I get a lot of questions about the class I teach at Btone—especially on Instagram from people wanting to know what that weird contraption is I’m always taking selfies on (the Megaformer). Is it Pilates? Is it ok for beginners? Is that machine stolen off the set of 50 Shades? What the heck is going on with this workout??
To start, it’s called Lagree Fitness. And while it’s based on Pilates, it’s so, so much more (I’ll explain later). Lagree Fitness studios are continuing to pop up in major cities throughout the states (and world!), so while it’s not as widespread as, say, yoga, there is a chance you can find this amazing workout near you. If you go to the Lagree Fitness website there’s an online studio locator, or try Googling “Lagree Fitness [your city]” or “megaformer [your city].”
All studios will be different and have their own policies and atmosphere, but here is a general description of what you can expect from your first Lagree Fitness class. Bear with me through these painful Wannabe Vanna White pictures…
Most classes are 40-50 minutes in length. If it’s your first time, arrive at least 10 minutes ahead of class so that the instructor can give you an intro to the machine. The workout is done barefoot or wearing grippy studio socks (some studios require these). I wear socks or sneakers when I teach, but personally prefer to do the workout barefoot. As highlighted by this lovely instagram, my pinkie toes are just simply not made for toe socks. I’d also recommend wearing leggings or at least longer shorts because you get into some funky positions for exercises. Leave the booty shorts at home—trust me.
It takes a couple classes to get totally comfortable with the machine, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’re fumbling through transitions your first couple classes. The instructor will explain all the exercises, but I think it’s helpful to also pick a machine in the middle of the room for your first class. This way you can easily look around at the other students if you’re not sure which strap/handle bar/foot position/etc. you’re supposed to be using.
Lagree Fitness is all about those slow twitch muscle fibers. These are our fat-burning muscle fibers and also our smaller muscle fibers (fast-twitch are larger in diameter), so this workout is perfect for that whole “lean, toned” look. It pains me a little to write a sentence like that, because of course body type, genetics, etc., etc., plays into how our bodies look and react to exercise, but from a strictly physiological level, you are working the muscle fibers that take up less space. Let’s leave it at that.
We work one muscle group at a time to achieve effective muscle stimulation, so this means you’ll focus on abs, left leg, right leg, arms (in some order) completely before moving onto the next. In general, each exercise is done for about 1 minute or 2 minutes for lower body exercises. In that time, it’s not about getting in as many reps as possible—you want to keep the pace slow, controlled and steady. Remember, we’re working those slow-twitch fibers!. When we move from one exercise to another, the goal is 0 seconds wasted in transition time. That’s of course not always possible, but we make transitions as quick as we can—absolutely no break time is built into this workout! Most of this is the instructor’s responsibility in planning a class that flows well, but it also means you shouldn’t dillydally in between moves.
While you might not be drenched in sweat after class, this workout also has cardiovascular benefits—you’ll feel that heart rate increase. To clarify, sometimes I leave class a sweaty mess, and other times I finish class and, with a quick touchup, could go right on with the rest of my day without needing to shower. I think it depends on the temperature of the studio, the routine, and on if you tend to sweat a lot or not. It’s certainly not an indicator of whether you got a great workout or not—some sweatless classes kick my ass!
The megaformer shown in all these pictures is the M3 model. There are a few versions of the machine, and the ones at your studio might look a little different, but the basic functions are all the same. At your first class, your instructor will give you an intro to the Megaformer which will be much more productive than a typed explanation, so I’ll just stick to the basics.
The middle bulk of the machine is called the carriage, and it moves back and forth on a spring system. More springs = more resistance. The more springs (and larger the springs), the harder it is to move the carriage away from the front platform. The less springs (and lighter the springs), the harder it is to move the carriage back towards the platform if our bodyweight is on it. Also, lighter resistance will make you feel less stable on the carriage. Classes are designed to minimize transition time, so you’ll probably only have to change the springs a couple times throughout class (or maybe not at all if the instructor does it for you while you’re in an exercise).
We can move the carriage in tons of different ways, and most (not all) the exercises really come down to just that: moving the carriage! There are two sets of cables, which allow us to move the carriage on a pulley system, so we’ll often grab those with our hands or hook the floppy black strap around our feet. There are also eyelet holes and straps on the carriage for grabbing/hooking onto with our hands and feet. We can also move that carriage by pressing against or holding onto the front or back handlebars. These handlebars can be moved into several positions to accommodate different exercises. There’s also a bungee cord (which I fully credit for this firmer booty I now have), a floor strap, and different rails and hand rollers on the platforms (of the M3) to give you hand position options.
Sometimes we increase the difficultly of exercises with hand weights (this is also a way to incorporate upper body work while we do legs), and we have a pole that can be used to help with balance during some of the exercises. Using the red pole is not a sign of weakness at all—it can allow you to get a fuller range of motion out of some exercises. Especially your first class, don’t be afraid to use the pole when the option is given by the instructor!
How Your Body Will Feel
This is a low impact workout and easy on the joints, but don’t be fooled—it’s INTENSE. During class, it’s normal for the muscle group you’re working to shake—in fact, that’s good! Trust me, as you continue to advance in this workout, you will live for that shake (as twisted as that sounds). The more advanced you become, the less frequently you’ll get “the shakes,” but even after the countless classes I have under my belt, certain exercise combos will come up and BOOM—shaking like a leaf. I love it! Because we work one muscle group at a time, taking it to that furthest point of effective stimulation, you’re nearing muscle failure (that sounds scarier than it is). It will feel harder to balance and control the movement of the exercise with shaking, but fight through it (easier said than done, I know).
While I find the shaking is most common during lower resistance exercises that require more balance and stabilization, it’s a slightly different sensation I feel when we load on the resistance—burning. Again, this is good and normal! There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in pain—you’re going to be uncomfortable quite frequently in class.
I would say the two most common instances of that uncomfortable feeling bordering into pain (especially with newer students), is with the wrists and low back when doing the ab/oblique work. These will become less of an issue as you strengthen your core and wrists (and soon not an issue at all!), but if you have pre-existing problems with either area, say something to your instructor before class. They will give you tips and modifications for making the ab work easier on the wrists (switch up hand positions, come to your forearms, etc.) and show you how to protect the back (slight tilt with the pelvis as you pull the bellybutton in towards the spine, stacking knees under hips to modify, etc.).
How will you feel after class? Amazing. Well, after your first class you might be thinking what the hell just happened—but in a good way. You’ll probably be sore the next day or two—more so if you’re not used to workouts emphasizing slow-twitch muscle fibers like this. At first, you may only want to come once or twice a week (depending on your fitness level), and from there, just listen to your body. I’d say most people come two-three times a week, but there are also those who prefer to come almost every day. Just make sure to give your body the rest it needs. Personally, I end up doing the workout two-four times a week (I don’t do the workout when I teach). As you know, I love switching it up, so I’m mixing in all types of fitness during the week along with those two-four Lagree classes.
The Benefits of Small Class Size
Aside from the workout itself, one of my favorite things about Lagree Fitness is the small class size. There are usually about 10 machines (give or take a few) in a studio, so you never feel lost in a crowd. If you’re confused or not sure how to get into one of the exercises, the instructor will notice and be able to come right over and help you out.
I think small class size also helps create a community feel. Especially given the enthusiasm (obsession even), that many people have for this workout, you’ll start recognizing familiar faces in class, will get to know the instructors, and will start to feel part of this awesome, motivating community. Of course if that’s not what you’re looking for, you can still be in and out strictly for the kickass workout.
If your first class is anything like my first, expect to feel humbled (in a good way!). I (thought I) was in great shape when I walked into Btone for my first class, but was shaking like a leaf by the end; unable to get through some moves without taking a break; and could not make it down a flight of stairs for two days afterward. The workout was just so unlike anything I was doing at the time, and my body was challenged in ways it never had been—I was immediately hooked!
Prepare to find your latest addiction. Lagree Fitness isn’t cheap (small studio classes out there typically aren’t), but it’s worth it. Most studios offer some sort of introductory offer so that you can try it without a huge financial commitment, and then from there, if you purchase larger class packages, you’ll end up saving and bringing the overall price per class down.
WEARING | top: c/o Ellie (use code nicoleperr20 to get 20% off your first order!) // leggings: c/o Reebok
If you’re in the Boston area, Btone has studios on Newbury Street and in Lexington, Wellesley (where these pics were taken) and Sudbury. If it’s your first time, you can buy three classes for the price of one ($30). Every instructor has a slightly different style, and every class the routine is different, so it’s great you can try out three different classes as a newbie. I teach Monday & Thursday early mornings and Sunday mid mornings in Boston, and Thursday nights in Wellesley. My schedule might change a little in the fall, and I’m frequently subbing for other instructors at random times, so check the schedules for my name (I’m the only Nicole)—I LOVE meeting readers in class! I also do the workout all the time, so if you can’t make it to mine, maybe I’ll be on the megaformer next to you in another instructor’s class.
Jeeeeze I must really love this workout because I just wrote a flippin’ NOVEL.
Have you tried Lagree Fitness before? What was your first class like? Any tips for newbies you’d like to add? Leave a comment!