Reformer-ing a Matwork Addict: A Newbie’s Take on Reformer
In April, we challenged long-time PFI client, consultant and self-confessed “Pilates Groupie”, Carly Wise to step outside her comfort zone, give Basic Reformer a go and document her observations along the way.
Note: to gain a balanced insight into any new method, PFI recommends a minimum of four classes to get a good feel the method under multiple Instructors.
I love matwork; like, really love it. But I must admit I’ve always been quietly curious about Reformer.
To date, what has stopped me doing a class? Truthfully, I found it a little intimidating; all those straps and moving parts. Let’s face it, it looks like some sort of medieval torture device!
Also, I’m the first to admit I am not the most coordinated individual, so I had visions of myself being the least elegant person in class.
Final excuse: I always just assumed Reformer was an advanced method. Even though I have been doing advanced matwork classes for a while, I just assumed I wasn’t “ready” for it.
I was pretty much wrong on all counts, plus some!
Misconception: you have to have an advanced Pilates background to do Reformer.
False! In my first Basic Reformer class with the lovely Kylie Crisp, a couple things stood out to me:
Every person in the class was a newbie, not just me! More surprising still, a couple people had no experience with Pilates whatsoever! In other classes, there was usually an even balance of people who had been coming for a while, and those who were fresh to it.
“Basic Reformer” is a true beginner’s class, and because the classes are small your PFI Instructor can meet you wherever you are in terms of fitness level and familiarity with the apparatus and Pilates movements.
I can now see that the beauty of Reformer is it that the machinery is supportive enough for people just starting out and challenging enough for seasoned athletes.
Misconception: the Reformer is a scary and complicated beast.
When you do a Basic class, your Instructor will take some time to help you get acquainted with the hardware: springs, straps, foot bar, and you help figure out the right settings for your body.
You are not expected to know what to do or how to do it from the get go! A lot of the class is about learning how to safely get into the right positions before attempting movements. To my surprise, by the second class I already had a pretty good feel for it, it doesn’t take long.
Misconception: it’s no good for those with a lack of coordination.
One of the first questions I asked PFI Instructor Jae Edwards was: “How many people have fallen off this thing?” To my relief, she said it never happens. Phew!
Like matwork, if you follow the Instructor’s cues to get in the right position to begin with, there’s little more balance or coordination required than in your average matwork class! To date, I’ve not fallen off (touch wood).
Misconception: it looks like a whole lot of gliding around; you can’t be working that hard!
I must admit after the first class I was a little sceptical about how hard I had worked in comparison to a progressive matwork class.
I definitely felt some burn, but for the most part I spent the class preoccupied with doing it “right”. However, when I woke up the next day could really feel it in my legs and butt!
As it turns out, learning how to hold your body in space and against the feedback from the moving carriage (the bed-like platform part) and other bits and pieces, makes you work!
For the first few classes I was definitely challenged and at times a bit frustrated because it just didn’t feel the same as doing Pilates on the ground. In hindsight, I needed to allow myself some time, because by the fourth class I was finally confident enough with the apparatus to focus more on the movements, meaning I could work harder still!
Now, oh boy, I feel the burn!
Misconception: you can’t do Reformer if you have an injury.
Of course, this totally depends on your injury (PFI will advise against practicing any form of Pilates if you have an acute injury), but for the most part, like any other Pilates class your Instructor can make allowances for any physical niggles or sore spots.
Be sure to let them know if something doesn’t feel right and they will work with you to find a safe way to complete movements. Again, the beauty of the small classes!
After four Basic Reformer classes over two weeks, I can fully understand why Reformer has a cult following! It really is a unique blend of cardio and whole body strength work; very different to mat, but also very similar in some respects.