Pilates for Beginners: How to Start and Keep Going
Updated: Jan 9
Photo by Rawan Yasser on Unsplash
'The beauty of Pilates is that anyone, at any age, can get started. Through the controlled and progressive movements, you can totally reshape your body.’ -Mahal
The above picture (or any crazy pilates pose) could be you after just 10 weeks. But that’s not the only reason you want to start Pilates, is it? There are more benefits to this kind of fitness training than just cool poses! Knowing these benefits is informational and one of the keys to unlocking that motivation to start and finish strong.
Benefits of Pilates
Pilates are not for everyone. But if the benefits listed below are what you want to see in your body, even the most basic Pilates exercises can help you get there. And knowing these benefits can help you stick to the fitness program!
Pilates is adaptable to your fitness level. Pilates workouts can be tailored to fit your needs. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, it doesn’t matter. Let your Pilates instructor know your personal fitness goals (you can also google what Pilates program is best for you). This way, you won’t be doing exercises that are too easy or too hard.
Pilates promotes weight loss and a lean appearance. Bulking up is not the goal of Pilates workouts. Still, it creates strength, toning your body. Although most of the exercises will only be on the ground and look simple enough, you will feel burning during the workout and soreness the next day.
Pilates improves your core. The core (also known as the “powerhouse”) is a huge focus in Pilates. Most workouts you do will focus on supporting your body with your core and breathing while doing so. Posture and core go hand-in-hand, but with Pilates, you will be improving both!
Pilates improves your flexibility and balance. Even though the core is the main muscle targeted in the exercises, it is not the only one. Many of the workouts are static, which means you are holding a position for a period of time, thus building both strength and balance. Many of the exercises are also stretches, and flexibility will help you maintain healthy joints.
Pilates reduces stress. A major key to Pilates is breathing. Since you’ll be focusing on breathing, engaging your core, holding a certain position, and doing the exercise correctly, your brain won’t be able to think about anything else. Also, the workout releases endorphins, reducing pain and bringing pleasure to your brain.
How to Start Pilates Classes
Starting anything can sometimes be the hardest part. Sometimes it takes little motivation and, especially for those who might hate new situations, some information to prepare you. Luckily, there are several tips to help you on your new Pilates journey!
Join a class in person or online
Joining a class is the first step to your Pilates journey. There are many Pilates classes for beginners that you can find. When you join a class, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from an instructor and understand right and wrong forms as you are doing the workout. An instructor will also be able to recommend different workouts to help improve what you need. Your classmates can be an example of what you do or don’t want to do, an inspiration, or a new friend. Depending on how you see it, taking a class with others can have a positive impact.
Pilates for beginners in class
There are two things to pay attention to other than your form when taking Pilates class.
Pay attention to lingo. There are certain Pilates terms that aren’t used in other fitness classes. For instance, the term “prone” refers to when the body is lying flat, face-down on the mat. In order to understand what your instructor is telling you, make sure you remember the words they use as your classmates follow suit.
Wear form-fitting clothes. Loose clothing is a big no-no since they will roll down your body during a lot of the positions you will be doing. Form-fitting clothes will keep you free from distraction and worry about anything showing that shouldn’t be (I once did a handstand and couldn’t breathe because my shirt fell in front of my face! Don’t let that be you!).
Locations. You can take classes online, or there are in-person classes right here in the UK to choose from. Going to the class in-person will be a better option if you are new to Pilates so that your instructor can help you correct the form. Remember to take your water with you and your mat (if that’s the type of class you are taking).
Two basic types of Pilates. Before you sign up, make sure you know what type of class you want to take.
A reformer Pilates class will be using a machine
A mat Pilates class will usually use only a mat for the workout
Pilates for beginners at home
But what if you cannot be in-person for any of these classes? There are two options to choose from but the first option will have the most benefits.
Virtual classes. Signing up for virtual classes will mean that you can still get instruction and do the workout along with other people. That way, you’ll be corrected in form and encouraged when the workout gets hard. You can sign up online through local Pilates classes if you can do it in-person later.
Apps. There are several Pilates apps where you can sign up for a workout plan and, if you also pay for the premium subscription, you can get an instructor too who will help guide you along the way.
Youtube. Although this is not the best option, since you won’t be able to know if or how you should correct your form, it is better than never starting! The best thing to do is do the workout in front of a mirror to mimic what you see on screen. Do the workouts 3-5 times a week for 45-60 minute sessions.
Best Pilates Exercises for Beginners
Below are the best Pilates exercises for beginners. Since Pilates usually focuses on your core, most of these fundamental exercises help strengthen the core. Even if you aren’t planning on taking classes at home, knowing these might be helpful in feeling prepared for your first class.
The Hundred. A foundational exercise in Pilates is one of the most important (and most common) exercises that you will learn. By helping you focus on your breathing, you will correctly learn to engage your abs in this and future exercises.
2. Saw. A back and hamstring stretch, this seemingly simple exercise targets your spine muscles and improves posture.
3. Pelvic Curls. Another important Pilate exercise for beginners, the pelvic curl engages both the core and the lower body while you focus on breathing. It helps lengthen the hip flexors and maintain the hip muscle balance.
4. Dart. This exercise (aka Back Extensions) also helps maintain good posture by lengthening the spine and engaging the glutes.
5. Rolling Like a Ball. This exercise also targets the back as well as the deep abdominals. It is good for finding balance.
Best Pilates Techniques for Beginners
Whether you’re preparing for your first session (so you don’t feel awkward), or you’re seeking to do Pilates at home without classes, it’s helpful to not only know the workouts but basic techniques to keep in mind while doing them.
BREATHING. This is the most important aspect when doing Pilates. Learning how to breathe properly will be beneficial to your Pilates journey. It is about knowing how to breathe while keeping your core engaged. Lubart says to “breathe into the backs and sides of your ribs.”
MODIFICATIONS. It might be embarrassing if you cannot complete a full plank like your fellow classmates but don’t let that stop you! Do not be afraid to modify the workout if needed. It’s not the workout that’s important but your form while performing the workout. Performing a workout without proper form could lead to serious injury.
CENTERING. Through each workout, you should be focused on drawing your strength and stability from your core. Engaging your core is not the first thing on everyone’s mind, but with an instructor there to guide you, you can learn how to draw your ribs into the centre of your body effectively.
How to Stay Motivated
Know your “why.” This means knowing why you want to begin Pilates in the first place. If you don’t have a solid reason for starting, don’t expect to keep a streak going. Staying consistent is easier when you know why you’re chasing your goals.
Benefits for your health. There are numerous reasons to begin Pilates, but some of the major benefits are listed at the beginning of this blog. You can take from those or come up with your own.
Write it down. It’s easier to attend classes if you see your goal every day consistently. Our moods are not always the same every day, and they can sometimes cause us to forget why we want to pursue a goal. Write a goal so you can’t forget.
Have a buddy. It’s both easier and more fun when you have someone to go with you. If you know that your friend has a goal and they know your goal, both of you will drag the other person to classes, whether they like it or not.
Make time. Some of the biggest excuses are “I don’t have enough time”, but it isn’t true. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. If you want to do Pilates, you can do it! If you “can’t find the time,” cut something else out of your schedule.
Beginning a new thing is intimidating (especially for us introverts), but when you have a goal and know how to get there, the rest is making yourself do it, despite the emotions that say no. Don’t let emotions or lack of time stop you from doing something you love!