Preparing for Your First Pilates Class

What to Wear, Bring, and Expect at a Pilates Studio

Walking into a Pilates studio for the first time can be daunting. A quick glance around will reveal a variety of odd-looking contraptions that you will rightly assume are Pilates machines, but you may not so readily imagine how your body could actually engage with them.

Not to worry as Pilates is a very professional, client-centered practice. No matter what studio you visit, a friendly and knowledgeable staff person should greet you.

“So what really happens here?” you wonder. Most studios allow you to attend class on a drop-in (pay by the class) basis. Your instructor should be willing to explain things to you, but you probably want to be prepared for what to expect.

What to Bring to a Pilates Class

You won’t need to bring much with you to the Pilates studio. The studio usually provides any equipment for the workout. That said, many people like to work out on their own mat. Pilates mats are often made a little thicker than a yoga mat. Check with your instructor about what mat he recommends. Though you probably won’t be drinking as much water as during an aerobic workout, you will still want to have a water bottle available and make sure that you are well hydrated before you start.

What to Wear to Pilates Class

Most Pilates studios are casual. Keeping your attire simple, at least at first, will help you figure out what works best for you and what the norms are in your studio.

Here are some important notes about what to wear for Pilates.

  • No Shoes: Pilates is usually done barefoot, so no fancy footwear is needed.
  • Form-Fitting, Not Baggy: You want workout clothing that is stretchable but not baggy. Your instructor must be able to see the alignment of your bones and how your muscles are engaging. In fact, it can be good to look for clothing with seams and stitching that follow the center line and sidelines of your body. This will help you and your instructors identify your alignment and symmetry during class. Also, some Pilates exercises end up with your legs in the air or torso inverted, and loose clothing could ride up or fall down to be revealing.
  • Avoid Tie-backs and Belts: Tie-back tops can be uncomfortable when you are lying on your back. Ties or belts or tassels can get caught in the springs that are part of every Pilates studio and cause an injury.
  • No Adornments: Adornments on your apparel, such as zippers, buckles or other metal trimmings can severely damage the upholstered Pilates equipment. Repairs are costly and can cause downtime for the studio. Choose simple workout wear with absolutely no metal or plastic adornments.
  • No Accessories or Jewelry: Long necklaces, belts, and dangling bracelets can be distracting as well as dangerous if they get caught up in the equipment
  • Tie Back Your Hair: Hair needs to be out of the face and tied back if it is long.
  • No Scents: Many people are sensitive to perfumes and strongly scented deodorants, hand cream, and other toiletries. Studios often request that clients refrain from wearing strong scents.
  • No Make-up: Make-up such as foundations and blushes can bleed onto the surfaces you lie on especially when you are face down.

Despite the fact that simple and basic rule in Pilates, you can still have fun with your workout attire. Clothing for Pilates and yoga is essentially the same, and the explosion of popularity of both disciplines has brought about a revolution in stylish exercise clothing.

It is much easier than it used to be to find not only interesting clothes but options that are designed for a variety of body types and needs.

Mat Work and Equipment

Pilates workouts are based either on the Pilates mat work, which is done on the floor with a minimum of equipment or on Pilates apparatus i.e. those weird-looking contraptions.

The mat work is a great place to begin. All of the fundamental movements and Pilates exercise principles are incorporated in the mat exercises. The mat exercises are adaptable to any fitness level, and it is nice to focus on learning the basics correctly without having to get friendly with new exercise equipment at the same time.

The mat exercises will help you quickly gain a lot of strength and confidence in the Pilates method.

You will have a lot of fun with the exercise equipment in a Pilates studio. Despite unusual names like the Reformer, Cadillac, and Wunda chair, all the springs, bars, straps, and pulleys come together as a very refined, body-friendly group of exercise equipment.

Etiquette for Pilates Classes—Dos and Don'ts

  • Do Arrive On Time: Arriving late interrupts the flow of a class, and it means that your body won't get the full benefit of the sequence the teacher is building. Being on time is a sign of respect for the instructor and other students.
  • Don't Be a No-Show: Call if you are going to miss your class. Even if something comes up at the last minute and you are embarrassed, or you forgot class and remembered too late to go, call. If you are signed up for a class, that spot is being held for you until the very last minute. If the studio knows you aren't coming, they might be able to fill your place, and they won't worry about you.
  • Do Warm Up Before Class: If you have time before class, a warm-up is the best way to use it. If you are unsure about what to do, start with these exercises: Pilates fundamentals and Pilates warm-ups.
  • Don't Intrude on the Class Before Yours: If a class is going on, be respectful. Don't talk to others or on the phone within hearing of the students. Hold off on your warm up until the class ends. If you can find a quiet corner to do your own thing in, that is usually fine. It is usually not good to help yourself to an empty reformer and start doing what you want when a class is in progress.
  • Do Let Your Instructor Know About Injuries or Changes in Your Body: Instructors will check in with students before class and ask how they are feeling and if there is anything special going on. But if something new is going on for you, don't wait to be asked. Politely approach the instructor before class and let him know what's up. New bodily pains or strains are important to communicate. As are significant changes like surgery, pregnancy, neck pain, or back pain.
  • Don't Use Class Time as Chat Time: Before and after class are great times to chat with friends and share insights about Pilates (as long as you aren't disturbing others). During class, it is a good idea to review whether or not what you want to say is timely and relevant. Talking can take you out of the moment, and you'll lose concentration on the exercise.
  • Do Ask Appropriate Questions: Some questions can wait until after class, but sometimes a certain exercise triggers a question that has been lingering. On the other hand, you might be in a large class that has a workout flow going in which case it might be best to hang on to it until after. But do make sure you get your questions answered afterward.
  • Don't Do Exercises that Hurt Your Body: You are responsible for your body. If an instructor asks you to do something that doesn't feel right, you can request a modification.
  • Do Find Out How You Should Leave the Pilates Equipment: If you move a piece of equipment or take a magic circle from its place, put it back. Wipe the equipment off when you are finished with the towels and spray provided. Sometimes a studio will want you to return equipment to it starting settings for the next class.
  • Don't Be Afraid of Pilates Classes: Pilates studios are usually welcoming environments where all kinds of people are taking advantage of the benefits of Pilates for different reasons.

A Word From Verywell

You may be excited or a little intimidated when planning to go to your first Pilates class. By knowing a little of what to expect, you will be prepared. If you find one studio isn't to your liking, try another as they can have a different atmosphere. You'll soon be enjoying the difference Pilates can make in your body.

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