by Marra St. Clair
Having been a personal trainer, with my specialty being in Pilates for the last fourteen years, I can attest that Pilates has the capacity to challenge even the most fit students. The longer you practice, the deeper your work can become and the more noticeable your results.
Hitting the plateau
Still, as with any exercise routine that you consistently do, there could come a time in your practice where you are looking for more – looking to feel more energized after your workout, looking for more of that next day muscles fatigue, looking to elevate your intensity. This is normal! Where I see this go sideways in Pilates is when instructors and students look to increase reps or load up the spring weight in order to “feel the burn” and advance the practice. This is not Pilates, this blatantly disregards the principles from which the Pilates method was born and flat out does not make sense. If you are looking to lift heavy weight, I recommend that you lift weights.
Pilates is built on the principles of creating efficient movement that requires minimal exertion. It is intended to teach you where movement should originate from, how proper alignment should look and feel, and how to harness your strength to simultaneously move with power and grace.
So, if it is not more reps or additional resistance, what is the solution when you feel the itch to advance your Pilates routine? Get. On. The Mat!
What Pilates Mat workouts can do for you
If you are like many Pilates students, over the course of your time in the Pilates studio, you have fallen in love with more than one apparatus, whether it be the cadillac, reformer, chair or barrel. But, if you are looking to take a deeper dive into the work, it is essential for you to ditch the fancy equipment and spend some time getting to know your mat.
The mat is where you get to take all of the alignment lessons that the equipment has taught you and put them to work. Contrary to popular belief, the mat is the most advanced Pilates apparatus there is. Given the option between equipment or mat work, I would never in a million years put a new Pilates student on the mat. Only my most advanced students have the skills and strength to move through full, unassisted by equipment, mat workouts.
Practicing Pilates on a mat, places the burden of your body weight on your core. Plus, being close to the ground amplifies gravitational pull, making the work even more challenging. Working on equipment allows the instructor to manipulate the springs in order to lend resistance that can support your core and facilitate easier movement. Whereas, on the mat, you are on your own baby.
If you are ready to elevate your Pilates repertoire to the next level, experiment with some advanced mat exercises at home (I suggest www.pilatesanytime.com – it’s a great resource with a huge library of videos for every skill level) or ask your instructor to prepare a mat workout for your next session.
Let us know how it goes!