Pilates Denver: Frequently Asked Questions

Cherry Creek Wellness Center offers Denver Pilates classes in a safe, professionally supervised environment. Classes are geared toward people recovering from injuries, although anyone is welcome. All classes are mat-based and taught by physical therapists who are certified in Pilates. Class size ranges from five to 10; classes meet twice a week.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the Pilates method of exercise:

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a system of hundreds of controlled exercises designed to engage the mind and condition the body. It was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Because his name was never trademarked, the generic term Pilates now refers to his approach and other similar approaches.

The Pilates method generally uses the body as the means of resistance in exercises that blend strength and flexibility. Pilates can improve posture, reduce stress and develop a stronger core, defined as the abdomen, back and pelvic girdle region. An often-used analogy equates the human body with a tree, whose branches cannot thrive without a strong trunk and roots.

A good Pilates program works several muscle groups at the same time. The motions are continuous and smooth, focused on stabilizing and strengthening the core. The mind should focus on the body's movements. Because Pilates programs don't require many repetitive movements, no one muscle group gets overworked. Pilates emphasizes quality of movement, rather than quantity. It leaves most Pilates enthusiasts feeling invigorated rather than exhausted and in pain. The "no pain, no gain" mentality does NOT apply to Pilates.

Who benefits from Pilates?

Pilates is good for most people, regardless of age, fitness level or body condition. Because it can be adapted and customized for individual needs, Pilates serves as a great link between physical fitness and physical therapy. While some advanced moves require strength and energy, many are easy for even the frailest physique. The adaptability factor is one reason Pilates is so appropriate for so many people.

How does Pilates help with physical rehabilitation?

Joseph Pilates developed his system after World War I to help the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, many of whom were bedridden. He himself had several childhood illnesses causing weakness that he apparently overcame by using his own methods. Today Pilates is a widely accepted way to rebuild function and strength after injury and illness. The focus on strengthening the core muscle groups, engaging the mind, improving the body's center of gravity and low-impact movements makes it a great addition to many rehabilitation regimens.

NOTE: Before starting Pilates for physical rehabilitation, discuss its appropriateness with a medical practitioner.

Is Pilates good for weight loss?

Although Pilates was not developed with weight loss in mind, it can absolutely help with sculpting and toning the body, and therefore losing inches. When combined with some cardiovascular work and a sensible diet, Pilates can factor into a weight-loss program. As you advance to intermediate and advanced levels, Pilates can become more aerobic. Regardless of the number that appears on your scale, Pilates generally helps you look better as well as feel better.

Will I bulk up?

No. Pilates can create long, lean muscles without increasing muscle mass. Pilates works several muscle groups simultaneously through smooth, continuous motion. The primary focus is on strengthening and stabilizing the core (sometimes referred to as the "powerhouse"). When done properly, the body grows stronger, more sculpted and toned without added bulk.

How often should I do Pilates and how soon will I see or feel results?

For beginners, those with injuries or compromised health, we recommend practicing Pilates two times a week. For those who are able, adding some cardiovascular work (such as a brisk walk or swimming) between Pilates sessions will help with exercise consistency and speed results. As your body becomes stronger, gradually increase your Pilates sessions to three and then four times a week.

Most people will see and feel physical improvement in 10 to 15 sessions.

Does Pilates involve special equipment?

You can perform Pilates on a mat or with specialized equipment, including the Pilates reformer, the Pilates Cadillac and Half-Cadillac, Pilates chairs and Pilates barrels (spine correctors). Prices range from $100 to thousands of dollars, so it's a good idea to take Pilates classes from a certified instructor before you invest in equipment. Once you see results — and you will if you stick with it and do it properly — you can purchase equipment for your home if you choose.

What clothes are appropriate for Pilates?

Comfort is key when doing Pilates. Clothes should permit easy movement but not be so baggy that they get in the way or lack support. Wear clothing that:

  • Does not ride up
  • Isn't slippery (like nylon)
  • Has no metal hardware or decorations that would be uncomfortable to lie on
  • Won't interfere with your concentration or make you feel self-conscious (or make others uncomfortable looking at you!)

Most Pilates aficionados seem to prefer natural fibers that breathe, combined with a little stretch material. Try a "movement test" at home or in the dressing room. This can help remove at least one distraction at your first class.