I started doing Pilates when my daughter was six weeks old. I actually had my six week check and my first Pilates class on the same day! My friend D had rhapsodised about Pilates and how good it was, and I loved it from the first class. So, as I approach my third Pilates anniversary, here are ten things about my experience of Pilates.
1. I like the fact that you go at your own pace. The teacher demonstrates the sequence, does the first set with us and then we’re able to work our way through it at our own pace and speed. This means I can really focus on what I’m doing as I don’t need to watch anyone else.
2. It really is cumulative. Some exercises seem impossible the first time you do them, but eventually they become manageable, and then finally quite straightforward. And the brilliant thing is, the exercises all link together. So you will do exercise A and it’ll be really hard. Then you may not do it again for a few weeks, but then you do exercise A again and it’s easier, because exercises B, C, D and E have made the muscles you need stronger.
3. I carried on going to class until I was 36 weeks pregnant with the Little Boy. Obviously, by the end I couldn’t do anything that involved lying on my front or my back, and I took everything very gently, but it was still brilliant to do the stretches and the standing and side lying exercises. I have no way of knowing whether the fact that I had an 80 minute labour and phenomenally quick recovery had anything to do with the Pilates, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
4. It’s fantastic for my back – this is one of the big plusses of Pilates. Strengthening the core muscles protects your back. It also dovetails well with osteopathy: for a long time I’d get early warning in class that things were stiffening up and it was time to see the osteopath, but a few months ago, my osteopath could tell I’d missed some Pilates classes just from the state of my back.
5. Although she’s very nice, I think our Pilates teacher has a small sadistic streak. ‘I expect you’d like this to be your last set, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Eight more, because I know how much you love these…’ She’ll count to eight for your planks and then initiate conversation between five and six until somebody howls, ‘Nobody talk to her!’ When I had the Little Boy, the girls from my class sent me a card. She wrote, ‘Congratulations! Zip up! Love Lucy xx’
6. It’s really easy to work to your level and within what your body can do. All exercises can be adapted to make them easier or more challenging. Our class has young dance teachers, people with injuries and women in their seventies, all tailoring the same exercises.
7. On the two days after a class I can usually feel the effects somewhere. Often it’s the abdominals (although less so as I’ve done it for longer) but the bottom, the thighs and the backs of the shoulders are other common hit points. If I’ve missed a few classes then after the first one back the ‘after effects’ are more noticeable – and often involve creaking and groaning.
8. I used to hate my upper arms. I don’t any more.
9. Our teacher always jokes about how we can practice at home, but recently I have started doing just that. Not big sessions, but five or ten minutes here or there. It’s quite a good way to see if I can manage a harder version before trying it out in class…
10. Even though I frequently feel like I’m dying during class, and ache for a couple of days afterwards, I do everything I can to avoid missing classes. I really love what Pilates does for me, what I find I can make my body do – and having an hour to concentrate on doing it. I can’t imagine ever giving it up.
Any other Pilates fans out there? Or do you love another form of exercise?