When clients are new to Pilates they usually come to class with no idea of what they are going to do. Oftentimes they have been told by a doctor or physical therapist that they need to do Pilates because of an injury. Or they heard somewhere that Pilates helps to strengthen the core muscles. Sometimes they just show up with no expectations. All of these reasons are good reasons to take Pilates.
Some clients struggle their first few classes which is not a bad thing. Pilates is a challenging method of exercise when performed correctly. There are some important things to remember when taking a Pilates class for the first time.
1. Classical Pilates has an order. There is a method to the order and way the exercises are performed. The exercises can be confusing at first. I see it as like Shakespeare. The first time you see a Shakespearean play you may not catch every word and understand everything that is going on. But if you keep going to the play and watching it again you will hear new things and understand new parts of the story.
2. Using modifications does not mean you are not strong. Modifications can be used to make it easier for a client to do the exercise correctly for their body. Everyone is made differently and each person needs to preform the exercises the best way their body. Sometimes I see clients struggling in class and offer them a modification so they can preform the exercise better. Modifications can help the muscles to work harder to do the exercise correctly so that eventually the modification can be left out. There are times my suggestion is ignored and the client continues to struggle. Pilates is challenging for sure, but if an instructor offers you a modification try it and see if it helps. The modification is meant to help not to call a client out.
3. Corrections are compliments. I was injured as a dancer and had to stop dancing. My injury was caused by not getting enough corrections. I never want that to happen to one of my clients. I correct form and movement because I care. I never correct a client to call out or embarrass. So if an instructor gives you a correction, take that as a compliment. They want you to stay safe in your movements and avoid injury. They also want you to better your form. Always try the correction. When I take class and the instructor corrects another person I try the correction as well to see if I am doing the same thing.
4. If at first you don’t sweat, try, try again. Pilates is not a typical, try to get super sweaty and be sore for days type of exercise. At least not always at first. As I said before Pilates is a method. The exercises are the same (but have variations, can be broken down and made more challenging) so that you can learn how to perform them correctly and once you have them down new exercises can be added. The first few classes you may not sweat or experience sore muscles. Once you learn how to perform the exercises correctly is when the sweat and soreness can come along. This process can take time. Be patient with it and keep trying. If you stick with Pilates and are consistent it will change you and your body for the better. Pilates is like building a house. You have to build the foundation first before you can get to the exciting parts like painting and decorating. This process can take some time. If you try to advance too quickly you will miss some of the crucial parts of the foundation. Just like you have to build the walls of a house before you can put pictures on the wall or they will fall flat. When studying Pilates, you learn the exercises and the order. Then the focus is on the technique of the exercises. Once that is under control you learn to make the exercises harder. Then you start the process again by adding new exercises. I always encourage clients to try Pilates for a few months before they decide if it works for them or not.
5. Pilates is a mind and body exercise. Joseph Pilates wrote in his book Return to Health, "Pilates is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control over your body.” During a Pilates class the instructor gives cues to help clients correct and deepen the movement. Thinking about how your body is working to perform the exercises helps you to connect your body to the movement. A client once said “Pilates is the only exercise where I can completely focus. When I’m doing Yoga or walking on the treadmill I think about what I’m going to have for lunch. With Pilates I am 100% in my body and focused on the movement.”
I hope this helps you to be prepared to go to your first Pilates class! If you are in the Nashville area check my class schedule page to try a class with me or fill out the contact form for private sessions. If you have taken Pilates please share any helpful tips in the comments!