Many of us have done a little bit of Pilates at some point; Pilates-style moves are found in plenty of workouts that incorporate yoga or bodyweight exercises. But it's another thing to step into an actual Pilates studio and find yourself face-to-face with the famous reformer.
Photo: Runway Pilates
I had this experience for the first time recently, in a class that had us split our time between exercises on the floor and on two pieces of equipment: The tower, which is a collection of wall-mounted straps and bars, and the reformer, a sliding seat with springs and straps. (You can do similar exercises on each type of equipment, and I got the impression that the reformer is maybe slightly overrated.)
Here are some of the things you'll want to know your first time trying a serious Pilates class, with or without equipment:
- Wear nice socks. You don't do Pilates with shoes on. Barefoot may be OK (depends on the studio), but otherwise wear or bring some socks. The kind with grippy dots on the soles are ideal.
- There's special terminology for everything. The reformer is not a "Pilates machine" and you're likely to be corrected if you call it that. The ring you hold between your knees for some exercises? Some studios may call it a ring, but in others, it's a "magic circle". Take note of the words your instructor uses.
- Learn to engage your core. At the beginning of the class, the instructor went over how exactly to do this. (It involves how you breathe, and how you contract your abs, and oh yeah you're supposed to do a kegel at the same time.) Pay attention, because this action is at the core (ha!) of many other moves.
- Form is key. Instructors expect precision in exactly how you're moving and things such as where you place your feet. They will help you make it happen, but make sure you're thinking of form before you worry about anything else.
Start with a beginner class if you can, because there's a lot to learn when it comes to the equipment. It isn't hard, but it's best if the instructor has the time to explain how to adjust the springs or straps on the equipment rather than you trying to figure it out by looking at the person next to you.
Have you tried Pilates? What should first-timers know about it? And if you're thinking about trying Pilates for the first time, what would help you feel more comfortable?