Skip The Expensive Class With This Pilates At-Home Reformer
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that Pilates is having a moment. While celebrities like Jennifer Aniston take part in this strengthening form of exercise at fitness studios, you can actually enjoy Pilates at home. Considering that a single class can set you back $50 or more, I say that's a good thing.
I was fortunate enough to try the Aeropilates Pilates Home Studio Reformer from QVC.
I've always fantasized about having my very own Pilates machine, but never thought it would happen. Along with being a pretty penny (studio-style machines can cost more than $4,000!), the setup intimidated me from making the fantasy a reality.
The Aeropilates Pilates Home Studio Reformer surprised me in several ways, and one was that it was not difficult to put together. I'll give more detail about my experience below, but let's just say I was impressed. (I'm the queen of paying people to put things together for me: my bed, the standing work desk I'm writing this at, the shelves in my kitchen — so if I can do it, so can you!)
Another pleasant surprise? That it really does offer a proper studio workout, which means that if you're dying to take part in the Pilates trend but don't have time to go to the gym several times a week, it's the perfect piece of exercise equipment.
What is the hype about Pilates?
Like fashion, fitness is also cyclical, so it sort of makes sense Pilates is on people's radar again.
It's been around since the 1920s, and is considered a form of strength training. What sets it apart from weight lifting is that it focuses on whole body movements to realign the spine, strengthen the core, and improve range of mobility. It increases flexibility, and has a mind-body connection through breath work.
Many are turning to Pilates because it sculpts and strengthens muscles without tacking on mass. It's challenging but restorative, especially if your fitness routine is made up of daily intense workouts like HIIT or running. As one study in Frontiers showed, long, intense workouts can create chronic inflammation, which can lead to fatigue, bloating, and injury. Obviously, nobody wants that.
While no one is advocating stopping strength training or cardio, switching between those and something more gentle can be beneficial. Some of the perks of Pilates include:
Stronger balance and coordination
Better body awareness
I first tried Pilates back in high school. I had just joined a gym, and someone recommend that I take a class. A cardio bunny even then, I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but I was wrong — way wrong!
I was surprisingly sore after my first class. After a few more, I noticed that my posture had improved and I moved with more fluidity. I also felt leaner. Needless to say, I became a huge fan of the workout.
I now try to do Pilates one to two times per week. Whether you're looking for an alternative to lifting or want something that complements your workout routine — I like it after running — it's really worth a shot.
What is a Pilates reformer?
Pilates can be performed on a mat, but it can also be done on a reformer.
A Pilates reformer machine has a flat platform with wheels, springs beneath, and straps that can be attached to the hands or feet. While mat Pilates is great, a reformer can further assist with form, because the pull of the straps and springs heighten one's awareness of imbalances and how different muscles are moving. The machine also creates additional resistance, making it a little more challenging, similar to doing calisthenics with a resistance band.
The type of reformer in a fitness boutique is typically really — and I mean, really — large. It's one of the reasons I never wanted to invest in one. What's so cool about the Aeropilates Pilates Home Studio Reformer is that it's no longer than a treadmill and more narrow, so it fits neatly in a corner when not in use.
Just like the Pilates reformers at the gym, it has straps, springs that adjust resistance, as well as a cardio rebounder. It also comes with a Magic Circle (QVC, $25.25) for targeted toning.
Although it can be fun to take classes, I like the idea of doing Pilates at home. For one thing, I like working out in a low pressure environment. More importantly, a workout can be squeezed in whenever. I don't know about you, but I'm busy, so I need to exercise to work on my schedule — not someone else's.
Can you teach yourself Pilates at home?
You absolutely can teach yourself Pilates at home.
I took a class in college that taught all about Pilates founder Joseph Pilates, and the principals of the workout. I found it informative and beneficial. However, you don't need a class to learn about Pilates — I mean, we have the internet!
Also, the Aeropilates Pilates Home Studio Reformer from QVC comes with six workout DVDs. The Basic Workout one is a great place to start your Pilates journey. Once you're comfortable with the machine, you can move on to the Strength and Stamina DVD or the Total Body Tone and Lengthen one. Since you're doing Pilates at home, you can go at your own pace, rewind — whatever. It's an effective way to incorporate the workout in your regular routine, and if you ever take a class, you'll be a pro!
Pilates Home Studio 5-Cord Reformer by Aeropilates
Best at home Pilates Reformer
Why we like it:
Comes with assembly tools
Includes 6 different Pilates workout DVDs
350 pound weight capacity
For the record, I tend to feel a way about testing big pieces of exercise equipment. Although I'm strong — I strength train twice a week, thank you very much — I'm generally no match for anything over 70 pounds, so I was eager but nervous when I had the opportunity to try the Pilates Home Studio 5-Cord Reformer.
My main attraction was that it was like a smaller version of the machines you see at a Pilates studio. I love the mat version of the workout, but the extra resistance and range of motion from a reformer is supposed to be superb.
All the parts were packed neatly in the box, as well as the necessary tools and instructions. The manual includes pictures but I highly suggest reading/doing each step of the assembly as advised. I was wigged out by all the details but I'm here to tell you, just take it step by step. Once you get the frame assembled, you're well on your way.
It took me about an hour and some change, which isn't bad considering I'm not great with instructions. I had to use some elbow grease getting some of the parts in but I'm proud I assembled the entire thing without help.
The platform was surprisingly easy to get onto the frame. If you have serious joint pain or back issues, you may want an extra hand. However, I was able to manage it. Once assembled, the Pilates machine was easy to move to the corner of the room I wanted. It also comes with a mat, which helped the process.
Once I had the machine set up, the next challenge was adjusting the straps. I do wish the manual had more detail about this part. And truthfully, this is when I started tinkering around on my own, because I just wanted to get on the reformer. However, according to the manual, simply place the ropes on the shoulder rests and adjust till they are taught. Afterwards, lay down on the machine, place your hands in the straps and lift your arms to the ceiling. If there is tension, the ropes need to be lengthened. The pulley height can also be adjusted, and there are slots to move the resistance cords into.
Like anything, it takes some time to adjust to moving along with the machine, but that's what the mind-body connection is all about. One you're used to keeping yourself stabilized — hint: use those core muscles — you'll love how it feels. The gentle stretching feels amazing, especially if you're used to sitting at a desk all day.
Exercising on a Pilates reformer takes the workout to a whole new level. Again, it's all about the added resistance. While I never want anyone to feel like they need extra equipment to get a great workout in, it can definitely enhance the experience. If you're serious about Pilates or want something that thoroughly works your muscles while you take a break for a more strenuous regimen, it's worth trying.