Pilates can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to the person just starting. Please adhere to the following seven helpful tips for beginners.
1) Be Patient! Rome was not built in a day - but we're sure the Romans laid some solid foundation on day one!
Whether you are an accomplished athlete or a former couch potato, start with the basics. Pilates is a SYSTEM, and taking time with the basics ensures that a solid, technical foundation will be laid. The technique alone takes more than a few lessons to understand, but if you are patient with the basics, we assure you, you will progress much faster than if you jump into an advanced class! Think of it this way: even if someone excels at Pilates and demonstrates strong flexibility, he/she would never dream of walking into a karate class and starting with the black belts!
2) Don't seek what Pilates doesn't deliver!
Do you go to the bakery to buy a steak? Or to a juice bar for a beer? NO! So don't seek the same body sensations with Pilates exercises that you would with a boot camp program or marathon running. "Feeling the burn" is not something that will happen with Pilates, nor is that feeling of intense heart-pumping that comes with cardio. But do not fret! Your body will learn the joys of new sensations such as feeling "open" and "elongated" and "balanced!" When you start Pilates, initial exercises focus more on smaller muscles which don't "feel" like the larger muscles feel when you work them. So unlike your quadriceps and glutes, for instance, which are easy to feel when they are working because they're big, powerful muscles, many of the smaller stabilizing muscles upon which Pilates focuses are a fraction of the size. But, these smaller muscles are the support system for the larger muscles. You will be amazed at how much stronger you become when these muscles are recruited to help the bigger guys do their jobs!
3) Focus on quality!
Yes, we're talking about technique AGAIN! Doing Pilates incorrectly will not just deliver ZERO results, it could lead to injury. A common mistake that Pilates beginners make is performing exercises too quickly and/or making the movements too big. Pilates is about subtlety -- small controlled, well placed movements -- so that you can target the deepest core muscles and progress to the outer layers of muscles. Listen to your instructor and follow along at the appropriate pace.
4) Do you still think "no pain, no gain?" Think again! With Pilates it's "if PAIN then NO GAIN!"
As stated, "feeling the burn" is NOT part of the Pilates principles, so we already know the "pain" of muscles "burning" will not be present initially. SO! If you are feeling pain or discomfort in your neck or your lower back, STOP!!! It means something is awry and does NOT mean you should push through the exercise. The good news is that the pain could be caused by a muscular weakness and thus will go away once the target muscles get stronger. But, it could be something else and there is no way anyone can know but a medical professional. (In other words, if your Pilates instructor provides a technical hint that eliminates the pain, you can keep going with your newly learned proper form. But if -- despite your instructor's cues -- pain persists, you must stop.) Stick to a strict rule for yourself of ONLY doing the exercises you can do without pain. Performing exercises with pain or discomfort will not only aggravate the condition, but also cause the wrong muscles to work.
5) Listen to Your Body
Not every workout has to be the "gold medal" workout! On a day that you're not feeling 100%, pick an easier workout! There is nothing wrong with a "be kind to your body" workout.
6) Respect Your Body
Dogs are smarter than people on this point! Let's face it, do you think a bulldog eyes a greyhound with envy and wishes she had the greyhound's body? NO! That little bulldog thinks it is absolutely fabulous with it's unique physique. SO BE THE BULLDOG! Or the poodle, or the Great Dane or the Chihuahua...whatever! Each dog thinks it is grand and SO SHOULD YOU! Feel free to aim to improve upon your existing body type, but coveting long legs when yours are short, or a more muscular build if you're more willowy will only lead to frustration. Furthermore, body type affects what Pilates exercises are easy, hard, etc. for each person. Those of you who have seen our videos know this! With our tight lower backs, we STILL don't do a perfect Roll Up..... but we still try, and that's getting the target muscles to work.
7) Create and stick to a REASONABLE schedule
If you're a Pilates beginner and UBER gung-ho... YAY!!!!! But don't fly out of the gate too quickly, or you risk burn out. Start with something DIGESTIBLE. Our dad has always said, "You know how you eat an elephant?" The two of us, "How?" Dad: "One bite at a time". Seriously, don't try to conquer the world of Pilates immediately. Let it be a journey that you enjoy! 20-30 minutes a few days a week is much more manageable and effective than 60 minutes one day a week....and you'll actually see more results this way too.