If you’re like me, you work out for multiple reasons. I have tons of goals, including running a half marathon in every state (so far, I’m at 31), losing weight, and most importantly, maintaining my mental health. As such, I tend to choose exercises that help with at least one of these goals. I found that yoga was a great way for me to work on strength and flexibility while also focusing on being centered. At a yoga class I particularly enjoy, a friend suggested I try pilates in SF as a way to exercise different muscles and still reap the benefits of being centered in mind, body, and soul.
One of the best things about pilates in SF is that it works for people of all ages. Additionally, pilates has many forms that you can choose from to find the right fit for you. Finally, pilates works at your pace! There is no need to feel pressured to do anything that is uncomfortable for you body. It’s all about being in tune with yourself. If this sounds the right type of workout for you, read on to find out all you need to know before you begin!
1. Mat classes are the best place to start.
There are two common ways to practice Pilates: on a mat and on a reformer machine. When you first start, you’ll want to start by practicing mat Pilates for a couple of reasons. Primarily, learning on a mat teaches you the foundational poses you need to do well in any form of Pilates. Additionally, learning how to do Pilates exercises with your own body weight makes you more likely to do well on the reformer machine as you have already built muscle in the areas your body will need it most.
2. Equipment is optional depending on the form you use.
For a classic mat class, you likely won’t use very much equipment. You might be asked to use a Magic Circle, which is a circular piece of equipment you put between your legs or arms to create resistance. As you work your way up to more advanced forms of Pilates in SF, you might use the reformer machine, the Wunda, the Cadillac, the spine corrector, or the high chair. Each of these pieces of equipment is designed to help you target specific muscle groups and, in some case, help you recover/recuperate from an injury.
3. Pilates in SF is different from yoga.
Yoga and Pilates can seem very similar as both are low impact workouts that emphasize the mind-body connection. In fact, some instructors combine elements of both types of workouts into one class. However, Pilates, which was created to help patients recover from injury, focuses mostly on building strength along the spine and in the core to help prevent reinjury, whereas yoga focuses mostly on the meditative aspects of the form as well as flexibility.
4. At the beginning, you’ll focus on foundational movement.
All Pilates in SF is based on a core group of foundational exercises. In your beginning classes, you’ll spend a lot of time refining and perfecting these exercises. You’ll do movements like the Hundred, which aims to build core strength through breathing. You’ll also work on exercises like roll ups, leg circles, and rolling like a ball. A final exercise you might encounter is the Series of 5, which works to strengthen the abdominal muscles and back.
5. Pilates can be done at home, too!
If you’re not comfortable working out in a studio, then Pilates can still be for you! Pilates can easily be done from home as most equipment is not necessary to do foundational exercises and get a good workout in! An added bonus to doing online workouts is that you might find a studio or instructor that you enjoy, which makes the transition into the classroom even easier for you if and when that is the right path for you.
6. You’ll be sore for a couple days.
Some might think that because Pilates is a low impact workout, they won’t be too sore the next day. However, that is not true. Pilates in SF focuses on small micromovements to help build muscles. This means your movements are often restricted to moving a muscle group just 2 inches or less. This kind of mental and physical control can not only be exhausting during the session, but it will also last after the class. I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed days after a Pilates class only for my abs to still be sore in the process.
7. You’ll need to pick up some vocabulary.
Like all forms of workout, Pilates has its own specific language that coaches or instructors will cue you with. Some common things you might hear are: use your powerhouse (your core), peel up from your spine (move vertebrae by vertebrae), cradle your head (in your intertwined fingers behind the base of your skull), or slide your shoulder blades down (pull your shoulders away from your ears). A good Pilates instructor will cue with these words, give a short explanation and show the movement for you to follow. However, if you realize the instructor is going too fast, don’t be afraid to use your voice! Instructors understand all this is new to you 🙂
8. Comfortable, appropriate clothes are key.
Loose fitting clothing is my jam. I love a good pair of joggers and a loose hoodie. However, Pilates is best done is something a little more form fitting, like leggings or a sports bra. The reason for this is because if you are working with equipment, you don’t want your clothes to get stuck in any of the springs and inadvertently cause injury. Additionally, you will want your instructor to be able to see your body clearly to help you learn all of the foundational movements of the discipline. As such, it is best to have more form-hugging clothes on.
9. Make sure you are cross training.
Like all exercises, Pilates is a great part of a larger fitness routine. If you focus only on Pilates, you risk injuring yourself or not meeting your overall fitness goals. In addition, you are more likely to experience deep fatigue and your muscles will resist the workout. Instead, make Pilates a part of your rest day from more high intensity workouts, like running or HIIT. Or, you can make Pilates your main exercise and ensure you incorporate stretching days (like yoga) and rest days.
10. Listen to your body.
As with starting any exercise routine, it’s super important that you listen to your body. Common injuries in Pilates include lower back pain/strain as well as injury to the rotator cuff, making moving your shoulder more difficult. These injuries can easily be avoided if you ensure you incorporate rest days and listen to your body and give yourself breaks during exercise so that you don’t overdo it.