Rachel from DonegalWoman.ie shares her experience of practising a new form of Pilates at JT Physiotherapy in Letterkenny.

I was invited to trial some Reformer Pilates at JT Physiotherapy in the past few months, and I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. When you think of Pilates you usually think of focused breathing, slow sit-ups and gentle stretching. Reformer Pilates takes that to the next level.

I thought I knew a lot about Pilates – I’ve done mat Pilates, barre Pilates, piloxing and endless online classes with the Cassey Ho (Blogilates) – but I never thought it would lead to me having my legs in black straps in the air or trying to balance on moving platforms while stretching resistance bands.

Reformer Pilates does take an open mind and a bit of practice, but once I tried a few sessions I could clearly see why it is the next big thing.

JT Physiotherapy are the only providers of Reformer Pilates in Donegal, so I was eager to sample some sessions at the Letterkenny studio to see why it is so unique.

JT Physio Letterkenny

The practice has become very popular with people who have injuries or athletes seeking more flexibility. I’m neither of those, but I soon learned that an average person can get plenty of benefits from the classes too.

I’m no hardcore athlete – the most I do is light weight workouts, HIIT and cardio classes. They do lead to sore muscles though, and I always timed by Reformers classes to follow in the days after a tough workout to stretch out and recover.

The Reformer equipment is daunting looking at first, with springs, straps and pulleys – verging on the medieval torture side. Clients at JT Physio are given three one-on-one introduction sessions to learn the ropes of the machines (literally!). These sessions are key, because with the help of the instructor you can learn your own strengths and weaknesses and see what spring tension works for you.

Springs? Carriages? You have to see it in action, so take a look at this video to see what I mean:

After the Welcome Special I joined the group classes, where you have more independence over the equipment. There’s never a fear of getting lost as there are never more than six people in a class and the instructor will be paying attention to everyone’s form.

Doing the moves of Reformer Pilates forces you to focus completely on your muscles and their individual movements. It’s rare to have a class that makes you pay so much attention to waking up your feet at the beginning – building strength in your toes, arches and heels. I could see how this helped my balance later on.

Every part of your body gets a workout during a session and, despite the soothing music in the JT Physio studio, it can definitely be tough and get your heart pumping.

All types of Pilates classes focus on building core strength. However, in Reformer Pilates you can challenge your core more with different resistance settings of the springs. The basic bicycle exercises and leg lifts are made more effective by having your legs and arms in straps so that all energy is directed to the core and you protect your back. My abs and obliques definitely felt the burn in the days after a couple of sessions!

I didn’t see the classes as an intense workout, but a way to compliment other workouts to ensure I was looking after muscle flexibility and recovering well in order to get stronger.

Balancing on the carriage is a key part of standing work for your legs

I’m always looking to build strength in my arms, as are many women, so I did find the upper body work to be a struggle. Leg work too can be a challenge because each move has to be slow, controlled and balanced. Doing ski-like moves on a low-resistance carriage is guaranteed to force you to keep everything in check!

The classes fly by because you’re concentrating on total body moves and flowing from one focus area to the next. I learned that breathing right is the trick to every move, and there’s no judgement at all if you can’t bend so far or keep up with the reps. It takes time for you to get confidence and trust yourself to stretch a little more sometimes, but I had gotten over any fear of the moving equipment by the sixth class.

JT Physio run classes in the mornings and evenings. They’re a great way to wake up and stretch out at the start of the day, or else to relax everything at night. I found it really easy to book a class on the online system and the team are always available if you need to ring them up.

JT Physio, Tara Court, Letterkenny

Thanks to Johnny Loughrey and the expert team at JT Physio for having me along! You can contact them at http://www.jtphysio.com/ or give them a call to see if Reformers will work for you.