Perhaps part of your fitness goals has been to try Pilates? Maybe you have always wanted to try a Pilates equipment class/session. However, you are a little timid and maybe even scared of taking that first step. You have no idea what to expect and you are a little unsure of what this Reformer thing is that looks like a medieval torture device.
WHAT IS THE PILATES REFORMER?
The Reformer is the most recognized and popular piece of equipment or apparatus in the Pilates studio. This is the central piece of equipment used in most Pilates classes and studios. The Universal Reformer, so called because it is used for “universally reforming the body”, creates a balanced workout that is great for everyone regardless of fitness level. Auxiliary equipment you might find in the studio include the Chair, Cadillac or Tower; these pieces are often used at the end of a Pilates session to focus on the personal needs of the individual.
Invented by Joseph Pilates himself, the Reformer is a bed like piece of equipment with a moving carriage. The carriage is attached to springs that give resistance to the exercises performed on the Reformer. The Reformer has straps that both the hands and feet can be placed in for various exercises. Exercises on the Reformer are done laying down, sitting and even standing.
The Reformer offers all of the Pilates benefits including: overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.
WHAT TO WEAR OR BRING TO YOUR FIRST PILATES CLASS?
For your comfort and ease of performing the exercises it is best to wear clothes that are more form fitting. Yoga pants or leggings and a tank top are perfect as they allow the instructor to to see how your body moves so they can check alignment and offer adjustments as needed. Avoid clothes that have zippers, toggles, etc. and leave your jewelry at home. These things have been known to cause tears or holes in the upholstery of the equipment.
Exercises on the Pilates Equipment are done in bare feet or with socks that have grippy textures on the bottom. So you can leave those fancy gym shoes at home. Contrary to popular belief that Pilates is just stretching, you will sweat in your Pilates workout. Bring a towel to wipe any sweat as well as a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated during your workout. Some studios will provide these items, but most often studios do not, so it’s best to be prepared and bring your own.
ARRIVE EARLY TO YOUR FIRST PILATES SESSION
I suggest arriving early to your first session. The studio may have paperwork or intake forms for you to fill out prior to your session. A good Pilates teacher will meet with you prior to your session to learn about your body, ask if you have any challenges or injuries so that they can adjust the class to your needs. The teacher may also introduce you to the equipment which includes safety information, the parts of each piece and how to use the apparatus. It’s important that before you begin working out on the equipment that you understand each part.
The right Pilates teacher will find out your goals, take into consideration your imbalances or injuries and create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Whether you are there to rehab from an injury or surgery, or simply to gain more strength and become more fit, the teacher should create a plan to achieve this, and work to find the right exercises and equipment to get you to that point.
While I strongly believe that Pilates is for everybody regardless of age, body type, fitness level, injuries or medical conditions there are some exercises that may need to be omitted or modified based on your individual needs. Finding out any physical limitations prior to the class/session will help your teacher to give you the best workout out for you and keep you safe.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL PILATES EQUIPMENT CLASS LIKE?
Once you have met your teacher and have been introduced to the equipment it is time to get started. Typical Pilates sessions are 55 minutes in length. The work on the apparatus focuses on a full body workout with small and controlled movements using the springs for resistance. Just like a Pilates workout on the mat, focus is put on building core strength, but now we work against the springs to focus on control and centering.
Your session on the Reformer will be a full body workout. Classes typically start off with a warm up while lying down. As the class progresses you will focus on specific muscle groups through exercises that have you lying down, sitting, standing and even being in an inverted position.
Pay attention to the instruction and cues of your instructor. Their cues are important to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly, that your form is good and safe, and will help to make sure you are targeting the right muscles you should be using. Expect a lot of hands on instruction in your session. Most teachers like to help adjust the body so you can reap the full benefits of the exercises on the equipment as well as focus on proper body alignment.
While Pilates is low impact and safe on the joints, you will still find it a challenging workout. Sometimes the smallest of moves can be the hardest. Also, as previously mentioned, you will sweat. You might not sweat like you would in a boot camp or HIIT type of class, but you should find Pilates a challenging workout that still makes you sweat.
FINAL WORDS AND TIPS
After your first session you may find yourself a little sore. That is to be expected, but you may also find yourself feeling more flexible and walking a little taller with better posture.
During your session if you have any concerns or questions please speak up and let your teacher know. This allows the teacher to teach in the moment, and helps the student to fully comprehend the exercise and what they are being asked to do.
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to take on your first Pilates class.