Tracking Your Yoga and Pilates Workouts
Article by Bob Greene
We often get questions from members on how to log yoga and Pilates workouts, why they’re considered strength training activities on the Best Life plan and how we figure out calorie burn for each one. Below, we offer answers and explanations on these and other questions.
Why Yoga and Pilates Are Considered Strength TrainingYoga and Pilates are mind-body workouts that require you to progress through a series of moves that improve strength, posture, respiration, self-esteem and stamina. Both have made headlines for their ability to reduce stress and create a long, lean, toned look. They’re not considered aerobic exercise on the Best Life program, even though some forms do increase your heart rate. Like circuit training, which is also considered primarily a strength workout, most yoga and Pilates sessions do not elevate your heart rate as much or for as long as a vigorous cardiovascular workout. Therefore, while you can expect some aerobic benefit from the more vigorous forms, in the end the improvement in cardiovascular fitness does not match what you’d get from a good aerobic workout.
How to Categorize Your WorkoutSince yoga first became popular in the 1960s and Pilates came onto the fitness scene in the 1980s, there have been countless spin-offs. For instance, yoga can be quiet and meditative with a strong focus on lengthening and relaxing the muscles (like Anusara or Vinyasa) or it can be a demanding and vigorous workout that combines strength and aerobic exercise (such as Ashtanga or Bikram). Pilates can range from light stretching movements to vigorous, heavily resisted exercises that can be done on a mat or a machine, such as the Reformer or the Cadillac.
Unfortunately, when the activity compendium (a list of more than 500 popular activities that ranks how much energy is required to complete each task; check out The Best Life Activity Database Explained for more on the compendium) was first compiled, both workouts were lumped into generic activity headings (either “Stretching/Hatha Yoga” or “Home exercise, i.e. back exercises, yoga, Pilates; moderate effort”) instead of the many varieties we know today. That’s the reason you have to choose from one of these options (or a few others, which we’ll explain below), whether you’ve done Yogalates, power yoga, core Pilates or power Pilates.
How to Log Sessions Based on IntensityYogaFor forms of yoga that focus more on relaxation and meditation, it’s best to use “Stretching/Hatha Yoga.”
If you’re taking a more strenuous yoga class (for instance, you link one pose with another in a fluid workout that raises your heart rate significantly), you may find it feels more like an aerobic workout. However, it is still best to classify it as a strength workout because it likely won’t raise your heart rate as high or for as long as a true cardio workout. To track these types of workouts, you can use either “Home exercise, i.e. back exercises, yoga, Pilates; moderate effort” or, for even more vigorous yoga workouts “Circuit training, including some aerobic movement with minimal rest.” This last choice works for yoga, even though it’s not specified in the description, because the intention is similar (circuit training involves moving from one strength training move to another with little rest in between) and because the rate of calorie burning is likely comparable.
PilatesFor beginner level Pilates and/or sessions with light resistance, you should choose “Stretching/Hatha Yoga.”
For more intense Pilates sessions (most Pilates workouts will fall into this category), select “Circuit training, including some aerobic movement with minimal rest.”
And for especially difficult Pilates sessions that use the heavier resistance settings of the machines, the most accurate method is to enter it under “Weight lifting (free, nautilus or universal), vigorous effort.” Pilates elongates and strengthens your muscles, improving flexibility and joint mobility, while working to incorporate all muscles in the body. Weight lifting is similar in that it also strengthens the entire body. In both cases, you are working to create a strong, lean, well-balanced body.
How to Count the Number of ExercisesNo matter which activity you are logging, one of the toughest questions will be just how many exercises to enter into your Best Life Planner. Remember, an accurate calories burned estimate is based on the assumption that for each move you enter, you will have completed two sets of eight to 12 reps at a pace of approximately 2.5 minutes per exercise.
The easiest way to figure out how many exercises you’ve done for both Pilates and yoga workouts is to divide the length of your class (less the time spent relaxing at the end of most yoga sessions) by 2.5. That way, you don’t have to try to keep track of the number of moves performed during the class. Plus, it’s more accurate because some moves will be done only for a few seconds while others may go on for several minutes.
About the Author
Bob Greene is the founder of the highly acclaimed Best Life Diet brand. Through his books, foods, fitness products and website, Greene has helped millions lose weight and live their own personal best life, using his gradual three-phase approach to eating and exercise.