A Pilates Workout – How long is long enough?

Recently I was talking to a client about doing some Pilates exercises in her dinner break.  She has a high powered marketing job and doesn’t have the chance to have a proper break and it got me thinking, what is the minimum amount of time to needed to make your Pilates worthwhile?

There are myriad benefits of a workout of standard length -45 to 60 minutes:

  • enough time to work the whole body
  • you can workout in different positions – sitting, lying, standing
  • an hour of Pilates is one hour less spent sitting in a chair
  • plenty of time to focus on  strength and flexibility work
  • opportunity for relaxation and me-time

Suppose you haven’t got that much time?

You might be missing your regular workout or it’s a different day,  or you’re really busy, or you’ve only got a few minutes.

Ask yourself:  “What do I want to achieve?”  Answer that question and that’s how long you need.

“But…..” I hear you say  “…..I cannot do Pilates justice in 5 minutes.”    Remember though,  you’re not trying to do do Pilates justice, you’re trying to do yourself, or rather your body justice.

Reasons for Only Doing a Little Bit of Pilates

Maybe you know that a particular exercise is beneficial for you

Maybe you need to counter the effects sitting down a lot in an office job.  (For more on this topic, why not read www.pilates-leeds.com/the perils of sitting down.)

You may not be in an environment or dressed to do “normal” Pilates workout but you want to do some anyway.

Do you need to take time out to relax the body?

Maybe you want to embody and practice a particular exercise in order to gain from it.

Could you achieve some strength gains by doing an exercise more than once a week in a formal class setting?

Avoiding spending your break time on Social Media

How to go about your Soupçon of Pilates

If you only have a few minutes you can still use them, but make it count.   Ensure your movement is mindful.   You need to be “in the zone”.  Even if you only have 2 or 3 minutes, it is probably worth spending  up to 30 seconds or so sitting, standing or lying and bringing your awareness into the body, softening – especially jaw, breastbone and shoulder blades, lengthening the spine and relaxing the legs and then focusing on the breathing.  I talk about this in more detail in another blog post about breathing, but in short, soften your body whilst staying tall, breathe fully into the base of your ribs

Pre-planning is a must.  Decide in advance what you are going to do or plan a couple of things that might work together.  Maybe a pairing works because the exercises feel different and so the contrast is effective.  Maybe a pairing works because one exercise transitions smoothly into another.  Maybe you simply enjoy dong a particular exercise.

Suggested Workouts for your Pilates in BriefYoung Businesswoman Doing Stretching Exercise In Office

If you want a quick workout that will cover quite a few bases I’d suggest that you try and include the following:

  • the four types of pure spine movements: bending forwards (flexion), bending backwards (extension), side bending (lateral flexion) and rotation
  • movement at the major joints: knees, hips, shoulders
  • something to work the feet and/or ankles – they love being moved about and free of the constraints of the shoes
  • neck stretches or work to reinforce the correct head/neck posture
  • chest stretches or work to reinforce the openness of the chest and correct the tendency we have to hunch forwards.

Beyond that, it’s down to how long you’ve got and what props you have to hand.  You could use loads of kit, for example, the giant Exercise Balls that you can sit on, or Resistance Bands however, all you really need is:

  • a wall
  • a chair without arms
  • ideally, a step or stair, a desk

If you are short of time, or at work, then the one thing you might not want to do is lie down, or even go onto the all fours position so I’ve omitted those here.

The Spine Mobility Workout

There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the choice of exercises, here are a few:

Seated Spine Twist

Seated Pelvic Tilt then increase the range to do Lower back movement

Desk supported Cat Stretch

Standing Side Bend

Standing against a wall : Lateral Glide.  Seated if there is no wall space

Roll Down, ideally using a wall

Timing: aim for at least 6-8 repetitions of each exercise.  If time allows, redo the whole thing, or simply do more repetitions.  However, you might like to consider doing completely different exercises

The Glute Strength Workout

An opportunity to strengthen those muscles, so often said to be weak, and, this workout is also a great antidote to sitting

Sit to Stand.

Squat, so, sit to stand and go lower!   If that is tricky, hold the front of a desk, shelf or radiator to assist the move

Squat with the legs wider and in turnout

Supported by a chair or wall by your side, side leg raises, and leg crossed over the body (the latter move is actually for your inner thighs)

Supported by a chair or wall by your side, small lunges

Supported by a chair or wall in front of you, alternate leg raises (behind you)

Timing: aim for at least 6-8 repetitions of each exercise, but mostly, go for quality, not quantity


The Help Your Posture & Loosen Your Joints Workout

Don’t let gravity have all the fun.

Active standing: consider your foot placement, leg alignment, neutral pelvis, rib cage position, head & shoulder blades.  Sustain it,  (but not in a hanging-on- for- dear- life kind of way), breathe and maybe even chat to your work colleagues

From active standing, alternate calf raises.  Works the ankles, feet and balance. Can you sustain the posture?   It might be a good idea to have a wall for support

Ankle circles and leg circles.  Try to dissociate the leg from the body, circle the thigh bone in isolation

Shoulder blade circles & arm circles, again, dissociated from the rib cage, thus giving you functional abdominal work

Wrist openers – good if they tend to be fixed in front of a keyboard

Neck movements and whilst doing this one, re check all those posture points

With the mobility work, do 6 repetitions or so in each direction,   and the active standing, well do that forever, naturally!  Ideally to this without shoes in order to give you feet opportunity to move more.

The Quick Stretch Workout

Don’t let all that tension build up…:

You will need a chair without arms for this.  Not always available though… if none is, try perching on the side of a desk

Seated:   Stretch the Front of the Thigh, Buttocks, Inner thigh then repeat on the opposite side

Standing, at a desk: Back of the thigh

Standing with the front of your feet on  a rolled up towel, or thick book,  Calf Stretch

Standing – Chest at the front of the body followed by in between the shoulder blade at the back of the body.

Standing – neck stretch

Especially if you are unused to stretching then static stretching is easier – find the position and hold it – you could count up to 20 for example.  If you can hold for longer or ease  a little more into the stretch, even better.  As you count, notice that you are still breathing – calmly, gently and maybe a little deeper

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