Why Pilates Is The Perfect Pandemic Workout

During the pandemic, Katie has taken up pilates. So she checked in with her teacher, Ashley Patten, who has been teaching pilates for 13 years, about all the benefits she’s soaking up, and how you can incorporate the workout into your own exercise routine.

Katie Couric: How did you first get into pilates?

Ashley Patten: I took my first pilates class at 13 when training at an American Ballet Theater summer intensive but really started doing it regularly when I was about 16. I had a series of VHS (yes, VHS!) tapes I would do at home. A few years later after a back injury from dancing, I started private sessions using the equipment. I’ve literally never stopped! 

You’ve been teaching me for six months now, so the most important question, am I a good student?

You’re a natural! You’ve been so consistent and hard working. Every week we get more in and make things more challenging. 

Seriously, pilates has been so helpful to me. I was starting to get sciatica and feeling so stiff. 

I’m so happy to hear this, it’s the most rewarding part of the job!

What is it about pilates and its philosophy that can be so helpful? 

Pilates is about the balance of strength and flexibility. The beauty is that it makes you strong but not stiff, and allows you to move better. Everything just feels better, be it running after your kids, getting off the couch, or running a marathon. Added bonuses are the benefits to how you look!

One thing I like about pilates is, while you can buy a few items of equipment, you can really do most of it with just a mat, right?

You can do SO MUCH of the pilates repertoire on the mat, even the exercises normally done on the equipment. Practicing on the mat allows you to build the right muscles so that when you return to the equipment, you can focus on “owning the choreography” and more on the workout. The more you practice pilates, the more challenging it gets, so the mat work can be endless. I have been doing pilates for 20 years and it continues to challenge me! 

Should people be trying to do strenuous cardio in addition to pilates?

Cardio means different things to different people, but it’s certainly good for your heart. It is a great complement to pilates as it will work your body in a way that pilates won’t. Keep in mind that your cardio routine should be sustainable and enjoyable. Doing pilates will help you get more out of your cardio and most importantly keep you injury free so you can continue to work on your goals and live your best life. 

How often do you need to do it to really feel the benefits? 

I always first suggest doing the kind of exercise that you enjoy and makes you feel good (I hope pilates fits the bill!). Exercise shouldn’t be punishment. The key to results is consistency so I encourage doing a pilates workout 2-3x a week.

Why do you think, especially during the pandemic, this is a good go-to exercise?

We’re on our devices more than ever right now (hello tech neck!), and certainly more sedentary so it’s even more important that we move in ways to counterbalance these repetitive habits. Not to mention, exercising is a great way to build your health and immunity which we can all use during this time. Last, you really only need a space for your mat so it’s accessible to those who may be tight on space at home.

You’ve started a website with a subscription service! Tell us about that!

I started offering online pilates classes so I could make pilates accessible to all, and I’m so excited that it has finally launched! As I mentioned earlier, consistency is key to seeing and feeling results. We are all busy and life is exceptionally crazy right now. Classes range from 15-60 minutes, at all levels, with and without props. If you prefer more accountability, you can sign up for my regularly scheduled Live Virtual Classes and even attend with friends.

Every month you donate 10% of your profit to a charity. Why was that so important to you? 

When the pandemic first started, like many, I taught a lot of classes that were 50%, if not 100% charity-driven to organizations like NY Common Pantry, Planned Parenthood, The Actor’s Fund, etc. We were all scared and there was so much uncertainty – we kept hearing about job loss, the homeless children that needed to be in school, and so many other stories. As quarantine life continued and I shifted into creating my own brand, I wanted to keep a piece of this as it’s important to me to stand for helping others so I decided to donate 10% of profits from all of my Live Virtual classes each month to a different charity.

I am also in the process of aligning with New York Presbyterian Hospital to provide complimentary pilates classes to their front line workers which I am so excited about – stay tuned for more information on this! 

If you only have five minutes in a day to do a stretch or exercise, what’s your go-to?

I like to call it your “pilates home-work” – which is your 100, the roll-up, and your ab series (a series of 5 exercises). You can find these exercises and more in my library!