Preparing for your first Pilates class
I'm not sure if it’s the fear of exercise or the fear of not knowing what to do and embarrassing ourselves that puts us off new exercise classes. I was as hesitant as most when I took part in my first Pilates class. Being in a group situation can be terrifying when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, however (as I've discovered) that’s half the fun of it. Everyone is learning together. Everyone has a good giggle when there is a strange pose that most of you haven’t quite got the hang of yet. Group exercise is what actually keeps me motivated to workout- you get a buzz when you work hard as a group, and it encourages you to keep coming back for more.
I wanted to write this blog as an introduction to the world of Pilates. I am no expert, however my mother (Suzette) is a trained Pilates instructor and teaches weekly 'BendyStrechy' classes in Twyford. I have called on Suzette's expertise to give you some tips and reassurance on what you can expect at your first class.
Tips from Pilates Instructor, SUZETTE Tagg:
- Let your instructor know if you're struggling with any injuries or medical conditions. They will tailor postions and poses to suit your needs.
- Ask your instructor for help or advice on how to modify an exercise if you find it too challenging or painful.
- Stop and rest, if you feel pain or dizziness. It's important to listen to your body.
- Use props likes blocks or straps wherever needed! They are there to help you get the most out of the exercise and minimise risk of injury.
- Invest in your own mat and buy the best you can afford. Look for one that is non-slip and between 8-12mm thick to give protection to the joints. Be sure to keep it clean and wipe it down after every use.
- Stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water with you and take regularly sips throughout the class
- Try to go at your own pace and avoid being tempted to compete with others. Remember, we were all beginners at some point and each individual is on his or her own journey!
- Relax into it and enjoy the feelings and sensations in your body. Pilates is all about maintaining postural precision and control, so focus on the quality of the movements, rather than the speed or quantity.
What you can expect
A typical Pilates class will focus on connecting the mind and body through movement. It generally works to improve joint mobility, increasing muscle flexibility and building core strength. In my first class I was introduced to 'centering', which basically means finding your correct posture and connecting with your core muscles. Then we moved on to breathing exercises. Pilates uses thoracic breathing, which involves breathing into the rib cage through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This is aimed to calm and focus the mind, as well as power oxygen to the muscles as you move.
A good Pilates instructor will check your posture is aligned and your core is engaged before you begin any movement. We then gradually warmed up with a series of mobility exercises.
Depending on your level of fitness, your first class may be challenging. This shouldn’t put you off though - go at your own pace and take the lower options within each movement that you're able to do. Over time you'll be able to work your way up to more challenging exercises.
Pilates will use muscles you might not have used in a while, stretching and strengthening them. This means your muscles may ache after your first couple of classes, but this will ease as you gain greater flexibility and mobility.
CHOOSING your mat
It's important to find a mat that you feel comfortable using. Most Pilates classes will hand out their own mats, but I prefer to bring my own as it's nice knowing you're the only person working out on it. Suzette recommends looking for a non-slip mat between 8-12mm long. I love my YogaBellies mat (pictured below) - the quality is great and it feels so soft under your feet. I've got their ‘SKINNY’ mat, which is slightly lighter and great for Pilates or yoga on the move. I’ve found the colour doesn’t fade and their designs are stunning - the mat is also environmentally friendly and free from chemicals you find in a lot of plastic mats. Available from www.yogabelliesshop.com.
You can also check out the BendyStrechy classes in Twyford here.
Thank you for reading and congratulations on getting yourself started!