Unfortunately in some circles Pilates is seen as a less effective, less intense workout that doesn't make you ‘ feel the burn’. Firstly, the people who are saying that clearly have not attended one of my Pilates Tempo classes but aside from my subjective opinion there are multiple studies which show the efficacy of a Pilates workout. For example, the results from a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies showed that Pilates significantly improved core strength by 21.3%, core endurance by 22.8%.
So then, if we have subjective opinions and cold hard facts surrounding how effective Pilates is as an exercise method, why is there still this unfortunate stigma around this method? In my opinion, people who have tried Pilates once or twice, or tried a random Pilates video without learning the basic principles and core foundations first are probably not getting much out of their Pilates workout at all. The reason is that Pilates is so form and alignment focused, it works stabilisers and mobilisers and gets into much smaller muscle groups than regular strength training and for those types of movements to be effective they have to be performed with precision.
As the old saying goes, “ if it’s easy then it’s probably not Pilates.” We need to look at enhancing each class, each movement within that class and staying consistent with our Pilates practice to really reap the amazing benefits that this unique exercise form has to offer.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a six-week Pilates training program improved core endurance, hamstring flexibility, and lower body strength in college athletes.
So what can you do to reap the most benefits out of your Pilates session and more specifically if those classes are online?
1. Go Back to Basics
First and foremost if you are looking to start taking Pilates classes, whatever your reasoning for taking those classes is, be it to improve muscle tone and endurance, reduce back pain, increase flexibility or any of the other number of benefits you can glean from Pilates classes, you first step needs to be some kind of introductory session. Beginners sessions or introductory sessions can happen on a one-on-one basis or a specially designed class or workshop to explain the basic principles and fundamentals of Pilates.
No matter your level of fitness, strength or body awareness, Pilates is unique and is riddled with method specific jargon, alignment techniques and form fundamentals. So even if you are a seasoned athlete, a gym regular or a triathlon winner, you need to start with the basics. Even if it's just one or two classes. In Pilates we emphasise quality over quantity.
I also always encourage seasoned Pilates clients to go back to the basics every so often, take a beginners class, join in on an introduction workshop. Often one or more of the essential principles gets forgotten during our regular practice and its always good to go back and be reminded of them.
2. Set Intentions
Setting intentions is a powerful way to get the most out of your Pilates class. Before each class, take a few moments to reflect on why you're there and what you hope to achieve. Maybe you want to improve your posture, increase your flexibility, or reduce stress. Whatever your goals are, set them as your intentions for the class. This can help you stay focused and motivated throughout the session. It can also help you to stay present while moving through the motions of the class. Ultimately enhancing your workout and ensuring you are getting the most out of each movement.
Try to reduce external ‘noise’ and intrusive thoughts and rather focus on each movement, its form, alignment and breath patterns. This mindful approach to movement, and life, can greatly enhance your physical ability but also your mental state.
3. Find the right class for YOU
Even if a friend or family member was the one who suggested Pilates to you, it's not to say you will jump into their class. All Pilates studios will have classes that suit a certain client better than other sessions. There are the basic segmentation types such as beginner, intermediate and advanced, but because Pilates is so inclusive ( everyone can do it ) there may be classes such as flexion free workouts for people with osteoporosis, or other spinal conditions. There may also be pre- or post-natal workouts specifically for moms to be or new mommies. All of these various class types will have unique moves designed to enhance the efficacy and reduce the risk of injury for the client the class is looking to serve. So choose wisely, beginner classes are not easy, they are just detailed, and conversely an advanced class will only be effective if form and alignment are correct.
4. Get Ready
When planning for your Pilates class, especially if it’s online, take some time to get all of your ducks in a row before hand. You know yourself so that may take 5 minutes or 30 minutes but give yourself that time so that when the class starts you are able to be relaxed, mindful and intentional during your workout.
Arrive a little early, or log on earlier than the time of the class. This allows you to take a few moments to stretch, centre yourself, and connect with your breath before the class begins. This can help you ease into the movements, prevent injury, and set the tone for a mindful and focused practice.
If it is an online Pilates class, take a few minutes to set up your space for success. Choose a quiet, distraction-free area with enough room to move around. Roll out your mat or towel, gather any props you might need, and make sure your camera and microphone are working properly. Creating a comfortable and supportive space can help you stay focused and engaged throughout your class.
Lastly, wear comfortable, stretchy but form fitting clothing. The comfortable and stretchy are for you, but the form fitting allows the instructor to see what is going on with your body and muscles in each movement which allows us to give you accurate cues and corrections meaning you get the most out of your class.
5. Listen to Your Body and Ask Questions
While it's important to push yourself during a Pilates class, it's also important to listen to your body and respect your limits. If a movement feels uncomfortable or painful, don't force yourself to do it. Instead, modify the movement or ask your instructor for guidance. Pilates is all about finding the right balance between challenge and ease, so listen to your body and adjust your movements accordingly. If you're unsure about a movement or need clarification on a technique, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for help. Pilates instructors are trained to guide and support their students, so take advantage of their expertise. Asking questions can help you deepen your understanding of Pilates and get the most out of each class.You can also ask for modifications if you need it, your instructor wants you to have a safe and effective practice, and they're there to support you.
6. Stay Consistent
As humans, and more specifically, in the current age of instant gratification and information, products and whatever else we want at our fingertips, people are generally looking for the ‘quick fix’ or ‘easy way out.’ Even if that's not you and you do understand that changing your body whether that means getting leaner, stronger, more supply etc. takes time, sometimes we can begin to be impatient when we believe things are taking too long.
For any fitness, lifestyle or any undertaking for that matter, change takes time, but it also takes consistency and dedication. Doing the odd class here and there is probably not going to result in many changes, if any. Having a regular, committed practice of two to three days ( or even more if possible ) a week is almost guaranteed to start to show results.
In fact Joe himself has a famous quote on the matter: “ In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you'll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body”
This point may be even more challenging when you are taking classes virtually, although it shouldn't be. While the benefits of taking online Pilates classes is the flexibility and convenience they offer. This can also make it easy to skip classes or lose motivation. To stay accountable and motivated, try to schedule your online Pilates classes in advance and commit to attending them. You may also want to connect with other Pilates enthusiasts online or join a virtual Pilates community to stay inspired and connected. Like Inspired Movements member chat group or join one of our programs with regular interaction between everyone doing the same program, plus me as a virtual coach.
7. Have Fun
Lastly, don't forget to have fun! Pilates is a challenging but rewarding exercise system that can bring joy and vitality to your life. Enjoy the process, connect with your fellow students, your instructor and celebrate your progress. Pilates is not just a workout, but a way of life that can enhance your physical and mental health in countless ways.
Getting the most out of your Pilates class requires effort, focus, and consistency. By setting intentions, focusing on breath, staying present, listening to your body, staying consistent, asking questions, and having fun, you can enhance your Pilates practice and reap the many benefits of this wonderful exercise system.