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Lean Machine: Week 4

Side plank at Bootcamp

InStyle’s Beauty Editor, Malena Harbers, gets a lesson in power pilates, bootcamp-style…

Week number four of my six-week reformer pilates challenge rolls around and I’m finally feeling as if I’ve progressed. (You can read about my experience with pilates so far here: I can see muscle definition along my calves and my triceps have noticeably tightened up. My core and my legs feel stronger but I still don’t notice a change in how my clothes are fitting. I decide that for my last two weeks (after this one) I will change my eating habits, cutting out my daily dose of an afternoon pick-me-up chocolate binge. I’m certain that this will make a huge difference to the shape of my biggest problem areas – my stomach and thighs. Until then, here’s how I get through this week:

Tenth class: I opt for the advanced spring setting to do the core-targeted exercises including planks, standing icebreakers (this move entails keeping your feet on the platform and your elbows or hands on the carriage while you slide out and away from the springs and back in with a straight back and legs. It’s essentially folding your body in half with only your hands and feet to hold you up.) I don’t struggle as hard as I would have the first two weeks with this spring setting. Our instructor, Ivor, takes us through his usual grueling routine but today seems even tougher than normal. The hardest exercise? Using the box (it’s exactly what it sounds like – a square, box-like prop that can be used on and off the reformer machine) as a pedestal to hold our body from waist to shoulders only. Lying on one side with our legs and arms hanging off the box, we stick the ring between our legs at the ankles. In this position, we squeeze the ring while holding our legs straight and pulsing them upwards and forwards, working the outer and inner thighs. It’s also a great oblique exercise as your body is forced to crunch up to keep your balance. Needless to say, it burns! I did feel stronger than my previous classes but had to stop the exercise before the final ten countdown. My ribs, upper back and back of my legs were still store two days post-workout.

Eleventh Class: For this class, instructor Lee Smith seemed intent to kill us with loads of core exercises (my abs were still smarting from Ivor’s class). We did innumerable crunches: some with our feet in table top position, then while holding our legs straight up, continued by reaching side to side with our legs held straight up, as well as holding the arm straps for resistance and finally holding the straps while pulsing our arms at the sides of our body. Next up was a front plank, side plank, backwards plank, pike and wheel barrow (this involves holding the footbar while standing in a plank with your feet against the shoulder rests and sliding the carriage in and out). Sound tough? It was, but it was doable and I even opted for the advanced version of the side plank – holding myself up on my hand not on my elbow.

Twelfth Class: I have a new instructor, David Pexton. Between this class and the last one I’ve done an 8km run and I feel as stiff as a board. Once I get onto the reformer I use the ring to stretch my hamstrings pre-warm-up. They are so tight that I cringe. I make a mental note that I should have given my muscles another day of rest. This is going to be a long class! When it comes to arms, I’m still on the beginner spring setting, but my back is one of my weakest muscles so I’m not surprised. Crunches, surprisingly, have become my strongpoint. We do them lying on our backs holding onto the ropes at a 90 degree angle in the air, using our trap muscles to pull them down as we crunch. To finish the class, we run through a variety of stretches – calf, hip flexors and arms on top of the regular end-of-session stretches. It’s the most I’ve done in any session yet. Afterwards, I’m convinced I didn’t need another day of rest – sore legs or not. My entire body feels so much more limber and my knee is no longer clicking each time I take a step. But I haven’t escaped the post-class burn. I wake up the next morning and feel it down the back of my thighs and glutes every time I attempt stairs.

Stay tuned for next week’s update from Bootcamp…

New to bootcamp pilates? Get two classes for £12. If you’re keen to keep going, get an additional 20% off all pilates packages. Simply quote InStyle when calling the studio.

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