Way back in December, my boss Rachel Klaver gifted me a pass to my local Peak Pilates & Physiotherapy. I am extremely lucky that Rachel values work/life balance and as a fellow plus size woman she firstly wanted a friend at a classes, but secondly wanted to share her love of Pilates with me!
Pilates is a real change of pace – my preferred form of exercise has been weight lifting or smashing out a circuit as quickly as possible, you know something (hugely modified) like CrossFit, to get it over with ASAP!
Because who enjoys working out really? Don’t lie to me, the after-effects are wonderful, but during? No. Not fun. Below are my tips to beginning Pilates, particularly as a plus size woman.
How do I pick a good Pilates studio?
A good Pilates studio will get you in for an hour prior to your first class to show you the basics, talk about any injuries you have and give you a good idea of what a beginner class will be like…. and if you’re plus size I recommend telling the instructor that you are concerned about things like holding your full weight on your hands (think like during a press up), or modifications for your tummy or boobs.
If you are going to begin classes on a reformer (more on that below) you may need to check what the weight limits are for that particular studio’s equipment. A reputable studio’s reformers will generally hold up to 160kg (roughly 350lb) but if this is something that is causing you anxiety, flick your local studio a question via email or social media to ensure they have the appropriate equipment.
Remember not all studios are created equal and if you do happen to contact a studio who is using flimsy (read: cheap) equipment, that won’t support your weight, it is not a reflection on you.
What does a Pilates class entail?
There are normally two types of classes – mat and reformer. I recommend beginning with reformer classes, they are slightly easier for a plus size body and there is no getting up and down from the floor as the whole workout is done on a bench. Once you have the basics learned you can easily switch between the two types of classes if both are offered at your studio.
This video is a good example of what a class can contain – but the words I hear most often from my instructor’s mouth is “just as far as you can go, just as far as you are comfortable, I’d rather you did it correctly with the smallest of movement, than to do it incorrectly” so don’t feel as though you will be expected to have the same range of motion as anyone else in the room.
What do I wear?
Anything you can move and bend in – leggings and a t-shirt are ideal. I personally wear a crop top with no underwire, under a tank top, because I can move more freely that in a standard sports bra. At my studio, we wear socks on the reformer, and you can buy barre socks with sticky bottoms especially for classes (but I don’t see too much difference versus normal socks).
Interested in trying Pilates but a bit anxious because of past experiences?
So if Pilates is something you’ve considered doing but you’ve been put off by your past experience as a fat woman in an exercise class, I recommend:
- Going with a friend – makes anything easier!
- Attend classes with instructors who request you come in for an assessment first – and be matter of fact when it comes to saying “so what should I do in this position if my belly is in the way?” or “shall I move my arms wider to accommodate my boobs?” or just let them know you are not comfortable in the standard position and that they need to recommend a variation
- If you are able to, request one-on-one or small group sessions – it’s nice to build up confidence in a small session before attending classes with strangers (most Pilates reformer classes are 4-8 people anyway)
- Stick to beginner classes if that’s where you’re happy
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else – you’re only there to compete with yourself