There’s always room to develop how you move on the reformers! Here Carla Sconce shares five simple ways to advance your practice, see better results and get more from each Pilates class in studio.
1. Make Pilates part of your routine: You’ll have more fun and experience real effects of the practice if you attend three to five classes each week – at least while you’re still learning. The more classes you do, the more the movements will ‘make sense’ and flow on to greater strength, and mobility.
2. Take the time to set up each exercise: Listen to the cues for set up. Teachers use words like “alignment” when talking about how your body needs to be positioned in relation to the reformer; and “engage” when discussing the muscular focus of each exercise. It’s a good idea to look around the room and see what other students are doing but it’s more important to listen to the instructor and don’t be embarrassed to call out if something starts to niggle or you’re feeling ‘lost’. It’s our job to ensure each and every student gets the most out of each class. When the instructor offers “progressions” (i.e. ways to make the exercise harder) only take them if the exercise is feeling good in your body. And always “regress” the exercise if you’re fatigued and losing good technique.
3. Slow down! Slower movement requires greater control and is actually harder. Going slow will increase muscle strength and give you better alignment and control over joint movement. Pilates is about stabilising one part of your body while moving another – balance and coordination. Try to hold the last rep on each exercise as long as you can to improve your stamina.
4. Work those glutes: We spend so much time sitting down and we don’t realise it but we’re actually engaging our hip flexors/quads in a seated position. Most of us have weaker glute muscles, which can lead to poor posture and back niggles. A great exercise for the glutes is squats – but only when performed correctly. Make sure you sit back into a squat like you’re about to sit in a deep chair – way back! – and put your weight into your heels, not your toes otherwise you’ll work your quads not your glutes. A bonus to this is that your glutes are the biggest calorie burner in the body so get them firing and your body will metabolise more efficiently throughout the day!
5. Breathe better to burn more: I always advise newer students to “just breathe” as it’s funny how we hold our breath when concentrating on new things. But once you’re moving well in the exercise, if you start to engage the breath you can get much more out of it. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, engaging your abs while you do so. You need oxygen to burn calories. Good breathing also improves your circulation and helps detoxify your body.