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Getting started with Pilates. What you need to know.


Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

So you've made the decision to get fitter. Perhaps you've had problems with your back or joints, maybe you're recovering after an operation or maybe you just want to lose weight and become more mobile. You've decided to take a Pilates class, but how do you choose the right class?


Check out credentials

There's no single UK governing body for Pilates which means anyone can set themselves up as a teacher without being accountable, so it's important to check out credentials before you decide to join a class. Teachers who trained with The Pilates Foundation, the UK's first Pilates Teachers' Association, or The BASI Foundation, the leading Pilates education academy are a safe bet as is anyone who trained under Alan Herdmen. Alan worked intensively with Carola Trier and Bob Fitzgerald, two instructors who had been trained by the founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates himself.

If you have specific problems, it's better to have an individual lesson or go to a smaller class where you can get personal attention.


Which type of class?

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Deciding which class to take can be a little confusing. Pilates can be practiced in two ways. Reformer classes use special machines equipped with straps, springs and pulleys to facilitate muscle lengthening and strengthening. Mat-work classes are predominantly equipment-free, using only basic items such as blocks . The aim of each individual Pilates movement is to work against resistance in order to train the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks. Although this can be achieved using a mat and your own body weight, the reformer machine offers differing levels of resistance and adjustments for different body sizes and levels of skill. However neither has been proved to be better than the other and mat classes are cheaper and more widely available.


Ultimately it's down to your own preference, so taking a starter class in both may help you to decide. No matter what method of Pilates you practice – mat or reformer – all Pilates inspired movements will benefit your body and enhance posture, strength, stamina and flexibility.


Pilates at Home

Working out at home to a DVD or You Tube video can be a great way to continue with your Pilates practice, but we'd suggest gaining knowledge from an experienced teacher first, particularly when it comes to the correct breathing. Breathing is key to a successful Pilates workout. If you hold your breath you’ll end up bracing your core and working the wrong muscles. Instead, you need to breathe deeply through the exercises and focus on scooping your belly button in and up.


Women's Health magazine suggests a number of workouts that you can find on You Tube and do at home in 10 minutes each. Here are five of them:


1. Target your lower abs in three minutes

Cassey Ho is one of the leading global Pilates authorities, so we trust that this super-quick workout from her YouTube channel Blogilates will yield long-lasting results.


2. Inner thigh burn in three minutes

The Pilates instructor and blogger, Lottie Murphy, shows how to tackle the hard-to-tone area of your legs.


3. Blast your core in five minutes

Less really is more, as the pro-dancer turned Pilates instructor, Isla Welly, shows.


4. Fully body in ten minutes

LA-based Pilates instructor, Deanna, works every limb in this efficient session.


5. Standing Pilates in ten minutes

No mat to hand? This workout by Chiswick-based Pilates instructor Rachel Lawerence could be right for you.


Be patient

Pilates takes focus. It's important to focus on the process of the exercise rather than the outcome. To get the best results, you need to give it time and commitment. And don't try to progress too quickly.


If you live in the Brighton & Hove area, Hayley Oxley can provide one to one Pilates and Gyrotonic exercise classes in a well-equipped studio. Hayley is a qualified GYROTONIC®  instructor and practices the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® method as well as a fully comprehensive Pilates instructor, having trained with Alan Herdman and completed the Polestar Comprehensive Pilates studio course. She has also completed several training courses with the BASI foundation in California and is pre and postnatal Pilates certified. Her teaching is complemented by her training as a trained clinical massage therapist with JING school of massage in Brighton.


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