Last week I got an email announcing the opening of a new Pilates class in the West Loop, and was invited to bring a guest to try the class out. If I’ve learned anything from this job, it’s never turn down an opportunity to try a new class.

Pilates ProWorks has one other Chicago location in Lincoln Park; the West Loop location is a five minute walk from Union Station, so my friend and I got up early, took a 5:30 a.m. train to the city, and made it to the new studio for a 7:15 a.m. class.

My friend Missy and I posing by the motivating wall inside the studio.

When we walked in, I was impressed with the studio layout – it was clean and modern like most studios these days, but also had a more “homey” feel than others do. There were only two studio rooms, all covered in mirrors and windows, and a lounge with couches and a TV (“Friends” was playing and the couch looked very comfy, so a nap did cross my mind.) Around the corner were the lockers, showers and bathrooms, and a big chalkboard with motivating messages and a sign that said “Get Your Ass to Class.” Obviously we took a picture by that.

Right now, the West Loop location offers a Pilates Pro class, Bootcamp and a TRX Pro Class. Our instructor told us that matBox, Barre and a Sculpting class will soon be available as well – even though the name alludes that its solely a Pilates studio, I love the different options. But, we decided to stick to the classic Pilates class.

I love Pilates, but my only experience with it is the various Pop Sugar Fitness videos I do on YouTube, and a few mat Pilates classes I have taken. This one was using a Pilates reformer, which I have seen before, but have always been a little apprehensive on trying it, out of intimidation and lack of coordination.

The class was small – there were only about eight of us in it, which I really liked because it gave our instructor the opportunity to really focus on our form and exercises, but it wasn’t too intimate like a one-on-one session can be. She started off by showing us the different ways to use the reformer, and even prepared us for what we were going to be doing, which eased my mind a little bit.

Our warm up consisted of a series of squats, which had my legs shaking and burning by the end of it. I really liked doing these on the reformer because we used the bar to press our legs against, ensuring proper form – for someone with bad knees, doing squats incorrectly can cause tremendous pain, so this eliminated that risk.

We then did some burpees using the sliding part of the machine (I forgot what that was actually called), and a variety of hip and arm exercises. We finished off with some core work, and my only complaint would be that I wish there was more of that, but I’m sure every class is different.

The overall pace of the class was really nice – most of us were beginners, and because Pilates is very strength-focused, having correct form is crucial, so our instructor told us to go slow. That’s not to say the class was easy though; I was definitely sweating and all of my limbs were shaking by the end. And the next day, getting out of bed was really difficult.

I was surprised at how much I liked using the reformer. I think it helps in doing different kinds of exercises to work muscle groups you usually don’t when using free weights. Plus, Pilates is supposedly really good for runners to open up the hips and strengthen the major leg muscles, so I’m all about that. Overall, I really enjoyed this class, and if there was a studio closer to my house, I’d definitely get a membership.

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Holly's running career began in high school; after being bummed about not making the volleyball team her sophomore year, she decided to join some of her middle school friends on the cross country team. She also did track in the fall, where the 1600 m race was her niche. Since then, she has run several shorter distance races and two half marathons. Her goal for 2017 is to try a triathlon, and eventually do the Chicago Marathon. She graduated from Illinois State University in May 2016 with a degree in journalism. Working at Chicago Athlete, Holly has been able to explore photography a lot more, which is one of her main hobbies. She enjoys taking photos at endurance races, and is also passionate about nature photography and portraiture.

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