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5 Actions to Avoid While Exercising, As Per a Pilates Trainer

Over three decades ago, Sarita Allen embarked on her journey as a Pilates instructor. Continuous learning has been a key aspect of her teaching career. Allen still dedicates time to attend classes regularly, participating in both private sessions and group settings each week.

“Studying under different instructors is like a breath of fresh air,” she expresses. “It’s liberating to surrender the reins and be a student once more. It reignites my passion for the practice and opens me up to new techniques and perspectives that I can incorporate into my own classes at The Ailey Extension in New York City,” she shares.

Allen has amassed a wealth of experience in both taking and teaching Pilates courses. Throughout her journey, she has unearthed valuable insights on how to ensure a productive workout. In this context, Allen shares the ‘avoidances’ – the Pilates blunders she has discovered not to commit during her workout routines – and why steering clear of these errors can enhance the class experience.

1. Abstain from arriving with fixed assumptions

Allen emphasizes that entering a class with preconceived notions can obscure the authentic experience it has to offer. “Many contemporary approaches to Pilates incorporate unique philosophies,” she explains. “By being open to trying new methods instead of dismissing them outright, I’ve stumbled upon some intriguing techniques.”

She encourages beginners to approach classes with an open mind, especially when sensations may not align with expectations. “Newcomers often assume that every exercise should induce a fiery sensation immediately,” she observes. “Being receptive to subtler movements and engaging deep muscles can lead to transformative results, even without the burn associated with rigorous activities such as push-ups.”

2. Avoid excessive muscle contractions

While it is customary to hear cues urging individuals to “squeeze” certain muscle groups during exercise, Allen steers clear of this practice in both her teaching and personal workouts.

She cites the example of the traditional Pilates stance in which individuals are often prompted to squeeze their glutes. “Instead of squeezing intensely, strive to engage the muscles without immobilizing them,” she advises. “By focusing on ‘connecting’ with the glutes rather than squeezing them, you allow for fluid movement.”

3. Refrain from static poses

Even in instances where certain Pilates exercises seem static, like maintaining the extended position in a double leg stretch (known as a hollow hold), Allen emphasizes constant movement over static postures.

According to Allen, the concept of ‘flow’ lies at the heart of Pilates, where each exercise seamlessly transitions into the next. She stresses the importance of perpetual movement, as it not only upholds the exercise’s design but also enhances its efficacy. For instance, maintaining a continuous sense of stretch and length during a double leg stretch aids in achieving balance.

4. Avoid breath-holding

Similarly, Allen cautions against holding one’s breath during Pilates routines. Different Pilates styles interweave breathing patterns with movement. Allen underscores the significance of consistent inhalation and exhalation, highlighting that harmonizing breath with movement enhances muscle flexibility and serves as the engine propelling the body.

5. Steer clear of neglecting the core

Allen stresses the importance of engaging the core before initiating any movement, even in seemingly straightforward actions like raising the arms. “Prior to any physical maneuver, I activate my core,” she asserts. “Engaging the core provides a foundation that allows for greater movement range and joint ease.”

According to Allen, executing Pilates exercises without core engagement not only hampers effectiveness but also risks overtaxing auxiliary muscles. She illustrates this point by mentioning the potential repercussions of repeatedly lifting a leg primarily using the hip flexors.

6. Don’t exert excessive force

Allen’s extensive experience has equipped her with the ability to differentiate between challenging oneself and pushing to the extent of precipitating injuries. She acknowledges the ambiguity surrounding this distinction, especially for beginners, but identifies warning signs, such as sharp pains or discomfort in the joints, as indicators of overexertion.

Simple modifications can often prevent adverse outcomes. Allen illustrates her willingness to adjust by raising her legs higher in abdominals series exercises, limiting ranges of motion, or opting for brief rests when needed. “I don’t hold back, but I’m attuned to my body well enough to discern when I have crossed a limit,” she affirms.

7. Resist the urge to compare

Being a seasoned instructor, Allen acknowledges the challenge of refraining from comparing oneself to others or to one’s former self. “I focus on my individual journey and avoid comparing myself to those around me,” she shares. “Many individuals risk injury by attempting to mimic others in their vicinity. Remaining authentic to oneself and listening to the body, while setting aside the ego, is paramount.”

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