I love a variety of exercise. After all, I’ve been brought up in an altogether ‘active’ family. Whether I’ve played tennis or enjoyed walks on the beach, there is one exercise which tops my favourites list. Yes, it’s Pilates. In fact, the Pilates class is something I know has truly helped me tone my body and perfect my posture. So, read on to find out what I really love about Pilates. You may also discover why you should consider introducing Pilates to your health regime this year.

A Man Doing Reformer Pilates Class

Who’s into Pilates:

These days, it seems Pilates has fast become the fitness choice for A-listers and sports personalities alike. In fact, this movement discipline is now THE workout for the super buff. This actually includes men too, from footballers to athletes. The men, who like to frequent the Pilates class, include celeb footballer David Beckham and tennis player Andy Murray. Meanwhile, you’ll find the women who regularly use a Pilates studio, include actresses Jennifer Aniston and Elizabeth Hurley. I hear the singer, Adele, who recently lost 3 stone, has tried reformer Pilates, too.

Woman laying face down on mat stretching before Pilates class

Why I started Pilates:

I’ve been religiously attending a Pilates class, in one form or another, for around six years now. Why did I start? Well, that’s simple. As a journalist, I constantly come up against tight copy deadlines. However, this means my stress levels tend to sit quite high. So, I decided to look for something, which may help me relax mentally and stay in shape. In fact, the only time I don’t turn up is when I’m not feeling well or work gets in the way…However, I try not to let the latter intervene, as it’s the perfect antidote after a busy day! These days, I tend to frequent reformer Pilates however I ‘m highly fond of mat classes, too.

Mat Pilates:

I started my Pilates class with mat work and that’s when I realised how much I enjoyed the discipline! This training enables you to control your muscles. In fact, some use a combination of this and reformer machines for all-round strength and agility. If you enjoy mat work, you’ll find you can use resistance bands and balls in your routine. As a result, this will all help towards a more challenging routine.

Pulse pilates class

Reformer Pilates:

This type of Pilates is where you have your own reformer machine, which helps you to lengthen your spine, joints and muscles through the use of springs, which create tension. I find it’s the perfect workout for me as I tend to sit at my desk typing away for hours on end. In fact, at the end of a Pilates class, I always feel I have a more balanced posture with greater strength and flexibility. I would definitely recommend this form of exercise if you’re looking for a healthier lifestyle.

But, just bear in mind, it takes time to work out the length of your carriage. When I first started, I remember crashing my springs on numerous occasions. There’s nothing to feel embarrassed about and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll pick up the length of your carriage and bring it back in smoothly!

Young businesswoman with back pain

Pilates for back pain:

Now, just because I didn’t start Pilates to ease a back problem, doesn’t mean it doesn’t attract a lot of people who are suffering. In fact, back pain can be one of the first reasons why you might consider this low-impact discipline. This is partly because you can learn how to strengthen your core muscles, joints and improve joint mobility. So, attending a Pilates class can teach you to move in a balanced way and increase the strength and flexibility of weaker, smaller muscles. However, you must check with your doctor/osteopath first who can advice whether they think Pilates will be beneficial to your individual needs.

My back pain:

I did actually have a problem with my back this past year. I already have a whiplash injury from a car accident some years ago and I used to complain when my neck felt tight. However, I only realised just how painful actual back pain can be when the husband and I were having building work on our house. For just one week, I had to stoop and walk along a 9metre walkway, which resulted in me suffering from a bulging disc. I can not tell you how bad the pain was as my back seemed to ‘give way’ on three occasions can you believe? This was because, at first, my problem was misdiagnosed so I visited another practice and was, thankfully, given the correct diagnosis. Yes, I did have to take time off from my Pilates class but, since I’ve been back, I’ve had very little if any problems with it!

People folding mat after Pilates class in studio

What can Pilates really achieve?

There’s no doubt in my mind that it will change your body shape. If you give enough time and commitment, you will find it will improve your muscle tone and give you a leaner look. Also, if you wish you were more flexible, it was Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates in the early 20th Century, who once said:“True flexibility can be achieved only when all muscles are uniformly developed.” So, you’ll find, if you start a Pilates class, you will become more flexible over time.

Pilates is known to improve blood circulation as, the more flexible you are, the easier it is for blood to flow more freely around your body. It can lessen the risk of injuries and give you strength without bulking up. Pilates classes can improve your sports performance as these will balance your body and align your posture. Pilates should always be a challenge, because methods range from beginners to advanced.

Pilates class on holiday

Time for a holiday

One thing I have already got on my bucket list of things to do is to embark on a Pilates retreat abroad. After all, I love attending my Pilates classes so you can imagine this would be my idea of heaven. These holidays concentrate on revitalising both the body and mind and tend to take a holistic approach when it comes to promoting wellbeing. You can take your pick from a whole host of wellbeing retreats. What’s more, these holidays tend to be aimed at every level so you’ll find a class to suit you. I love the idea of travelling abroad to be treated to locally sourced dishes, experiencing the culture of the country and enjoying luxury accommodation. However, I can keep in trim all the while with a whole host of Pilates classes on the curriculum. I’ve currently got my eye on Tailor Your Holiday and the trip to Athens sounds idyllic to me.

woman doing Pilates class in her home

You can do it at home

If you can’t find a Pilates studio near your home, you can always ‘attend’ a class online. Thanks to the latest technology, there are Pilates classes which give you access to your own personal page. Here, you can join a 12-week programme for example and you’ll find weekly videos you can access when you’re free. So, all you need to do is roll out your mat, press play and enjoy the class. Your instructor should be on hand to help you achieve your goals, too.

Kalm Pilates plank position

WIN! Two Kalm Pilates Get To The Core or Back Care online Pilates programmes worth £99 each

If you win this prize, you will get lifetime access to the Kalm Pilates  website where you can start your 12 week Get To The Core (or Back Care) Pilates Programme at any time. Pilates instructor and Founder of Kalm Pilates, Sarah Vrancken, tells me that if you complete 3 x 30 min classes a week, you can expect to build amazing ab strength, a strong, toned body and improve your flexibility, while becoming free from aches and pains. Are there any more positives? Well, it works around your busy life; just roll out the mat at a time that works for you and press play. Sarah says the Pilates programme gets harder every 4 weeks to make sure you progress and improve quickly (but safely).

All you need to do is head on over to my Instagram feed shortly where you’ll find all the competition details to enter and the date when the competition closes. Good luck everyone!

Looking for top tips for a successful year ahead? Then sit back, relax and read my blog post on health and wellbeing for 2020 here.