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If your fitness routine has been feeling a little stale, trying a new kind of class can make it feel fresh again. Taking a Pilates class might be a good way to expand your fitness horizons, whether we’re talking about a class done on the mat or on a reformer.
Pilates is very versatile – while you certainly can do it in a gym or studio now that most are opened back up, you definitely don’t need to. If in-person exercise isn’t something you feel comfortable with quite yet, or even if you just want to acclimate yourself to the exercise type before joining a public class, there are plenty of streaming or virtual Pilates options too.
Regardless of which way you attend the classes, trying Pilates can be a workout game changer, no matter your fitness background.
Want to know what it’s all about? Here's everything a Pilates newbie needs to know to enjoy their first class.
Pilates can require equipment, but it doesn’t need to
There are two types of Pilates: mat Pilates and reformer Pilates. Classes are either based on a mat, which is a tad thicker than your standard yoga 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.
There are also a few other pieces of Pilates equipment you might want to be aware of, though they probably won’t show up in most beginner Pilates mat classes.
The most common pieces of equipment are the wunda, a low chair with padding and springs, the Cadillac, the spine corrector, the high chair, and the magic circle, a ring you often use between your legs to create resistance.
Many beginner classes will feature the same group of exercises in each class
There is an established set of Pilates moves that are common in beginner classes. They include:
• The hundred (a breathing exercise that also targets core strength and stability)
• The roll-up (a slow, precise move that stretches the spine and the back of the body and strengthens the abdominals)
• Leg circles (which strengthen the hips and core stabilisers)
• Rolling like a ball (which massages the spine and opens up the back)
• Series of 5 (a group of moves that strengthen the abdominals and back muscles)
Then as you get familiar with the moves, your Pilates class can build on them, offering progressions to continue to challenge your muscles.
You'll feel your muscles burn during class, and you might be sore the next day
While you may not be crushing high-intensity exercises like squat jumps or lifting heavy dumbbells, the mostly bodyweight routines that Pilates classes offer can be pretty intense. Take the aforementioned Pilates hundred, for example. A core-focused move that involves less than two inches of constant movement will make your abs burn. A good instructor should give you modifications so that you can perform each movement with good form.
But if your muscles are feeling it, don’t fret: While next-day soreness may be at a whole new level after your first week, your body will get more used to the movements with time. Being sore the next day just means you’re challenging your muscles in new ways or working muscle groups that don't usually get much attention – it’s not something you should chase, or the marker of a successful workout.
The right clothes can make you more comfortable
Even if you typically prefer loose-fitting workout wear, you may want to try more body-hugging options for Pilates classes. This way, the instructor can see your movements better and your clothes don't get caught in springs or other equipment.
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.
Don’t go overboard with Pilates
Even if a studio offers unlimited classes for the first week – or if you have unlimited access to them on your app – don’t plan on hopping into a class every day. Your body needs a day or two to recover from fatiguing resistance exercise such as Pilates.
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