“Reformer pilates? No way, it’s just not my kind of thing.” That was always my standard response whenever my lifelong osteopath Paul Morrissey suggested I give it a try.
The machines looked frightening – almost like an ancient torture device – complicated to operate and, as I’d always favoured fast-paced exercise like spin, running, tennis and boot camps, I automatically assumed I’d be bored.
Then two and a half years ago I became chronically ill – read the Night It All Began here. Alongside high histamine food, ANY sort of exercise that made me hot and sweaty would bring on tongue swelling and throat closing episodes. Overnight my sporty lifestyle, along with a big part of my identity, disappeared.
So when doctors suggested I reintroduce low impact exercise on the provision I have my adrenaline pen and antihistamines to hand, I decided the time was right to learn more about reformer pilates.
For those not in the know, pilates is a system of slow and controlled exercises performed on a mat or spring-assisted reformer. It’s designed to lengthen and strengthen muscles, improve posture, flexibility and agility, prevent injury and address structural imbalances in the body.
Pioneer Joseph Hubertus Pilates was said to have been a sickly child following his birth in 1883 so, in adulthood, he set about researching and developing a mind, body, spirit approach to exercise that would later transform him into a skier, diver, gymnast and boxer.
He also rigged springs to hospital beds to help bedridden patients exercise against resistance, which subsequently inspired the designs for much of the reformer pilates equipment we see today.
I popped along to the Osteopathic Clinic in Croydon for my very first reformer pilates session and busted the following myths:
REFORMER PILATES IS SCARY
No, it’s not, even though the equipment might seem so. It helped that Rhea Malkin (pictured), a triathlete, ironman competitor and STOTT Pilates Essential and Intermediate Reformer qualified instructor was on hand to guide me through my one-on-one session. Embarrassingly, I went to lie down at the wrong end of the bed-like contraption but she quickly pointed me in the right direction. I assumed my position on the ‘carriage’, which moves back and forth on wheels, and is attached to the reformer by a set of springs that provide differing levels of resistance. My feet rested on the bar at the bottom and I lay on the comfortable padded platform ready for my first move. Simple. What on earth had I been worrying about?
REFORMER PILATES IS BORING
Admittedly, I thought I’d be bored out of my brain by repeating movements in a slow and controlled manner but there’s a heck of a lot to remember, like engaging your core correctly when performing a move, which makes it far from dull and you feel the muscles instantly working. I struggled with finding my neutral spine so Rhea suggested visualising a glass of water, which I did not want to spill, on my tummy. For the glutes, she urged me to think about gripping a credit card between my butt cheeks. We giggled but it worked! My muscles were activated and I’d yet to start work on the reformer pilates equipment!
REFORMER PILATES IS JUST ABOUT BUILDING A STRONG LEAN BODY
Nope. Your breathing is important too. The preparatory work before a move involves an inhalation, while any exertion requires an exhalation. The very mindful action of focussing on the breath as well as the move provided a delightful escape from the stresses of daily life and the thoughts that permanently whizz around my overactive mind. Of course, building a graceful, strong body is an obvious advantage too. Rhea, who regularly works out on a reformer pilates machine, is a testament to that!
REFORMER PILATES IS CHEATING
Think again. Yes, there’s no mat involved but just because you’re using equipment doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a workout or you’ve failed. In fact, years ago I once tried a floor-based group pilates class. The next day my neck had locked up entirely which put me out of action for weeks. However, I managed a full 50 minutes on the reformer and successfully worked through the full repertoire of exercises which spanned the lower and upper body as well as stabilising core work.
REFORMER PILATES IS COMPLICATED
There’s definitely a lot to remember and if I’d been in a group class I think I may have struggled. But if you have an individual instructor talking you through each move it’s a breeze. Plus there’s the added advantage that he/she can correct you if you’re misaligned.
REFORMER PILATES IS NOT AN ALL OVER BODY WORKOUT
Yes it is. You might not be drenched in sweat as you would from a HIIT class but the muscles in my back, inner thighs, arms and tummy back were still screaming at me three days later (in a good way).
REFORMER PILATES IS JUST NOT YOU
I held this view for YEARS. It wasn’t until my health packed up that I took note. I’m eager to get back to exercise but appreciate that the adrenaline-pumped classes I used to love no longer serve me or my health. This was such a fun alternative. I was so enthused with the class – and the fact I didn’t have a tongue swelling or throat closing reaction during or afterwards– that I’m now contemplating buying a reformer pilates one for the house.
Visit the Osteopathic Clinic for more information about their one-on-one reformer pilates sessions.
Relax Ya Self To Health was invited to try this session by the Osteopathic Clinic in exchange for a review. As always, reviews are based on my honest opinion.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog based on my own genuine experiences. My posts are for informational purposes only. I am under the care of a number of specialists for my chronic health issues. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, physio or sports therapist. If you have a health condition or injuries, always seek advice from a relevant medical professional before undertaking any activity.