One day during a random workout, I decided to set a goal to practice Pilates every day for a month. I was already loving the Pilates classes on my favorite motivational tool: Lululemon Studio Mirror. I wondered what would happen if I kept up my streak for a whole month. (Spoiler: The Pilates experience was so good I kept it up for 90 days!)
Let's back up for a minute. I'm the fitness editor at WH, but I stopped working out for a period before this Pilates adventure. I lost my fitness groove and motivation for a bunch of valid reasons (a cross-country move, no sleep thanks to a young and hungry baby, childcare snafoos, a full time job... and did I mention I wanted to sleep?).
It would've been easy to cruise along with that new status quo, but I didn't want to. I loved working out before, and I wanted to get that enthusiasm back.
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My plan was to complete a 5-minute or longer Pilates class every day for one month to reignite my fitness habit and drive.
There were more options than I could scroll through on the Mirror, and the two main instructors (hi, Rachel Nicks and Patricia Sabulis!) were a delight. With a few taps on the screen, my living room faded away, and one of their smiling faces greeted me.
I ended up doing a different class every day. (Note: I was eight months postpartum and had completed core rehab in the fall and worked with a virtual personal trainer after I was cleared for exercise so I was prepped to sweat safely.)
This Pilates adventure was a fun fitness experiment for me, and I'm not saying it's *the* way to exercise for everyone. I also often completed other workouts and movement (like walking), too.
This wasn't my first foray into Pilates, either. I've been practicing off and on since high school with mat and equipment-based classes. Whenever friends complimented my abs, I credited Pilates and invited them to come with me to my next class. I missed how the modality made me feel (capable, strong, and graceful) and, sure, I missed visible abs as well.
Here's how my journey doing Pilates every day for a month (which turned into three!) went, how I built a consistent routine and stayed motivated, and the best physical and mental changes I witnessed.
I modified exercises and eased into the new routine with no expectations—and no judgment.
I have many hours of Pilates classes in my past, but I felt like an absolute newbie again. From the comfort of my home, I kept the camera off on the Mirror and didn't have any classmates to keep up with in a competitive way that may have stressed me out.
Instead of focusing on aesthetics, I thought about how the Pilates routines changed how I'm able to move and function in daily life.
A few times I surprised myself by adding on another class back-to-back with my Pilates. Boxing? Strength and conditioning? Don't mind if I do.
I got creative with when and how I squeezed Pilates in—and I learned short workouts count.
There were some rough, long days when I couldn't fit in a sweat until basically bedtime. By then I really didn't want to sweat. Still, I flipped on the Mirror and searched for the shortest class option. (Thank you, easy filters.) I hit the jackpot with 5-minute options, which were the perfect pre-bedtime ritual. (Five-minute classes still count!) I've done longer nighttime skin routines, and the low impact moves never woke me up too much that my sleep suffered.
Oh, and those 5-minute classes burn, too. Fun fact: The longer the class, the more rest breaks. Yes, the lengthier routines also have more variety, some harder moves, and more total work involved. My former self never would have considered a 5-minute class, and I was missing out.
Something is better than nothing, and those 5-minute classes added up. (Five minutes x seven days = 35 minutes!)
I leveled up my Pilates workouts with new equipment, like a reformer machine.
A big part of my job is testing fitness gear and equipment and reporting on it. I knew I would have a Pilates reformer arriving in my apartment during the challenge. (I felt like an absolute celeb with the opportunity to try this equipment and the Mirror.)
My living room transformed into a workout space. That made it easier to start a class than plop on the couch. All I had to do was roll out the Flexia Reformer and click play on an on-demand class or hit the power button on the Mirror and boom, I was sweating.
I realized that Pilates can *totally* be cardio.
One of my favorite things about Pilates is that most moves are done lying on a mat. Generally legs or upper bod or a combo are moving around, but the back on the mat has always been a plus for me. Don't get me wrong, it's still hard and burns.
Now, imagine you're able to jump while lying on the mat. (No, not like horizontal running a la Rebel Wilson's Pitch Perfect character.) The jump board addition to the reformer makes it possible and so fun. Traditional mat Pilates also has cardio benefits, according to research.
And, I could move differently away from the mat or machine. During core exercises or any activity throughout my day, I felt my deep abs engage.
Did my abs also look a bit more toned? Sure, but I didn't start the month with aesthetic goals, so I don't even have a photo from the beginning to compare.
After a month, I didn't want to stop...so I kept going.
My days weren't complete without a little mat sesh, or living room rug routine. Technically I put a big check mark on the challenge I set for myself, but I simply didn't want to quit.
I looked forward to my daily movement, whether it was on the mat or the Reformer. It was valuable "me" time, and it brought me joy. I created a habit, and the streak continued. I felt momentum and a surge of motivation.
One thing that helped keep my streak alive is the ability to skip a move. FYI, on the Mirror there's an easy fast-forward option to jump to the next move in a workout. It sounds so simple, and even a bit lazy, but hear me out: I tricked myself into selecting longer classes, 15 or 30 minutes, by giving myself permission to skip exercises. More often than not, I ended up doing the full class because I didn't want to miss any of the moves or clever transitions.
I also added in more strength training a few days a week and runs in the park, with my newfound motivation. Oh, and I also got sleep so I could recover. The remaining weeks blurred together as I solidified my habit and my core. Pilates became as automatic an activity as brushing my teeth every night.
It wasn't until I took a vacation after three months of Pilates that I pressed pause on my virtual workouts. I opted to log miles on hiking trails, instead. My official streak may have ended, but Pilates will always be a part of my fitness routine a few times a week.
I noticed strength and form improvements all over.
When you think of Pilates, you probably think abs. The core is key to the movements, but I was also working my arms, legs, butt, back, and everything. Every muscle group was getting stronger.
Those strength gains helped me switch from modifying moves to leveling them up. Instead of bent legs or supported abs exercises, I extended my legs and went for the challenge option.
I really saw progress with my roll-up. I could sit up and reverse back down with a super slow fluid motion. My teaser, a classic advanced move, also perked up.
I could feel my core working during moves like rolling like a ball and the classic hundreds. My teaser still needs more practice, but I love having something to continue working on.
Nixing all my excuses helped me find a workout schedule that fit my new mom life.
I technically didn't need anything to do my daily Pilates workouts. I could click play on the app and do all the exercises right on the rug in my living room. (You can do mat Pilates without a mat.) Sure, some days I selected a class with some equipment (ankle weights or dumbbells or the reformer), but a majority of them were bodyweight only.
I credit the ease and motivation from the Mirror for helping me create my Pilates habit, but anyone could absolutely do everything I did with free videos and classes online.
Jennifer Nied is the fitness editor at Women’s Health and has more than 10 years of experience in health and wellness journalism. She’s always out exploring—sweat-testing workouts and gear, hiking, snowboarding, running, and more—with her husband, daughter, and dog.