K E Y P O I N T S
A Megaformer is basically a more advanced version of a Pilates reformer machine, which adds resistance to traditional mat-based Pilates.
It allows for more intensity than traditional reformer machines because the spring resistance is higher, there are more pulley systems for additional exercises, and extra handles and holes for different positions.
Since Meghan Markle recommended it late last year, fitness fiends have been keen to learn more. Other Megaformer users are said to include: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Sophia Vergara, Kim Kardashian, Calvin Harris, Alessandra Ambrosio, Karlie Kloss and Ben Stiller.
T H E V E R D I C T
“How fit are you?” Catherine, the instructor at Studio Lagree, asks me. I tell her I go to the gym about three times a week and cycle on the weekend. She nods and smiles, making me feel less daunted by what is about to come.
We won’t stop and rest at any minute, Catherine tells our class of three. “We move slowly and transition fast, precision is more important than speed,” she says. These slow, controlled movements are meant to work our muscle fibres, ultimately leading to longer, leaner muscles.
We start with core. I’m kneeling on the front platform, holding the sides of the carriage in front of me and roll out ahead so my body is stretched out flat. I slowly roll back in again. I repeat. It’s only three minutes into the workout and I’m already desperately clenching my stomach to keep my body still and in control. I’m already dripping with sweat.
Next, my feet are on the moving carriage and I am in a plank position. I roll the carriage out and in, while moving my body up into a pike position. I am working muscles I didn’t even know existed. Every “move” seems manageable to begin with, but I struggle to keep it up for the whole set of repetitions. I give myself short breaks – secretly pleased when I spot another guy in the class doing the same.
After core, we’re onto legs. One movement involves us facing down, tucking our feet under a strap on the carriage with our knees pointed to the left, then pushing the carriage out and pulling it in again. At one point my body shudders so much that I genuinely nearly fall in the well under the carriage. I bring myself back to the front platform and rest slightly while Catherine watches another class member. The whole “rest while she’s not watching” becomes more frequent as the class goes on. (Sorry, not sorry).
Every move is characterised by the same sequence: we do about 20 repetitions, then hold our bodies in the position for 10 seconds (cue genuine grunting sounds echoing throughout the room). Just when we think it’s all over, we’re asked to “pulse”, doing small movements of the same position. I feel myself holding my breath as Catherine counts down to 0 (“Make sure you’re breathing, everyone!”), then let out a sigh of relief when it’s over. We’re straight onto the next move.
As much as it pains me to say this, the class is very rewarding. Yes, part of me wants it to be over, but I also have this weird sense of satisfaction that I’m actually doing it, and some moves are adaptable, which is great when I’m finding it tough.
When Catherine tells us we’re onto the cool-down, I’m relieved. She asks me how I found it. “Hard!” I say. My abs hurt when I laugh.
W O R T H T H E S W E A T?
Twenty four hours after the class, my core muscles - around my abs and down the sides under my ribs - are sore; 48 hours later, they’re even worse. I never feel like this after a standard gym class. The class is tough - there’s no denying that - but if you’re looking for a workout that is intense, will work muscles you didn’t even know you had and leave you (quite literally) in pain - the Megaformer is for you. It’s a great full body workout that will strengthen your core.
A drawback for me was the price - £30 for a class is steep (working out at more than £1.50 a minute). My advice? Try an introductory session for £15 and see if you like the effects. If you like to keep pushing your body, you’ll probably want to go again.
I do think it’s a shame that if you’re living outside of London, you won’t be able to try out a Megaformer at Studio Lagree. But who knows, it might be one of those trends that will start catching on the more people hear about it.
C L A S S A N A T O M Y
The Megaformer was developed by Sebastien Lagree in LA, who has since franchised it to other exercise studios. In the UK, there are only studios in London: City, Canary Wharf, White City and Nobu Hotel.
The ‘Fusion’ class at Studio Lagree is 50 minutes and (I’m told) burns up to 800 calories in that time.
One class costs £15 for your first session and £30 per session afterwards. If you buy in blocks of 20, it’s £21 per class.
You have to wear grip socks (either your own, or buy some from the gym) so you’re not sliding around on the machine.