My Pilates Love Story
I received a direct message on Instagram the other day from someone complaining that I make such a big secret about my workouts and don’t post more about it on Social Media. I thought that was quite funny, especially because I did share my current workout routine in this podcast episode and talked about my nutrition in this post. But some people apparently assume that if I did a workout, I would inevitably share it on Instagram. True to the saying: If you didn’t post about it on Instagram, it didn’t happen. But you know the drill: Just because people don’t share their food on Instagram doesn’t mean they don’t eat. Just because they don’t share their love, doesn’t mean they are not in a happy relationship, and just because I don’t post many sweaty workout pics, doesn’t mean I don’t work out.
Truth is, I’ve received quite a few messages over the past few months from some of you asking what kind of workout routine I have and if I have been working out more than usually lately. The answer is quite simple: Yes, I did. It’s now a little over a years ago that I joined my first ever Pilates class, and what can I tell you? I lost my heart to Pilates.
So I think it’s about time to introduce you to this new love of mine and tell you a little bit more about it. I hope this post provides answers to some of your most frequently asked questions and perhaps it will serve you as initial motivation to try out a Pilates workout yourself. But let’s start from the beginning:
When and why did you start doing Pilates?
It all started at the beginning of 2017. I quit my full time job, got self-employed and probably was at the “lowest” point of being happy with my body. Back then, the past two years I had spent working full time in an agency were very demanding. Working hours were long, lots of travel was involved and there was simply no time for a workout routine. I know that’s only an excuse, but I guess if you’re working full time yourself you know how hard it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, prep your food and follow a workout routine if you’re basically living for your job without having much free time.
One of the top priorities on my list when I got self employed was that I would take better care of myself and do all the things I have not had time for during the past years – like sports. Now the only problem was: Which sport to start with? Over the years, I’ve tried various sports: Gym memberships, aerobics, running, fast-walking… but nothing really ever captivated me that much to stick with it for a longer time. The only thing that I’ve always had a thing for since my childhood and teenage years as (mediocre but very ambitious) dancer was stretching. Through the years, as I tried and then abandoned various exercise regimens, my commitment to maintaining flexibility remained a constant. Sometimes I attended yoga classes; sometimes I stretched alone at home using some of the techniques I learned at ballet classes. But always, I stretched. Because when I didn’t, for even short periods, I would quickly begin to feel stiff and uncomfortable.
After doing a little research which sport could spark my joy, I quickly learned that Pilates is a go-to choice for professional dancers. And since, in my point of view, dancers have the best bodies ever, I thought: Why not give it a try! Just a little bit of online research later I found a Pilates studio literally around my corner and started taking classes regularly. Now, almost one and a half years later, my twice-a-week commitment notched up to three to sometimes four classes – deepening on how much I’m in town. Those Pilates appointments are treated like a proper meeting in my calendar and not negotiable. It’s time I plan in for myself and promise to give myself.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a form of exercise which concentrates on strengthening the body with an emphasis on core strength. This helps to improve general fitness and overall well-being. Similar to Yoga, Pilates concentrates on posture, balance and flexibility and the mind is a key element of the workout. By focusing on mindfulness as well as the breath that goes with each movement, Pilates encourages the body to release endorphins and reduce stress. Joseph Pilates (who was German, btw), the founder of Pilates, believed that physical and mental health are intertwined. As a result, the principles of Pilates center around methods of well-being that benefit participants both internally and externally: concentration, breathing, control and flowing movements. Since Pilates teaches you to control and balance your body and mind, often focusing on the quality of a movement rather than the quantity, you’re getting both a physical and mental workout in your exercise.
What Does Pilates Do?
Pilates uses controlled movements, primarily focused on your “core” to build body strength, flexibility and endurance. It’s a workout that won’t result in bulky muscles. Instead, the movements serve to lengthen your muscles as it strengthens them. Pilates focuses on loading the muscles to a level that can be maintained for a longer period with a heavy focus on technique. Is it not uncommon to hear a Pilates instructor say that technique is more important that intensity. The most popular form of Pilates is mat-based, where you do a series of movements using a mat on the floor. The moves may look simple, but they take a lot of precision and control. It’s not just like doing a bunch of crunches. Other forms of Pilates require the use of large pieces of equipment commonly found in Pilates studios, like the Reformer, Chair or Cadillac. The mat workout is mainly focussed on either using your own body weight or light weights, for the workout on the Pilates machines resistance springs are used to strengthen the muscle. The abs segments (you’ll feel the burn!) put an emphasis on core work. The low-impact jumping segments will get your heart rate up while leaving your joints unharmed and after the workout you’ll have the feeling that you’ve exercised all parts of your body. It’s a damn good feeling – trust me.
What changes can I expect to see in my body from doing Pilates?
First of all, of course it’s unrealistic to expect to look like a professional dancer or Victoria’s Secret Model after just a few sessions of practicing Pilates, but you can certainly work towards improving your posture and making your body more lean. As a pleasant surprise, I started noticing positive results quite quickly: My waistline slimmed, my abs got more visible than ever and my posture has drastically improved. Of course that’s the best form of motivation! It’s said that the areas most affected by Pilates are the abdominals, gluts, inner thighs and triceps – so basically all the areas we love to hate as women (am I right!?). Overall, I feel like my whole body has been tightening, lengthening and is a lot more toned than before. I personally love working out on the Pilates machines, as well as on the mat. At the Pilates studio I go to the workouts usually consist of a mix between mat exercises and machine exercises, providing a full body workout which you’ll most probably feel in your muscles the next two days as well.
Whatever your body form, Pilates has the power to dramatically transform the way your body looks. It will definitely give you a sleek, toned body with a flat abdomen and slender thighs in addition to better posture.
My personal wish is for everyone to at least try Pilates once, to see how easy it is to get started (and get hooked!). I’m pretty sure you’ll feel so much after just one class. To me, those Pilates workouts have become an appointment I’m looking forward to at the end of a long day: Feeling my body, realizing that movement is freedom and working on my mindfulness is pure bliss after a day at the office. You may want a gentle workout, you may want to blast your body and really challenge yourself. You may just want to recover from an operation or ease back to exercise after having a baby. Whatever you want, Pilates can help you reach your personal fitness goals and will make you feel better about yourself – all day, every day. I’m confident you’ll love it as much as I do.
If you’re in Salzburg, I can highly recommend you to check out the Move & Flow Pilates Studio. You’ll find me there at least two times a week.