1. What can I expect from a mat, an equipment class, or a 1-2-1 session?
Beginners Pilates mat classes
Mat Pilates is usually taught in groups. There can be anywhere between a handful to as many as 40 people in a mat class. This depends on the gym or studio they take place in.
These classes can be physically challenging and fun. As with all Pilates sessions – mat or equipment – the teacher should be getting you moving in all directions: rotating, inverting and side bending. Most classes will also progress from lying down, to kneeling and finally standing.
Mat classes are also a great option for those looking for Pilates that will get your heart rate up a bit. Without the equipment the exercises can flow into one another.
For a beginner, however, this faster pace may mean that some exercises are a little tricky to perform well. This may mean you don’t end up getting the full benefits of the movements. And can increase the risk of injury.
A good teacher should always be able to offer you modifications. However, it may be difficult to get the individual attention you need in these bigger classes. Some studios do offer beginner mat classes. These are a good option for people who are totally new to Pilates.
Having said all that, it is important to note that everyone is different. And, if you’re a Pilates beginner but are experienced at things like Feldenkrais or Yoga then you may find even the most advanced mat class a breeze.
Beginners Pilates equipment classes
Equipment classes are a great choice for those looking for a more physically supportive environment to take their first leap into the world of Pilates.
This kind of Pilates is taught through either Reformer or Studio classes.
Reformer classes are usually performed in groups of about 4-10, depending on the size of the studio. These classes take place on Reformer machines; Pilates equipment designed with straps, runners and springs to allow you to glide and move freely. There are different spring settings available on these machines, so it is easy to make exercises less demanding (or more challenging).
It is advisable to attend a Reformer class suited for beginners before attempting anything more advanced.
Studio classes – like the ones we run at our Complete Pilates studios – are on the full Pilates equipment. This includes the Barrel, Chair and Trapeze table, as well as the Reformer.
The Barrel – as the name suggests – is a rounded piece of equipment that allows for backbends and extensions of the spine.
The addition of rounded equipment like the Barrel allows the body to move in even more directions than the Reformer. This is great for the spine.
Studio classes are usually taken in small groups of about 4 people. People in these classes will have been given a programme of exercises chosen for them by an instructor to suit their individual needs.
At Complete Pilates, we make sure that people only ever perform exercises that are safe for them and suited to their level of competence.
This size and pace of these ‘pilates for beginners’ classes mean that they are a great choice for beginners. And they can be a fun way to get to know the equipment.
Beginners Pilates 1-2-1 sessions
Beginners may find that they get even more out of 1-2-1 sessions (like the sessions we run at Complete Pilates), than any other type of class when it comes to learning about Pilates.
Even if you only ever take a handful of them, these personalised sessions can allow you to really get to grips with Pilates and feel more confident on the equipment.
The focused time you get to spend with a well-trained instructor also means that you can ask all the questions you need.
And, you are sure to feel confident stepping into any class after a few of these 1-2-1 sessions.
2. Check out the studio first
If you are a beginner, it is always worth doing a little research before attending your first ever Pilates for beginners class.
Pilates classes can vary quite considerably depending on the studio you choose to attend.
So, it is important to have a sense of what you want to get out of a class and your own level of fitness before signing up for one. For example, if you want to start Pilates for rehab purposes then a 1-2-1 Pilates or a Studio class with a rehab-trained instructor would be the best for you.
If you’re after mindful movement then Studio Classes or slower-paced Reformer classes might be what you want.
If you want heart-pumping, fitness type Pilates then there are studios out there for that too.
These classes are fun and more dynamic Pilates experience. But we would advise spending some time getting to know the Pilates techniques first before doing anything too fast-paced.
This is so that you can get the most out of your classes, and can also help you avoid any potential injuries.
Our advice is to check out the website for each studio before attending their classes. You can find out a lot about a studio from a quick look on their website.
If there are lots of pictures of shirtless men and women with abs then they’re probably quite fitness-focused. A rehab studio website might contain more references to science or human anatomy.
Another good tip is to check out the class descriptions for each studio. This will give you a good sense of the kind of Pilates they teach.
3. What should I wear and bring to my first class
The main thing to remember is to wear something you can move freely in, like leggings and a t-shirt.
It is also worth noting that you may be spending some time upside down and/or with your legs in the air. Because of this, we’d advise some close-fitting bottoms and a top that doesn’t float around and get in the way.
Some people wear special socks with grips on the bottom or with toe separators. These might not be the nicest looking addition to any outfit – but they will help you grip better to the machines. So you don’t slip around when performing the exercises.
As a beginner, however, you don’t need to go investing in socks just yet. Going bare foot is always an option and it provides the best natural grip.
You might also like to bring a towel if you think you might get sweaty.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
All (good) instructors want to make sure that you’re feeling confident and comfortable in their class. Especially if you’re a beginner to Pilates. So, if you’re not sure about an exercise – ask the teacher for help!
There can be a lot of technical terms bandied about in Pilates for beginners classes. And the names of exercises can be strange and unfamiliar. So, don’t be alarmed if the teacher in your first Pilates class uses language you don’t recognise.
However, a good teacher should be able to help you achieve the exercise without any unnecessary jargon.
They should also be running around the room offering help before you’ve even asked for it. If they’re not, make sure you ask for their attention.
At Complete Pilates, we love it when people are engaged in their classes and want to learn more about the method and how they can improve. Pilates is a skill – and everyone has to be taught a skill (and practise it) before it becomes natural to perform.
So, there you have it.
Follow our advice for beginners and your first class will be a great experience. It might also be the start of a life-long commitment to Pilates.