Walking into a Pilates studio for the first time can be daunting. A quick glance around will reveal a variety of odd-looking contraptions that you will rightly assume are "Pilates machines", but you may not so readily imagine how your body could actually engage with them.
Not to worry, Pilates is a very professional, client centered practice. No matter what studio you visit, a friendly and knowledgeable staff person should soon greet you. “So what really happens here?” you wonder.
Mat Work and/or Equipment
Pilates workouts are based either on the Pilates mat work, which is done on the floor with a minimum of equipment, or on Pilates apparatus i.e. those weird looking contraptions.
The mat work is a great place to begin. All of the fundamental movements and Pilates exercise principles are incorporated in the mat exercises. The mat exercises are adaptable to any fitness level, and it is nice to focus on learning the basics correctly without having to get friendly with new exercise equipment at the same time. The mat exercises will help you quickly gain a lot of strength and confidence in the Pilates method.
When you are ready though, you will have a lot of fun with the exercise equipment in a Pilates studio. Despite unusual names like the Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda chair, all the springs, bars, straps, and pulleys come together as a very refined, body-friendly group of exercise equipment.
What to Bring to a Pilates Class:
You won’t need to bring much with you to the Pilates studio. The studio usually provides any equipment that might be needed for the workout. That said, many people like to work out on their own mat, so if you are going to do mat exercise you may want to get your own mat. Pilates mats are available in many stores and online. Your studio might also sell them. Pilates mats are often made a little thicker than a yoga mat. Check with your instructor about what mat they recommend. Though you probably won’t be guzzling water, as some do during aerobic workouts, you will still want to have a water bottle available and make sure that you are well hydrated before you start.Before You Buy a Pilates Mat
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What to Wear to Class:
There are a few things to consider when you dress for a Pilates workout. First, make sure your clothes give enough to let you move and stretch fully. Your instructor will need to be able to see your body well enough to see the alignment of you bones and how your muscles are engaging, so while loose is OK, baggy is not. You will also want to avoid baggy clothes because some Pilates exercises could be a bit revealing if your clothes are too loose. Pilates is usually done barefoot, so no fancy footwear is needed.
There are many wonderful lines of workout clothing available now. There are entire lines of clothing made just for Pilates. These can be fun for you to explore if fashion is your thing, but it is not necessary to buy special Pilates workout clothes to do Pilates. My advice is to keep it simple and see what you feel comfortable with as you go along.
You will also want to avoid excess accessories while your working out. Long necklaces, belts, dangling bracelets and such could not only be distracting, but could be dangerous if they got caught up in the equipment. Similarly, hair needs to be out of the face and tied back if it is long. One other note: Many people are sensitive to perfumes and strongly scented deodorants so more studios are requesting that clients refrain from wearing strong scents in the studio.
Before you sign up for Pilates Classes:
Most studios allow you to attend class on a drop in (pay by the class) basis. I highly recommend that you do this for your first session or two. You may also want to take a quick look at the glossary of terms here. Your instructor should be willing to explain things to you, but if you've seen a term once before you will be that much ahead.
How to Find Pilates Classes
Feeling nervous about your first class? You might enjoy stories other readers have shared about their first Pilates classes. See: First Pilates Class Stories
Get more details in Pilates Classes for Beginners
That's it. Enjoy!
(c) 2006, Marguerite Ogle, licensed to About.com, Inc.