It happens that they have a beginner Pilates class at 8:30 am on Saturday. Because my boys' swimming class is also on Saturday morning it's not that difficult to get us up and out early. I've been to the Pilates class three weeks in a row. It is the hardest exercise program I've ever tried but I love it. I've never been a big sports buff. I've never been on a team or had a coach. My idea of exercise is usually taking a walk through the woods. I have done Tai Chi for years, although not much lately. Pilates is the perfect combination of stretching, flexibility, and strength. The music my class listens to is old skool R&B from the teacher's iPod. It's very relaxing and challenging at the same time.
So I'm hooked. I come out of each class relaxed, happy, and a little sore. I decided in order to really get the program I need more than just one class a week, but I can't manage to get babysitters for more than that. I resisted the urge to run out and buy a bunch of Pilates equipment, videos and books, and instead I went to the library to see what resources I could round up.
Pilates for Every Body by Denise Austin is a great introduction. She gives background history of how the program was developed, encouraging descriptions of what the program can do for you no matter what body type you have, detailed discussions of the principles and why they work, and several levels of work out plans you can mix and match. There are numerous clear photos showing exactly how the exercises should be done and summery chart pages one could copy and post in a useful place near your mat. She has a "3 week total body makeover" that I am planning to start with. It's cool that I have the book out of the library for exactly three weeks, giving me a greater incentive to finish the program on time.
POWER PILATES by Dianne Daniels is another useful, easy to follow guide. She starts out explaining how Pilates is good for everyone, no matter where you are starting. She gives an in depth explanation of how Pilates changes your body if you really work the whole program.
"Pilates changes the body from the inside out. The key to success is using your mind as well as your body. In Pilates you won't tune out. Instead, every movement, every repetition, is performed with concentration and mental control. You will learn to tune in to exactly what your body is doing and not doing, what is moving and what is not moving.
Your body will gain new wisdom. What begins as a thought or visualization in your mind is relayed via new neuromuscular connections that trigger your muscles to respond. Sometimes the muscles are called upon to make movements that, though almost imperceptible to the eye, are the very essence of the work."
She goes on to explain that the main focus of Pilates is the "core" muscles of your midsection. Even when you are stretching or moving your legs and arms you are focusing on holding the abdomen muscles taut and working your strength from there. I found this book easy to read and follow. It's a very good introduction to the program with helpful charts, photos, and explanations. The main section of the book is a catalog of the exercises carefully described and illustrated.
I've also borrowed a DVD that I haven't had time to watch yet. If you are doing Pilates, what have you done to learn it? Do you have a class, a book or a DVD to recommend? Are there any useful tips you can share with a newbie?