Beginner Pilates for Active People

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Pilates Helps Every Body

Pilates is great for every body of every age, and that includes those who are already active. No matter what kind of sport you play or which exercise you already do regularly, adding Pilates to the mix will only benefit you. Pilates increases your balance, strength, flexibility, and ability to focus and concentrate. It also includes a breathing component that helps improve your respiratory capacity. All of these benefits can give you an edge in your current training or workout routine.

Pilates and Strength Training

Pilates is a strength training exercise even though it is often thought of as "just" a way to increase flexibility. In fact, many who don't do Pilates will speak about it as stretching. Well, Pilates does indeed increase your flexibility, and it does include stretching – but a stretch is actually using a muscle from origin to insertion (one end to the other), and in doing that, you are building great strength and power without losing flexibility. Like all strength training exercises, Pilates will help you increase lean muscle mass (great for your metabolism), is useful for the prevention of osteoporosis, and helps prevent injury and chronic pain.

Pilates and Flexibility

Increased flexibility and balance, both muscle balance from side-to-side and your physical balance, are significant benefits of a Pilates program. Balance and flexibility are critical components to your wellness. Injury from torn muscles, ligaments, and tendons are not as likely in a healthy, flexible body. We often think of stiffness and immobility when we consider things that limit our activity as we age. Pilates not only helps maintain a flexible body, but it actually can help regain lost flexibility!

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Pilates Exercises to Get Stronger

Gaining a strong foundation at the beginning of your Pilates practice is as critical to those who are already active as it is to people who aren't. Basic Reformer work including Footwork, the Hundred, Frog/Leg Circles, Stomach Massage, Short Box Series, Elephant, Knee Stretches, Running, and Pelvic Lift are all strength and flexibility exercises. The added tension (because of the springs) that the Reformer offers allows you to create greater resistance, and build on your power. Mat Pilates is also a strength building activity. Learning to use your own body to create resistance is a crucial factor. Consider basic fundamental Mat exercises as an opportunity to focus on muscle engagement. In many ways, Pilates is a form of dynamic isometric work. You are stabilizing, engaging muscle, and working on mobility. Adding the Side Lying Series and Opposite Arm/Leg on All Fours and Planks to Hundreds, Roll-Ups, Single Leg Circle, Rolling Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, and Spine Stretch will pump up your focus on power within alignment.

Pilates Exercises to Improve Flexibility

Many times our active lifestyle and the sports and exercises that help us maintain a healthy, fit body have a repetitive nature to them. This can have a detrimental impact on our balance and flexibility if we don't focus on improving both. Fundamental Pilates exercises that address stabilization of the core muscles (your trunk – including abdominals, back, and butt), are essential to improving balance. Everything about your Pilates practice will increase your balance and flexibility! Pilates is a mind, body, and spirit practice that places a focus on deliberate movement, using each muscle from length. A beginners focus on holding a body in alignment and stabilizing the core will improve flexibility within each joint and encourage muscles working powerfully from length. Beginning with standing work, moving to all fours, supine, sitting, prone, side lying, and back to supine exercises with a finish in standing work will support your already active lifestyle.

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Active Pilates Frequently Asked Questions

Can Pilates complement a yoga practice?

Pilates is such a fantastic complement to your yoga practice. The focus on your core in Pilates will help with balance, inversions, and postures like navasana. Pilates helps strengthen joints and your back and educates your body on holding itself in alignment with a neutral spine. This will help prevent you from sticking your butt out in certain yoga poses and putting extra load on your lower back.

Can Pilates help tone your body?

A Pilates body is beautiful because of the muscles and tone developed while practicing Pilates. Your posture improves because you are building strong muscles to support your skeleton in alignment. You carry yourself differently, so you not only develop muscle tone during your Pilates practice, you continue to work the right muscles in your everyday life (without having to think about it).

Can Pilates help runners?

Pilates is excellent for runners. Core strength and stability plus increased flexibility are major takeaways from any Pilates practice. In particular, Pilates can help improve your stride. Your body will not work as hard to clock the same miles. It will operate smarter, which will decrease some of the chronic joint wear and tear runners experience. A focus on flexibility will also reduce recovery time. And then there is your respiratory system – which will also be more efficient due to the diaphramic support developed in Pilates.

Can Pilates help dancers?

Joseph Pilates opened his NYC studio in the same building as the Balanchine Ballet. The story goes that Balanchine would send dancers "down the hall" to Pilates. That seems to be one of the truths versus myths among Pilates stories. And it makes sense. Pilates focuses on principles essential to a dancer. Building a strong core, long, lean arms and legs, flexibility without hyper-flexibility, increased awareness, and the ability to be extremely deliberate in each movement will all complement your efforts to be graceful and powerful in your dance career.

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