Real talk: I’ve always been a little bit scared of Pilates. Even though I’m a fitness instructor who’s taught everything from indoor cycling to intervals, Pilates—which focuses on exercises for strength, flexibility and posture—has always seemed to have its own insider language to me. Not to mention the equipment is more than a little intimidating. (Have you seen those Reformer machines?!) But when Club Pilates, a boutique-studio franchise from the Los Angeles area, launched in Canada in 2018, I’ll admit I was curious to try it out.
With its fusion-style workouts, combining traditional Pilates with more-familiar-to-many formats (such as interval training, foam rolling and TRX), Club Pilates classes are designed to give you a full-body workout that strengthens major muscles, encourages heart health through cardiovascular exercise and improves overall wellness.
And something’s working. For the past two years, Inc. Magazine has ranked Club Pilates as one of the fastest-growing fitness franchises. With the company on track to have 615 locations across North America and one in Japan by year’s end, these boutique studios are already mega on-trend in the U.S. And with studios in Vancouver and Calgary and plans for the brand to expand into Ontario (a Kitchener-Waterloo studio is opening this month and a Barrie studio is set for a January 2020 launch), it’s only a matter of time before Club Pilates takes Canada by storm too. Wanting to find out what it’s all about, I took the plunge and signed up for a class. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the buzziest new workouts to arrive in Canada.
What are the classes like?
With four experience levels (ranging from “Foundation” to “Mastery”) and nine class types, Club Pilates had plenty of options for my first taste. Every class def relies on Pilates inspo—it’s baked into all the workouts—but some also include aspects of other types of training, like TRX, BOSU and barre. Depending on the class, you and your bod can partake in everything from heart-pumping cardio to slower exercises that focus on strengthening and lengthening your limbs.
And, of course, you can count on using the Reformer—that quintessential Pilates contraption resembling a low massage table that’s equipped with a sliding springboard, cable straps and shoulder rests. This is the piece that intimidates me most, BTW. (Just consider that it’s commonly spelled with a capital R!) At Club Pilates, the (capital R) Reformers use spring tension as a way to dial the intensity up or down while keeping all the moves low impact and kind on joints.
What should I expect from my workout?
I already use TRX suspension training in my own workouts, so, motivated by the comfort of familiarity, I signed up online for an evening class called CP Suspend, described as an athletic workout that challenges stability while improving strength, coordination, mobility and more.
Stepping into the studio (my feet clad only in socks—Pilates is done sans shoes), I was drawn to the calming blue mood lighting—imagine the Clarendon Insta filter as a ceiling light. The class was fully booked, but with just 12 spots, it didn’t feel crowded because the Reformers ensure you have a good amount of personal space.
The instructor, Jennifer, greeted me warmly and, knowing I was a Pilates newbie, helped me navigate the Reformer (which literally has multiple moving parts). As we kneeled on our respective Reformers to start, Jennifer led everyone through a series of exercise progressions to warm us up, working the muscles in our legs and butts.
I’m used to doing weighted squats and lunges at the gym, but targeting the lower body at Club Pilates felt challenging in a new way. The deliberate movements, like kneeling lunges on the Reformer and squats done lying down, allowed me to really zero in on my leg and butt muscles without feeling strained. I appreciated how I had the space (physical and mental) to concentrate on the activity—I guess that’s why Pilates is pegged as mind-body exercise.
Having said that, a lot of the exercises were still challenging AF! For example, I burned out my inner thighs doing an exercise that included continuously squeezing a steering-wheel sized Pilates ring between my ankles while I lay face-up on the Reformer. Is there an emoji for “hurts so good”?
Throughout class, we switched every few minutes between the Reformer (for the lower-body stuff) and TRX-based floorwork (mostly upper body), as well as periodically stretching the muscle groups we’d just worked. This variety made the 50-minute class pass in what seemed like half the time.
P.S. Two days later, I can still feel the class’s effect on my thighs.
How much are the classes?
Unlike some boutique studios, Club Pilates positions itself as being competitively priced, which is reflected in its popularity. Drop-in classes start at $25, but the first class is free. The studio also offers four-class, eight-class and unlimited memberships. Prices are not listed online. And in keeping with Pilates-world standards, Club Pilates instructors are expected to complete 500 hours of teacher training.
So, should I try it?
Having enjoyed the studio’s welcoming approach and the workout itself, I’d definitely go again! After class, I felt like I’d gotten a good workout but I wasn’t all sweaty or feeling burned out. Thanks to all the strength work and stretching, my muscles were nicely fatigued and limbered up.
As for the intimidation factor I was worried about, it was mostly a non-issue. I did find myself confused about how to get situated on the Reformer a couple of times, but Jennifer was quick to offer assistance, and sometimes just glancing at what the person next to me was doing was enough to get me back on track.
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I still need to try a Pilates-infused cardio class, like CP F.I.T. interval training or CP Cardio Sculpt, where you do heart-pumping plyometrics using the Reformer’s spring tension instead of gravity. It’s a fresh way to achieve aerobic exercise without making your joints mad at you.
Club Pilates also offers one-on-one training and intro classes so you can get up to speed on using the Reformer and learn what to expect at the studio. For more info and to keep tabs on locations near you, visit clubpilates.ca.