My First Pilates Class… Ever

If you’ve read my previous post “Manifest Destiny,” you know I’ve been coming to Bounce for the last year with random pinches and pangs. I’ve poked around the health food items thinking, “I should really get that,” and I’ve looked at these silent, enigmatic machines lined at the back of their 183 Harris Street store and wondered, “Can I do pilates?”

Sure, I’ve had my physio and many others tell me that I should get into pilates. “You’ll love it–it’s great!” they say. “A complete body workout,” they say. “So much better than yoga,” they say. I’m a long time lover a yoga. I truly believe yoga saved my life, but that is another story for another time. Would taking a pilates class be considered cheating on yoga? I just couldn’t.

Today, I did. 

I did!

I gave myself 45 days to get back that sense of kickass, mind-blowing girl power I seemed to have lost in my 30-somethings. And for the rest of the year I will really solidify what the new me is going to look and feel like–starting with the Clinical Pilates Basics class with Katherine.

A class at 11:15 am on a Wednesday morning after a 2:30 am meeting was not my ideal time frame, but it was doable. While sleep is another part of my personal journey, I knew the only way to truly be successful is to start NOW–not tomorrow, not after that next trip, not after those visitors leave town, and not after I’m done with late-night meetings. Those things will never stop coming. Now is the time!

Morning Prep–Brekkie!

I felt good about myself knowing I started out my day with the world’s smartest breakfast, taken from the simple advice I read recently (I am a self-diagnosed self-improvement addict) that, “if you can’t seem to shave those last few kilos, eat differently.” Eat differently! Right. I already eat healthy, but for me that’s always meant more vegetables than anything. This simple advice is what motivated me to add protein back to my diet in a big, big way! And there’s no better friend to strength training than a little extra protein.

My brekkie was light, yet powerful! That amount of protein was exactly what I needed to greet the day with energy. I was ready to go!

preworkout brekkie

The Studio–Pure Zen

The way the morning light poured in through the back window also gave me an extra boost! I felt so amazing almost instantly!!! I could pour myself a cup of tea and hang out there all day. Honestly!

I was surprised at how lively Bounce was during this time of day. I had never been in mid-day before! Four of five local Pyrmont-ers were already grouped together, clearly regulars. Someone was finishing up their 1-on-1 Pilates class which I just realized you can also book through the MindBody app. Who knew! The smell of freshly brewed tea wafted through the reception area and I immediately felt welcomed by the staff. They’re literally some of the friendliest people in the world!

Knowing that pilates was somewhat like yoga, I wasn’t entirely nervous about my capability as I was about my total lack of coordination. Leave it to me to be the one to skate across the top of one of these machines and break my nose on a wall. Clumsy is my middle name. As a first-timer knowing absolutely nothing about pilates, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do except stand there. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

pilates reformer

My Instructor–Katherine

The instructor, Katherine, is one of the most kind and natural instructors I’ve ever had through years of random exercise courses. She has a way of taking into account my overall goal (back strengthening because I have a really wonky left knee that sparked this entire journey to strengthen) and keeping it at the back of her mind so that every time she walked by me to tweak my position just here or there, she knew exactly how to describe the change to me. I felt like she was giving me heart-to-heart advice rather than correcting me–something that I really dislike about instructors I’ve had before. I don’t want to feel like I’m being corrected, ever. I already feel as graceful as a giraffe! I’ll do anything to save the embarrassment. 

Before class, Matt introduced me to Katherine personally, “This is Caz. She has never done Pilates before. She’s brand, brand new. She has a left knee issue that I believe is manifested by a weakness in her lower back. We want her to do some core strengthening. Take good care.”  

And that’s exactly what Katherine did. Regularly throughout the class she would ask how my back was doing. She would quietly observe my left side, noting my weakness while also ensuring that I wasn’t causing myself more pain by favoring my right side to push through my left. 

She helped me find a comfortable position that allowed me to work out years of atrophied muscles without any embarrassing strain or shakes. The point of Pilates is never to over do it. Even as I watched the more advanced classes after our beginners’ course step right into the machines, no one appeared to be visibly struggling which is more than I can say for my usual classes at the gym.

My Very First Class–Slow and Steady

We started off strong and easy. Contrary to what I thought, the more resistance I added to my table (that’s the first thing they’ll show you is how to adjust your leg height and resistance bars and it is super easy!) the easier most of the movements became. The reason is that the more resistance springs are added, the more stabilized a pilates table becomes. This means you don’t have to activate quite as many muscles as you flow through movements.

The tables are extremely relaxing. I could fall asleep on one if I wasn’t trying so hard to pay attention to each direction. Unlike in yoga, Katherine isn’t speaking a completely different language that is foreign to any beginner. (Downward facing what, now?) The instructions for pilates are quite straight forward and the shape of the tables makes it obvious where each body part should go. Everything about it is natural even when you have no idea what you’re doing.

The first few movements were what you’d expect at first glance of a pilates reformer. You lay down, shoulders against the table’s pads and feet at the bottom bar and you simply push yourself back and forth. I could glide all day. I was surprised how easily I could get through the movements even at 20 or 30 reps. Of course, toward the end of our warm up time, I was feeling the burn! But I wasn’t struggling to be able to do any of it and I didn’t feel pressured to keep up if I needed to realign or stretch a hammie.

The great thing about these midday beginner’s classes is the size of the class! While even a full pilates class at Bounce consists of only nine or ten people, this class was half the size. I thought I was the only true beginner to the class which was a little scary at first, but then I realized how refreshing it is to have someone next to you that knows exactly what they are doing.

Turns out, our class was a good mix of half and half – half newbies and half veterans. The truth is, you’d never know. The instructions are so clear and you start out at such a simple pace that, to me, everyone looked like a pro.

All in all, the class went by rather quickly. Only 45 minutes for a full-body workout that, for me, burns about the same amount of calories as I would on a brisk walk or on the treadmill. To be honest, I’m rather sick of the treadmill. It’s the scenery! Treading is something I’m dreading. So, I definitely think I can really be into this pilates thing!

The class has about five or six moves in total across 45 minutes. Katherine ended strong with a bit of a challenge, but definitely not anything I couldn’t handle. I appreciated the focus on legs–inner thighs and lower calves–as well as the focus on arms. Everything about the experience was challenging in a way that was free from struggle and was, instead, extremely rewarding. 

As a first timer, I had a lot of too-shy-to-ask questions. And no amount of YouTube videos would help me get over my self-doubt about my capabilities.

Pilates–For All Ages and Experiences

I’m here to tell you, Pilates is definitely an art form fit for all ages and fitness levels. In my opinion, despite everything you may or hear or assume, Pilates is a lot more universal to beginners and different age groups than yoga.

I can immediately see the benefits to a clinical Pilates class led by a team of health professionals that know exactly how YOUR body moves and what YOUR body can handle. Not just any body. The team at Bounce gets to know you. They communicate with each other on your history and your current physical status when you start a new class.

A Clinical Pilates Class–Advantages

The reformer allows you to relax the muscles that you regularly use and often overcompensate with when even the slightest injuries occur. Somewhat like swimming, your body is suspended in a way that allows you to work the micro muscles that you really wouldn’t reach otherwise.

Think about your body while you are standing. Simply standing up activates the front of your thighs, your calves, and the bottoms of your feet. Years of standing, walking, and even running don’t necessarily ever activate the lower side of your hips, your inner thigh, or those tiny little muscles between each one of your ribs.

Sure, sitting up activates our core. But whether we are standing or sitting, there’s no guarantee that our posture is perfect and that we are activating each part of our body equally.

Now, imagine lying down on a cushioned table, muscles supported. You have pads above your shoulders to keep your upper body evenly distributed. You have a bar to rest your feet on. In a parked position, your body is as relaxed as you possibly can be (unless you book in a massage with Colly). The reformer table supports you as you ever so slightly push into the pads of your heels and feel yourself gliding back almost effortlessly. The sensation is almost like floating in a pool with the slightest kick to keep you afloat.

With the support of the reformer and an amazing instructor to keep you on track with proper muscle activation, you get that sense of a complete body workout from head to toe without the stress or strain of lifting weights or lunging across the gym floor 50 times.

What really mattered most to me was not just my ability to do Pilates, but my ability to have a complete body workout that I knew was safe for me. I wanted to make sure I could reach my fitness goals without causing more damage than good to my muscles and posture. I was over trying new things at the gym only to wind up back at the treadmill, walking out more kinks and cracks because I had strained another muscle or twisted another bone.

Will I Come Back? Of Course!

After class, I now feel more motivated than ever. I feel capable. I feel like I can do this every day, maybe even twice a day and really see major changes in my physique without having to stop and recover from my constant need to overdo and over commit.

Pilates is quickly becoming my new big thing. Before I left the studio, I had logged into the MINDBODY app and booked the Friday Basics class as well. And as I booked that in, I decided to see what I could do on my down day just in case I was a little sore. Mindfulness with Jesse, noon on Thursday: done and done!

Join me in my journey to a new self, thanks to the team at Bounce. I will be blogging regularly about my experience as I get back to basics and find that energy I know I’ve been missing. Don’t miss out on my next post.

Next stop: mindfulness.