By Janet Livingston, Fitness Instructor
The Clubs at Charles River Park
Pilates is a complete range of exercises that can be done anywhere, can increase flexibility and core strength, and help improve postural awareness. People from all walks of life can do Pilates – you don’t have to be an athlete or a dancer (or even super flexible). It’s especially user friendly for “non-gym” people as it’s very easy on the joints and there’s very low risk of injury. I like to say if you can get on and off the floor, you can do Pilates!
While Pilates doesn’t elevate the heart rate (it’s not cardio based and doesn’t involve lifting weights), it is a good compliment to more traditional workout programs. Mat Pilates focuses on strengthening the core – the abs, back, hamstrings and glutes – which can help improve posture. We spend so much of our day hunched over (driving to and from work, typing on a computer, etc); I’ll sometimes describe Pilates as a way of undoing what we did all day. Poor posture is the cause of many back problems, but as you become more aware of your posture you’ll start to catch yourself if you start slipping into bad habits. Another “side benefit” many people experience with Pilates is a sense of relaxation: they’re so focused on what they’re doing in class that they can’t think of anything else.
When you arrive at your first class, one of the first things you want to do is tell the instructor you’re new and let them know about any injuries or recent surgeries. This will help your instructor modify exercises during class – with all the modifications available there are very few injuries we can’t work around. However, if anything hurts something is not right. Don’t be afraid to tell your instructor if something feels wrong.
People can sometimes feel anxious with all the cues given during class, but know you can choose which ones to follow. The most important thing is that you remember to breathe! Also, don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do a certain exercise the first time. Classes are built on a pattern of progression and regression to build up the difficulty. If you start feeling a little frustrated, focus instead on what you can do and don’t give up.
Still not sure you’re ready to sign up for a class? Give it a try at home first. Comcast has Pilates and yoga videos in their On Demand library. If you have Internet access, YouTube is another great place to find free Pilates videos (I recommend the ones by Winsor Pilates). And always, check with your healthcare provider first before starting a new exercise program.
Janet is a STOTT® Pilates certified instructor and NASM Certified Personal Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park