Pilates is a type of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s that primarily focuses on increasing the strength of the core muscles. Mat Pilates is done on a rubber mat, with many exercises done while lying on the back or the side. Clothing is an important component of Pilates; uncomfortable or poorly fitting clothing will distract you and make it more difficult to concentrate.
Choose a comfortable top made of a lightweight, breathable fabric. If you're a woman, be wary of low-cut exercise tops; you may find that as you move around, your top drops down lower than you are comfortable with. Think Pilates recommends moving around in the dressing room to make sure the top doesn't slip too much. Your top can be loose, but it shouldn't be so bulky as to make it difficult for your instructor to observe your posture.
Your bottoms can be pants or shorts, depending on your preference and comfort level. Shorts should not be so short that they ride up and reveal your butt or crotch. You wont need shoes. Most people practice Pilates barefoot, although you may be able to wear socks if you prefer them. Pilates Reformer recommends bike shorts for men. Avoid loose, gaucho-style pants, which have an excess of free-flowing fabric. Pants made of nylon may be too slippery.
Many Pilates studios will offer mat rentals, but it's generally more hygienic to purchase and bring your own. Bring a water bottle and a towel to wipe up sweat. If you have long hair, you'll want to bring a hair tie or head band to keep your hair out of your face while you work out. Women will probably feel more comfortable in a sports bra than an underwire bra with a metal clasp, as you'll spend a lot of time on your back.
If it's your first class, come at least 15 minutes early to meet your instructor, find a place for your mat and sign a waiver if necessary. Avoid eating a heavy meal beforehand, as digestion uses up a lot of your body's energy that you will need for your class. Your last meal should be at least an hour before your class. Drink plenty of water throughout the day so you are well-hydrated. Out of respect for your classmates, don't wear perfume or scented lotion.
About the Author
Michelle Wishhart is a writer based in Portland, Ore. She has been writing professionally since 2005, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for City on a Hill Press, an alternative weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz, Calif. An avid gardener, Wishhart worked as a Wholesale Nursery Grower at Encinal Nursery for two years. Wishhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts and English literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.