How to get started with Pilates
Created by German gymnast Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate injured war veterans, every A-lister (one Ms J Aniston) and sports personality (Jessica Ennis-Hill, we’re looking at you) worth their salt has tried out the exercise that introduced us to the ‘core’.
‘It’s a series of repetitive muscle contractions, body movements and stretches that challenge the whole body’, says instructor Jane Wake (Pilates Flow). There are plenty of trendy spin-offs, from Pilates on a reformer (a bench loaded with weights and pulleys to make it more challenging) to hot Pilates (performed in a room heated to 105 degrees) and mash-ups like Piloxing (Pilates and boxing). But mat-based Pilates will still help strengthen your core, align your spine and improve muscle strength, flexibility and elasticity.
Here’s how to get started with Pilates.
Who can do it?
Anyone! ‘It doesn’t require any particular level of fitness – moves can be modified by instructors to suit everyone,’ says Wake. ‘It’s beneficial during pregnancy and after – easing back and joint pain and retraining pelvic floors.’ It’s also great for people with back pain. ‘Pilates strengthens our postural muscles,’ says Wake. ‘Once you’ve learned “Neutral Spine” (lengthened back with “scooped in” abs), you can do it at your desk.’
Where do I start?
Check your instructor is qualified with the recognised level 3 qualification for mat-based Pilates teaching. ‘Also, if you have a specific condition or are pregnant/postnatal, enquire about relevant qualifications,’ says Wake. Search Pilates Foundation for local classes. ‘Do a course rather than drop-in classes to ensure you’re learning and building on the correct techniques each week,’ Wake suggests.
What kit do I need?
‘Clothing you can move freely in, and a mat,’ says Wake. It’s barefoot, so no pricey trainers. ‘Some classes use weighted balls and resistance bands to up the intensity,’ Wake adds, ‘but these are usually provided.’ Practising at home? DVDs like Darcy Bussell’s Pilates For Life or Pilates The Core Workout with Lynne Robinson are great.
What are the fitness gains?
Pilates improves core strength, increases stamina, and tones your tummy. ‘Coordinating your breathing helps with relaxation, movement and keeps your core engaged,’ says Wake. It stretches and strengthens all the major muscle groups, while improving muscle tone so you become stronger and leaner. ‘The focus on the core muscles working hard to keep you in place generates a lot of heat in the body, challenging you from the inside out,’ Wake adds. We told you it was good!
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