray and girlfriend Kim Sears arrive for a pilates class near their home in Oxshott, Surrey
And for a man once dubbed 'the most negative person I've ever met' by a former coach it has helped transform him.
The on-court meltdowns and the dour post-match interviews are a thing of the past.
And those within Team Murray say he is now 'a delightful, sensitive, happy, funny, sensitive young man' who is finally enjoying being himself.
Murray turned to pilates in recent weeks to stay fit after a back complaint.
But he is said to have realised the growing importance of mind over matter in his game amid an overwhelming weight of expectation on his shoulders.
He has been attending a pilates studio near his home in Oxshott, Surrey, with girlfriend Kim and has since completed up to four sessions.
Pilates: Murray, 25, credits the stretching sport with improving his mood and banishing the on-court meltdowns
Support: Girlfriend Kim Sears, 24, has been going along to classes to provide moral support
'Right now I feel good, I've practiced well the last few days and not been waking up with soreness or stiffness,' said the World number three who is in action this week in the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 arena.
'I started Pilates a few weeks ago which I think has already helped. My body feels good compared to the last few years, hopefully I'm good to go for the next two weeks.'
Pilates was designed by German Joseph Pilates in 1883 who believed that mental and physical health were intertwined with one another.
It helps build flexibility, strength and endurance and emphasises breathing in order to relieve stress and allow adequate oxygen to flow to muscles.
No muscle group is under or over trained and for Murray it is proving to be an invaluable addition to his training regime.
'I feel like when my mind isn't free of anything that might be frustrating me away from the court, I can't focus as well as I need to,' he said recently.
'When my mind's clear, I can go on the court and play, not worry about anything else, I can play much better and think a lot better on the court.'
Back to the day job: Murray is currently performing at the ATP tennis finals at the O2 Arena in London
Party: Murray with Novak Djokovic (left) and Roger Federer (right) at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Gala
It is not the first time Murray has turned to unorthodox measures in his quest for glory. Four years ago he added Bikram yoga – performed in 43C heat – to his fitness regime.
Like pilates Bikram yoga, performed in heated studios, help deeper stretching and injury prevention, while reducing stress and tension.
Its creator Bikram Choudhury claims that his system stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint and organ in the body.
Murray, much-maligned for his monosyllabic interview style and immature displays of petulance on court, has also turned to a sports psychologist.
He started working with Alexis Castorri at the start of the year and within months he had reached the Wimbledon final, won Olympic gold and then finally in September at Flushing Meadow he won the US Open.
Castorri, a 59-year-old therapist from the US who helped Murray's current coach and former player Ivan Lendl during his playing days, is said to have worked wonders.
'I'm interested in helping a person become the best they can be,' she said. 'That means talking about their lives in total. Tennis is part of it but not the whole of the conversation.
'When I looked at early films of him playing, he played with such happiness and excitement, so my initial thought was that he needed to bring back the zest. But I believe you start that off the court.
'It's a simple lesson but if you can learn to be yourself – the most positive form of yourself – then good things tend to happen.'
Winner: Since taking gold for team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, Murray has won the US Open
Castorri, who speaks to Murray every fortnight, added: 'I have never found Andy gloomy. I love working with him: he's a delightful, sensitive, happy, funny, sensitive young man.'
It is believed she may have played some part in his decision to try pilates as a form of relaxation. When she worked with Lendl she encouraged him to take aerobics, jazzercise and yoga.
For Murray it appears to be paying dividends: both on and off the court.