am I getting anything out of this?
March 16, 2022 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Pilates question. Really.

I recently signed up for a weekly Pilates class because my core strength is terrible and my flexibility is just quite sad. It's a class meant for all skill levels, and the demographics of the class bear that out. I've never done Pilates before and I'm one of three newbies in the class.

This class started right when Omicron was becoming less of a concern and mask mandates in NYS were ceasing, but the instructor is still uncomfortable about exposure and expects us to be masked in class. I totally respect this and have no problem with this from a personal risk standpoint. She may have young kids or an immunocompromised family member.

However, there is a downside to this - she said that normally in a Pilates class she would be circulating around the room to correct people's positions and offering alternative options for those of us who can't do the excersizes properly yet due to our own personal skill and fitness level. With her concerns regarding Omicron, she hasn't been doing this. Again, I totally respect her personal safety concerns, but I know I am not doing a lot of the excersizes and poses correctly and could benefit from this kind of help.

On top of that, I have a few old injuries as well as some general body weirdness (one hip is lower than the other, bad knee, issues with a rib that pops out of place easily) that have been forcing me to kind of modify some of the excersizes on the fly in class just due to me not being able to do them comfortably or at all. Other classmates report being super sore the day after class. I have not experienced any soreness, which makes me think that I'm just not getting the intended benefits from this class that I am supposed to.

So my question is, given all of the above, am I just wasting money in this class? Maybe I would benefit from some one-on-one beginner work before attempting a class, or maybe Pilates is wrong for me? I'm willing to keep trying, but if I'm not actually benefitting from being in this class due to my injuries and COVID protocols, maybe a should find some other type of exercise to do.

Thoughts welcome. (Also, please don't suggest yoga as an alternative. I have some very personal/philosophical issues with the way yoga is taught in the United States and I just can't, sorry.)
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Best answer: If you know you're doing things wrong, and she's not (for whatever reason) helping you correct them, it's a waste of time and money.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You're paying for a service that the instructor is not providing. You can get what she's offering at home with YouTube. I'd find another class.
posted by headnsouth at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If this is in person, why can't she provide guidance from across the room? "nayantara, point your toes further away from your body," etc. I would try one more class, tell her what you told us, including your personal limitations and goals, and ask for feedback during the class. If she can't provide that, then I agree that there's no point in an in-person class.

Soreness is not always a good guide to effectiveness, and I know virtually nothing about Pilates, but if you have terrible core strength, I'm quite surprised that you're not feeling any abdominal soreness after a class that's supposed to work the core.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2022 [8 favorites]

"Soreness" isn't necessarily an indicator of doing exercise correctly - sometimes its people doing it wrong and mildly pulling a muscle or overdoing it and their muscles revolt. If you feel like you've exercised after the class completes (sweaty, tired), maybe you are doing it correctly.

But like above - why *can't* you ask the instructor to give you feedback, from across the room? If she really can't, seems pointless to do this in person. That's the point of the instructor, to give you feedback.
posted by RajahKing at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've gotten the most out of pilates classes when I first took some one-on-one lessons with the same instructor before joining their group class. That way, I learned some personal modifications and the instructor learned some of the main cues I need.
posted by theotherdurassister at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Can you go in a few minutes early and speak to her about your concerns? She may be willing to give you extra direction from the front of the room as mentioned above, or even recommend another class that will be a better fit.

Before you give up on this class, for which you've already made room in your schedule, I think it's worth trying to convey your need for more support than she's currently providing.

If you end up going somewhere else, take a look at the teacher's certification level before you join, maybe? It seems possible that, as with yoga, there is a range of experience in the instructor class.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my first pilates class was mostly hands-off—the instructor was pretty good about telling us what we should be feeling between our backs and the mat—and I think I received my first physical correction six or seven weeks in. I found it a pretty effective class!
posted by avocet at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2022

Response by poster: The instructor is very recently certified and I think just isn't experienced enough to give thorough verbal feedback the way you got avocet. I've sent her an email asking if I can chat with her before the next class and will list my concerns and ask if there's anything she can do to make this more effective for me given my physical limitations. If not, I'll drop out and maybe look into having some one-on-one sessions with a more seasoned instructor.
posted by nayantara at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m a pilates regular and generally love it, but I think that since you have injuries, you’ll do better with at least a few actual clinical pilates classes, which could be instead of your current class or on top of it. Those are expensive but often partly reimbursible if you get a doctor referral (at least in Australia). These are either 1:1 or maybe 4 people max, so you’ll get a lot of individual attention. Once you get the form right and have a sense of your bad habits, you’ll benefit a lot more from bigger classes.

As for your current classes, they may or may not be fine. If you are doing a big group class (over 5 people) of either reformer or mat, those tend to be higher energy and less individual attention. I’ve rarely had a big group instructor do more than tell me if I’m unbalanced or something.

Most places also have smaller “studio” or small group classes, usually reformer plus also chair, peda pole (sp?) and other props. So if that’s what you’re in, then I do think you should change instructors or studios. Not all instructors are “touchy” and indeed I prefer not, but they all should be very skilled at watching your form and telling you how to adjust.

If not, maybe look into the small group or clinical option? Small group are like the clinical experience but probably not covered by insurance as the instructor has to have a higher license. That said, while I liked my one clinical instructor, I did not find him to be that much better than my experienced non clinical people who did individualized small group sessions. Australia has a lot of experienced pilates instructors though.

As a cheap option or supplement, I actually quite like my subscription to PilatesAnytime (web and IOS app that works with AppleTV). I started using it during lockdown and keep it as a nice supplement. It’s a deep dive of on demand recordings of pilates classes. For your purposes, they really do walk you through the exercises and what you should be doing and feeling. They also have quite a few “train the trainer” types of videos for instructors that could give you better insight. Not a real substitute for in person individualized, but a great supplement because it is a heck of a lot cheaper.

As for masks, I agree with your instructor’s concern as fitness is where we’re breathing more heavily in an aerosol type of a way. Gyms are a known transmission vector and pilates studios are often not the best ventilated spaces. So I’m going to classes again, but masking to reduce the risk. (I just did a very sweaty reformer class the other day with my KF style masklab mask, which was damp by the end and thus needing to be trashed, but so it goes.)
posted by ec2y at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It's mat Pilates, 10-12 people in the class. I think clinical Pilates (didn't know that was a thing!) is something I should look into given my injuries and generally mangled body.

Stepping away now as to avoid thread sitting...
posted by nayantara at 1:34 PM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I did a pilates class with about six people in, I don't think the teacher did any hands-on corrections but gave us some verbal feedback and prompts. I didn't feel sore and achey the next day, but I definitely felt like I'd worked muscles, particularly my core.

If you're somewhere that has a wider choice of classes available in your locality, it's fine to decide this one's just not working for you and try another one, regardless of whether it's because of the lack of physical corrections/her not giving the best verbal prompts/just one of those weird things where it doesn't really work for you.
posted by penguin pie at 1:49 PM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have some weird body stuff that may or may not be considered disabilities (who knows?) and have been doing Pilates with a private trainer for years. I feel like I wouldn't have learned the correct adaptations to use in a group class unless I had a good foundation with a private trainer at first. Some studios offer 3 private sessions for an intro fee. You might also look at physical therapy offices that specifically offer Pilates equipment and PTs cross-trained in Pilates, if your doctor can give you a PT prescription and your insurance covers it. (I'm assuming US here.)
posted by matildaben at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would definitely look at reformer pilates, in addition to the rest. Perhaps mat can be done well but in my experience it's just nowhere near as challenging and not using the kind of gentle tension of the machine seems like...not really very pilatesish?
posted by jojobobo at 11:49 PM on March 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've been doing Pilates for about 15 years. I had such a bad back before I started that there were times I couldn't walk. With my hand on my heart - Pilates saved me. I hope you'll stay with it because the benefits to your core, your alignment, and your overall well-being will be worth it. Mat work is just as beneficial as the Reformer, but it takes longer to get the results. I've done both, in group classes and privates. I've rarely gotten adjusted during group classes - just prompts. The best classes I've have been with my current teacher, whose approach to everything is very holistic and health (not appearance) focused. If you do your foot work properly and stay connected to the work while you do it, you'll love how strong and healthy you feel in the long term.
posted by tizzie at 6:26 PM on September 9, 2022

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