5 Things You Should Know Before You Start A Pilates Class
The first time you take any new fitness class can be a little intimidating. Meeting new people, wondering if you will be able to do the exercises, or wondering what everyone else is like at the exercises in the class. Maybe it’s the exercise names that you’ve never heard before. FEAR NOT! We all have to start somewhere.
If you’ve wanted to try Pilates classes but something has been holding you back, now’s your time to sign up for your first one. Pilates offers plenty of benefits to your body, no matter your fitness background. You’ll improve your posture, focus on bodily alignment, and get a great workout.
Whether you’re on the mat or a reformer, you can snag the same benefits. A 2016 study found that eight weeks of Pilates classes improved abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance. Other studies have shown that when doing Pilates for chronic low back pain, it was able to show greater improvements in pain and functional ability compared to usual care and physical activity. Plus, Pilates has become popular with top professional athletes from all over the world, and A-list famous people.
Want to know what the hype is all about? Here’s everything a Pilates newbie needs to know to enjoy their first class.
1. There are two different kinds of Pilates classes: mat classes and reformer classes.
You’ll be tackling a class that’s based on either a mat, to cushion pressure points, or a machine called a reformer, which is a sliding platform complete with stationary foot bar, springs, and pulleys that provide resistance to help tone the body. Know which one you’re getting into before you commit to your workout, which is typically 45 minutes to an hour long.
Both options focus on the concept of control rather than cranking out endless reps or muscle exhaustion. In Pilates, your muscles are working to lift against gravity and (in the case of the reformer) the resistance of the springs or bands, with the ultimate goal of strengthening and isolating the right muscles. Your goal should be to take your time with the exercises, focus on the task at hand, and connect your mind with your body and your breath.
Regardless of what class you choose, make sure to let your instructor know you’re a beginner. This way, they’ll be able to keep an eye on you throughout the class and offer modifications, adjustments, progressions or regressions.
2. You’ll feel your muscles burn during class, and you’ll probably be sore the next day.
While you may not be crushing high-intensity exercises like crossfit or lifting heavy dumbbells, the mostly bodyweight routines that Pilates classes offer can be pretty intense. If we look at the Hundreds exercise for example, a abdominal focused movement that involves less than two inches of constant movement, it will make your abs burn. You can bee given modifications so that you can perform each movement with good form and with differing levels of difficulty (another reason to introduce yourself as a beginner before class starts).
Being able to focus on small movements means that you’ll work on the muscles that each exercise intends. That means you may be dealing with muscle soreness after your workout. Being sore the next day doesn’t mean you’re out of shape; it just means you’re challenging your muscles in new ways or working muscle groups that don’t usually get much attention. This is common!
3. Wear comfortable clothes
Even if you typically prefer loose-fitting workout wear, you’re going to want to wear comfortable clothes for Pilates classes, that allow your body to move. Tighter clothes can be better, so that the instructor can see your movements. You can wear legging with a tank top or fitted long-sleeved shirt.
As for footwear, you can either be barefoot or wear socks for your session. If you’re going to go for socks, find yourself a pair with rubber detailing on the soles so you don’t slip on the mat or machine. A barefoot or socks-only approach will also help you navigate in and out of the straps on a standard reformer with ease.
4. Every studio has different lingo they use in class. Look to regulars for form help when you’re not up with the terms.
Every exercise class from aerobics to CrossFit has its own set of terminology, Pilates included. For Pilates, know that your “powerhouse” refers to the centre of your body, where all of your power comes from to execute movement. “Peel through your spine” means slow movement from vertebra to vertebra. Don’t worry: You’ll get used to it with time.
In the meantime, look to regulars who catch on to the instructions quickly. The best way to do this? Put yourself in the middle of the room. Whether it’s on a reformer or a mat, planting yourself in the centre allows you an optimal view of all of the action. It is generally easier to see and follow the instructor from the middle of the studio. You can also try to follow the other regular participants. A good instructor will be watching the room intently and getting up from their mat to make adjustments with people. This is how you can learn more effectively.
5. Pilates should be a part of a well-rounded fitness plan.
As with any fitness programme, your body needs time to adapt and change to new movements. Hence, it is always good to take a day or two off from Pilates to allow your body to recover. In that time you can still exercise, but by doing something different.
Pilates stretches, strengthens, tones and aligns your body all at the same time. It also complements other exercise/sport/fitness programmes because it prepares your body to move better in every way. Adding it into your routine will help you lift heavier weights, run faster, swim with better form, achieve a better golf swing or even help you recover from back pain.
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