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Bridal Fitness on Paper - Reformer Pilates Monday, November 28, 2011 ~ 9:39 a.m.

Reformer pilates class I hope you all had a great holiday weekend! Or, if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, a good weekend :) We had a pretty nice and relaxing didn't fly by too quickly for me, which is always good. I didn't do much shopping though...I'm just not brave enough, I guess! =P However, I'll be looking around online today for some good shopping deals this Cyber Monday! In case you missed it, I started a list on Friday of the best online deals that I've found, and I continue to update it today, as I find new things to share, so be sure to head over and check it out!

Now that the holiday weekend is over though, I'm ready to get back on track with everything - blogging, working out, and most importantly, eating right. I've been soooo awful about my diet lately =P I think I've finally hit the point where I just feel icky, you know? I'm thinking about doing some sort of cleanse or detox or something. I've honestly never done anything like that before, because I would definitely have to eat actual food still if I did, but maybe I can try to just do a variation of it without starving myself? I'll have to investigate it more, but if you guys have any suggestions, please let me know! I don't want to do anything drastic, but I'd like to try something out of the ordinary to sort of refocus myself and flush everything out, if ya know what I mean.

Speaking of getting back on track! Today, I'll be reviewing reformer pilates. If you've ever taken pilates before, then you're probably familiar with reformer work; however, the reformer machine can be pretty scary looking and intimidating if you're not familiar with it. To learn more about this crazy looking machine, read on!

Pilates reformer equipment

Bridal Fitness on Paper - Reformer Pilates

Overall: Three and a half diamond ring rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
3.5 out of 5 diamonds
I'm a huge Pilates fan, but personally enjoy the flexibility of movement that mat pilates offers a bit more.

Unlike traditional mat pilates, reformer pilates is done almost entirely on a large apparatus that consists of a metal or wooden single bed frame, with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs to control the tension and resistance. The attached bar, straps and pulleys allow exercises to be done while laying down, sitting, kneeling and even standing. If you've ever taken a mat pilates class, you'll most likely recognize some of the exercises performed on the reformer, such as The Hundred, Plank and Leg Circles, which are all done on the reformer with some slight modifications. Exercises done on the reformer can range from the simple to the crazy complicated, but the great thing about using a reformer is that you get added resistance that you normally wouldn't have working on a mat relying on your own body weight. In this way, the reformer has the potential to produce more results, faster than mat pilates would.

I have a good amount of experience taking both mat and reformer pilates, and I have to say that I would personally choose to take a mat class over a reformer one, nine times out of ten. Cost definitely has something to do with it - mat classes can be half the cost of reformer classes - but I also find that I have more flexibility in movement and a larger variety of exercises that I can do on a mat. There also tends to be a much larger focus on your breathing in pilates mat classes. For some reason, I've found that reformer classes are much more workout and fitness focused than they are about destressing and finding peace of mind. It's about going from exercise to exercise, changing the springs, finding the right straps and such, rather than about syncing your breath with your movements, closing your eyes and finding your center. I never thought I would say this, because I'm usually alllll about the workout, but I definitely miss the calming effect that mat pilates provides! I do take reformer classes semi regularly though because I enjoy the variety, and I think it's important to challenge your body in different ways.

Cost & Equipment Two diamond ring rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
2.5 out of 5 diamonds
Reformer pilates is generally more expensive than yoga or pilates classes because of the large pieces of equipment that it requires.

A Pilates Reformer is most often found in a Pilates dedicated studio because of their higher cost and the technique required in order to operate the seemingly complicated piece of equipment. Most gyms and yoga studios that happen to offer Pilates classes will offer mat pilates, which is performed on the floor, on a yoga mat, rather than on the reformer. The reformer machine is designed to take classic pilate moves to the next level using higher levels of resistance and push-pull techniques using the footbar and gear system, carriage and arm straps. Because the reformer isn't like a treadmill, where you just hop on and figure it out as you go, you'll most likely have to go to at least one introductory or beginners level class so you can learn how to properly operate the machine. Basically though, you'll either be sitting, standing or laying down on the sliding carriage, which is attached to a set of springs on the reformer frame that are colored to reveal varying resistance levels. Your instructor will usually tell you which springs to hook onto the carriage, and which ones to leave off in order to give you the right amount of resistance for each pilates move. Attached to the carriage are a set of shoulder blocks and a headrest to keep your upper body in proper position, and to keep you from sliding all over the place on the carriage itself. From there, you can use the adjustable footbar to perform different leg exercises (squats and such), or the straps, which can be looped around your hands or feet to slide the carriage up and down while working your core, arms and/or legs. When you're taking a pilates reformer class, you may also use other pieces of equipment, depending on your instructor's preference, including the reformer box, which is placed on top of the carriage to give you more height for some exercises, and the pilates Magic Circle.

Pilates reformer classes are most often offered in both group and individual sessions. Pilates studios will often push for you to complete a private session if you haven't used the reformer before in order to give you the special attention that you need when first learning how to use the machine. However, private sessions are PRICEY, costing anywhere between $60 and $100 per hour-long session. A beginners level group class will do the trick, as well, in my opinion. A pilates reformer group class tends to be much smaller than your typical fitness class because the reformers are larger pieces of equipment that will take up a lot of space, and because operating the reformer often requires more individual attention from your instructor. For these reasons, a pilates reformer class is usually a more expensive fitness class, typically costing between $25 and $45 per class, depending on the studio location and the size fitness package that you purchase, of course.

Time Commitment: Three and a half diamond ring rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
3.5 out of 5 diamonds
Classes are a standard hour length; however, I often feel the need to couple this workout with a more intense cardio routine.

Like most fitness classes, a reformer pilates class is usually about an hour long. It's an enjoyable hour,'re so busy working on the machine that you don't count the minutes until you're done. It also doesn't hurt that it's an anaerobic workout, not an aerobic one, so you're not miserable and gasping for air for the duration of the class! However, I have to be honest, I think it's really important that you do more than just reformer pilates if you want to lose weight, and that's why I gave reformer pilates a 3.5 ring rating for time commitment. On the days that I take pilates, I have to dedicate an extra hour of working out on my own, in addition to the class, so that I can also get the cardiovascular training that I need to really burn those calories.

Level of Difficulty: Three and a half diamond ring rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
3.5 out of 5 diamonds
Reformer pilates is extremely dependent on the instructor you get, but has the potential to be really challenging in new and different ways.

A reformer pilates class is much like a mat pilates or yoga class, in that you'll walk out feeling refreshed and centered, but not exhausted or spent, as you would after completing a spinning class. It is an anaerobic workout, meaning that it focuses on strengthening your muscles and improving flexibility, rather than getting your heart rate up and burning calories. It is by no means a cardio workout, and in my opinion, it's always a good idea to pair your reformer pilates class with a cardio routine if you're looking to lose weight. Honestly, I usually end up working out more after a reformer class, just because I need to feel like I've gotten my heart rate up and really worked out that day. If you don't have the time to do that though, it's definitely important that you dedicate a few days a week to a more intense cardio routine.

I've taken pilates reformer classes at a few different studios, and I can tell you first hand that the level of difficulty really depends on your instructor. He or she will not only determine the actual moves you perform and the number of repetitions, but the entire pace of the class, which really makes a huge difference in this setting. I've been in classes where the instructor keeps the pace moving, with very little to no breaks in between your moves, and I've been in classes that move slower and you have more time to spend setting up and positioning yourself on the machine in between sets. Personally, I prefer to move at a faster pace because, of course, your heart rate is going to stay at a slightly higher rate than if you're moving more slowly for the duration of the class. One of the reformer's greatest strengths though is that you're able to customize the level of resistance to your own body. Generally, if you want a move to be more difficult, you'll attach more weight in springs to your carriage, making it more difficult for you to move the carriage up and down. If you want your resistance lighter, you'll generally attach less springs to your carriage. Although there are instances when your instructor will have you attach less weight in order to make a move more challenging. This is because with less weight holding the carriage in place, you'll need to use your own body to control the carriage and keep it from sliding all over the place. For instance, this is the case when you perform the plank exercise on the reformer, because you're having to use your core muscles to keep your feet from sliding the carriage too far away from you.

Effectiveness: Four and a half diamond ring rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
4 out of 5 diamonds
Reformer pilates is a good anaerobic workout that tones your muscles without bulking you up, improves flexibility, reduces stress and lessens your risk of injury.
Reformer pilates is just as effective, if not more effective than mat pilates. This is because the spring and pulley system allows you to work out with more resistance and tension. When you're working on a mat, you're most often using your body weight in order to tone and strengthen your muscles, but on the reformer, you're pulling the cables toward and away from you, pushing your body up and down on the carriage, and using both your body weight and your reformer machine to work out. There's a heavy focus on proper form and you never really use a lot of weight when working out, which will help you build long and lean muscles that any woman would kill for. Pilates is particularly well known for shaping and trimming your hips and waist (or sideline) area, as well. Reformer pilates is going to help tone and shape your body, but it won't help you lose weight. A typical hour-long pilates class will burn between 150 and 350 calories, depending on your level of exertion. But again, reformer pilates is great for shaping and toning your body as is...if you want to actually lose weight, it's absolutely essential that you also integrate a cardio routine into your workout regimen at least a few times a week.

Enjoyability: Five diamond rings rating for bridal bootcamp exercise reviews
5 out of 5 diamonds
One of my favorite fitness classes out there!
You probably know by now that I love pilates, and for that reason, I gave it a perfect score for enjoyability. You'll feel the burn while working out on your reformer for an hour, and then walk out feeling refreshed and re-energized for the day.

If you're curious what reformer pilates is all about, here's a video that demonstrates many of the more common pilates exercises on the reformer machine.

If you're curious about a specific workout and you'd like for me to review it, please do leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email at Sarah - at - apaperproposal - dot - com.

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