‘I’m too weak for Pilates’ and 11 other beginner myths busted.

Too weak for Pilates, Pilates, Epping, Essex, Fit School, beginners

In my 15 years of teaching fitness, mainly Pilates in and around London and Epping I have always loved encouraging beginners into class and into the Fit School fold.

I especially love seeing them transformed from nervous newbies to raving fans.

Experience has taught me however that beginners are some of the hardest people to attract and keep in classes. First there are all the questions and the fears: Am I too weak for Pilates? What if I fart? Then there are the weeks when it doesn’t seem to all quite fit together; and then life gets in the way and you slip back into the comfortable ways of staying in rather than getting your fitness gear on.

It’s good to be a beginner

I make a point of regularly becoming a beginner again. Putting myself in the situation where I’m new at something. I also regularly attend instructor only classes where again, I open myself up to being adjusted or my form being questioned and corrected.

I do this to remember what it’s like to be in a class, so that hopefully you’ll get the best experience when you attend mine.

It’s great to have a beginner’s mindset because it means you are more willing to learn. Lots of people who have ‘done’ Pilates might approach a class with some resistance to doing things differently. But every six months my teaching style changes as I adapt to new theories and studies of either Pilates or teaching methods. We all need to learn.

You can have a low skill level or be really weak – but doing your best and wanting to learn will set you ahead of the most accomplished sportsman or Pilates practitioner who has a closed mind.

In the interests of making your first class less scary, here’s a summary of the most common worries and questions that beginners bring to class.

1. What should I wear?

Let’s start with wardrobe basics. Just wear something that you feel comfortable in and can move in. Ideally leggings and a close fitting top because this makes it easier for me (and therefore for you) to see the shapes you are making with your body. I’m looking for subtle stuff that is hard to see through baggy clothes. You may want socks, if you are prone to cold feet. Also I’d always suggest bring a sweater or cover up in case you do get cold or sometimes to give you a little padding if you have bony hips or pelvis. I usually wear leggings (often bright and happy) and a vest. In the winter months woolly legwarmers are considered almost essential!

2. What do I need to bring?

Assuming you’ve completed payment and your pre exercise questionnaire online, then all you need to bring is yourself. I’d also recommend a bottle of water and if you have a mat, bring one. I do have a supply of mats but they aren’t luxurious (I need to fit them all in my car). I do recommend you consider getting your own if you decide to make Pilates a regular part of your life.

3. What should I eat before class?

This might not have actually crossed your mind but it could do mid way through the rolling exercises! Don’t eat a big meal before class. Everyone digests food differently but personally I always go light before class. If you’re attending before dinner or lunch then perhaps a slice of toast or a salad would see you through but avoid anything which will sit heavy in your tummy, especially if you suffer with reflux or stomach acid.

4. Where do I start?

I’d always recommend starting off with a beginner friendly class or workshop. I put on evenings or weekend workshops and whilst these might seem daunting for a first timer, actually with fewer attendees and more time, you’ll get much more out of the class. You could try a more established class but these aren’t ideal for first timers, think of them as something to work towards. At Fit School we genuinely care about your results and improving your health and fitness, just getting you to attend a class which doesn’t really work for you, doesn’t work for us. So do ask, either via email or phone and we’ll happily direct you towards the most appropriate class for you.

5. I am uncoordinated

Everyone is when they are learning something new. Once you’ve tried some of the most common exercises a few times they’ll become more familiar and you’ll feel  more coordinated. Consider it part of the process. Learning Pilates is learning a new skill. Your nervous system is getting a work out as well as your musculo-skeletal system and it’s all good for you.

6. I have no balance

Some people really struggle with balance. That’s okay. Again, it’s part of the Pilates process. You might need a prop, a wall or a chair to help you. Balance is all part of strength, anti-ageing and fitness. It is also something you can get better at. So stick with it.

7. I am really weak

It’s rare that a super strong, super fit participant arrives in class. It would be a bit like waiting until you’re better to visit the doctor. You are coming to get stronger, fitter and to feel more confident. It doesn’t really matter where you start, it’s how you progress. And actually, beginners progress quicker than anyone else because of the adaptations your body will have to make.

8. I am really unfit

That might be the case but not attending a class because of it won’t make you any fitter! I wouldn’t be able to run a marathon tomorrow, I’d have to train for it. The same is true for any sport or discipline you choose to work at.

9. I don’t want to be the worst in the class

This is pretty subjective and to be honest, very much depends on your state of mind. If you are looking to be the worst, then nothing I say can help with that. I would say that looking around all of my classes, everyone struggles with something and everyone is strong at something. You might not see it but I do. I have exercises that I still find difficult and if I’m being taught, my mind struggles to stay focused. It wanders. There are so many different aspects to Pilates from mobility and strength to breathing and control – not to mention the different ways and angles we work the body from. It’s virtually impossible to be the worst at everything – unless you never make it off the couch!

9. I have no core strength

If you can define core strength then perhaps this might be true – although actually if you had zero core strength you’d struggle to stand up. For the purposes of my classes, core and abdominal strength are non words. We don’t refer to them. So from here on forget about your preconceptions and trust me. You are in very capable hands.

10. I have a chronic back issue

If you do then please accept my sympathies. It’s rotten. When we’re in pain it affects the way we move. I can offer props, like cushions to help with the exercises. Do talk about it with me though so we can help you to move. I always encourage you to move your body in a pain free range. In time and with the right level of support and exercise, Pilates can help manage chronic back conditions but do ensure you have seen a medical professional rather than self diagnosing. For many people with back pain it is worth having a short course of private sessions to help you manage your individual issues and to learn how to modify in a class environment. We also offer a once a month option where you attend classes but have a checkin once a month with one of our team.

11. I am worried I’ll break wind

It happens. But please don’t let it put you off. I’ve written a whole blog post around the subject of fartilates

12. What if I can’t do it?

Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are still struggling after 3 or 4 sessions it might be worth booking in for a private session. Sometimes cues or instructions which work for one person, might not work for another. There will always be exercises you struggle with (I still find the Roll Up and The Teaser a real challenge) but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at them.

For an introduction to Pilates you can do at home, take a look at Karen’s online Pilates programme.

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  1. Karen honestly couldn’t make the Pilates class any more friendly and more welcoming to new and existing members. She absolutely right about the fact that everybody is good at something and yet I think we all may struggle with one particular aspect. I still struggle with roll ups but know I have improved my flexibility by coming to her class. I only wish Karen had been around years ago when I had just had my babies and I could have started Pilates then!

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