Pilates Is The Perfect Workout


For the life of me I don’t understand why SoulCycle and Drybar haven’t joined forces to become one super, vertically integrated beauty machine. They have so much in common! Compound word names, for one. Plus a penchant for yellow! But really, the synergy here is the cause and effect. If I even go near a SoulCycle, I need to get my hair blown out. The thought of sweating that much, around so many other people sweating, makes my hairline frizz. It’s not uncommon that I leave a SoulCycle and walk directly into a Drybar so they can fix what I’ve now ruined (my smooth hair). It’s a vicious cycle. (Wow, I didn’t even mean that pun, but there you go.)

Working out doesn’t need to be tied so inextricably to beauty, but I find myself thinking about the two in tandem a lot. Health, they say, is wealth, and I try to do it for my well-being and increased longevity. But if we’re honest? I do it to look good. Lower blood pressure and increased core strength are just the virtuous side effects. (This isn’t entirely true… My quest to work out started as one of those ill-conceived New Years Resolutions that I actually kept. I figured healthy habits would be easier to form in my 20s and I’d be happy to have them later in life.)

With all of this being so top of mind, it’s a wonder that it took me so long (two years!) to fully embrace Pilates, which I’ve decided is the most beautiful way to work out. Unlike your Barry’s, your SoulCycle, even your SLT (or any megaformer class), Pilates has no grunting, no face scrunching, no clanging of weights as your throw them to the floor in relief. Pilates is pure peace, with quietly gliding machines, floating limbs, pulses that are so tiny you barely see them (or resent their liberal repetitions). Not only do you look beautiful lunging with the assistance of springs and pulleys, but you leave feeling beautiful. It was in a class with Erika Bloom (former ballerina, Pilates instructor to the stars) last winter that I finally realized this—even before I walked out of her studio perfectly aligned and arguably a full inch taller than I arrived.

“Many workouts stress our bodies in ways that are counter to being our most beautiful selves,” Erika said, as I thought about all the strained faces I used to flash at my SLT instructors during particularly strenuous, inverted positions. “The intensity and the environments trigger cortisol secretion which wreaks havoc on our digestion and immunity and therefore negatively affects our skin, hair (!!!), and overall health.” It’s difficult to get out out of the mindset that something that looks intense will yield the most intense results—the step-and-repeat of being sweaty and being sore. Obvious it works, but it also works against itself at the same time. In Pilates, the movements are smaller certainly, but they’re all taking you in the right direction. (Plus you get to do most of them while lounging on various padded surfaces.)

“Pilates helps create harmony in each of the body’s systems—musculoskeletal, lymphatic, digestive, nervous—with every session,” Erika elaborates. Hey, doesn’t that just sound beautiful?

In case I’m not selling you, I’ll bring in Heather Andersen, founder of the cultish New York Pilates chain of studios, to remind you, "Pilates is a killer workout with real results.” See! “But it's also self-care,” which is very on-trend right now. She elaborates: “When you take Pilates classes regularly, you will see a noticeable change in your posture, which builds beauty and confidence from the inside out. Pilates builds you up, instead of tearing you down."

At this point, I do have to mention that in addition to being the most beautiful way to work out, it is also one of the most expensive. I am lucky to be able to take group classes a few times a week—and am hoping that with increased popularity, we'll see increased accessibility. A few years back, Pilates was confined to tiny mom-and-pop studios that were more or less private. Now studios with 12 or more reformers per room are popping up all over NYC. With some luck, it won't be long before we see it trickle down like so many other things.

I was explaining this whole philosophy about Pilates and beauty to my facialist/friend/writer Ali Oshinsky back when this story happened and she made a very good point: “I only like workouts that I look beautiful doing.” Honestly, not no! Results, both internal and external, plus no need to redo your blowout. The perfect workout does indeed exist, it seems.

—Emily Ferber

Photo via Getty.