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Pilates 101

Pilates 101

By Jessica Ward

What is Pilates?

Developed early in the 20th century, Pilates (pronounced ‘pih-lah-tees’) is an exercise method that strengthens and stretches muscles. The eponymous Joseph Pilates originally designed his exercises mainly for use with specialist equipment such as the Pilates reformer, adding the mat work for use at home.

Pilates works on grace, control and precision of movement. The emphasis is on performing the exercises correctly, rather than on the number of repetitions. The instructor will take you through a sequence of exercises – they may look easy but you will know all about it later!

Who can benefit from Pilates?

Almost everyone! Because it needs no prior level of fitness, anyone of any age can start Pilates. Workouts can be adapted as skills improve to increase the challenge. Pilates is not an aerobic exercise and so will not help with weight loss, but it is excellent for toning up. Combined with cardio exercise it forms an all-round fitness regime, with particular benefits for the body core.

What should I look for in a class?

The main points to check are:

  • Qualified instructor – there are separate qualifications for mat-work and Pilates equipment, so make sure that your instructor holds one or both. You also need an instructor who makes you feel welcome in the class, whatever your level.
  • Small class size so that the instructor can monitor everyone
  • Emphasis on correct positioning, especially on ‘neutral spine’ techniques. This is essential to avoid injury.

What should I wear?

As for most exercise classes, you should wear comfortable clothing that allows free movement. Clothing should not be too baggy, because the instructor needs to see how you move. Pilates is done barefoot or wearing light socks, so there’s no need for special footwear.

Pilates is accessible for all and good for all – give it a try!