21 Jun 2018

Beginner’s Guide to Reformer

We challenged long-time PFI client, consultant and self-confessed “Pilates Groupie”, Carly to step outside her comfort zone, give Basic Reformer a go and document her observations along the way.

I love matwork; like, really love it. But I must admit I’ve always been quietly curious about Reformer and all its gliding, lithe, bendiness.

What has stopped me doing a class? Truthfully, it’s 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 only person in class to fall/fly off or become helplessly entangled in the apparatus. Final excuse: I always just assumed Reformer was an advanced method, so 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 struck me (thankfully none of which were parts of the reformer):

Every person in the class was a Reformer newbie, it wasn’t just me! More surprising still, a couple of people were completely fresh to Pilates! In later classes, there was usually an even balance of people who had been coming for a while, and those who were new to it.

“Basic Reformer” is what the name suggests: it’s a true beginner’s class and the classes are small so your PFI Instructor can meet you wherever you are in terms of fitness level and familiarity with the equipment.

The beauty of Reformer is its versatility: it’s for every body.

Misconception: the Reformer is a scary and complicated beast.

It is not as scary as it looks, I promise.

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 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!

Misconception: you need to be coordinated/have good balance.

The fear of looking foolish is very real, but don’t let it deter you! According to Kylie, people very rarely fall from the Reformer: it just doesn’t happen! Like matwork, if you follow the Instructor’s cues and position yourself correctly, there’s little more balance or coordination required than in your average mat class!

Misconception: it looks like a whole lot of gliding around; you can’t be working that hard!

I must admit I was skeptical. I definitely felt some burn during my first class, but I was for the most part preoccupied with doing it “right” and learning the mechanics. However, when I woke up the next day, boy did I feel it!  The challenge is different to matwork, obviously; and so is how you feel the work in your body. You’re also learning how to hold your body in space relative to a machine, and work with the feedback from moving parts: it is different, in a really positive way!

For the first few classes, I was definitely challenged and at the time a bit frustrated by this, but by the end of my experiment I was confident enough with the apparatus to focus more on technique and work even harder still!

Misconception: you can’t do Reformer if you have an injury.

Just like a matwork class, your Reformer Instructor can scale-back or adapt movements to accommodate niggles or sore spots: within reason! PFI will advise against practising any form of Pilates if you have an acute injury.

Always let your Instructor know if something doesn’t feel right and they will work with you to find a safe alternative. Again, the beauty of the small classes!


After four Basic Reformer classes over two weeks, I can fully understand why Reformer is addictive! It really is a unique blend of cardio and whole body strength work; it feels amazing in your body!

My advice is to be patient with yourself: there is a lot to learn, and it’s totally worth it!

If you’ve ever been curious about trying Reformer, I hope this has helped dispel some of the common misconceptions. Now don’t wait, go and book a Basic class today!



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