“What are those things for???” is the first question I often hear from someone who has never seen a Pilates reformer. Their eyes get wide with fear, disbelief, and doubt as they gaze up on what looks to be some sort of medieval S&M device.
Well, I googled the exact definition of S&M and I guess the device does give pleasure and good pain, but I put it to the test by bringing Reader Lisa to her first class with Allison at H2L Studio.
What the heck is it and what’s the point?
The reformer is a moving carriage that uses springs and pulleys to create resistance to either challenge the movement or help to support you. Reformer hits the little muscles under the ones that always try to take over, like your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Think of it as mat Pilates on a magic carpet with weights.
But I am a runner/cycle fanatic/cross-fitter…
Perfect. The reformer works for people who do weights, cardio junkies, and even people nursing injuries. It lengthens your spine to stretch through areas compressed by sitting, running and lifting.
Everyone needs to strengthen their secondary muscles, which is another benefit of this machine. The job of those muscles is to help the big muscles from getting so tired by lending a hand. Plus, it gives the big muscles the needed recovery time so they can perform their best when called to duty! And it’s easily adaptable, so if you have a chronic injury or a sports injury, reformer can play a role in your fitness program. Working all these muscles makes you the total package and improves your body mechanics for when you come across an unexpected surface or challenge in your usual workouts or daily life. Those muscles stabilize your pelvis so you run with a more even gait and make your other workouts more efficient.
So what do you do in a class?
Lisa got there a little before me and did not appear to have a 50 Shades of Grey look of panic on her face, so I knew Allison explained what we would really be doing with this equipment. Allison explained the set-up of the reformer and let us know we would be working through a series of exercises — legs, core, arms while laying on our backs and stomachs and sitting on the carriage and wooden boxes. Lisa said she felt a little nervous when starting because her core is weak and it was new to her, but she felt comfortable by the end and found the class to be a whole body workout that was not hard to follow.
Allison moved us through the exercises with easy to follow explanations for form and tips to let us know what muscle we were working. Sometimes Lisa and I felt like we didn’t have the muscles she was referring to, but I guess that’s why we were there to begin with! We did minimal repetitions resulting in maximum impact since you don’t normally work those muscles.
Neither Lisa nor I felt like we were dying or unable to make it through class. However, the day after, we had this text exchange:
Hey, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, right? It’s hard for me because this is not the fast-paced, push yourself to the limit exercise I typically crave; however, I have found that this means it is the exercise I NEED. Pilates and reformer are different from other exercises in that the more you do it, the harder it gets. That’s because you are becoming more aware of your body and little muscles are doing the work instead of the big ones. You learn to slow your pace for quality over quantity (note: some videos were sped up for your internet attention span).
If you are thinking of trying reformer (and you should!), expect a challenging, but doable workout for any fitness level. My advice to everyone when trying a new fitness class is to try it 3 times before deciding how you feel about it. H2L studio makes this easy by offering beginners 3 private sessions for $75, which is an awesome deal. They also have a beginner reformer class coming up on August 19th. Plus, now you know you don’t need leather chaps to enter the reformer room, so that’s a money saver right there. If you aren’t local, find a studio near you and give it a try!