As a pilates instructor, this is a question I hear often. In fact, I heard a client asking another instructor this question yesterday and I thought it would be an interesting topic for a blog. She began to answer the same way I normally do, by saying that Joseph Pilates suggested at least three times a week to see results.
“In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20 sessions you will see the difference. And in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.” – Joseph Pilates
As with most things in life, the more you do something, the easier it becomes and the better you become at it. I practiced Mat Pilates for many years and thought I knew each exercise perfectly. Recently, I went through each of the classical Mat Pilates exercises and realized there were several I had no idea how to do. Guess which ones? The ones I barely practiced, which happened to be the most difficult. We have a tendency to avoid doing things we are not good at, but those are the things we need to practice the most. Those exercises might end up becoming our favorites because finally figuring out and mastering a pose you once had trouble with makes it so much more satisfying. Admittedly, when I began to take Reformer Pilates classes, I rarely made it more than once a week. As a result of my lack of attendance, I usually had no idea what to do when I got to class. I didn’t understand the parts of the machine, how the springs worked, what I should be doing or how I should be feeling. I thought all these people around me were geniuses for knowing what to do without the instructor coming over and setting them up for each exercise.
Clients not only want to know how often they should be practicing, but why? What are the benefits? What is the difference between practicing once, twice or three times a week?
- You will have a greater understanding of Pilates. The machine (if Reformer), what spring load you should be using for your body, the movements, what you should be feeling & how to get there. With a consistent practice, you won’t have to look around or ask for help every time the instructor gives a direction.
- Pilates requires you to focus on several things at once. The principles of Pilates are breath, concentration, center, precision, control, and flow. At first, you may only be able to focus on one principle at a time, such as using your breath for each exercise. With regular practice, you will learn to use each of the principles and get the most out of every movement.
- You will see and feel the difference in your body. Pilates tones and strengthens the entire body. Executing each movement correctly, while incorporating the principles of Pilates, will give you the best results. Pilates also improves flexibility and posture, which leads to a longer and leaner looking physique. Pilates began as a rehabilitative exercise, which is why clients are often referred to Pilates after physical therapy. It can correct and relieve injuries and pains in the body. You won’t understand the magic of Pilates until you try it.
- Your practice will follow you into you everyday life. You will be more mindful and aware of your body at all times. You’ll suddenly find yourself sitting up straight when you catch yourself slouching, correcting your posture, rolling your shoulders back, engaging your core and using your breath to help you get through difficult moments.
- You will become more advanced. Not only will you try different exercises and an endless amount of variations, you will be able to add on to your own practice. Try a more challenging spring load, add that prop you were scared to use, kneel instead of sit, etc. You will be able to keep challenging your body, instead of trying to master the same basic exercises.
So my answer to this question is “what Joseph said!” But really, the more you practice, the more you will love it. That doesn’t mean you need to come into the studio every day. You can practice Mat Pilates at home on or when you’re on vacation. Sneaking in 10 minutes a day is easy. Aim for 3 times a week and if you miss one, you’ll still practice twice that week and maybe 4 the next. If you continue to practice weekly, it will become a habit you won’t want to give up. Just keep moving, keep practicing, keep learning!