7 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START PILATES CLASSES
It's about to become your favourite workout.
Here are 7 things you need to know by Katy Bath, a qualified Pilates instructor with an online Pilates studio producing on demand classes for all levels.
Pilates is trending and for very good reason, find out everything you need to know here.
WHAT IS PILATES ANYWAY?
Pilates is a series of exercises that are low-impact (so kind on your joints) and aims to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment and flexibility.
You can do Pilates with or without equipment but no matter what you can expect the moves to involve precise movements, breath control and concentration.
Pilates places particular emphasis on your core, often referred to as your powerhouse - although the exercises work other areas of your body as well. The core is much more than just abs - it includes the abdominals, the hips, the inner and outer thighs, and the back.
Originally created by Joseph Pilates in 1920's New York, Pilates has evolved over the years become a worldwide favourite for it's long lasting, transformative benefits.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PILATES?
Pilates is good for you in so many ways, both in body and mind - it will help you to do everything better! The beauty of Pilates is that it really is good for everybody.
Your entire body will benefit from increased strength, mobility and flexibility. In every day life you may find your posture improves, your balance, coordination and energy feel better. If you run, cycle, lift weights, play golf, tennis, ski, box you will notice Pilates helps your performance by strengthening the deep stabilising muscles that other exercises don't target. Avoiding injury is important to us all and Pilates does just that.
Ready to start? Here's a few things to keep in mind
1. LET YOURSELF BE A BEGINNER
No matter your experience in other sports and fitness it's really important to start with the foundations. You'll discover you feel like you're working muscles you didn't know you had! In just three weeks you can get to grips with the basics and feel ready to take on any class. Your Pilates practice will be a lot more effective when you learn the breathing technique, correct core engagement, form and move at a pace a little slow to make sure you get there. Here's the 21 day Beginner Plan which includes structure to build, repeat and learn.
2. 'YOU WILL FEEL BETTER IN TEN SESSIONS, LOOK BETTER IN TWENTY SESSIONS AND HAVE A COMPLETELY NEW BODY IN THIRTY SESSIONS."
A famous quote by the creator himself. The truth is you will be surprised at how quickly you do notice Pilates affecting your body and mind. Consistency in your routine is key, expect to start off with around 20 minutes for 3 times a week and progress to 20-30 minutes 4-5 times a week. As with any form of exercise though it's always important to listen to your body and rest when you need to. The beauty of Pilates is that there are many different forms from dynamic to restorative style classes so you'll often find something to suit your energy and mood. Give the Body Balance for Morning and Night 4 week plan a go to experience the energetic wake up style vs winding down for sleep.
3. COME AS YOU ARE
A common misconception with Pilates is that you need to be flexible or lose weight in order to start. There are no prerequisites to entry. Having taught classes in person for years before opening my virtual studio I often had professional rugby players on a mat next to retired schoolteachers, next to weight lifters, next to new mums.
Classes are often led as mixed ability so can accommodate all - this is done by teaching an exercise in layers. I like to teach a couple of repetitions of the beginner/entry level version, then offer ways to advance. The key here is to really notice what's good in your body and that may change day to day. It's a great idea to repeat classes and see your progress!
If you have any injuries or health concerns it's always recommended to check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise.
4. WILL IT JUST BE A BIT LIKE YOGA?
There's a reason why 'what is the difference between Yoga and Pilates' is one of the most searched questions about Pilates. It's true they do have some similar benefits, however they do have plenty of differences.
Yoga is an ancient Eastern developed practice and is deeply spiritual, a practice for body and mind. On the physical side, the classes often involve holding poses for a certain length of time, breath work and mediation.
Pilates is a more flowing sequence of exercises that aims to evenly work the body. It was developed in the west and has no spiritual aspects, though the benefits for body and mind alike are undeniable.
5. WILL PILATES HELP ME TO LOSE WEIGHT?
Possibly the most frequently asked question I get so I'll get straight to the point. Yes it can. ANY form of exercise can though. A key focus in any weight based goal, whether it be losing or gaining weight is your nutrition and overall movement. To lose weight you need to move into a calorie deficit which essentially means your body burns more calories than it consumes. The most effective way to do this is to focus 80% on eating a healthy balanced diet, combined with regular exercise, good sleep, proper rest and keeping hydrated. The most effective exercise routine to help you lose weight is the one that you can be consistent with - so make sure you enjoy it! It's a good idea to get a balance of resistance (Pilates/Weights etc) with cardiovascular (walking/running/swimming) as they work your heart in different zones.
6. HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO DO PILATES TO GET RESULTS?
Can you define what you mean by 'results'?
Pilates has incredible benefits for all and 'results' will mean something very different to a runner wanting to avoid injury and create more power in their runs to a new mum with abdominal separation looking for rehabilitation.
Firstly take stock of what it is you want to achieve, which I know after spending time with many clients trying to pin this down is often easier said than done.
I created a goal setting tool to help you go through the process of understanding what a goal could be right now and in the future. I encourage beginners struggling to decide on their goal to hold off and decide after a few classes. It can reveal things you want to become good at, identify certain areas of weakness.
Here are some Pilates goals to give you some inspiration!
Hold a plank for 1 minute within 4 weeks
Perform a full push up with good form within 6 weeks
Complete the 21 day beginner plan
Do 20 minutes of Pilates 3 times a week for a whole month
Complete the 31 Day REFRESH Pilates challenge
Become more flexible to be able to touch my toes by following the 4 week 'create a stretching routine plan'
When you've decided upon your goal you can use the goal setting tool to help you map out exactly how you'll get there, when and what you need. This helps so much with motivation too which means you're more likely to achieve what you want!
The 21 day beginner plan at a glance
7. THE PRACTICAL BITS
One of the great things about mat Pilates is that you don't need any equipment or a lot of space to be able to do it. You'll need an exercise mat and there is a huge array to choose from. Don't spend too much to start with but do be aware of the thickness of the mat when you're shopping. There is a fair bit of weight bearing on the knees and wrists so look for one up to 10mm thickness for a bit of extra cushioning. Feel free to add towels under if you need more support.
You don't need to wear anything special, just normal workout clothes. If you wear a sports bra you only need light support. We practice either barefoot or in grippy socks. You can wear normal socks, just be careful of slipping.
Have some water to hand and you're good to get started!
When you are ready to begin adding props, there are classes that use the small pilates ball, resistance bands, small weights, the magic circle, yoga wheel and even TRX. Here's a roundup of some of my personal favourites for when you want to shop for Pilates bits.