The Workout For Those Who Hate Working Out

Bianca-Balti-by-Mario-Sorrenti-for-Vogue-Paris-April-2005-2

Caroline's recent "I Hate Working Out" piece had me wondering if she'd ever tried what I consider to be the key to my physical wellbeing, sense of self-worth, and reason that my feet look so freaking immaculate. If you haven’t tried it, maybe nobody’s told you yet that Pilates is working out while lounging. This morning I woke up just after dawn, and layered on some new department-store socks, a clean pair of tissue-soft Uniqlo leggings, some sweatpants that had been warmed by the precarious placement of my dresser directly in front of the radiator, a hilariously unsupportive but cute brassiere, a thin t-shirt, sweater, and my ugly puffer jacket. It didn’t matter how marshmallow-y I appeared, for the only people seeing me would be school children in buses and livery cab drivers taking their sedans in for a quick clean at the car wash I pass during my 22 minute walk to my lesson­—which provides a refreshing, lukewarm lemony-chemical mist on my way back. It’s still early enough not to be bombarded by strangers, but light enough not to be terrified of the East Williamsburg Strangler. If I remember my headphones, I play a dreamy background soundtrack—something French and poppy, like “La Fille Avec Toi”—and envision the scenario being the backdrop for the opening credits in a movie about my life. You see, even if only for the walk to the studio, I would love Pilates.

I go to April Nicole Studios twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, to two different instructors. I schedule the sessions early, before work; I think I’ve always been the first lesson of the day. I don’t know if this means I get worked out harder because they’re up-‘n-at-‘em, or if they’re a bit fatigued from waking up so early. Either way, it’s easy. In fact, it feels like my instructors do most of the work for me—handing me the straps and balls and resistance contraptions so that I don’t have to get up, correcting my posture, prepping the various machines. One of them always gives me a relaxing back massage at the end of every lesson—seriously. Sometimes they drink tea or coffee while we work, which I find very calming. And they love to chat! They’re great at small talk. And they’re pretty—so pretty! Not sure if their attractiveness is just by coincidence, but regardless, Pilates is working out great for them. I actually do feel like my skin has gotten better since starting back up a couple of months ago.

A pause for an acknowledgement of the financial ruin an ill-conceived Pilates package purchase could cause: yes, it’s expensive. But you know what I didn’t just spend $700 on? Cocaine. A pair of shoes I’d wear once and decide hurt too bad, but maybe I’ll pass them down to my daughter because they’re cool. Bitcoins. A night at The Bowery, just to see what it’s like.

Your average private session will run around $75. I’ve gone to a $50 instructor before, who taught out of her apartment, which also served as a pungent litter box for her misbehaving cat. It hated the jumpboard, and would dart back-and-forth across the room while I Pilate'd. And she would regularly cancel on me with the most inexcusable excuses—literally as I walked up the stairs to my session. I think I told her that a roommate bailed on me, and that I could no longer afford her services, rather than “I hate you.” I told the same thing to my ex-boyfriend; makes for a nice, clean break. Anyway, beware of a cheap Pilates instructor.

I actually do recommend buying a package after you’ve gone a few times and determined that you like your institution/teacher—around 20 sessions if you can swing it. This is especially true for the types that tend to give up easy, because it takes about that long to really start seeing results. Although, I felt the oh-shit-I-haven’t-done-physical-activity-in-forever results immediately, and the oh-shit-I-can-walk-three-floors-without-my-thigh-muscles-breaking-off after about three weeks.

Package or no, I can’t imagine anybody not wanting to stick with a Pilates regimen. It’s the type of physical activity I would imagine that heavy marijuana users would find not only doable, but fulfilling. I don't even pull my hair back or wear real workout gear (pajamas, actually)—there's a good chance that I won't be breaking a sweat. So it's not strenuous, but "easy" isn't really the right word for it, either. Concentration is key—on your breath, your movements, the positioning of your body, the muscles you're using. It feels like a mixture of ballet and yoga, stretching and perfecting the lines of your body while toning through resistance movements. That's what's great about going to a private instructor, or being in a small class. They're there to correct you, guide you through new movements (no two sessions are ever the same), and remind you to use your glutes and hamstrings instead of your quads. And, maybe this says something really sad about my life right now, but I forgot what it was like to feel a real sense of accomplishment until I began excelling in my Pilates classes. It stuffs my fulfillment void that I didn't even know existed until Amy told me that I nailed my short spine stretch (and that she liked my striped leggings).

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I love Pilates so much that I purchased my own reformer machine, which takes up the space of a twin-sized dorm bed in the middle of my apartment. I use it while watching something trashy on Bravo, and find the pairing of the repetitive, fluid movements with Ramona Singer’s voice so relaxing that I oftentimes just end up napping right there on the leather-padded contraption. I consider it my daily physical activity, nap, and meditation session all packaged into one 45-minute time slot.

And the best thing about Pilates is that I found myself not only suddenly becoming far more concerned about the state of my naked winter feet, but actually doing something about them. I did a preemptive filing and extra scrubbing before my first session earlier in the year, but the preoccupation with what my instructors think of my feet during my lesson has been making me want to improve the state of my toes more and more each session. Lately I’ve been using OPI’s When Monkeys Fly—an extremely distracting combination of tiny-to-small flecks of rainbow glitter and huge golden, mirrored hexagonal sequins. It’s kind of a lot, but what can I say? My instructors—the ladies, if you will—go nuts for it.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Bianca Balti photographed by Mario Sorrenti for Vogue Paris April 2005. 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Charlotte MacDonald-Gaunt

    Pilates has been a huge part of my life for the last 10 years and there's nothing like it to sculpt your tummy - great for bikini season :o) Xx

    Makeup by Candlelight

  • ZyGGy

    THIS. I do the reformer daily and love it. Also I do a once a week megaformer session to get the heavy duty work in. So amazing.

  • Vik

    Can I just say that you are nailing the style and tone of these pieces just as hard as the short spine stretch. The writing is so spot-on and funny; a personal account which remains relevant to readers doesn't come that easily to all writers. Is pilates somehow responsible for this?

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      Awe shucks. One of the nicest things I've heard in a long time. I genuinely thank you!

  • sabah

    You are a really, really good writer. Funny, engaging, informative and a touch of sweetness :)
    #thatisall

  • Laura Mitchell

    Pilates is the only reason my feet look acceptable in winter. Have to watch out for hairy ankles too!

  • Rachel Medlock

    I did some Pilates classes a long time ago, but haven't been back lately. I've also never tried the reformer, but you've inspired me!

    xx,
    Rachel
    Suppose
    Anything Goes

  • Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig

    i seriously feel like this could have been written by me! i am a lifelong exercise despiser, but I discovered Pilates (specifically the reformer--mat-based Pilates, IMO, is NOT the same) a few months ago and i've never looked back. it has completely eliminated my back pain, totally helped my posture, helped to majorly get rid of my post-baby tummy, and has made my core and legs much, much stronger. But the craziest part? I like it. No, I love it. When I'm in the class, I find myself wishing that it was longer, which has 100 percent never happened for me in, say, a Spin class. Yes, it's expensive, but as a Pilates-loving friend told me once: You only have one body. So I spend a little less on shoes, eating out, bags I'll be sick of in a few months anyway--ends up being a small price to pay. Pilates is awesome. I mean, it's working out LYING DOWN. There is nothing about that not to like.

  • hh

    The Springtone classes down at Real Pilates (I truly don't work for them-- just have gone to a couple of classes) will disabuse anyone of the idea that pilates is easy. Holy crap. It's the same focus on breathe and form and the core as in more traditional pilates classes, but holy hell, torturous springs. It's a class I will only go to when I'm feeling hardcore, and right now I'm feeling more like a marshmallow.

  • http://www.thefieldingreport.com Emily Trout

    Loved this! I've been doing yoga at a great studio and am glad I'm not the only one concerned about the state of their feet. After a couple of adjustment I realized I needed to get my damn act together.
    It's a pilates + yoga studio and I haven't ventured to the pilates side yet, but this makes me want to!

  • softy

    hahaha "It’s the type of physical activity I would imagine that heavy marijuana users would find not only doable, but fulfilling." i've only done pilates a couple times and have always preferred yoga, but if that line is true then i just might convert.

  • Eliza

    What?!? Am I the only one who sweats like a pig when I do Pilates? Loved the article, but am super jealous of the author/all the commenters, because I do a half-hour of Pilates and am ready to "work my glutes" by kicking the Pop Pilates YouTube girl in the face (the fact that it's on my computer screen usually stops me). Even when I do it regularly, I feel like if I do one more crunch I might puke...how many times a week does everyone do it? I usually go for 3 and want to die every time haha.

  • Elizabeth Walker

    I love your writing! And so true about Pilates - it's the pretty girl's workout - no mess, no sweat. But expensive - oh so expensive! Everywhere!

  • SS

    Loved this piece. Annie, for New Yorkers interested in trying Pilates for the first time, would you recommend your instructors and/or the studios you frequent?

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      I see April and Amy at April Nicole Studios in Williamsburg. They're the best instructors I've ever had!

  • kelly

    as a heavy marijuana user who likes to wash her hair very infrequently, this all appeals. all except for the price tag. i'll check out that daisy fuentes infomercial shit tho.

  • desrosmic

    "But you know what I didn’t just spend $700 on? Cocaine". Haha!

  • kt mo

    For anyone interested in Pilates, but concerned about the price tag, I recommend taking some group mat classes. It's NOT the same as reformer classes (i mean, it's the difference between weight bearing exercises and exercise machines) but there is nothing like the Pilates ab series to whittle your tummy. You can also purchase an exercise ball and theraband for like $40 at Target, and do some exercises that will work WONDERS on your inner thighs and glutes. Won. Ders.

    For New Yorkers, Makara in Bushwick has great instructors at a great price. You just go a couple times and you can try out the exercises yourself on your living room floor with a towel! Very cost effective. (I sound like a commercial right now. I'm just a dancer who a) hates working out b) needs a great body to stay relevant and c) has no money.)

  • ShariB – Pilates Teacher

    This article is the perfect combination of humor and information! However, there's some funny stuff in it that I don't think is supposed to be funny and maybe you'll let me guide you through it one day: Pilates, as it was originally created (originally called "Contrology" and created by a really strong man who was really 'into' training boxers...hardcore!) and how many of us teach it, is not supposed to be easy or non-sweaty or anything of the sort. It's was originally designed to be a full body workout at the appropriate level for the client...based on his or her all around health. So...really a workout. Still, I can only support you and your studio and teachers as you have clearly become a fan and are getting the results that you really want! And...you've bought your own reformer! So, you're loving it! Well done!

    There are people in Pilates forums up in arms about this article, you might find fun to know (yes...you've hit a nerve). And I think they are missing that you are in love with Pilates...the style that you're doing. As Pilates grows all over the world, there are many different styles. Some are more peaceful, some are more active...

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      Oh no! Well, if the article is upsetting to instructors I agree that they're missing the point. Also, this is coming from the point of view of somebody who DOES work out, but just hates it. I have to say, Pilates is very low impact and leisurely compared to a lot of the stuff we're doing nowadays—Soul Cycle, boot camps, hot yoga, running clubs, basically any long, drawn-out cardio...All so extreme. Even in my tough classes (the one I had this morning was a challenge-wonder if she read the article, ha!), I find them easy—ONLY by comparison to everything else I've been doing over the years!

  • Jane

    This speaks volumes about your Pilates instructor... If anyone took a private from me and had this opinion about Pilates, I have failed as an instructor.

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      I love my instructors! They're what keep me coming back for more! Seeing results, feeling good... what could be bad about that?

    • Bostwick

      Maybe they're just good at determining and delivering what kind of session their clients want.

  • anonymous

    Anyone know of any studios in the los angeles county area?

  • Allegra

    Here here! As a Pilates instructor, I could not agree more! So glad you have found Pilates!

  • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

    I just keep layering on more and more glitter, honestly.

  • rude and not ginger.

    I don't even know what pilates is, but this article makes me want to do it.

  • Cupcakesandskirts

    I have never tried Pilates but after this, I want to.

  • http://www.elvisphoto.com Rikard Westman

    Great piece! For those who want to spend less, and speaks Swedish, there is an awesomely beatiful new book on pilates and getting in shape by Kristina Modig coming out this August: http://www.kristinamodig.se/pilates

  • Giana

    In my opinion, as a fellow hater of working out, I think what she might be going for when she says "easy" is not easy as in there is no challenge or workout happening, but easy as in it's not so strenuous, painful, and miserable as other forms as working out. For people who hate working out -- especially those non-athletic ones not in good shape -- working out is literally miserable, like, awful. Also think of the target audience here, this article is about pilates but not aimed at people who are pilates fanatics/instructors, etc. This is targeted towards people who hate working out to give them hope that maybe not all forms of exercise are reserved for the inner circle of hell. :)

  • Tajna

    I don't have a Pilates studio with a reformer near me,but I have tried Pilates classes.I literally fell asleep in one.All we did were numerous variations of "The Hundred" and some butt and leg lifts.At least yoga is good for your mind,Pilates doesn't have that claim!

  • Gina Carpellotti

    I have a similar machine, and I'm curious how you manage to watch TV whilst using it. I'm trying to figure out how I can workout out (on my reformer) whilst binge-watching something on Netflix.

  • Cpet

    Hi Annie! Love all your posts. Do you do private classes with 2 instructors? Thanks!

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      Hi! No i just see one instructor one day and another the other day. A little confusing how I worded it, huh?

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