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Reformer Pilates {I’m Not A Gym Bunny}

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

I may have mentioned before that I gave up the gym years ago. I’ve always enjoyed exercising but find I build bulk muscle, particularly in my thighs and calves, very easily.

Everyone’s body type is different. Everyone’s body desires are different. Some significant body shape changes are possible via particular workout regimes, some are not. I’m not going to develop the long legs of a Victoria’s Secret model even with all the will and lunging in the world. But I can tell you that once I stopped running (when I met James I was pounding the treadmill/pavements for about 10 miles every week) and started my HIIT-esque cardio dance workouts and began pilates, my body became more lithe, toned and flexible. Yes, even my short legs benefitted.

Sometimes I would find regular mat pilates classes a bit dull, I won’t lie. I even gave it up altogether for a while in 2015 as I realised some of the crunch-type moves were clearly making my Diastasis Recti (Abdominal muscle separation – you can read about it on Rock My Family today) worse.

After several months of not partaking in pilates I noticed my body becoming less toned, I was still bouncing around to my dance DVDS (Tracy Anderson being my guilty pleasure of choice) but my arms and bum in particular, were noticeably less shapely. And of course my core simply wasn’t as strong.

I had heard about Reformer Pilates via instagram and various health and fitness print media. It’s essentially based around regular pilates but you carry out the movements (always based around strengthening your core) on a special spring bed/platform. The springs represent different types of resistance and you can do all sorts of gymnastic type moves with the ropes and balancing on the footplate or barre (well, at least I think they look impressively gymnastic). Apparently a one hour reformer class is equivalent to 4 hours of mat work if performed correctly. I know – really? Yes really. My entire body is worked out in that 60 minutes, I have never experienced anything quite so hardcore in my entire life. And I love it. And it works. I have defined obliques I never thought were possible.

Assuming this kind of equipment and training would only be available in London, I found a studio near my old house – Mk Healthhub. They modify certain aspects for me because of my Diastasis Recti as mentioned above, and I endeavour to do two early morning classes a week – I co-ordinate timings with dropping Mabel at nursery.

The one thing I do need to sort out is what I wear. Honestly, I am by far the scruffiest person there, it’s actually becoming embarrassing. As I was up in a bridge last week I noticed a big hole down the seam of my H&M vest (possibly at least 7 years old, possibly should have thrown it in the bin). I did recently invest in some Sweaty Betty Zen Yoga Leggings which are extraordinarily flattering. However, at £70 I’m only allowing myself one pair but have been told the sculpt leggings by Marks and Spencers give a similar effect. On the subject of M&S, they have just bought out a new Activewear range with Rosie Huntington-Whitley and I’m definitely going to be adding a few pieces to my virtual basket. Because if I dress myself from head-to-toe in Rosie’s garb I will look just like her right? right?

What exercise regimes are you following at the moment? Do you have any effective at-home workout DVDS to share? Do you have any recommendations for pretty yet comfortable activewear? Or grey trainers that don’t make your feet look unnecessarily bulky… I REALLY need new trainers.

Do feel free to ask any questions in the comments box below!

P.s Probably should have applied fake tan before the images in the slider were taken. I’m so white I’m almost reflective.

P.P.S Also in my virtual basket along with the leggings is a new throw in teal because well, pom poms.

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Author
Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
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49 thoughts on “Reformer Pilates {I’m Not A Gym Bunny}

  1. LOVE reformer Pilates so much. I find it helps keep my back strong to prevent injuries I’m prone to. Primark and H&M for awesome workout gear that’s a fraction of the cost of sweaty Betty xx

    1. What a great blog on the benefits of Pilates reformer. Loved reading this, so positive and inspiring. I also love it!! Really helped me recover through my own injury. I am passionate about teaching others and helping them find the benefits of this amazing piece of apparatus.

  2. Great to hear you love Pilates as I’m a Peak Pilates instructor. I am lucky enough to have a reformer at home (the studio were selling on 2ndhand) and so can practise regularly. They’re costly pieces of equipment but worth it as classes/1:1 sessions are usually expensive.
    Pilates is for everyone – each move can be adapted to suit the individual. You will build core strength which, in turn, helps support your lower back and improves posture. What’s not to love!
    As for clothing I really rate Prana and Noballs (love the name)

    1. Hi Siobhan! Oh you lucky thing – I would love to have a reformer at home. Will check out Noballs now 🙂 x

  3. I love to exercise and used to spend my evenings at the gym doing class after class. Whilst I found this hugely satisfying and great fun, who doesn’t enjoy bouncing around to Katy Perry or Tina Turner knowing your toning up at the same time , I wasn’t seeing any real results and my weight just plateaued over the last few years. I was also finding it increasingly difficult to find the time as work became more demanding and to be honest all that high impact was beginning to wear on my body and I was forever injured.

    Last year I made the decision to let go of some of my hang ups and see a PT once a week. Psychologically, I have lost the guilt I used to feel when I missed a class because I know once a week is manageable. Best of all though has been the change in my body shape! I had thought I’d always have ‘hockey player’ legs as a legacy of my school days but, 9 months later, I finally feel confident in a pair of skinny jeans. I still haven’t lost any lbs but I have lost over 8 inches f on my waist and hips!

    P.s. If you’re looking for active wear, I swear by Stella McArtney for Adidas. For something a bit different try Active in Style, they often stock some fantastic Aussie brands. I also recently purchased some truly beautiful grey, copper and marble New Balance trainers from Sweaty Betty; they’re just too pretty to wear outside.

    1. Wow Leona, those are amazing results. It’s funny I always thought I had overtly muscular legs too (not hockey related but I did used to be a sprinter at school) but I also feel fine in a pair of skinny jeans these days. These trainers you mention….I think I need them! x

  4. Always wanted to try reformer Pilates. Hopefully after baby no.2 I can get to do it. Sweaty Betty is expensive but in the sale it’s great and if you sign up to their booklets etc posted at home you receive £15 every quarter to spend.
    Will have save the pennies for the classes as saw they weren’t cheap but with that and spinning the weight should surely come off!
    I too suffered from muscle separation, a stage 4, it’s so annoying isn’t it. Something that you never hear about happening when you are pregnant!!

    1. I can’t believe in all the time I was pregnant, my pilates classes, friends who had already had babies….it was never mentioned. Perhaps there is a general misconception that it just automatically heals in all cases? x

  5. I love running, it really does it for me. But I have to mix it with HIIT style workouts and yoga stretching and luckily I live somewhere where hill training isn’t a special option it’s impossible to avoid on any run! Did my first triathlon back in the summer and loved the mix of disciplines and challenging my brain to kick from one to the other.

    Work out wear- UnderArmour leggings are the best! I wear them all the time, so comfortable and so flattering. Also I love my Nike Free running shoes- like floating on air they are so light. Once you go minimal you never go back and your knees will thank you.

    1. One of my friends has taken up running and has been competing in marathons and she looks (and feels) amazing Lucy. Her legs are so toned and slim, I think it must be so much to do with body type and where your muscles bulk up. I used to have quite protruding muscles in my thighs just above my knees that I was paranoid about – but I’m sure on some people they would look strong and athletic. I’ve not heard of UnderArmour but will take a look now! xx

  6. I am very intrigued, I have literally only just started Pilates mat classes and am really loving it. I am going to keep an eye out for some reformer pilates classes so that I can give it a go! xx

  7. My current fitness regime consists of browsing through the sweatty betty catalogue when it drops on my doormat. I don’t think I’m going to start anything dramatic at 20 weeks pregnant but I definitely need to dig out my Tracy Anderson pregnancy DVDs as I really enjoyed them last time around and try to fit in a swim once a week. I also did some pregnancy yoga but found myself way too impatient to spend and hour and half every Saturday on what essentially felt like some very mild stretching but that’s probably just me. I need to look into reformers classes near me as it sounds fab – just need to stick to it a bit longer than I usually do.

    1. Kat I always feel really mean dissing yoga but I’ve tried it several times now and it just isn’t for me at all, I am way too impatient too!

      Reformer is definitely worth a try, I am addicted and only wish I had more time to do another class a week x

  8. I saw Rosie H-W at the airport once. I felt like a troll, and wanted to go and find a paper bag to put over my head. She’s like a freaking gazelle.

    1. ha hahahahaha actually laughed out loud. I read about her diet/routine once and had mucho respect for her being so honest and actually committing to what sounded like a nightmare. Her whole life must be dominated by a very strict regime…Pass the biscuits!

  9. Charlotte, completely with you on the muscular thighs thing…. My family have always referred to my legs as ‘boy scout legs’! I’ve always loved exercise and did masses of long distance running at school but I’ve always created muscle and bulk really easily and I’m only 5’1″. These days I cycle, mostly on an indoor turbo trainer. My husband’s a cycling nut and as they say ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ However despite cycling regularly for years now, I can’t get rid of the muffin top and could do with some toning on my upper body. As of yesterday though, I’ve just started cycle 1 of 90 days with The Body Coach and am hoping to see great results.
    Re: the clothing, love Sweaty Betty but so so spendy and have not taken the plunge as yet so it’s great to read about some of the other more affordable brands out there. Good luck with your Reformer Pilates – never heard about it before but looks intriguing. I’m off for my HiiT session…….!

    1. Kate I definitely recommend pilates for core strength/flattening your tummy, it can seem a bit slow if you are used to more intense regimes but once you get the hang of it it’s bloody hard, I find some stuff really challenging still and I’ve been doing it for over 8 years. I have friends that really rate The Body Coach – I have one of the recipe books and it’s excellent x

  10. You look beautiful in the sliders, pale skin is interesting & I didn’t even notice your clothing not being up to scratch. We are so judgemental of ourselves aren’t we!

    I can highly recommend Mango for sportswear, I have bought a few items this season & last & the quality is really good & they wash really well. Also shout out to UnderArmour, I can’t comment on their clothing but bought a pair of trainers from them yesterday (well actually from http://www.sweatshop.com) & they are amazing, the comfiest trainers ever. I tried them on at 4pm & didn’t take them off until I was going to bed!!!! I only knew about UnderArmour because they sponsor Andy Murray.

    Re at home workouts check out http://www.fitnessblender.com – over 600 free workouts on YouTube for all stages & abilities. I mostly do HIIT, cardio & strength but they have everything (apart from reformer pilates ;-))

    1. Thanks so much Grainne, I honestly don’t mind being pale – I’ve embraced it! I just didn’t realise how white I was under the spotlights 🙂

      Thanks for the Youtube link, will take a look – love finding new routines x

  11. I have tried reformer pilates before, however went off it a little as I have terrible balance and found that during the exercises I had a lot of pressure building up in my neck (bad technique more than anything I suspect). I now run regularly and spin too and love that combination together, however do miss having a session of pure strength type training. You may have just inspired me to start up with it again Charlotte.

    1. Neck strain can be an issue Emma, our reformers have a piece where your head rests that lifts up for extra support. I always use it if I feel extra pressure on my neck. I don’t have balance issues because of my dance training but still find stuff really challenging, I will be really happy if I’ve inspired you to get back to it 🙂 x

    2. Hiya Emma, this can often happen!
      It won’t necessarily be ‘bad form’, but more just muscles groups that you rely on and others that you don’t activate. If you mention it to the coach, they should be able to give you alternatives and suggestions to prevent the pressure going to your neck!
      If you live near Solihull, come and try out MK Health Hub. 🙂

  12. I stepped foot in the gym for the first time in months on Sunday. Quite honestly I haven’t missed it and am now thinking of cancelling my membership. I got a Fit Bit in late December and I started walking every day just around the streets and parks in my area. I have a dog so I have taken over all of the walkies. I make sure I do my 10,000 steps every day and I have lost half a stone and I can see a major difference in my body already – my waist is two inches smaller than when I was a dress size smaller!!! I also genuinely feel fitter and my posture has improved. If all it takes to do this is a 15 min stroll at lunchtime and then around 30 minutes dog walking in the evening I’m keeping it up.

    1. Claire a brisk walk is so underrated! Your results are great – you’ve inspired me to get a fit bit actually, a few of the ladies in my pilates classes have them x

  13. I’ve never tried Pilates, my mum is always raving about it though. I did Ashtanga Yoga for a while and enjoyed that a lot, definitely felt the benefit especially as the rest of my exercise regime is quite intense.

    I do CrossFit, usually 5 sessions a week. It’s not as scary as a lot of people think. I also try and get my 10k steps in a day, errands, school runs and dog walks. It’s not only good for the soul but saves me a fortune in petrol! We have a gym group on an app called Pacer and it’s a great motivator.

    Gym wear wise, I am a sucker for bright print leggings. Tikiboo are great; reasonably priced, wash well and are totally squat proof! I wear Nike Metcon trainers, I’ve got quite low ankles (is that even a thing?!) and I often find trainers come up too high.

  14. So strange seeing this – I signed up at MK last week and am off to my second session this afternoon! Great to read how brilliant you’ve found it – I’ve been a bit nervous about venturing away from mat-based pilates, but this is very timely reassurance! I’m not going to lie, the first session absolutely broke me, so I’m hoping today isn’t as bad. I have a feeling that’s wishful thinking though…

  15. This has inspired me to look at some local pilates classes near me. I was only thinking yesterday evening that whilst I don’t want to lose any weight, I really would like to strengthen my core area (and tone this area up as this is where all my weight goes!). Sounds like I should give pilates a go. I tried a class years and years ago and found it so difficult and pulled a muscle!..and its put me off ever since! Perhaps I should try again! Also I have been lusting over Sweaty Betty leggings for ages, just for lazy weekends, this will be the perfect excuse to buy 😉 x

  16. I love Pilates but had never heard of Reformer Pilates until my Pilates instructor offered me some free sessions as she’s training to be an instructor on that as well. I thought it was great – especially for post-natal me but my very fit (fitter than me) Mum also did it and found it really beneficial.

    I just have a dislike of the name “reformer” Pilates, I can’t figure out what reformer has to do with the machine thing?!

    1. I would actually love to be an instructor and have my own machine (you know, because I’ve loads of time to fit that in!) I find my body is way more “worked” after a reformer class than a mat one x

      1. Yes definitely, reformer pilates is like Pilates on speed! My friend who is a totally extreme fitness junkie turns her nose up at Pilates but was pretty impressed with the reformer, it was high energy enough for her.
        Yes Pilates instructor must be a fab job!

  17. Charlotte, can you recommend local Midlands reformer classes. I would love to do this. My local studio doesn’t have the facilities.

    1. Hi Rhiannon, I go to MK Health Hub in Shirley – it was the only one I could find near me. There are some pilates instructors who do it from home but it’s expensive per session (about £35!) but at MK providing I make sure I go to classes it works out about £10 per hour xx

  18. I did mat Pilates for 18 months and loved it – I always felt like I had a thoroughly good workout but without the sweating! It was a small class too which meant lots more one on one time. However, the class moved location and time, both of which were inconvenient for me so I gave it up. I’d love to start again but haven’t found another suitably timed class in my local area.

    I’ve been a bit rubbish at keeping fit over the last year – mainly a bit stop/start with keeping a routine up. But I have just started going back to Zumba (which is a good laugh and gets my heart rate going if nothing else) and I’m determined to get back into home workouts as well (I’ve bought Zanna Van Dijk’s Strong that has some really good workouts in it for all levels both at home and in the gym).

    As for gym gear – H&M all the way. Heard good things about Primark too. I had a rubbish experience with some M&S gear – leggings went see through after one wear and wash!! Not good.

    1. Jo I’m pretty sure I follow Zanna on instagram – I didn’t realise she had workouts. I actually really enjoyed Zumba when I did a few classes with a friend pre baby, I think it massively depends on the instructor and the music choices as with most dance type classes. I once went to one which was all jazz hands and as if you were supposed to be in the theatre. I nearly died and couldn’t wait to leave!

      I haven’t looked at H&M gym gear for ages so will take a look xx

  19. OMG, I started doing Power Pilates on the reformer beds a couple of months ago and I am totally hooked! It is soo tough, but so rewarding! You really do feel like you’ve worked out every part of your body. And I was definitely feeling a lot leaner – until Christmas happened! I do a lot of running too (including marathons) and I definitely think that the reformer Pilates really compliments that, with the combination of strengthening, stretching and core work. Totally hooked!

    1. ha ha me too – until Christmas happened! I actually feel as though my legs are a bit longer after every class – wishful thinking but they definitely look that little bit leaner x

  20. I wish they had reformer near me but sadly not. I enjoy running but haven’t done any since before Xmas and I prefer outdoor running but just don’t like cold or wet weather! So, Iv dug out the T25 DVD and started that last week, 25 mins of HIIT and there’s five diff workouts for the first five weeks then another five diff ones up a notch and then three weeks of more strength ones. They always make me feel like I’m going to vom so I feel I work hard. Hoping to lose a couple of stones and some inches and always find I feel better when I exercise and get some inches off rather than just dieting which loses weight but don’t seem to get as small a size on! I enjoy going swimming too it feels really relaxing and no stress on the old joints so it balances the other workouts out. Def need some new trainers too! X

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