If you’ve had trouble with Pilates before, the Reformer might be the way to go.
MY LEGS SHOOK as I slid one foot out on the Pilates Reformer, and then back in, to work my inner thighs. The biceps curls with light weights weren’t helping; my body wanted out of all of it.
Pilates and I have a tumultuous history. I know Pilates is good for me, and I struggle to stay interested in all the muscles I’m required to engage for good form. As much as I love anatomy, form and strength, Pilates and I haven’t clicked.
I’m always on the hunt for a Pilates approach that combines technique and principles that might make it possible for us to be acquaintances, if not friends. The Power Reformer class at TRIBE Fitness on Capitol Hill looked like it had potential. Instructor Marlys Yvonne described it as a slow burn designed to fatigue your muscles, while still incorporating Pilates form, so I headed to a Power Reformer Lite class.
The Reformer has moving parts to increase intensity through resistance. We started with core work on our elbows while sliding back and forth on our knees. It was intense, and I hoped I hadn’t signed up for an hour of straight core.
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After more core with added resistance, we added straps to challenge our balance. We set up on hands and knees, looped a strap around one foot, extended one leg back and moved it out to the side. My glutes and hips quickly felt the exercise.
We switched the strap to one hand, and pulled it diagonally across our bodies so we were sliding up and down the main frame of the Reformer. We lifted one leg for a hold to add balance and more core challenge.
Yvonne had the same approach to each exercise — move slowly and controlled for several counts, then hold a position for the last eight. Slow burn, indeed.
We moved on to legs. Yvonne had us do lunges with one leg up on the sliding section of the Reformer while leaning forward and holding hand weights, which is secretly core. I had to keep focus on my balance and my legs, and they soon felt the effort as I slid one leg back and forth in deep lunges.
Next, she had us stand on top of the Reformer, turn to one side and start the slide out and back to work our inner thighs while doing biceps curls.
I forgot such excruciating sensations were possible. My inner thighs trembled, and I had to make sure I didn’t slide my foot out so far, I couldn’t get it back in. With all the focus on my legs, my arms could barely keep up with the curls. During the final hold with bent legs, I breathed and hoped my leg on the sliding platform wouldn’t give out.
We followed up with a glutes exercise, and my fatigued lower body had to give in and take an occasional break.
Oh, and we still had the other leg.
We closed out class with a final plank hold, which, after the leg work, practically felt easy.
During class, I didn’t see the regulars taking breaks. Yvonne assured me everyone takes a break at some point during the hourlong class. Did they all have Jell-O legs like me, too?
I was surprised by how much I liked the Power Reformer class. The exercises were so tough that I was engaged throughout, and the pacing felt right, with a focus on form while still moving through exercises.
If you are looking to incorporate Pilates or shake up your strengthening routine, the Power Reformer class might be all you need to become friends with Pilates.