Your first Pilates class doesn’t have to be intimidating: learn what to expect as far as style of Pilates, equipment used, what to wear, and more.
Ever walk past a Pilates studio and wonder if the equipment inside is some kind of medieval torture device? You’re not alone. Despite being nearly 100-years-old, the workout method still remains a mystery to most people who don’t already practice it.
If you’ve never tried Pilates, the appeal and experience of taking your first Pilates class, either in-studio, online, or signing up for a private session might not be so obvious. But the first thing you should know is that Pilates is more than a fitness routine. The workouts are all about slow, controlled movements that tone muscles, increase muscular endurance, and promote good posture and balance. It’s meant to fix alignment and improve mobility, and can often be practiced as a form of physical therapy.
Pilates is named after its creator, Joseph Pilates, who developed the exercise style in the 1920s in Germany. Ever since it’s been popular among dancers, fitness junkies, celebrities, and more, who swear by the method because it’s results-driven with low impact.
Interested in giving it a go? We’re breaking down what exactly you need to know before your first Pilates class—plus, additional health benefits to expect after taking up the popular sessions.
What happens in a Pilates class?
That depends a lot on what sort of session you sign up for. All classes fall under two main types: mat and reformer, though there are tons of variations.
The good news for newbies is that you can achieve the same results with mat or reformer classes and you can do either one as a beginner. The main difference is that using a machine gives you more options and can up the challenge.
Reformer classes add resistance to a spring-based machine. Moving on a reformer strengthens you as you move one way and stretches you the other way. Using the machine makes it more interesting but also gives you more support than a mat class, as you can play with resistance depending on your ability.
Mat classes don’t require a large machine, but you’ll likely reach for other pieces of gear—like a block, a Pilates ring, and/or mini exercise ball—to pump up certain moves, add stability to exercises, and help you connect with your deepest core muscles.
Aside from there being two types of Pilates workouts (reformer and mat), there are also two styles of Pilates workouts—classical and contemporary—and the exercises you’ll perform has everything to do with which one you choose.
Classical style runs you through 34 of the same exact moves in the same exact order every session.
Contemporary style classes, on the other hand, mix in more creative choreography and exercises from other fitness modalities such as lunges, plank variations, and other popular bodyweight resistance moves.
No matter what Pilates workout you choose, prepare to feel it. You’ll likely walk out of the studio a little lighter on your feet than when you came in—feeling more elongated and relaxed since stretching is half the point of Pilates.
What should you wear to and expect from your first Pilates class?
Think form-fitting. A pair of leggings or Spandex shorts and a sports bra or not-too-baggy tank is the way to go, and many studios require students to wear socks with grippy treads on the soles.
How often should you do Pilates?
For the best results, aim for 2-3 classes a week or as your schedule allows.
Will Pilates help you lose weight?
It definitely could—but it might depend on how often you exercise, as well as your diet.
If you already get your sweaty often, adding Pilates to your routine might not end up tipping the scale down. But even if you don’t drop pounds, remember Pilates plays a role in adding muscle and improving posture, making the workout a win-win.
Are there any risks to practicing Pilates?
All in all, Pilates is very welcoming and safe for your body. That being said, for the best experience, you should always let your instructor know about any injuries or conditions you’re experiencing, especially during your first Pilates class with a new teacher. If you’re pregnant, for instance, you can totally keep up a Pilates routine—but your teacher will let you know all the adjustments you need to make to keep the session safe.
Any questions before you take on your first Pilates class? We’d love to hear ‘em! Leave a comment below.