Everything you need to know about doing Pilates at home
Your guide to creating the right vibe, preventing injury, getting the right equipment and more.
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Pilates is a great form of exercise for anyone with a spine – literally. It sculpts and tones your body without building muscle bulk, improves the functional movement patterns of the body, as well as calming the mind. If you can't make it to a studio class or you're a beginner and you want to try before you buy, there are a few things you should do to get the most out of your at-home Pilates workout.
Create the perfect set-up
It's all about the vibe – your set-up is crucial. Here are some tips to create the right atmosphere.
Make sure your space is distraction and excuse-free
Dedicate a space to yourself, get rid of your laptop (or close any tabs or windows if you're streaming the class from your computer) and make sure that anything that could give you a reason not to train is out of eyeshot, like dirty dishes.
Give yourself plenty of space
The beauty of Pilates is that we generally don't venture off our mat, so you don't need a great deal of space. However, the last thing you want to feel is trapped, so give yourself room to move.
Airflow, smell and light
Make your space smell great with a candle or air freshening pod and opt for an open window or natural light if you can. Airflow is also important because incorrect core activation, breath and use of resistance will result in a sweaty mess.
If you're planning on training regularly at home, keep your props nearby. For me, my space is my lounge room, so my mat and dumbbells are under the lounge. This means a 3.5-second set-up.
Get the right equipment
While you can do pilates without any equipment, here's some basic gear to help you get started.
Look good, feel good
All the gear and no idea is the perfect way to start Pilates. Get yourself some cute threads that are designed for exercise (breathable, light, sweat-wicking fabric). If you look good, you will feel good. You can freshen up your workout wardrobe with our guide on where to buy activewear online.
A good mat
Getting a good mat is a game-changer. Go for something 5mm thick if you can for an extra bit of cushion, but make sure it's still grippy enough for any high-intensity or standing work that might come up in your workout. If you have dodgy knees, I would recommend a 10mm mat. If you don't want to buy a mat straight away, you can use a towel.
If you're interested in investing in other equipment including foam rollers and sliding discs, see my list of everything you need to do a successful Pilates workout at home.
Find your style
There are a few different styles of Pilates and it's important to choose the style that's right for you. Each different style of Pilates will help you achieve different goals. For example, if you're doing a slow, low-intensity workout but your goal is to shed kilos and go from a potato to Giselle, you need to incorporate a style that involves cardio (keep your eyes peeled for the word "HIIT").
The main Pilates styles that you'll see online are:
- Mat Pilates. This is a mat-based Pilates workout where small props such as dumbbells and stability balls are used to increase the challenge. There are so many different styles that are labelled mat Pilates, some very traditional, some more functional-movement based, some fitness based.
- HIIT. This stands for "high-intensity interval training", which involves short spikes of high intensity throughout your workout. The fusion of HIIT and Pilates means a whole body burn and results.
- Barre. This is a fusion of mat Pilates, dance and even HIIT in some cases, all based around the ballet barre. The style of barre will really depend on the instructor and the style of the studio. Some classes are really balletic, while others are more a fitness-style Pilates class.
As always, safety first. Here are some factors to consider to protect yourself while doing Pilates.
One mistake people make is assuming all Pilates workouts are safe to do while pregnant, but this is not the case. While Pilates can be modified to be the perfect prenatal workout, you need to do your research and check that your trainer and the workout you're doing has been modified correctly and is pregnant-friendly.
Without proper form, technique, control and alignment, you can injure yourself and not benefit from the workout at all. In Pilates, our bodies indicate when we're not doing the exercise correctly. Common signs of incorrect form are lower back pain, neck pain or shoulder pain. If you feel any of these, you should stop immediately and reset to try again. If the pain persists, try a modified drill, which should be provided by the instructor.
Create and stick to a routine
This is the most important part. Consistency with training is key. You will not feel or see any results from a training program if you're not working out between three and five times per week. It isn't uncommon for people to do more than one session in a day. If you're doubling up, I recommend doing one session in the morning and one at night to ensure you're maintaining form throughout.
Pick your workouts in advance
Schedule your sessions like they are the most important meeting of your day. That includes adding them to your work calendar! Pick out the session you're going to do the night before so that you don't spend 20 minutes "umming" and "ahhing" about whose voice you want to hear telling you to pulse.
Want some inspiration? Check out my five favourite free Pilates workouts to do at home to get some ideas.
Use a calendar to track your workouts
Calendars help keep you on track and motivated. At The Loft Pilates & Barre, we have a calendar to help keep our clients on track and also able to recognise how much they've achieved since they started training. You can do the same by putting a cross over every day you've completed a class, so that by the end of the week or month, you'll be able to see how much you've changed. Putting crosses for when you miss a class is also a great incentive not to miss a session.
Is it working?
To quote the man Joseph Pilates himself: "In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you'll see the difference and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body."
If this isn't the case for you, you might be doing the wrong workouts. In saying that, those workouts might be fab, but if they're not working for your body, you need to:
- Get a private session. This makes a WORLD of difference! You can get help with your form, ask questions and a whole lot more. A lot of studios are offering these via Zoom now, so it's still an option to get a private session from your home.
- Ask for help. If you're doing an online workout, contact the owner of the studio and ask them what you could do to improve your results. This is particularly important with online training, as you don't have an instructor there who can help you improve your alignment.
- Try something new. Define your goal and ask yourself if the training is helping you get what you want out of it. For example, you may want to improve your posture, relax, calm your mind, lose weight or tone. If your training is not helping you reach your goal, it might be time to switch styles or find a different online workout. Here are some great ones to try.
There are plenty of great resources that can help you do Pilates from home. And keeping your space, your safety and your body front of mind when doing your Pilates training at home will help you get even more from your workout. For more resources and Pilates workouts, visit The Loft Pilates & Barre website or follow us on Instagram.
For other online workouts, be sure to check out Finder Fit's online fitness video hub where we've gathered together a number of online workouts from gyms all around the world.
If you want to try a fitness challenge at home, check out Finder's comparison of 50 popular online workouts. Before you fork out for sign up fees, make sure to read our online fitness programs with free trials as well.
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