Productive Practice: Getting the most out of Pilates

As many of you know, I spend my days working at a school in the Performing Arts Department. The other day I found a wonderful article for our music students, by Dr. Donovan Stokes, titled Ten Prescriptions for Productive Practice (From the Lowdown with Dr. D column on No Treble: At each of Dr. Donovan’s ten recommendations I had the same thought, that I can apply this to Pilates. I think these same ten steps can help improve any skill we wish to master.

  1. Practice 6 days a week. Anything less and you lose ground; anything more you risk getting burned out. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. Not every session has to be a full hour; there are many ways to fit sessions into your day! (I keep a mat and a power circle under my desk.)

  2. Schedule practice sessions ahead of time. “When you wake up you should already know when you are going to practice that day.” Make an appointment with yourself, write it down and hold yourself accountable.

  3. Have a plan. Decide what you want to accomplish during that days session. Have an intention when you begin. On a stressful day focus on breathing during your practice.

  4. Be mindful. If you aren’t concentrating on what you are doing it is a wasted session. Concentration is one of the principles of Pilates after all.

  5. No distractions. Turn the cell phone off. Really. If you aren’t already doing this, you have cheated yourself out of so much.

  6. “Technique Matters. Address the basics every day. Be aware of your body and move efficiently”. I think Joseph Pilates would agree completely with Dr. Stokes on this point.

  7. Do each exercise more than once with focus and control. Most exercises have a range of recommended repetitions. The first few should be slow and precise and the rest should flow “Slow practice is fast practice.”

  8. Break complicated choreography into parts. When each part can be done correctly, then put the parts together into one smooth exercise. Round the corners.

  9. “When there is a technical problem, look to the basics for an answer.” Use the fundamentals! Having trouble keeping your back ribs down into the mat? Practice ribcage arms with a weighted bar.

  10. You only receive what you give. The more you put into each of your sessions the more you will get out of them.