Well, to be honest, I don’t really have an “everything” to drop. I’m not doing much these days because of, you know… Anyway, after never doing Pilates in my life, I have done a good deal of Peloton’s Pilates classes at this point. My favorite part? Getting to say, “Be right back, I’m going to Pilates.” And guess what? I’m not lying! I’m kidding—sort of. I do enjoy that part. Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it? Worldly...sophisticated... fit.
But, jokes aside, I’d never done Pilates before trying Peloton’s classes. I will admit my impression of Pilates was generally the stereotype that it’s fancy and expensive and just generally not on my personal fitness roadmap. Like, wouldn’t I need to pay for a session with one of those big machines I saw in the windows of suburban Pilates studios growing up? Doing Pilates, like eating dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns or visiting Singapore, is something that’s always been on my list of Things To Do One Day When I Have The Ability To Do Them But Probably Not Anytime Soon, Realistically.
Despite my initial “not for me right now” attitude toward Pilates, I do consider myself a generally Active Dude who isn’t afraid to try something new. So when Peloton dropped 20 mat Pilates classes on my proverbial lap, I really couldn’t wait to try them. Pilates, right here at home!? Like, this is the most excited I’ve been for a release in a while. Especially in this day and age, when walking around my block in a different direction feels like international travel, I could use the spice of variety in my life. And a variety that mixes up my exercise routine with limited equipment around? All the better.
Intro to pilates classes
Onto the classes: As a beginner in the truest sense of the word, it’s only right that I started with some introductory classes. The overall emphasis on breath is something I noticed right off the bat. And this was not just breathing in connection with movements, but time was carved out of the beginning of class for focused, three-dimensional breathing. Aditi Shah, one of the Peloton instructors, encouraged me to think of the breath as a tool to take me from a state of “doing” to a state of “being.” Very meditative and mindful! I wasn’t necessarily expecting that in Pilates, but hey, what do I know? (Nothing, that’s why I’m in the intro class!)
Aside from the focus on the breath, another major takeaway from the intro classes was the focus on alignment. While I knew Pilates exercises emphasize strength and flexibility, I did not expect to be thinking about alignment so often. I first noticed this during the pelvic tilt and clock drills toward the beginning of class—these moves felt pretty foreign to me because I’m not really used to thinking about subtle movements in the pelvic muscles or finding a neutral pelvis. And these moves are subtle! Like, so subtle you can’t really even see the instructor moving. Thankfully, some of the instructor’s visualizations helped, like thinking about rolling a marble around. Love a good visualization when I’m clueless! (Thank you, Sam Yo.)
After exploring the introductory Pilates classes, which focus on form and explanation over getting in a full workout, I was ready to take the real ones. Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve taken at least one Pilates class with each of the five instructors. At the start of each class , I immediately recognized the “360-degree breathing” and pelvic alignment drills—both of which I’ve found are great to center myself and get into a “Pilates” mindset. I also found the music, which skews moody and chill, is especially helpful in getting in a focused and intentional state of mind. We’re not dripping in oh-my-goodness amounts of sweat like a Tabata ride over here, but we’re still focused on our movement and there’s definitely a bit of a burn. We’re in the moment, we’re thinking about our pelvic alignment and swinging our legs up and pointing our toes, and we’re just straight-up having a good time. You know?
Personally, the hardest part of Pilates for me was any of the single-leg work (think lifts or circles or sweeps) while lying on my side. While nothing ever worked me to complete exhaustion because this is a low-impact class, so it’s not intended to do that, it still definitely burned and challenged me. I also had a tough time finding my balance on more advanced transitions, like roll like a ball into boat pose, and some of the straight-leg movements reminded me just how tight my hamstring are… Despite my challenges and areas of opportunity, the classes have a great flow to them and every movement feels incredibly intentional toward the singular goal of cultivating strength, flexibility and mind-muscle connection.
Lest we forget, though—Pilates is a great time! Does rolling like a ball sound fun? Exactly—it is! Swan dive? 10/10 would recommend to put a smile on your face. Seal? The piece de resistance, incredibly fun. Emma Lovewell said it best when she related some of the exercises to feeling like a toddler playing around on the floor. Honestly, I found that while taking these classes, I had to remind myself to shed that self-consciousness that lingers when trying something new, even though literally no one is watching me. So, my best advice is when you’re taking these classes is to just give yourself to the moment and don’t be afraid to roll like a ball and then extend your legs immediately after, even though you probably won’t nail the balance on the first few times...I definitely had to remind myself to not take myself too seriously.
What’s my post-Peloton-Pilates verdict? Two thumbs up with my arms flapping up and down doing the hundred. (Don’t know what that is, yet? I was like you once. You’ll learn! Take a class.) I love that Pilates totally focuses on those “powerhouse” muscles that are essential to any athlete. What also really excites me about Pilates is the challenge of getting better at moves as I take the classes again and again—I know that one day, with consistent effort, the laughing at myself will turn into a proud little smile at myself, as I figure out how to do something that I was previously unable to do… It’s like a peak pose in yoga or playing an instrument or skateboarding, the kind of challenge that keeps you motivated and coming back to try again. And you know what’s great about Pilates? It’s low-impact, so I’m comfortable coming back and trying again a few times each week.
Speaking of weeks...as far as incorporating these classes into my weekly Peloton routine, I found I liked them the most either as a shorter beginner or intermediate (15 or 20 minutes) class before a run or a ride or as my whole workout for the day if it’s an intermediate or advanced 30 or 45–minute class, with a stretch tacked on at the end. Pilates’ focus on mind-muscle connection and muscle activation helps cultivate an overall sense of body awareness, and personally I think that’s a great way to kick off a workout.
Of course, that’s just me—you know your body and your routine, and I’m not here tell you how to live. I’m just here to encourage you to give Pilates a shot, no matter who you are, because if you have an able body and you’re fortunate enough to move, you’re going to benefit by incorporating these classes into your routine. You’ll get stronger, more flexible, more coordinated, and, in my experience, leave the mat a more mindful, more curious and happier person than you were at the beginning of class. By incorporating Pilates into my week, I know I’m helping myself avoid plateaus and boredom in my routine and laying a strong and functional foundation for all the movement in my life. And I know I’m quite literally bringing Pilates with me into my everyday life when, the day after, I’m feeling it in my core when I laugh…
Read about Anthony's first time trying Peloton Barre here!