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  • Writer's pictureChloe Hart

Pilates what?! What should I know before taking class?

Although Pilates is Everywhere now, if it's new to you, then there are some things you might be interested in before starting classes.

What is Pilates?

Pilates,  created by Joseph Pilates, is a low-impact exercise that aims to strengthen and lengthen muscles while increasing flexibility, improving breathing and correcting postural alignment.

Pilates does not have an age limit and is healthy for both men and women, different body types, pregnant women, those recovering from an injury or surgery, those with aches and pains, back and neck issues and those who have little flexibility.

What's so good about Pilates?

Pilates benefits are numerous! Pilates will help you do everything better. By training your muscles, strengthening your core and making you aware of how you move and your breathing, Pilates is helping you move through your day more freely with fewer aches and pains. Because Pilates requires mindful focus, it can be helpful for your mental health as well as your physical health.

How do I start?

Mat classes are a good place to start. These classes can be taught for all levels and require no special equipment; just a mat. Joining a class can help you keep attending and get involved with a Pilates community, learning from both teachers and students. There are many different kinds of Pilates. Pilates at a gym will be very different from Pilates taught in a studio or community centre. Generally speaking, try to choose a class with no more than 10-15 people in it. This size class allows the instructor to teach the class and correct alignment.

One class is a good place to start, but two classes a week is something to work towards and a happy medium for many people.

Pilates toys?

There are many equipment options in Pilates. From big machines, like the reformer, to smaller kit like the foam roller. In a mat class you may use a small ball, hand weights, foam roller, stretchy band or a resistance ring.

These pieces of kit are extra. You do not need to use kit to take Pilates and in fact it might be better if you start with a class that does not use kit so you can fully focus on each exercise.

But Pilates kit adds a different element to classes. The kit can enhance resistance training, challenge your balance and increase your stretching. If you have a chance, try a kit class at least once.

Is every Pilates class the same?

All Pilates classes will have a core set of exercises that will be included in each class. This helps you to get to know the basics and test yourself over time to watch your improvement. Some teachers teach the same class for six weeks, some teach a different class each week. Depends on the instructor.

Does Pilates hurt?

Pilates is a comprehensive workout! You might feel your muscles burning as you do class and you may feel it the next day too. These are good signs that you worked hard and benefited from the exercise.

It should be said that there is a difference between 'a good ache' and injury. Certainly you should stop if anything doesn't feel right or hurts. Nothing is worth an injury.

Pilates has it's own language

Pilates exercises can have silly names: seal, rollover, climb a tree are just a few examples. Pilates teachers have to explain the exercise and talk you through the steps to do it correctly and get the most benefit from it. This can lead to Pilates cues. Each cue is a description to enhance your understanding of the exercise: 'stack up your spine' and 'spine sandwich' are a couple examples. Each instructor has their own cues.

What should I wear?

You should wear whatever you are comfortable in. Stretchy leggings and t-shirts are very common. You need something that will allow you to move in all directions, that you feel happy to wear. Pilates can be done with bare feet or with socks on. Sometimes you will need traction so if you wear socks, be prepared to remove them depending on the exercises in class. Some water, a mat and a hand towel complete your outfit.

Pilates is a fun way to stretch, strengthen and build your core. Community classes are, in my opinion, better than an online recording as the instructor is in the room with you to correct and talk you through each position. If you want to try something different that is suitable for many body types, Pilates might be your new 'thing'.

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