To give you proper advice, it would be ideal to meet in person, have a chat and do a few functional tests to see how you move, but we realise it’s not always possible! Here are a few points to help you understand which class is appropriate for your experience and level of fitness.
If you’re generally fit and physically active, with no injuries, but have never done Pilates before:
Pilates can be a great complement to any sport you do. It will get you stronger and enhance your performance. It is, though, a form of exercise that differs quite a lot from other physical activities. The aim is to achieve complete control of every body part as you move. The exercises are performed slowly, with focus on correct alignment.
Even if you are fit and active, it is advisable to start at a beginner level to make sure you understand the basics of the technique properly, before progressing onto more challenging exercises. It probably won’t take you long to progress, but it is about ‘re-training’ the brain and teaching the body to move in a whole new way! At our studio you could try a Level 1 Mat class or an Intro to Reformer class. The Reformer works with springs and ropes and the resistance can be adjusted to make an exercise harder or easier. Heavier spring load doesn’t necessarily mean ‘harder’! So you need to be patient and give yourself some time to fully grasp and enjoy the work 🙂
If you have no injuries, don’t do any physical activity and have never done Pilates before:
It is a great choice to start exercising, as movement is part of our lives and we need to take care of our bodies to stay fit and be able to perform daily tasks efficiently and without pain. If you can start with a private session, then definitely do that. In our experience, the initial session not only gives us the opportunity to meet you and advise you properly, but is also makes you aware of what your goals are and what you want to achieve with your Pilates sessions. This gives you motivation and keeps you going!
Since you don’t have injuries though, if you can’t do a private class, you can also go straight to group classes. It would be better to start with a series of Mat level 1 or Back Health classes; at least 5 is probably a good guideline, but it really depends on the person. During your initial mat classes, your aim would be to understand the basic principles of alignment, breathing and centring, and also to discover your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have identified the areas you need to work on, then you, together with your teacher, will be able to decide if you want to continue with mat classes or try the reformer machine.
If you have never done Pilates before and you have aches and pains due to sitting long hours in front of a computer or, the opposite, if you stand for many hours during the day:
Same as above, it’s great that you are interested in starting exercise and taking care of your achy body! Gentle exercise like Pilates does help with mild aches and pains. Most of us have jobs that keep us either sitting or standing for long hours, and the body slowly deteriorates. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, so some kind of action is needed to sort things out before the pain increases.
A private session is the best way to start. We need to assess the level of your aches and pains, and make sure that there isn’t something more serious going on, other than stiffness and compensations due to poor posture. We will also be able to advise you which class is better for you. Level 1 or Back Health Mat classes can be good to start learning the technique from scratch, but some people might actually need the support of the reformer machine at least for the first few sessions. The machine helps the body get in the right place and supports it through the movement; you will be able to experience this during your initial private session.
If you have an injury (severe back pain, bulged disc, hip, knee or shoulder injury, etc.) and you have been advised by your medical practitioner to start some Pilates classes in order to get stronger:
Some injuries are caused by accidents. Sometimes, though, the cause is just an accumulation of poor posture, bad habits and lack of exercise over the years, and then one day our back / hip / shoulder / etc. decides that it can’t take it anymore and it sends a strong signal that something has to be done!
It is a good idea to put us in contact with your medical practitioner, as we can have a chat with them and work together as a team. You definitely need some initial private sessions here. We have a starter pack for new clients, which offers 3 privates for a discounted price. We advise you to choose this option and take it from there. You can then either keep going with privates, or your could join one of our studio sessions. During a studio session, each client works on their own programme focusing on their personal goals. We have a maximum of 4 people per session and the teacher supervises and guides everyone, adjusting the programme as progress is made.
If you’re pregnant:
Congratulations! Pilates is great during pregnancy, but make sure you have the all clear from your doctor before joining any class.
If you are less than 16-week pregnant and have done Pilates before, you can join our level 1 mat or reformer classes. If you haven’t done Pilates before, we advise you to rest and join classes when you are at 16 weeks.
From 16 weeks to end of term, you can join our Studio Equipment Sessions (see above). These will allow you to work on your own programme, which we will adapt as your pregnancy progresses. We do not run antenatal mat classes.
Postnanal women should wait until their 6-week check up for vaginal delivery and 12-week check up for C-sections. After the doctor has given you the all clear, you can join either our Studio Equipment Sessions or Back Health mat classes to begin with (see above), in order to re-build your core strength progressively and safely.
If you have no injuries and have done some mat Pilates in the past, in gyms or somewhere else:
Pilates mat classes in gyms might be very different from classes in Pilates studios. In gyms, groups are much bigger, usually there are no levels and anyone can drop in. Even for the best teacher, it would be very hard to keep an eye on 20 or more people and give everyone appropriate variations, making sure that no one gets injured.
At our studio, we have a maximum of 4 people in reformer classes and 8 in mat classes. We also have different levels and we make sure that you are 100% ready before progressing safely to the harder exercises. Having smaller classes also allows us to give everyone variations and corrections according to their needs. You can start with Level 1 Mat classes and see how you feel. If you need more challenge and the teacher thinks your technique is good, then you can progress to Level 2 classes. As far as the reformer is concerned, if you have never done it before, you still need to start with a few Intro to Reformer classes as the machine work is different from the mat, even if the basic principles are the same.
If you’ve done lots of Pilates in other Pilates studios before, mat and reformer, and are fit with no injuries:
Great! Green light here. You can join our group classes straight away. It’s good to bear in mind that every studio is slightly different in terms of what we call beginner, intermediate and advanced. Also, as you know, every teacher is different in their teaching style and level of challenge. When joining a new studio, it’s always a good idea to try a Level 1 class first (mat or reformer) and then assess whether that was the right level of challenge for you or if Level 2 classes are more appropriate. We don’t want to hold you back though. Moving is good and the fitter you are, the more challenge you need to keep improving!
We hope this helped you understand where you are in terms of level of fitness and what your next step could be. However, these are just theoretical guidelines; each case is different, so please contact us and we’ll be happy to have a chat!