How Often Can I Do Pilates?

Tower class at Fuse Pilates DC. How often is too often?

We received an email from a student the other day: I just took my first class yesterday after … running and barre classes, and really enjoyed it...Then I woke up completely sore this morning. Can I take another class the next day, even though I'm sore? Do I take a couple of days off and let it go away, then take a class? Would some cardio get rid of the soreness? It’s a question we get asked a lot. “How often should I do Pilates?” Its sister question is, “How often do I need to do Pilates to see a difference?” Our accountant said you should do it every single day of the year. My high school gym teacher, who wasn’t actually a shining example of physical fitness, still said you should get up off of your lazy butt and move throughout the school week (because back then, we had gym class every day). What about Joseph Pilates? After all, he created the work from which all Pilates taught today is based. In his book, “Return to Life through Contrology,” Pilates writes, “If you will faithfully perform your Contrology [Pilates] exercises regularly only four times a week for just three months, you will find your body development approaching the ideal, accompanied by renewed mental vigor and spiritual enhancement.” So, not only do you get a strong body, you also get mental vigor and you enhance your spirituality! It’s like getting a free lipstick with your purchase of $30 or more of Clinique products. Except it’s better because it’s mental vigor. Uuurraahh!!  And it’s a color that works on everyone! Joseph Pilates recommended four times a week, and he also said “at least 10 minutes a day.” What do I say? First, if you have never done Pilates (or Fuse Pilates), and you sign up for a class this week, that’s 100% more than you were doing last week, and that’s awesome. In my experience, once a week can help supplement your other physical activities. Pilates 2-3 times a week is enough to start seeing noticeable changes.  I personally recall the time after I started a regular Pilates mat practice and was standing talking to a friend.  I put my hand on my waist and felt the resistance of tight obliques against my hand. Hmmmmm, I thought, THAT is from Pilates. You may wonder if the same recommendations of weight training apply to Pilates: don’t work the same muscle groups two days in a row, take off a day in between workouts, etc. Actually, no. And yes. But mostly no. Confused? Pilates is strength training and a vigorous Pilates workout can break down muscle, which is how muscle fibers and strength build. But unlike a lot of gym strength training, Pilates is working on movement with functional alignment, coordinating the firing of one muscle to another to complete complex actions. We’re not just doing squats and bicep curls here – we’re coordinating the entire musculature (and the mind). Even though we might teach our classes at Fuse Pilates DC on request, we’re not just working triceps or hamstrings. Those motions are combined with the stabilization and activation of muscles of the back and the core. We balance movement with flexion and extension (as well as side-bending and rotation). So, generally healthy people can do Pilates everyday. That still probably doesn’t answer the question. If you’re sore, how long should you wait? If you’re really sore, do something else, but keep moving. I don’t mean you can’t do Pilates. I mean, if mat made you sore, try reformer, and then go back to mat. Or take a Foundations class. Or take a walk. Or an extended stretch. Listen to what your body tells you. But note that taking too long of a break and you won’t build up the endurance for a particular type of workout, and then every time you do it, you’ll be sore. Also, be careful that you’re not exercising too much. Check out an earlier post we wrote on exercise addiction. Since people ask all the time how much Pilates I personally do – I try to take 2 group classes and 1 private session per week. In the private, I focus on areas of particular concern for me (balancing my hypermobile lumbar spine with my hyperimmobile thoracic spine, and working on calf and leg strength, especially on the left side where I have MS-related weakness). At home, I do additional almost daily Pilates focused mainly on those areas of weakness.  Those workouts are sometimes 30-45 minutes.  Occasionally, they’re 10.  I usually take one day off of working out a week because I’m too busy or too lazy. Hope this helps answer the question on how often you can do Pilates. Listen to your body but don’t take too much time off, or you can listen to our accountant who wants us to remind you that he should do it every single day of the year. Tune in for a later blog post about, “Is Pilates Enough?” to find out if you need to supplement it with anything else. Stay hardcore, Mariska  

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