Some frequently asked questions…
How does Pilates differ from other forms of exercise?
Unlike other popular fitness sessions that have more singular physical focus such as group cycling or running, Pilates is a mind-body discipline that combines core stabilization and peripheral mobility training to enhance the way the body functions. As such, Pilates is relatively complex and requires highly trained instructors. There are more than 500 different exercises and many of these can be performed both on mat and on specialised pieces of equipment, which serve to modify the exercise for the individual either making it more challenging or more manageable.
The main principle behind Pilates is that of ‘stabilising before mobilising.’ This refers to strengthening the stabilising muscles, for example the deep abdominal muscles, which support the organs of the abdominal cavity as well as the lower spine, whilst increasing mobility and strength in the limbs (arms and legs). Muscles are worked both in their contracted and elongated state, reducing the ‘bulking’ effect which is so often the result of traditional exercise.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
The rewards are many and will depend on the individual client’s specific issues. The beauty of Pilates is how adaptable it is for all ages, levels of ability and both sexes. From elite athletes to those just wishing to improve the quality of their life by increasing mobility, the Pilates repertoire will be modified for each client’s needs.
As a general guideline the benefits include:
Improved flexibility, strength, joint mobility, coordination, balance and alignment.
The elimination of bad postural habits. The body is retrained to work in the most efficient way possible, allowing for greater range of motion.
Correct alignment means that the body’s organs are supported correctly and can then function to their best potential.
Stress and stress related illnesses should be reduced if not eliminated as the exercises rely on good, controlled breathing, which promote relaxation.
More specifically, Pilates is excellent for relieving and often eliminating, lower back, shoulder hip and knee problems as these are so often caused by poor posture and muscle alignment.
How quickly will I notice a difference?
Most people notice changes within a few weeks – many after just a couple of sessions. A lot will depend on your body awareness – the ability to really ‘feel’ the exercises in the correct muscles. For example are your shoulders up by your ears whilst you are driving, are you slumped forward with your abdominal muscles completely relaxed as you are waiting to cross the road? The ability to recognise and correct your own posture in every day situations will come as a result of isolating the movements and recognising your particular issues. This will not happen overnight but with continued monitoring in and particularly outside the studio, you will begin to reap the benefits whether in everyday life activities or in your chosen sports.
Will I lose weight?
Due to the large repertoire and ability to modify most exercises, Pilates can be a challenging work out though good form is always the aim rather than performing more repetitions. As a result, Pilates will reshape your body, concentrating on lengthening and toning muscles as well as rebalancing the body. However, it is not a cardio vascular work out, nor is it a ‘quick fix, ‘ particularly if start posture and muscle tone is poor. To effectively lose weight, Pilates should be combined with some form of cardio work out – swimming is ideal as this supports the joints. Please discuss your goals with your instructor who will be able to advise the best complementary work out for you.
What should I expect on my first session?
The recommendation is to start with one introductory private session. This will last one hour and will include a discussion on your goals, current physical condition, past injuries and a detailed postural analysis, followed by an introduction to the basic principles of Pilates. These focus on breathing, spinal alignment, shoulder stability and deep abdominal connections. This approach sets the fundamentals for all the exercises to follow.
After the first session, a personal folder will be created for you, containing all the important information to chart your progress and keep a record of what you have learnt.
If you do not want to invest in a private introductory session, small groups (up to 8 clients) will be offered to take you through the basic principles.
How often should I be attending sessions?
Depending on a number of factors, (cost, available time, the client’s goal) future sessions can take a number of different forms. For example, if you are trying to overcome injury or train for some specific activity you may require more frequent sessions than someone who just wishes to improve their flexibility or posture. You may wish to combine group and private sessions or, if you have the motivation, practise at home between sessions. Your instructor will work with you to develop a work out which meets your objectives bearing in mind all the above factors.
What should I wear?
It is best to wear light, comfortable clothing that is not too loose but moves with you without restriction. This will also help your instructor to see whether the correct position is being maintained and assess muscular imbalance.
Pilates can be done in bare feet or in socks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so clients are advised to try both. Although a water cooler is available in the studio, clients may wish to bring a small bottle of water to sessions.
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