What’s the difference between a Physiotherapy led Pilates Class and a Gym based Pilates Class? I’m often recommending my patients to do a Pilates Class and when they are already members of a gym then I try and get them to start there. What I hear repeatedly is that the classes are always booked up in advance and hard to get on.
I also have many Pilates students who have tried gym-based Pilates and struggle with the class size, the changes in teacher and the lack of individual attention.
We discuss their options which include; you could do a programme on your own that we can set you. You could try something like body balance instead? But, I think there is a big difference between physio led Pilates and gym-based Pilates.
What is the difference between Physiotherapy led Pilates Classes and gym-based Pilates Classes?
Our knowledge of the body and injury
- As Physiotherapists we spend many years learning about the body and how it moves. We understand injury and what are the causes.
- With our work we are constantly looking at movement patterns and isolating movements that may be leading to pain or injury.
- Pilates for physiotherapists starts from this basis.
- We look at the Pilates moves and break them down so that they are controlled.
- The control and understanding of these moves are in my opinion what helps you in Pilates.
Most physiotherapists opt for the APPI Pilates which is specifically aimed at populations who are recovering from injury/ wanting specific programmes to help with injury prevention.
Gym based classes tend to be generic. You will not get an individual assessment. For some folk this is not important. If you want to get an abdominals workout then it will not be a problem but for me there is more to what to get from Pilates than a Jane Fonda workout. Others, who may not know it themselves, maybe doing an exercise that is just too hard for them, and susceptible for an injury.
With 20 + people in a class its very hard for instructors to keep check on each person. People drop in and out of the classes so instructors do not know them individually to work out their levels. Some classes do not even give a level which can mean students may not be working at the right level.
Classes do not provide an introduction and sometimes people get a bit lost around the jargon.
As physiotherapists we always assess the student. Often, they are our patients and we are aware of their injuries and how they move. We also as physiotherapists have to offer an assessment to all new students to gauge their level and be aware of injuries. We offer a free 20minute assessment which covers current complaints or pains and how you are managing them. We go through Pilates Principles in a 1:1 setting so that they can understand the goals of the sessions. In larger classes this is often not possible.
Firstly, you need to identify what benefits you get from Pilates. Having discussed these in my previous blog, you then need to work out whether you are getting this from your gym-based Pilates, or in fact from any class.
Are you getting the most from your Pilates Class?
- Body awareness- are you sure you are in the correct position? Do you understand what the instructor is talking about or are you just copying your neighbour hoping they know what they are doing?
- Does the instructor tell you where you are supposed to feel the exercise working? My favourite comment of all time from a student was; ‘Am I supposed to be feeling this in my ears?’ Understanding where the exercises are working and what they are for will help you specifically work that area. If you feel that the instructor is just talking jargon, then you need to dig deeper and find out what they are trying to say.
- Do you feel your back working? I often have heard people who are doing an abd exercise incorrectly say… ‘Yes, I feel my back working’. When you exercise your abdominals or when you are in a Table Top position (jargon!) you should not feel anything in your back. If you do, you are either in the wrong position or the level is too hard?
- Is there enough flexibility work? When I first started teaching my classes, I remember one comment that was fed back was that ‘if you do enough sit ups then people will feel that the class is beneficial. Pilates is not just about working hard (Jane Fonda!), it’s about flexibility and stretching as well as getting areas such as your mid back moving to allow you to move better in the shoulders. I design my classes to work through most muscles especially those we neglect such as glutes or hamstrings, but I also add a large element of stretching and mobilising the spine to keep the spine healthy and strong.
- Does your instructor correct your position? Even if students have been attending my classes for years I still correct their positions. Even I need to have my position corrected and I’m constantly thinking of how the movements feel to be able to explain my students. Take 5 to check and listen in to what your instructor is saying and if you don’t understand… ASK!
- Do you feel the benefits from the class? If you are attending a Pilates Class, try and see if you start to feel the benefits. Its easy for me to see people improve but its also useful for you to feel it. Have some little goals. Maybe to feel suppler on the forward bend or to be able to do a roll down. Make sure you keep progressing when you can. It’s easy to stick with the positions you know but do try and work a bit harder. Good teachers will mix up the sessions, so you’ll always have a challenge.