4 Ways to Turn a Bad Pilates Class into Your Best Workout

Tips Inspired by Joseph Pilates for a Great Workout

Pilates Class
Single Leg Stretch. Getty Images

Is your Pilates teacher boring?

True story: I recently found myself in a class with someone I decided was the worst instructor ever. When I got through blaming the teacher, I actually had a fantastic workout and went back for more!

If you find yourself mentally drifting away in the middle of a workout, don't fall into the trap of blaming the instructor. Exercise dictates that attention is key to your experience.

Teachers must motivate, anticipate, excite, and genuinely lead... but maybe your experience isn't entirely up to them.

What Would Joe Do?

Think back to an unsatisfying workout you had recently. Then ask yourself one question: "What would Joe do?" Joe Pilates of course, the inventor of the Pilates method! Listen keenly for a moment to your teacher and you'll catch a few words and cues. Listen even more intently and you'll find that your own voice emerges to compete with the teacher's. Ideally, you'll find those cues that work for your own body, intensify them, and march down the path of truly becoming your own teacher. As the father of the method, Joseph Pilates was a staunch believer in responsibility for your own wellness. Wrestling control of your exercise routine would definitely make him proud. 

In my own studio I must admit we've lost a few newcomers in the twenty years we've been open.

Every once in a while a student comes in, spends a few minutes in class and then without warning, hurriedly gathers their belongings and exits stage left. Sometimes they throw out a comment "not what I was looking for." More often they just breeze out never to be seen again. To those of you who can imagine doing just that, it may benefit you to stick it out.

Here are a few strategies inspired by Joseph Pilates to help you stay put for the duration of a workout you may be ready to dismiss. 

Tips To Get Your Best Workout

  • Listen Up - First and foremost, listen. Not just hear, but really listen. One of Mr. Pilates principles is concentration. Translate the meaning of each word you hear and execute to the best of your ability. Just making the effort to listen may surprise you. Your instructor may suddenly seem more engaging. Perhaps they are quietly humorous and you simply didn't hear it at the beginning. Listen intently and see if things change. 
  • Go Deeper - If listening still isn't giving you what you need, try listening to something deeper: Your own breath. Whether you are in Pilates, yoga, or on a treadmill you can tap into the sound of your own breath with minimal effort. The rhythm and regularity of your own inhale and exhale is the perfect blend of motivation and hypnotism. Find your breath and your workout continues in spite of you. Joe Pilates said, "Above all, learn to breathe correctly."
  • Fidget- I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it works. Scanning your body for small adjustments is a means of teaching yourself. Making small continual adjustments to your placement, symmetry and form addresses your precision, a key concept of the Pilates method
  • Do Every Rep - Tempting though it may be to fix your hair, your socks, or check the clock, don't. Stay present in the workout. Focus on each exercise and continue to move. "Flow of Movement" is a foundational concept of Pilates and is a reliable strategy to propel you forward. It's as simple as the idea that energy makes energy. 

We are each ultimately responsible for our own well-being. Our instructors, teachers and coaches are merely guides. Some have different and unexpected things to teach us but if you show up with your listening ears, and actively participate, you are sure to achieve what Joseph Pilates was talking about when he said the following: "Physical fitness cannot be achieved through wishful thinking nor outright purchase."