Whether you’ve had a chronic injury for years or have a twinge from your last workout, injuries are painful, frustrating and often restrict your participation in the things you love doing.
Pilates was originally developed by Joseph Pilates during WWI to rehabilitate injured soldiers, so you’ve definitely chosen wisely as Pilates can be adapted to not only avoid causing further injury but to build strength in areas to reduce pain and improve performance. The first and most important piece of advice I can give you if you have a manageable injury is to inform your instructor. We can’t help you if we don’t know about it. The best thing you can do is to show up 10-15 minutes before your class and discuss your injury; tell what’s going on, when you feel pain and any advice given to you by another health professional such as a physiotherapist or doctor. This way, your instructor can plan ahead before class, ensuring you participate safely and that the class flows smoothly for everyone.
Secondly, one of the key teachings in Pilates is mindfulness. Your class is YOUR practice, and you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone so listen to your body, be mindful of how you feel in the moment and recognise your limits. Pain is the greatest indicator that something isn’t right and it is important that you differentiate between this kind of pain and the “burning sensation” of activating the right muscle group. If you push through pain with certain injuries, you are putting your body at risk of doing further damage which could set you back weeks, even months. If you feel pain at your injury site during class, stop the exercise and inform your instructor. We can adjust your spring load, posture or give you an alternative.
Furthermore, listen to the modifications and cues given by your instructor. In pilates you can still have an amazing workout with the most basic exercises if you concentrate on form and precision. Often we will start with a simple variation of the exercises and layer them to increase the challenge level. If you have an injury you’re welcome to continue with the simplest version to ensure you can maintain good form and reduce the risk of making it worse or causing pain. Remember to focus on executing all movements well and you’ll still get the most out of the class!
Choosing the exercise variation that suits you and focusing on technique is not just applicable when you have an injury. Everyone should consider these factors for injury prevention. Additionally, if you’re feeling particularly stiff and sore after too many classes in a row, it might help to try a hot yoga or yin class for flexibility and to balance your practice. Cross-training can be an effective way of keeping your exercise program interesting and reducing the risk of acquiring overuse injuries.
Mixing up your routine could also include taking a mat pilates class. Mat pilates classes can open up a whole new repertoire and provide a stable base with less moving parts. Most of the exercises are performed lying down on your stomach, back and side, or in a four point position, creating greater stability. They also heavily focus on your core stabilising muscles such as your abdominals and glutes which is perfect for rehabilitation as well as injury prevention.
Nonetheless, mat pilates classes don’t allow you to modify resistance like the springs on a reformer do and as such, often require you to use greater strength and have less exercise variations. For instance, in a mat pilates class if you were performing lunges you would be relying solely on the strength of your legs to move against gravity whereas on the reformer, spring tension can be adjusted to assist you to stand from the lunge position. The reformer also allows you to hold on for increased balance when injured if necessary. Another example is a roll up on the mat which requires great abdominal strength to perform accurately without strain. On the reformer, however, you are able to use the pulleys to assist the roll up, reducing abdominal strength required and therefore pressure on the back. It is definitely important to consider the nature of your injury when deciding whether to attend a mat or reformer group pilates class.
If your injury is severe or acute please consider others in the class. Be mindful that while the instructor will do her best to attend to your needs, he is required to divide their attention equally between all clients and will not be able to modify and talk you through every single exercise individually.
If you do have a serious or acute injury you might like to take a private lesson. Private appointments are the best way to manage your injury as you can create an entire class or program tailored specifically to your body. In a single private class you can go through with you which exercises to do, which to avoid and give you some options so you know what to do when you get into your group class. If you’d prefer a more tailored program, one or more private classes per week will put you well on your way to recovery by targeting key areas that will support your injury site and have you feeling stronger and more confident in no time! Private classes allow you to work towards and achieve specific, tailored goals as we can focus the classes around areas you want to improve on, and avoid exercises that cannot be performed with your injury. You can also get advice on exercises to do at home in between sessions to speed up progress and enhance performance. Private classes are the perfect way to learn how to manage your injury and achieve personal goals.