So you want to try Pilates? 5 things to consider before jumping in.
So you’ve heard about this thing called Pilates and you want to try a class, but you’re not sure where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Don’t let the Lululemon pants and strange torture-looking devices scare you away. It’s easy and fun to try out your first class, but there are some things to look out for too and I’m here to help.
Let’s start with the first question- What is Pilates? Here is the general answer to that question. Pilates is a system of exercises created by Joseph Pilates, that lengthens and tones the body overall to help create stability, find proper alignment, and increase range of motion and flexibility. These exercises can be done on the mat or on the Pilates equipment.
To me, Pilates is an intentional movement practice that can help us become stronger, more efficient, and feeling good for our everyday activities.
OK, now let’s dig in..
Just go take a class!
Yes, go to the YMCA, your local gym, a Pilates Studio. If you want to move your body, go take a class. Ok- Now here’s how I really feel about it…
Do your research
First of all, take a look at yourself. Do you have any injuries? What do you want to get out of your workout? What hurts? If you were to go get a massage or a haircut, for example, would you want just anyone to work on you, or would you want someone with good credentials and training? You should look at Pilates in the same way. There are many certifications and training programs out there. Not all of them are created equal or have thorough standards. It is hard to track this in the fitness industry, but the Pilates world is working on it.
Something you can look out for is:
Is this teacher PMA (Pilates Method Alliance) Certified? This is becoming the industry standard and the Instructor has to pass a standardized test to meet certain qualifications and expected to have specific knowledge about Pilates.
Did they get training from an accredited 400 hour or more training program? Now, you may not know this unless you ask, but it is important. Some programs only require that instructors get a mat certification and no training on the Pilates equipment. If you’re working on the equipment, the teacher should know how to use it. Most studios check this before hiring instructors. They should at least!
How many years has this person been teaching and are you looking for a specialty such as; pre and postnatal, scoliosis, or rehabilitation? Now, new teachers can be great! (I mean, I used to be one and I certainly am still learning after 10 years of teaching Pilates!) However, if you need something specific such as working with an injury and need some rehabilitation, or Diastasis Recti, you might want to find someone who can meet those needs. Maybe not someone fresh out of their training program.
Go to different studios and take classes from various teachers. See what you like and what you don’t like.
Quality vs Quantity
When I look for a good Pilates teacher I not only want to know their training, but HOW do they teach? Do you like their vibe?
Movement Specialist and Pre/Postnatal Specialist, Carolyne Anthony, founder of The Center of Women’s Fitness, recently made a great point, “I liken doing Pilates to having a good meal.” I couldn’t agree more! She compares “bad Pilates” to a McDonald’s meal- unfulfilling, fast and “good Pilates” to a fine dining experience with courses, fine wine, atmosphere, and fulfillment.
Pilates is all about quality and movement intention to create more efficiency in the body. Some Pilates classes can feel like a typical fitness class with a lot of repetitions-the springs on the equipment might be too heavy, or the movement too fast with no intention at all. I often leave these classes feeling bad and sore in places like my back or knees. If the exercises are done properly, only 5-8 reps may be necessary.
A great Pilates teacher can be intuitive and see the student in front of her. She might ask herself: “How does that person look and what do they need today?” (As we change daily) “What sort of cueing might resonate with the particular people in the class?”
Is the teacher knowledgeable about the exercises and why did she chose those particular ones? You may not know how to identify what a good teacher or Pilates class looks like yet, but the more you take Pilates the more you will know… I promise!
I’ve been to so many Pilates classes where the intention for the class was simply just a hard workout. Pilates can be so much more than that! Why not get the most out of your classes and choose a great one?
Rule of thumb, less is more!
Private lessons vs group classes
Here’s the deal, Pilates can get expensive, but you want to make sure you are doing it correctly to get the most benefit.
Why take a private lesson? If you have never taken Pilates before, the private lesson can be a great way to learn some exercises and have the instructor’s eye on just YOU! She can look at your body and assess some habits that you might have, address some injuries, and get you acquainted with some modifications. Some people like to only take private lessons to learn more about their bodies and need a trained eye to help them work through an injury, or maybe they don’t like group classes.
There are so many benefits to the private lesson. Everyone should start with at least a few before jumping into a group class.
The group class. Pilates was originally designed to be done in the private setting, not for large group classes. However, just like anything, Pilates has evolved and changed to meet certain demands and business models.
There are benefits to group classes:
It is faster paced. Whereas in a private lesson, you may only do a handful of exercises over the course of 50 minutes, in a group class, many more exercises can be taught at a faster pace and with a flow between each exercise. In an advanced class, the exercises will be more challenging and you can get what I call a “flowy-cardio” workout.
Whether it is a mat class or a class on the reformer, make sure you check to see if the class is labeled beginner, intermediate or advanced. It is always a good idea to know what you’re walking into. Your instructor can help you decide what class to go to as well.
In most cases, the instructor cannot always get to everyone in a group class to make sure you are doing it correctly. This is where teacher experience matters.
Do you like your teacher and studio?
I think this is important. Does the studio have a good vibe and do you feel good when you walk in? Is the staff friendly and do you look forward to seeing your instructor?
When you work with an instructor you want to feel comfortable with them. Many people take Pilates 2-3 times a week, so you are seeing your instructor many times and paying some money to have them help you. I have had some clients stay with me for years and have followed me to different studios along the way. TRUST is a big part of Pilates, just like you do a hairstylist (in my opinion, so much more than that though).
In the end, you know your body and what you like. Pilates is a conversation with your body, and with guidance from your instructor.
Ultimately, it’s what YOU like.
This is kind of a long list, but I want you to be successful and stick with Pilates. Just go try it out and don’t worry! You can do Pilates until you’re old. This is a forever kind of exercise.
I think it’s so much more than just a bunch of exercises- It is a movement lifestyle!
Please reach out to me if you are looking for a good studio or instructor in your area. I am happy to help!