My First (and possibly last) Pilates Class

Part of my #30DaysOfFitness journey was pushing myself out there and doing things I was maybe intimidated by or were scary. One of those things, for me, was pilates. Why? Because it just seems so mysterious. I mean, you peek in the pilates studios at the gym and there are all kinds of doo-dads and contraptions litered about, with straps and pulleys and levers everywhere, and the effect is decidedly more hat factory than fitness activity.

So, taking the initiative to try something new, I signed myself up for a private lesson, and off I went. I chose a studio on the Upper East Side, since I thought this would be the perfect place to begin my tread into the pilates world. I passed townhouses and the expensive shops on Madison Avenue. I passed the yummy mummies and the nannies, the visibly wealthy. Just to set the scene.

The studio was dead quiet, and there were about four people here. Two trainers, a woman on a bicycle in the back, and the receptionist. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and I felt right at home. I checked in and the receptionist brought me to my private pilates studio, where I got changed and waited a minute for my trainer.

My trainer was a wildly humorous individual, and he was super friendly while also getting right into the swing of things. I told him I had literally no idea about pilates, so he launched into the history of the founder, the equipment, and all of that.

As for the actual pilates? Oh my. For something that looks so ridiculous, it’s maybe one of the hardest workouts I’ve had, and I didn’t even get into the actual pilates routine. I did the baby version, and my whole body was sore the next day. And not just “oh, I’m tired,” but “um, did I forget I was hit by a car?”

So. Let’s begin with a brief walk through of what the situation is. There’s a main machine, which looks like a massage table with a crane dangling overhead. Lay down on that main machine, with your back straightened out and your legs/feet on a sliding panel. Because there’s one of those. Push back on that panel, and then resist the movement as it comes back to you. Simple enough, until the resistance is changed and you have to use every muscle in your body to keep things in check. Because you should also keep your back flat on the table, while moving everything in a beautiful motion. Which is good for the abs, but bad for the whole “comfort” thing.

Next up, your legs go in a strap stirrup set up reminiscent of a gynecologist, not that I would personally know, but let’s just go with it. Because I’ve never felt more ridiculous as I was trying to keep muscles and limbs straight while pushing against the stirrup while my legs were up in the air. Even if I wanted to tell you what the motions are, I couldn’t, because frankly, I have no mind/body connection and I was barely aware of what I was doing. Lovely. I felt less embarrased doing improv in Italy, when I didn’t speak Italian. At least there isn’t an audience in pilates?

Overall, I don’t quite know what to describe to you — the moves are pretty straightforward, and there’s a nice level of reptition, making the whole thing rather zen. I definitely felt like things were working, I didn’t really feel like I was doing something. I missed the feeling I have at the gym, that instant gratification of lifting something heavy, or having a more fast paced music beat to get myself amped up over. Pilates was very refined and very challenging, but it just wasn’t quite for me. It’s maybe more zen than I’m looking for, which is fine, because fitness is about finding things that work for you.

Overall, would I recommend pilates to someone? Probably, slash most definitely. If you couldn’t really get a read on it from above, it’s kind of clear that I still don’t quite know what I did, but I do know it was effective. I’d say sign up for a tester class and go from there.

Photo courtesy Kristin Booker for Giafrese

Jeff Smith

Jeff started in photography and short format video, and he's been at the forefront of the web tv movement. He’s worked on haute couture shoots in Paris, shot street style in Milan, and is currently developing a steady roster of beauty, fashion, and digital clients in NYC.