zach galifianakis

(GIF: Tumblr)

Alright guys, I promised that I would venture out of my comfort zone (a.k.a. the gym a.k.a. my bed) and try out different fitness trends for you, and since I like to keep my promises 90 percent of the time, here we are. I went to a real-life, full-on Pilates studio earlier this week for a one-on-one session with Anthony Macagnone, the founder of Pilates on the Square and owner of Sal Anthony’s Movement Studio in NYC, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that, thirty minutes in, I found myself spreading my legs in front a total stranger and hanging like a bat off the top of what can only be described as a cross between a massage table and a medieval torture device, it was a surprisingly awesome experience, one that I would totally recommend and definitely (to my surprise) would do again.

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First, let me clear up some basic questions that people and the Internet tend to have about Pilates. For starters, no, it’s not yoga. While there are definitely similarities between the two, what with the whole mind-body connection thing and the general fluidity of movements, Pilates works with resistance machines, so you’re not just using your body and balance. Also, as I learned from Anthony, the stretches you find in yoga actually aren’t natural and can ultimately cause harm to the body, but I’ll see that for myself when I re-enter the world of yoga very soon.

Secondly, there’s a difference between reformer Pilates, which is probably what you most often see if ever you see any of the Real Housewives in a Pilates class, and regular Pilates, which utilizes much more intimidating machinery. I did the latter, which was definitely an experience.

When I first walked into the studio, I was admittedly a little intimidated, because it’s not every day you see people casually dangling in midair. But I committed to this, so I shook it off, hoping that I wouldn’t find myself in a similar position that day. However, after a rundown of the five basic movements of Pilates from Anthony, it became clear that, yes, I would be in that position, and no, I wasn’t getting out of it despite my many attempts to explain to him that I have literally no upper body strength whatsoever.

liz lemon

(GIF: Giphy)

But still, I did it, and by the end of the hour, I’d learned about movement, momentum, arching, curling, and a whole slew of other limb-flailing exercises that probably have names but I was too exhausted to ask.

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While I certainly wouldn’t describe it as my new go-to form of exercise, I definitely understand why people do it every day and why so many women rave about it. The next day I felt sore in all the right places, and from what I learned, I could tell that it was the kind of exercise that tones and reshapes rather than helps to build scary, bulky muscle. I also learned that, unlike normal forms of exercise, this one is about trusting your body to do what comes naturally, which is not something I’m used to after pushing myself in the gym to stretch and do things that don’t necessarily feel comfortable. In order to succeed in Pilates, you need to trust that the machine won’t break, that your body is built to hold its own weight, and that, even if you’re a beginner, you actually can do as much as a seasoned Pilates pro — you just have to get out of your own head and do it.

It was actually an interesting way to look at exercise, because my biggest problem with this whole endeavor is that I can’t seem to stop overthinking everything. I have the tendency to beat myself up if I skip the gym for no reason in particular other than that I feel kind of tired, or if I eat something that I feel is detrimental to my health improvement. If Pilates taught me anything, it’s that thinking too much is the one thing that ultimately ruins us, and, also, that it’s totally socially acceptable to spread your legs for someone just minutes after meeting them. But that’s an article for another day, I suppose.