I did Pilates for a month — and it completely transformed my core

a photo of a woman doing pilates
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Pilates has been trending for a while, with celebrities such as Harry Styles, Hailey Bieber and Naomi Campbell all sharing their love of this low-impact form of exercise. I’ve never been a big Pilates fan, but I figured it was time to find out what the fuss was about: I added Pilates to my routine for a month to lean and lengthen my body.

Pilates is renowned for using lots of small movements to target your muscles. It focuses on flexibility, strength, and general body awareness. To really get to grips with Pilates, I decided to have a few 1-to-1 sessions to get to grips with the reformer — I went to see Ami at Complete Pilates in London to find out more. 

If you’ve never seen a reformer machine, it can certainly look a little intimidating — it’s a frame, with a rolling carriage, foot bar, springs, straps, and handles. For my first month, I opted for a mix of reformer and mat-based Pilates classes at Gymbox in central London to see what happened to my core. Read on to find out more.

a photo of writer Lucy Gornall doing reformer pilates

(Image credit: Future)

My back became stronger

I didn’t realize just how unengaged my back was during ab workouts until Ami had me doing various movements that showed off my lower back’s awful hunch. She explained that my current forms of exercise, such as resistance training, meant there was a chance that my constant need to keep a rigid back (for deadlifts, squats etc), hadn’t done me any favors when it came to fluidity in my spine. 

Pilates encouraged me to really move my back, wake up in the morning and stretch, and pay more attention to my lower back muscles during workouts.

I realized Pilates was not the easy workout I’d anticipated

I went into this challenge thinking it would be a walk in the park, and that compared to my heavy strength sessions, Pilates would be like a gentle cool down. Turns out I didn’t know what a real burn was until I started Pilates. 

The repetitive action of small movements pushes muscles to their max, and during one Pilates class, whilst lying on my side doing small leg pulses, I actually felt a tear come to my eye as I willed myself not to give up. 

I felt taller

The reformer Pilates machine pulls you in directions you didn’t think possible. Obviously, it didn’t actually make me taller, but it really forced me to start sitting up straight, stop slouching, pin my shoulders back when I walk, and generally prioritize my posture. 

Honestly, if there’s one thing that makes you appear more confident, it’s how you stand, and Pilates has made me more aware of this than ever. 

a photo of writer Lucy doing Pilates

(Image credit: Future)

I learned new ways to stretch

Ami literally moved my body in ways that I didn’t think possible. I left my sessions with her feeling like a new, limber woman. Seriously, a good stretch is the best way to invigorate yourself and give your mood a healthy boost.

My core has never felt stronger

Just one month of Pilates has left me more engaged with every muscle in my midsection. The exercises practiced during Pilates force you to activate and engage with your core; the classic six-pack muscles, the obliques, and the harder-to-reach internal core muscles are firing from all cylinders during Pilates. I won’t pretend that I had belly fat beforehand, however, I am so sure my stomach is flatter since taking up Pilates and I’m excited to see what’s still to come! 

It helped me to slow down

I never thought I would see the day when I could say, ‘I prefer low-impact exercise’. I’ve spent all my 20s, and very early 30s hammering my body with high-impact, intense workouts, and whilst it’s been fun, it has literally left me exhausted. 

For the past month, lower-impact exercise has been my go-to and I’ve loved it. Resistance training has always been a firm favorite of mine, but it’s now become my main form of exercise. Pilates, however, will 100% be a part of my routine going forward. It has helped me to stop, pause and slow my movement down. 

I took up Pilates for a month — here’s my verdict 

In a nutshell, this Pilates challenge has been my favorite Tom’s Guide challenge so far. I have never felt so in tune with my body, and it’s really made me notice all the smaller muscles that I have been neglecting for years. Pilates has also strengthened my back and noticeably improved my posture. Plus, it’s helped me in other areas, such as my gym workouts, and lifting weights — I can engage my back far more comfortably when I deadlift and squat.

My month of Pilates classes has taught me that Pilates is a really challenging, yet low-impact way to move. My joints aren’t getting battered and my body feels as if it’s being lengthened and toned. Honestly, if you do one thing this month, I suggest trying Pilates. It really has been the eye-opening workout I needed.

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Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.