When I first started going to gyms what seems like aeons ago I didn’t really understand why there were mirrors all over the place. I assumed they were for the ripped blokes in the weights room to admire themselves as they tweaked their biceps to perfection with yet another set of curls. I certainly didn’t want to look at myself – red in the face, sweaty and with wobbly bits I’d rather not know were there.
In the two decades since, I’ve come to fully appreciate the benefits of training in front of your own reflection and if you’ve been to the studio at Goldsithney or seen any photographs you’ll know that one wall has full-length mirrors. A lot of clients shy away from them as I used to, not fully understanding why they’re there and preferring not to look at themselves, but when used properly they can transform your workout.
Whatever type of exercise you’re doing, form is key. Without it, you increase the chance of injury and dramatically reduce its effectiveness. This is particularly true of Pilates, where precision is one the key principles, but it applies to everything – lifting weights, running, hitting a heavy bag. The list goes on.
If you’re working with a personal trainer or exercise instructor they will help you to achieve correct form using verbal or tactile cues but sometimes you just need to see yourself in order to fully understand what your body should and shouldn’t be doing.
I see it most often with clients who are new to exercise and have limited body awareness. Sometimes cueing proves completely ineffective, resulting in frustration for both the trainer and client. If, however, they see what a certain position or exercise looks like on their body, they can remember how it feels and are able to repeat it. If they’re not sure they can look at themselves in the mirror.
Mirrors are an important tool for experienced exercisers too, enabling us to check and perfect our technique. Until the studio was finished recently I’d been training without mirrors and my body had fallen into easy and familiar movement patterns. Once I got in there I was horrified to see that what I’d thought was a perfect plank was more like a warped piece of wood. My thoracic spine was rounded and my hips were sagging but it felt right in my body. I’d got used to it feeling that way and, if I’m honest, I still have to check my form in the mirror to make sure I haven’t slipped back into my old habits.
Mirrors, far from being a vanity accessory, are actually an essential training tool. What you see in there isn’t always pretty but it will help you to perform better and achieve the results you want.