New clients often ask me when they sign up for their first Pilates lesson “How often should I do Pilates?” My response is usually, “That depends on what kind of results you would like to see.”
You can relieve stress at the end of a long week with one session.
But if you want to run a marathon without injury, get back into pre-baby shape, be able to keep up with your kids or grand kids or simply tone up some flab… make the commitment to Pilates 2-3 times a week.
One of Joseph Pilates’ most famous quotes is:
“In 10 sessions you will feel the difference.
In 20 sessions you will see the difference.
And in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.”
He says in his book, Return to Life Through Contrology, which by the way is a quick and entertaining read since it was originally published in 1945 and gives you a peek into the mind of this genius:
“If you will faithfully perform your Contrology exercises regularly only four times a week for just three months, you will find your body development approaching the ideal, accompanied by renewed mental vigor and spiritual enhancement.
Ideal body… mental vigor…. spiritual enhancement!
Who wouldn’t want all that with just 4x a week?
Committing to Pilates
LET’S TAKE THE STORY OF TWO PILATES NEWBIES…
Sarah has a busy life – corporate job, late nights, long commute to and from work. She signs up for an Unlimited Apparatus Class Membership and comes regularly 3x week. When she can’t make her regularly scheduled session, she signs up for another day that week. She also takes a Private Lesson whenever she has time and walks every day. After a month, people start asking her what she’s doing. She notices she’s sitting taller, walking taller, and thinking about Pilates in her everyday life. The nagging pain in her shoulder and neck has disappeared. She begins to see muscle definition. She tries an exercise in class that she didn’t think she could do and nails it. She has already moved on to more advanced work and has passed the beginners who started together with her.
Marie, who also has a busy life starts with 3 Intro Private Lessons that take her 3 weeks to complete. She decides to commit and also buys an Unlimited Apparatus Class Membership that she plans to supplement with Private Yoga lessons. She starts out with great intentions at 2 times a week and very quickly feels her abs firming up. Then she gets busier, works late, decides to go out to dinner with friends instead of attending class. She ends up taking only one class in every two weeks. Each time she forgets what she learned in previous classes and feels like she’s slowing the class down. She notices that Sarah, who started the same time as she did, is getting more of the exercises and seems to have advanced quickly. Marie’s back hurts while gardening. She starts to wonder if the Membership was really worth it….oh, and the Private Yoga lessons….she never managed to schedule those….
Pilates, whether on the mat or on the equipment, does not work if you only do it once in awhile.
You have to commit to a minimum of once a week.
1. Pilates has a steep learning curve! It requires regular practice and lots of concentration.
There are many exercises to learn. Each exercise has a name and a purpose, often several.
There is a general sequence and transitions from one exercise to the next.
The equipment setup is important for safety and must be learned.
2. Even the simplest Pilates exercise focuses on multiple things – breathing, coordinated muscle contractions, balance, control. As a beginner you tend to focus on one or two things. As you get more advanced you begin to integrate multiple levels of an exercise. The better you get, the more you get out of it! If you watch a class full of Pilates instructors you will see few reps performed to exhaustion with the utmost focus and concentration.
3. Pilates exercises have a distinct progression from beginner to advanced. The same exercise can be made more difficult by performing on one leg, adding/subtracting a spring, changing your position.
Consider what kind of results you want from Pilates. Even once a week Pilates can:
✓ rehab injuries
✓ retrain muscular imbalances
✓ improve sports performance
✓ improve posture
✓ increase muscle flexibility
✓ increase joint range of motion
✓ increase body awareness
✓ reduce stress
✓ build muscle tone
MAKE IT A HABIT
Ideally, Pilates is something you do 24/7. Joseph Pilates was all about the mind body connection. Ask Google how long it takes to create a habit and you will get an answer around 21-28 days. Focusing on Pilates concepts everyday can help change old postural habits (e.g., slumping in our seats, rolling our shoulders forward, standing in one hip)
The more you do it… the more natural positive postural habits become.
My favorite client feedback is when I hear, “I stood all day and had no pain.” “What normally would have been an unbearable plane ride was just fine.” “I found myself sitting taller.”
Pilates builds a body awareness that translates into everything you do. So my response to the question “How often should I do Pilates?” is this:
Once a week is good … 2 times a week is much better … and 3 times a week is amazing! And remember, Pilates doesn’t have to be your only exercise. Commit to movement everyday!
Pilates just happens to be a very fun and effective way to do it!
Ask yourself: … Can you be a Sarah?