There are only a few things that can motivate me to leave my house at 5:10 a.m., especially during the winter. Pilates is NOW one of them.
What is Pilates?
Pilates consists of low-impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements. It was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates called his method "Contrology." There are two kinds of Pilates classes: mat classes and reformer classes. Today I’ll be sharing my experience with a mat class offered at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center.
When we got to the Pilates room, we removed our winter jackets and our shoes. We picked up a mat, a ball and a towel and found a spot in the room. My daughter found a place in the first row...no way, not me. I felt more comfortable in the back corner.
We started out standing and doing some simple stretches – which felt great especially after a night of slumber. I remember thinking, so far so good, this isn’t too bad.
Then our instructor asked us to bring out the ball. Do you remember those red balls we played with on the playground in elementary school? Well, this ball was just a bit smaller than that. Throughout our entire workout we would use this ball for a prop... behind our back, lying on our side, between our knees. I found using the ball added a fun twist to the routine.
A strong focus of Pilates is breathing and concentration. Our instructor reminded us continually to exhale with effort and inhale when we were returning to original position. I found that paying attention to my breathing brought an awareness and calmness to my body. With the constant flow of new exercises, concentration on the moves and how my body was responding was required. No time for any daydreaming during this class.
One of my favorite things about Pilates is the ability to adapt the exercise to my skill ability. There were a few times I’d attempt to do the class exercise and find that I’d need to make a slight adjustment, such as removing the ball or leaning on my arms/elbows instead of my hands. And, since I’m still working on working out, toward the end of the class, there were a few exercises I just didn’t have the strength to do. Instead of doing that particular exercise, I practiced my breathing and centering.
My overall impression of Pilates – I LOVED it! I wish I would have had the courage to attend a class sooner. I love how Pilates combines breathing, centering and using my body strength. I’ve now scheduled Pilates twice a week on my calendar.
How It Works
The moves may look simple, but I found they take a lot of precision and control. One of the things I love most about Pilates is that you can do it at home using a DVD, or go to a gym or studio. (Before my class, I had tried at-home DVDs a few times. After experiencing a class with an instructor, I highly recommend this, at least until you have your form down. Using the correct form can help prevent injuries.)
Intensity Level: Medium
It's demanding, but it's not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. Pilates lets your body be your guide. You might feel your muscles burn throughout the various exercise. (And in my case, the next day, too. Every time I laughed, I remembered my Pilates class.)
Body Areas It Targets
Pilates’ primary focus is on core. In 2016, a study found that eight weeks of Pilates classes improved abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance.
- Flexibility: Yes
- Aerobic: No
- Strength: Yes
- Sport: No
- Low-Impact: Yes
- Good for beginners: Yes
- Outdoors: No
- At home: Yes
- Equipment required: Yes; you’ll need a mat
The first time you try any new fitness class can be a little intimidating. If you’ve wanted to try Pilates classes, but something has been holding you back, I'd encourage you to give it a try.