Trust us – when it comes to reformer Pilates, we’ve seen it all. The good and the bad. Over time, we’ve observed that some mistakes are more common than others. It’s not just beginners. Everyone, no matter their skill level, can be prone to fall into common Pilates pitfalls.
At RTR Pilates, we pride ourselves on creating a warm, welcoming environment. We’re not here to judge you; we’re here to support you.
So whether you’re curious, shy, or nervous about your first class – we got you! Here are ten common mistakes in Pilates classes, and how to avoid them.
1. Moving through exercises too quickly
Pilates is about mindful, controlled movements to build strength. Most exercises won’t produce the desired effects if you run through them at top speed. If you move too quickly and let your momentum push you through the motions, then you’re not letting your muscles do the work.
“Rushing through a move takes the strength and flexibility benefits out of the exercise. By connecting the movements to the energizing Pilates breathing, you get so much more out of the exercise” – RTR Instructor Susan
Our muscles are most engaged in the middle of a movement when they’re fully activated. So that means we need to slow down and pay attention to how our bodies feel throughout a movement to achieve the best results.
Plus, going through the motions too quickly can hurt your posture and form. Don’t worry about how many reps you fit in. Give yourself permission to slow down and focus on the exercise.
2. Confusing pain and muscle fatigue
In Pilates, we often leave our comfort zone and push our bodies. But sometimes we confuse muscle fatigue (which is normal), with pain (which is not).
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right. So if you feel anything other than “the burn”, whether it’s neck pain, back pain, or serious strain, it’s time to hit the brakes. Take a break, grab some water, and see how your body responds to rest. If the pain continues, let your instructor know and sit out of any exercises that exacerbate the issue.
It could be a simple issue, like incorrect form, or it could indicate a bigger problem. Either way, we don’t want it to get any worse.
3. Incorrect form
On that note, incorrect form is one of the most common mistakes we see in Pilates. For reformer Pilates, posture and alignment have a major impact on an exercise’s effectiveness and which muscles activate during that exercise. Incorrect form can overwork the wrong muscles, leading to underdeveloped muscle groups and common issues like lower back pain.
That said, it can be hard to understand the correct form, especially if you’re a beginner! If you have any questions about an exercise, ask your instructor before, during, or after class. Don’t feel self-conscious; that’s what we’re here for.
4. You went from 0 to 100
A lot of people come to Pilates and have an idea of what they should be able to do on Day 1.
This can lead to students taking on classes, modifications, and spring loads that can do more harm than good. For example, some athletes may come into a class and assume they should start with the heaviest spring load – but that may not even work the right muscle groups, depending on the move! Sometimes a lighter spring is harder for the exercise. Such as, if you want to focus on challenging stability and your core.
We want you to achieve a safe and effective workout. If you’re new to Pilates, always start with a Level 1 class to learn the ropes and understand the correct form. Trust us, no matter how strong you are, Pilates will give you a run for your money.
Work with your instructor to find the right starting point, and build up from there.
5. Forgetting to focus on your breath
Breathwork is a huge component of Pilates. Breath control impacts how our nervous system functions, our mood, and our ability to hold exercises longer.
In our classes, most of the exercises include a component of breath/movement coordination. Proper breathing will help control your body, push through your comfort zone, and build a greater mind/body connection in and out of the classroom.
Focus on taking deep, even breaths throughout class – especially during plank exercises! Your core will thank you.
6. Sacrificing alignment to complete a set
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a plank series and your whole body is shaking. You don’t want to quit, so maybe you stop contracting your core, and use your shoulders to keep you upright.
Sacrificing alignment or correct posture to complete a set can put undue pressure on the wrong parts of the body, and you won’t achieve the results you’re looking for.
Instead, if you’ve hit your limit, focus on your alignment and holding your posture in place, or take a break and grab some water.
7. Comparing yourself to other people
Part of the magic of Pilates is that it’s always hard, no matter your fitness level. Our reformers allow us to change spring loads and modify exercises to continuously challenge our bodies over time. So it’s very possible that you might arrive at your first class and sit down next to someone who’s been practicing for ten years.
It may be tempting to compare yourself to your neighbor, but remember that your first year will not look like someone’s tenth year.
If you spend your class comparing yourself to others, then you’re not focusing on your own posture and alignment.
Don’t worry about the person next to you – focus on yourself, and what your body can do.
8. Worrying about what other people think
It’s common to feel self-conscious in a new environment, but trust us – no one cares about your fitness level aside from you and, for safety reasons, your instructor.
No one cares if you couldn’t finish that last set or if you took an extra water break. Pilates is hard for everyone. Trust us, everyone in the room is just focused on getting through the workout.
We focus on ourselves way more than we think about other people. Research shows that we anchor our perception of the world to our own experience. So if you’re feeling judged, then you might actually be judging yourself.
If you feel those thoughts creeping in, remember to show yourself some love, appreciate your body for all that it can do, and give yourself permission to let go of the judgment.
9. Not talking to your instructor
Our instructors are here to help. We know it can be intimidating to introduce yourself, but we WANT to meet you! Make sure to talk to your instructor because:
- If you’re new, we can explain exercises in greater detail;
- We can help you adjust your form;
- If you have specific concerns regarding injuries, pregnancy, or certain muscle groups, we can offer modifications; and
- Most importantly, we love to meet new people 🙂
RTR Pilates is a place where everyone can thrive and build a supportive community. We’re excited to have you, and we’re here to help you to succeed!
10. Expecting results from one class per month
Pilates is an incredible exercise, but it can’t work miracles in just one class.
The best results come from months of regular habits. We recommend 2-3 classes per week, for at least 12 weeks, to really feel the amazing benefits that come from a consistent Pilates practice.
In general, our clients see better results the longer they practice.
Get started today with RTR Pilates
We’re here to guide you no matter where you are in your Pilates journey. Start today and get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129!