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Why Aren’t You Taking Pilates Classes?
By Peggy Gregor

As a Pilates specialist, I am often amazed by the answers I get when I ask the question, “Why aren’t you taking Pilates classes?” It is ironic that the reasons people avoid participating in Pilates are the very reasons they should be taking part in the practice.

Misconception: I could never do Pilates. I’m not flexible enough!
K, so you’re not flexible; but no one expects you to have picture-perfect form during your first class. With regular practice of balanced exercises, you’ll increase your flexibility and your form will improve. As an added bonus, you’ll also gain more mobility in your joints, giving you a greater range of motion.

Misconception: I have weak abs and back, so I can’t do Pilates.
For years we’ve been doing crunches and other exercises that concentrate on the big, outermost muscles of the abs and back. The big back and abdominal muscles get stronger, while the smaller ones that support our bodies continue to be ignored.

This produces a muscle imbalance, which may be causing you some discomfort in the back and can easily be linked to weakness in the abdominal area. Pilates exercises can actually help you strengthen your abdominals and back by focusing on those smaller, internal muscles.

Misconception: I tried Pilates once, and got nothing out of it.
Pilates is not a magic potion. Just like any other form of exercise, you must do it consistently to see results. After time, you’ll start to feel subtle changes in the way your body functions. Remember that your muscles have memory. Give them a chance to learn and you will be rewarded.

Misconception: I’ll just buy a Pilates video and do it.
Videos are a great way to supplement your current Pilates practices, but are in no way as beneficial as having a certified Pilates instructor personally guiding you through the exercises.

In a Pilates class, you’ll get hands-on guidance that videos cannot deliver. You’ll learn how to correctly position your body and how to move safely through the movements. More importantly, a certified instructor can teach you specific modifications that will personally help you attain your individual goals.

If you are going to use a Pilates video at home, watch it a few times before doing the exercises to get an idea of the routine. It will be nearly impossible to perform the exercises properly if you’re craning your head and neck to view the TV.

Misconception: I do yoga, so why should I do Pilates? There is no difference.
Pilates and yoga are actually very different practices. Generally speaking, the biggest difference is that they focus on different systems in the body. Pilates exercises strengthen your muscular-skeletal systems, and yoga strengthens tendons and ligaments.

Misconception: I need special equipment for Pilates.
While all of the Pilates exercises were originally developed on several different pieces of equipment, many of the exercises can be easily done on a mat. You will get a different workout on the mat than you will on the reformer, even though you may be performing the same exercise.

In some cases, equipment can assist your muscles in learning a movement so that your body can eventually do it on the mat without assistance. On the other hand, the equipment can provide a more challenging workout for some by adding some resistance and providing an unstable base on which to perform.

When working on Pilates equipment, it is highly recommended that you do so under the strict supervision of a certified Pilates instructor.

Misconception: I need to get into shape before I do Pilates.
Most people aren’t aware that Joseph Pilates administered many of his exercises to ambulatory patients and people with physical limitations to help them become stronger and more mobile. Pilates provides a great amount of strength to the core or powerhouse. With a strong core, you can more easily (and safely) gain strength in the extremities. Traditional exercise modes will not prepare you any more for your Pilates experience.

Pilates may be a great mode of movement for those newer to exercise because of its focus on alignment, body awareness and the ability to work at one’s own pace by using modifications.

Those new to Pilates may greatly benefit by beginning their practice on the equipment, such as the reformer or chair. Pilates equipment can provide assistance in engaging the correct muscle group and also can give them feedback on whether an exercise is being performed correctly that cannot be achieved on the mat.

Peggy Gregor is a SPIN Pilates™ Master Instructor. In addition, she serves as the Group Fitness Director and Pilates Program Director for Healthtrax Fitness & Wellness in Bethel Park, PA. Reach her at pgregor@healthtrax.net.

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