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4 Tips for Pilates in the City

Updated on July 6, 2012

It would be perfectly fair to say that Pilates is popular everywhere, but it is especially popular in cities, where personal trainers, specialized studios, Pilates teacher training courses, and advanced classes are plentiful.  This vibrant, but also highly trendy and competitive environment makes city Pilates significantly different from rural or suburban Pilates, and to get the most out of practicing Pilates in urban areas, there are some important things you should do and keep in mind.

I will walk you through everything you need to know to get the most out of city Pilates - this know-how can ultimately save you a lot of money, not to mention hassle, wasted time, and potential for injury!

Start Off on the Right Foot

You might not want to hear this, but it is worth it to pay extra and start off your Pilates training while working one-one-one with a Pilates instructor, ideally in a Pilates Reformer or Cadillac Table (or a mixture of the two).

This is important because Pilates has quite the initial learning curve, and getting extra help from an instructor who is able to speak with you and help you access muscles you may never learned how to access before can mean the difference between you really getting something out of a group Pilates mat class down the line or you simply flailing your arms and legs around and wasting time and money.

The fact of the matter is that getting started with mat classes is THE HARDEST WAY to start learning Pilates.  Hands down.  Reformers and Cadillac Tables allow you to more easily isolate muscles and learn how to use them, and they also offer more support.

Yes, getting started with private lessons is pricey, especially in a city setting, but group Pilates mat classes and gym memberships are also not cheap, so if you want to have a real hope of getting something out of them, you'll need to invest in 'real' lessons to help you get started.

Choose a Good Instructor

Because cities tend of have a concentration of Pilates certification schools, they also have a concentration of relatively new Pilates instructors.  Many of these Pilates instructors have gone through embarrassingly sub-par Pilates teacher training courses.  Some only take one weekend.  That is absolutely not adequate (I trained for six months before becoming certified, and that was after several years of practicing Pilates as a normal student).  

Check to see which Pilates teacher training program a potential instructor has been certified through, and have a look at what the certification programs are like.  If they're short and inexpensive, and do not mention training on human anatomy and various health-related modifications that should be taken into account for certain people, look for a different instructor.

The fact of the matter is that Pilates needs to be modified for a lot of people, and an instructor has to be well-trained enough to know how to customize Pilates for various levels of students and types of individuals.  If you end up with an instructor who teaches the same format and same level always, no matter what, and does not give lots of helpful cues on co-contraction, breathing, alignment, and modifications, you may very well be wasting your time and money, not to mention endangering your own personal safety.

Once You Know the Fundamentals, Mix Group Fitness with Home Workouts

One of the major benefits of really LEARNING how to practice Pilates before diving into group fitness classes is that you will be imparted with the knowledge you'll need to modify exercises as you see fit, not to mention do your own at-home workouts.

Why is this important for city Pilates practicers?  The ability to do Pilates workouts at home (correctly) saves a lot of money! Once you get going, you can do a mixture of at-home and in-class workouts, and being able to do Pilates in the comfort of your own home is fabulous, especially because you won't have to use gross common mats, edge out room in crowded spaces, rush to make it to class on time, and jostle with commuters when going to and from class.

Must-Have Pilates Accessories

j/fit Extra Thick Exercise Mat
j/fit Extra Thick Exercise Mat

Note that Pilates mats - REAL Pilates mats- are thicker than yoga mats. This Pilates mat has the added benefit of being anti-microbial! WIN!


Get a Few Accessories to Save You Money Down the Line

If you find that Pilates is an exercise that works for you and you think you'll continue to do it consistently, you should invest in your own Pilates gear.

Why? First and foremost, having your own Pilates mat and some simple accessories allows you to do Pilates at home.  Secondly, having Pilates accessories of your own means that you don't have to use the gross stuff at the gym.

In case you have not already noticed, gym Pilates mats are GROSS, even if there is a general policy of spraying them down after each class. Often times, aerobics classes use them for their own purposes, and end up stepping all over them with their shoes- the same shoes that are tramping all over city streets, and you KNOW that you don't want to be rolling around in that.  So BYOM.  Bring your own mat.  For the love of sanitation.

When choosing a Pilates mat, make sure you do not purchase a yoga mat by mistake.  Yoga mats are thinner and stickier, and they will not adequately support some of the more intermediate and advanced Pilates exercises, which are more dynamic and involve rolling.

I also recommend getting a Pilates ring and foam roller.  You can do AMAZING things with these (more on how to use them can be found in the articles linked to below).


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for stopping by, speedbird! And Om - I highly recommend it, though yeah, getting started the 'right' way has some pretty steep up front costs, at least relatively speaking, but do keep it in mind. It can be life-changing, and I never thought I'd be someone to say something like that @_@

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I have always been curious about this sophisticated workout. Also, a girl in my yoga class has been trying to convince me to try pilates. My heart says yes, but my wallet says no. I'm sure I'll give it a try some day, though.

    • speedbird profile image

      speedbird 7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge on Pilates for urbainites. Nice guide! Voted up and rated 'USEFUL'