Reformer Pilates is a lot like regular Pilates, but instead of being performed on the ground, it involves an elevated machine called a reformer. Said machine includes a footbar, resistance springs and straps and requires some serious balance. It’s tough, and if you’re considering Reformer Pilates for the first time, it can be intimidating.
But don’t let that sway you from giving it a whirl, because it’s a healthy, low-impact workout that can result in significant gains in strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.
After months of trepidation, I finally tried it. And now, it’s a mainstay in my exercise regimen. My only regret is I didn’t start it sooner.
So below: seven things to know before trying Reformer Pilates yourself. Here’s hoping they make your first time easier than mine.
1. PILATES SOCKS ARE A THING AND THEY ARE MANDATORY
Plenty of workouts require equipment, from yoga mats to spin shoes. In Pilates, you go shoeless and don socks instead — very specific ones, with rubber grips on the bottom to prevent your feet from slipping. They’re important for maintaining solid purchase throughout class. Because …
2. THERE’S A PLATFORM, AND IT MOVES
OK, this one I was peripherally aware of, but as someone who’d only tried Pilates on the very stationary ground, it still took some getting used to. Expect to perform all manner of lower-body and upper-body exercises on a moving platform — one that, yeah, you could fall off if you’re not careful.
3. YOUR LEGS WILL SHAKE UNCONTROLLABLY
It could be during a lunge, it could be during a one-leg squat but at some point during class, your legs will shake violently. It’s a product of burning out the muscles with a mix of resistance and high reps, and boy is it a doozy. Don’t worry: It happens, and it might continue happening as you build your endurance. So, if you start to feel extra wobbly, take a quick rest to recover.
4. BRUTE STRENGTH WON’T HELP YOU
Put me in a squat rack with the usual Pilates participant, and I like my chances. But when burning through a series of lunges … no. Different story entirely. Pilates requires a potent mix of strength, flexibility and endurance — and no matter how much weight you can lift, nothing quite prepares you for Pilates. Except doing more Pilates.
5. WHEN IN DOUBT, SLOW DOWN
Slow and steady wins the race. For the best results, concentrate on your form, not your speed. Deliberate, controlled movements target your muscles and provide the most gains for your efforts.
6. NOT ALL SPRINGS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Reformer Pilates machines have springs that allow you to quickly increase or decrease resistance. At many studios, they’re color-coded, with different colors representing different levels of resistance. So “put on one red and one yellow” is your cue to do exactly that. If the weight is too heavy (or too light), ask your instructor for modifications, and she might have you changing colors or dropping a spring.
READ MORE > 8 THINGS I WISH I NEW BEFORE STARTING HIIT
7. YOU’LL HEAR WORDS LIKE “MERMAID” AND “DANCING BEAR”
Which are, admittedly, a lot easier to understand than yoga’s Sanskrit terminology, but still confusing for the uninitiated. Just look around if you’re unsure of exactly what to do, and mimic the instructor or the person next to you. After a while, those terms sink in, and you’ll be flowing from a 100 to a frog without missing a beat.