Hands down, the best decision I’ve made in the past two years is to take up Pilates. Though to be honest, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’ll probably have realised how much I love it given how frequently I mention my classes!

I’d first come across Pilates when I was studying contemporary dance at Laban aged 18. It was part of our weekly timetable of classes- hours and hours spent performing one slow sit-up after another, attempting to hold our pelvic floors at a level of 75% strength precisely (the teachers were incredibly tactile, and not at all adverse to giving you a prod here or there to help ensure you were lifting in exactly the right places!), and hoping that the exercises would help our leg muscles stay long and elegant, and not get bunched and tight. When I left the school, I stuck with classes at home for a little while, dabbled in yoga for a bit too (which I found a little too gentle and spiritual at the time) before eventually giving up on it altogether midway through university. My fitness tailed off during those three years, until every ounce of strength and flexibility I’d worked so hard to gain during a decade or so of dance classes had faded away.

By the time summer of 2013 came around, I felt so sluggish and unhealthy and frankly, pretty miserable with the way my body was from the inside out, that I decided that it was maybe time for a change. Jason and I booked in at a local Pilates class that my Mum had heard came highly recommended in our area, and we launched ourselves into it when the new term began in September. Jason lasted about four or five classes before hurting his back and decided Pilates isn’t really for him, and me? Well, 18 months of weekly classes later, and I’ve never looked back!

I’ve had a lot of questions about Pilates and Body Balance (my other true exercise love!), so thought it was about time I put together a post about it all! Truly, ‘do a post about Pilates and exercise and stuff’ has been lingering on my blog-to-do list for MONTHS! So without further ado, here’s the low down on all things bendy…


About a year ago Jason shared a quote with me that he’d come across back when his company was doing a rebrand for a Pilates studio, which read:

‘After ten Pilates classes you’ll feel the difference, after twenty you’ll see the difference, and after thirty you’ll have a different body’.

Whilst, of course, the transformation isn’t quite so rigid, for me I’d say that’s pretty true! It’s not the sort of exercise that yields immediate visual results, because the emphasis is upon building a solid foundation of strength from the inside out. Even though most of the exercises look so simple you’d imagine you could do them with no effort at all, they’re deceptively strenuous, and all designed to activate and work your deep core muscles. {I’ve linked to a video at the end of the post that teaches a pretty typical Pilates class, if you’re new to it all and interested in seeing what’s what!}

After about 6 months of weekly classes, my Pilates teacher Sarah suggested I might like to try out Body Balance, since it’s far more dynamic than regular Pilates and I’d loved the elements of it she’d incorporated into our Pilates classes. I’d never heard of it until trying my first class, and now love it so much I can’t imagine ever doing without it! Body Balance is a combination of yoga, Pilates and tai chi, and is set to music. There’s a tai chi warm up, followed by a sun salutation sequence, and then a few sets of Pilates-based exercises each a few minutes long that target, tone and/or stretch a different muscle group in turn. The sequences are so well-linked to the music that the classes really scratch the little ‘I sort of kind of miss dancing’ itch I secretly sometimes harbour, and are so tough and challenging I’ve honestly never been so strong or toned in all my life!

T H E   R O U T I N E ::

Each week, I tend to do one 1 hour Pilates class, one 1 hour Body Balance class at the gym, and then another 1 hour Body Balance workout at home following along from a DVD. My instructor passes her old DVDs along to me once she’s done with them, but unfortunately, I’m pretty certain they’re not available to buy for anyone other than registered Body Balance instructors. I’ve linked to a few other of my favourite at-home workouts below though, as well as a snippet from the most recent Body Balance ‘release’ (as the entire 1 hour workout is called)! The classes are pretty widely available, so I’d really recommend giving them a go if it sounds like your cup of tea!

Aside from Pilates and Body Balance classes, the only other thing I do, exercise-wise, is walk with Ted! I’m usually out with him about 4 days a week on average (Jason takes him the other 3 days), and each walk is anywhere between 2 and 5 miles long. I try to do at least one longer length walk each week (Virginia Water lake is always a good walk, 4.5 miles round!), and try to push myself to complete it in an as close to an hour as I can manage!
  Pilates-Body-Balance-Cider-with-Rosie Cider-with-Rosie-Pilates-routine-headstand

^^ Just to clarify, my legs are bent in the above photo, and there’s not normally a gap between my thighs! I know people are funny about the ol’ thigh gap thing, so just though I’d better make things crystal clear ;) ^^

M Y   T O P   T I P S! ::

1. Book some taster classes.
If you fancy taking up a class-based exercise but haven’t ever tried one, I’d suggest booking a couple of taster sessions in both yoga and Pilates. Most gyms and independent instructors I’ve come across will let you take your first class for free, and it’s worth giving a few styles of exercise a go to see what suits! Though I’ve grown to enjoy yoga, I’ve always found the emphasis on spirituality a little bit much for me. I prefer Pilates and Body Balance for how straight-talking they are, though do still follow along with yoga classes online sometimes too. In short- try a few things out, and see what makes you tick!

2. Don’t worry about buying a load of gear- mats, expensive clothes etc.
Most gyms supply mats, a towel on the living room carpet does the job just as well, and if you’re working out at home, no-one’s there to judge if you do your Pilates class in a pair of pants and an old T shirt! ;)

3. Stick it out.
Like I said before, Pilates is a slow one to show results. The long-term gains have been absolutely incredible in my experience though, and it’s such a therapeutic form of exercise.

4. Set some goals, and set deadlines for them too.
I decided that my first goal was to be able to manage 10 full press ups after 6 months of classes, and achieving it felt amazing! Now my goal is to be able to do a headstand (with extended legs, eek!) by the end of this year! It’s a tough one, but I’m getting there!

5. Don’t be afraid to sweat it out.
I know this might sound like a silly one, but I know SO many people who feel stupid if they get sweaty in exercise classes, or look like they’re working harder than other people! I’ve always been someone who shows exertion really quickly, and was *always* the girl in ballet class with a halo of sweaty frizz springing out from my nice once-neat bun! I used to feel embarrassed by it, but quickly learnt that actually I’d rather it seem like I was trying than that I wasn’t! In truth, no-one is paying attention to anyone else in class. If there a mirrors, absolutely 100% guaranteed every single person in the room will be studying their own reflection rather than using it to look at anyone else- I mean, what’s what they’re there for, right? :) So, embrace that sweat!


T H E   G E A R ::
Linked below are a few of my favourite pieces of sportswear, if you do fancy picking up a few lovely bits to make getting to class that bit easier! Confession- sometimes I put on gym clothes at the beginning of the day, even though class isn’t until 8pm that evening, because they’re just so comfortable ;) What can I say! I’ve become a total cliche!

Sports bras :: I wear these a lot {fun colours, and totally affordable!} but these are also fantastic.
Yoga leggings {and these are next on my ‘to buy’ list!}
Plain T shirts
Layering pieces ::  Zip up, long sleeved top, lightweight gilet.


W O R K   O U T   A T   H O M E ::

Since I’ve always loved (and still do love!) working out at home, I’ve made a playlist of a few of my favourite online fitness videos via my YouTube account! There are a mixture of Pilates, ballet, yoga, and combination videos there, and all take less than 30 minutes to complete so can be fitted into a day’s routine pretty easily.

- Pilates class 1 :: a 30 minute class, covering the core Pilates movements. It’s clear and easy to follow, but pretty fast paced. The instructors posture is amazing and she gives reminders throughout about correct placement, so I’d say it’s a pretty good one for even someone totally fresh to Pilates to follow along with.

- Yoga with Adrienne :: I love these videos! Adrienne herself seems really sweet and friendly, but not in an over the top or sickly sweet way! She moves through the sequences at a really great pace (not too fast, not too slow), and her classes are nicely varied. This one especially is lovely in the evening, and this one’s good for a slightly unusual balance challenge!

Blogilates :: The ‘Arms/legs/abs/etc. On Fire’ series by Cassey is a great one, and burns like crazy! I haven’t done these workouts for a little while, but remember the abs one especially was really insanely tough. Great for a really intense daily blast of exercise!

Mary Helen Bowers :: I’ve done a few of Mary Helen Bowers’ online classes, and really loved them! They look so effortless and simple to do, but the ‘lean legs and buns‘ one especially is a killer! They’re short (only 15 minutes each) so can be done alongside another video if you fancy. Really gorgeous ballet-based movements!

Les Mills Body Balance :: This is just a video of snippets taken from Release 67, the most recent class programme. It’s not one you can follow along with, but shows a little of what class is like!


And that’s a wrap! I’m always so fascinated to learn what other people do to take care for their bodies, so I hope post’s an interesting one to read! :) Are you a gym-bunny? A #yogaeverydamnday-er? Evangelical about Pilates, or Zumba, or spinning? I’m so interested to know!

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