Why I Love Pilates
Today I want to talk about one of my favorite things… PILATES! If you know me at all, you probably know I love, love, LOVE Pilates. I’ve been consistently practicing for over four years now, and I can absolutely see and feel changes in my mental and physical well-being. So, I wanted to share the Pilates love a little bit and let you know what it it (and what it's not), how I got into it and what the benefit are. I think a lot of people have misconceptions about Pilates so I’m here to set the record straight. Lez go!
My Fitness Journey and How I Was Introduced to Pilates
Ok, real talk: I do not have the greatest track record in terms of working out. Yes, I eat well and I don’t have any problems sticking to a healthy diet, but to be totally honest I’ve just never enjoyed working out. In fact, I hate it. I hate running, I hate gyms and other than swimming, I’ve hated every sport I've tried. (I did practice yoga pretty consistently for about a year or so, but that was about it).
When I started my second year of grad school almost five years ago, I decided it was time to make my fitness a priority. At the time, I was gifted a Jawbone UP band and started to get really into tracking my steps. That, coupled with the fact that I had a new puppy to leash train, motivated me to start walking 20,000+ steps a day. It was amazing! I began feeling really energized and wanted to find other ways to exercise. At the time, my mom had been taking Pilates for almost two years and when she switched to a new studio she told me I should take a class with her. I’ll admit, I was verrrrry hesitant and before even stepping foot in the studio I had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to be bad at it and that I wouldn't like it. Damn, I could not have been more wrong - at least in terms of the latter, I was kind of spot on about the other.
My first class, I was not good at all. My flexibility was a challenge, especially the lack of flexibility in my hamstrings, and I was not as strong as I thought I was. In fact, I remember doing some arm work in my first class and my entire body was shaking. Woah, that was a wakeup call. But even though Pilates was definitely physically challenging, after one class I was hooked. The 50 minutes flew by, the exercises and movements kept me engaged and the atmosphere in the class was welcoming, encouraging and just really nice.
Pilates is a full body workout, but I think the reason I love it so much is because it’s gentle, yet incredibly challenging. The exercises not only help you build strength and make you more aware of your body, but they also challenge your coordination, your balance and your precision of movement. Most Pilates studios tend to have smaller classes – the studio I go to has up to seven students in a class – so the instructors are really watching us, correcting us and making sure we are doing things the right way. In the past, when I took yoga or other classes with 20+ students, I did so many of the moves wrong, which did not help me get the full benefit out of the class and I probably could have hurt myself or caused more harm than good. But not with Pilates.
My Pilates Practice
There are certainly different kinds of Pilates but the kind I practice is classical Pilates so it follows the original method created by Joseph Pilates (of course new movements, equipment, etc. have been added and more modifications are available). Classes at my studio incorporate mat work, the reformer and the springboard along with additional equipment like the spine corrector (aka the arc), magic circle and different size exercise balls.
My personal routine includes five 50-minute classes a week – three “regular” classes and two cardio/jump classes. I’m also fortunate enough to be able to include private sessions in my rotation and use the Pilates Cadillac (my fav) and the Pilates barrel. There is no "right" number of classes to take per week, but I think if you want to really see the benefits it's a good idea to take about three to four classes a week, depending on what else you do.
Benefits of Pilates
There are a whole slew of benefits from regularly practicing Pilates including:
increased muscle strength and tone
balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body (so many of us are imbalanced!)
enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
improved stabilization of your spine
rehabilitation (and/or prevention) of injuries related
improved physical coordination and balance
increased body awareness
BONUS: looking and feeling strong, toned and hot AF
I hear people say these all the time, and I can assure you that all of these are completely FALSE:
It’s only for dancers or people who are flexible - NOPE
It’s easy and just a lot of stretching – HELL NA
It’s just like Yoga – NOT TRUE
It’s only for women – THIS IS FALSE
It’s crazy expensive – NOT ALWAYS
It may sound like an exaggeration but Pilates has really changed my life for the better. I never in a million years would have thought I’d ever find a workout class that I not only look forward to going to, but legitimately miss when I can’t go. My studio is my happy place, the instructors are my friends and I feel so good during and after class.
So, where are my Pilates lovers at? If you try out a class or practice already, please share your experience in the comments below!