Thinking of trying something new this autumn? With local classes starting in every town centre and village hall, from morning till night, you're sure to find something you like. This week we've turned our spotlight on Pilates.
The first time I came across Pilates it was through a graceful friend of mine in her 60s who had fantastic posture and abs of steel – cultivated through a regular Pilates practice. Developed in the 1930s by sportsman Josef Pilates, the practice is favoured by a whole range of professionals from dancers to Olympic athletes to improve their body mechanics.
By focusing on slow, controlled exercises of specific muscles, Pilates builds ‘core stability’, which in turn enhances strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and stamina. As a holistic practice, Pilates is also about improving focus, concentration, breathing and relaxation.
What should I wear for Pilates?
There’s no doubt about it – you’re going to get warmer than usual and maybe even break a sweat so you’ll want clothes that feel cool and natural next to your skin.
Your Pilates outfit should be form-fitting rather than baggy so that your instructor can check for muscle engagement and alignment. As quite a lot of the exercises involve leg work, capris, leggings or shorts will be your best bet rather than tracksuit bottoms. Men will also need to go for a tighter-fitting t-shirt or tank vest and shorts for the same reasons. Soon you’ll be flaunting those abs with pride – maybe even in a cropped vest!
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Well, for starters, who doesn’t want the kind of abs you can show off in a bikini, cropped sweatshirt or low-cut jeans? Quite aside from feeling good about your shape, Pilates is a great way to work on your flexibility and posture. By strengthening your core muscles, you provide your body with a stable foundation meaning you’re far less prone to injury when you’re engaging in other sports.
Any practice that invites you to tune in to your breathing and focus deeply also promotes a healthy relationship with your body – you are able to “listen” and fix any niggles as they come up.
And it’s definitely worth noting that working on your abdominal strength has a powerful effect on your emotional wellbeing – you may find yourself feeling stronger, more committed and focused, and able to face challenges with an inner resolve.
Best way to find out? Find a class and give it a go today.