Starting Pilates as a total beginner: Things you need to know




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Pilates has become one of the most popular forms of exercise for people of all ages. The Pilates Method offers a challenging way to build strength and develop a strong core, but it’s also the most popular form of fitness that people can get started with in their home.

If you’re looking for a workout that will help you build strength, burn fat, and get in shape, then Pilates may be just what you’re looking for. In this article we’ll show you all the details about how to get started with Pilates.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise that involves using your own body weight, props, or equipment, to strengthen and improve your core muscles. It also teaches you how to move with grace, flexibility, and precision. The movements are typically performed on a mat, but can also be performed on a reformer for more advanced students.

The wonderful thing about Pilates is you can get started without spending a fortune on equipment. As a full body workout, you provide the weight required, all you need is a space to practice and a willingness to learn.

It doesn’t matter your fitness level, body type, or long term goal, Pilates will benefit you in some way.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Taking up Pilates isn’t just about becoming more flexible and being able to touch your toes, there are a wide range that will improve your overall quality of life:

  • You’ll have more energy.
  • Your balance will improve.
  • It’s a great way to build your core strength and stay fit!
  • It can help address back pain.
  • It can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Good for injury rehabilitation.
  • Helps build and maintain muscular strength.

These are just a handful of Pilates benefits, Pilates can help strengthen your core, improve posture, and even help to improve the coordination of the muscles throughout your body. Pilates can help you develop the core strength needed for everyday tasks, which can greatly reduce back pain and is great for injury prevention. The improved posture that comes from Pilates can help people find their true beauty, instead of their default slumped over posture.

Best of all, Pilates is enjoyable!

What do you need to start Pilates?

There are different ways to get started with Pilates, the safest way I’d recommend is to find a local Pilates instructor, at a gym or their own private studio, and book beginner classes to ensure you are doing all moves correctly and don’t put yourself at risk of injury.

In terms of what to purchase to get started in Pilates I recommend the following:

That’s it! As mentioned above, Pilates doesn’t require a big investment in equipment to get started, the area that will require investment is Pilates classes or private tuition.

Finding a suitable Pilates instructor

When you’re new to an activity, it’s a good idea to start with the basics. You wouldn’t expect to drive a car on the road without lessons by a professional instructor, similarly it’s important not to try Pilates without professional support as doing so can lead to injury.

The obvious thing to do is open Google and type ‘Pilates near me’. This will usually return results for the local instructors, fitness studios and gyms that offer classes and tuition.

Signing up for your first class at a Pilates fitness studio should be an easy task.  Keep the following in mind:

  1. Are they qualified? For example, I’ve spent a lot of time being trained to be certified by the UK Body Control Pilates Academy. This rigorous training teaches the correct way to instruct and interact with clients in a safe and professional manner and requires hours of supervision before the qualification is awarded.
  2. Do they provide equipment? In the long run you will likely purchase your own equipment allowing you to practice Pilates at home, but to start with its useful to attend somewhere with equipment you can borrow and be trained how to use correctly.
  3. Do they offer a welcome assessment? Before I take on any client I require them to attend a free assessment session. During this session I check their general health and fitness level, gain an understanding of their fitness goals, and take them through a basic Pilates routine to make sure they’re comfortable with the moves.
  4. What classes do they offer? As a beginner, I would always recommend starting with 1 to 1 training so you can gain dedicated support and feedback. Do they also offer group classes? Do they offer progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced? Reformer classes? The beginner class is just the start of your journey. There is a lot to learn!

I’d consider a small class to be no more than 10 people.  That might not sound a lot, but check out what this sized class looks like thanks to a recent video I had made to promote my new studio:

Keep in mind that private sessions, where it is just you and the instructor, will likely cost a lot more than group sessions.  The reason being you’re getting 100% of the instructors’ attention, they’ll not only provide exercise tips but also a tailored exercise program designed with your fitness goals and in mind.

If you can afford them, I highly recommend either 1 to 1 or attending a class with a few participants.  This will let you discuss your goals, such as building strength, weight loss, increasing mobility or wanting to address specific health concerns.

You’ll also benefit from postural alignment, something you’ll need a lot of if you’ve never done Pilates before.  You’ll find your positions being adjusted and corrected a lot when you first start, this is to ensure you don’t cause a self injury and that you learn the correct positions should you want to practise outside of class.

What to Bring to a Pilates Class

The equipment needed for a Pilates class varies depending on what studio you’re visiting and what class you’re taking. Some studios provide mats or towels for use during your session, while others require you to bring your own equipment.

I’ve found that once students get started they usually invest in, and bring to class, their own mat. As I’m writing this during a period of concern around the global pandemic, I do encourage this for hygiene reasons and because it reduces the amount of time to get set up/packed up.

And of course water is always a good idea during exercise, make sure to bring along a water bottle — you’ll need it!

What to Wear in a Pilates Class

When choosing what type of clothing to wear, make sure that the clothes are free of metal or plastic adornments and also form-fitting. This allows a freedom of movement and allows your instructor to have visibility of your form. Pilates is usually done barefoot or with grippy socks. For a complete guide to Pilates clothing see: What are the best clothes for Pilates?

If you have long hair tie it back and keep it out of the way, if you don’t many exercises will result in a face full of your hair!

Pilates at home

I highly recommend attending a professional class if you’re new to Pilates, but if you’d rather try it at home you can do so making use of things you already have. 

You’ve two options, you can attend live classes where you can interact with the instructor (click here to claim a Free Online Pilates Class), or you can make use of videos published on sites like YouTube.

Setting up a home Pilates studio

As you gain experience with Pilates, you will very likely want to practice in the comfort of your own home. As a Pilates instructor I’m lucky to have my own private Pilates studio at my home, but this obviously isn’t practical for most people.

I didn’t always have my own studio, when I first took up Pilates I practised at home, here are my tips for getting set up and organised:

  • Find a quite, distraction free, space
  • Have a storage area to pack away equipment
  • Have space and power for speakers, so you can put music on during your practise
  • Have space and power for a screen, so you can access online workouts

As you continue your journey you will benefit from adding the following Pilates equipment to your setup:

  • Swiss Ball
  • Stability ball
  • Small hand weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Pilates Bar
  • Pilates Reformer

Be aware that everything on this list is relatively inexpensive…apart from the Reformer.  That is a big investment and not one to be rushed into.

Don’t want to purchase anything just yet? No problem, here are some Pilates exercise videos using pieces of equipment you’ll find around your home:

Pilates using a chair

You will need a sturdy chair and your Pilates mat or a carpeted room to hold your chair in place. This is a full body workout focusing on shoulders and upper body, core control and hip mobility. This is a fab fun effective workout that maximizes your time. I think you’ll be surprised by how much it will challenge you in a short space of time. 

Pilates with a towel

Grab a towel and join in this challenging core workout. Be aware this routine very challenging if you’re a beginner, it’s ideal for anyone who has experience of Pilates and is looking to build strength and stamina. We use a towel as a prop to add challenge, fun and variety.

Pilates with a wall

No equipment needed, just a wall and a sense of fun. This sequence of Glute Bridges get progressively more challenging as you work your way through the routine. We begin by warming up your glutes and mobilising your spine before adding in layers of challenge.

You’ll need to focus on your control by engaging your core & building strength. Your hip mobility will be challenged, whats not to love?

Grab a mat, place it by a wall and you are ready to start firing up your glutes.

Pilates is a real passion for me, and I see that passion develop in my clients as they learn more, practise more and gain an improved quality of life. Check out the articles below to further help you on your journey.

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