Fitness Report No. 1 – First Thoughts on Pilates

I have recently been given the opportunity to join a new gym where I can try out a bunch of group exercise classes for free! Although I have never been interested in group classes I have been taking full advantage of this chance to explore some awesome new workout options. Yesterday I was able to try my first Pilates class!

First, let me start with what is Pilates? I had a very unclear idea of what this class was like before I signed up. All I really knew was that it was not cardio. I started with the description that the gym provided for the class:

“Pilates is a system of controlled exercises that engage the mind and condition the total body. The blend of strength and flexibility training improves posture, reduces stress and creates long, lean muscles without bulking up. Pilates takes a balanced approach so that no muscle group is overworked and the body moves as an efficient, holistic system in sport and daily activity. In this 45 minute mat based class, you will learn the basic series of exercises upon which the entire Pilates method is built. The heavy emphasis on abdominal strengthening is a necessity at every fitness level!”

After taking this class I feel that this description is accurate. We did exercised that worked our calves, thighs, glutes, core, chest, and arms all in one class. I absolutely felt like I got a full body workout. As mentioned in the description above the class that I took was a mat class, so I was not able to use the equipment that you would find in a Pilates studio. We did use mini balls for several core moves and a strap for stretching. The class consisted of a series of slow controlled exercises each focusing on one muscle group at a time. The class was very enjoyable and throughout the class several thoughts came to my mind.

My first thought was that there was definitely an element of yoga incorporated in the class. We did several kinds of planks, swan dives, and boat poses. However, one of the main differences from yoga is that there is no “flow” from one exercise to the next. This was not that big of a deal; however, one of my favorite things about yoga is that with every pose I am gaining flexibility and strength, and I missed this in Pilates. Although one of the advertised features of Pilates is to stretch and strengthen simultaneously I found that it did not achieve this as well as yoga. The first part of the class was very focused on strength while the last 10-15 minutes was focused on stretching. There were very few exercises that combined improving my strength and flexibility in one move. Again, this was not that big of a deal, but definitely something that differentiated Pilates from yoga in my mind. My next thought was that I felt like a dancer, which was kinda fun! We did many variations of leg lifts and ab moves with pointed toes. Something about pointing my toes and tossing my legs in the air made me feel like a ballerina! I was also happy about the focus on the outer thighs and glutes as this will help with my running and knee pain!

Overall I think that Pilates is a great class to incorporate into anyone’s exercise routine. I definitely worked some muscles that had not been touched in a long time, and learned some interesting new exercises! It is a good class to strengthen the key muscle groups in your body without bulking up. This class alone is not going to help you shred tons of weight or get 6-pack abs. However, I would absolutely recommend this class for runners and triathletes as the focus on core, flexibility, and long lean muscle is ideal.

I plan to keep taking this class once a week so I will post an update in a few months! Also, I would love to hear all of your thoughts on Pilates!

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