When was the last time you did something you were objectively bad at? The older you get, the harder it is to answer that question—and it makes sense. One thing that comes with adulthood is the desire to protect yourself from failure, embarrassment, and discomfort. It’s a survival tactic to keep ourselves—and our egos—safe. But the longer you go without doing something you’re bad at, the harder it is to try again.
When I started going to workout classes at reformer Pilates studio SLT (otherwise known as Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone) a month ago, I thought I knew what I was in for. I bought the introductory pack of three classes with the goal of adding strength training into my very basic workout routine. It had been years since I had taken my first (and only ever) Pilates class or done any sort of exercise outside of an occasional run. I was prepared for it to be difficult—I read all the stories about how intense it is—but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how bad I would be at it. And let me tell you, my aching body reminded me just how tough it was for days after the class. But, I returned and took another, and then another—not just because Pilates has many physical benefits like strengthening the core and toning the entire body, but because SLT classes push me outside my comfort zone and leave me feeling empowered in a way that nothing else can.
Ready to find your own avenue to body confidence and empowerment? Read on to learn about SLT Pilates classes and why embracing activities that you struggle with is actually a beautiful and transformative thing.
What Are SLT Pilates Studio Classes?
SLT Pilates Studio classes, in a nutshell, are intense. They fully live up to their motto: “Strengthen your core, Lengthen your limits, and Tone your body.” Each 50-minute class is conducted on a Megaformer, which is essentially the fancier, more complex version of a traditional Pilates reformer. It has a moving platform and heavy-duty springs for resistance, with various bands and other attachments for different exercises. The total-body, low-intensity workouts involve slow, controlled, continuous exercises, such as planks and lunges, on the moving carriage, so you have to work hard to balance and stabilize your body. There are no breaks between exercises, which is meant to help you not only build strength, but also muscular and cardiovascular endurance, too.
What to Expect
Even if you’re a Pilates enthusiast, you will find SLT classes to be quite a bit different than your standard Pilates fare. SLT’s reformer workouts are nearly their own species in the fitness world, perhaps sharing a somewhat distant common ancestor with traditional Pilates. Unlike traditional Pilates reformer workouts, which isolate specific muscles individually with faster and lighter reps and longer breaks between exercises, SLT workouts on the Megaformer involve performing deliberately slow movements that use many muscles simultaneously with no rest time between exercises. Because the goal of SLT workouts is to build strength, the resistance used is usually greater than on traditional reformers. And, because you’re using most of your large muscle groups simultaneously and don’t rest between exercises, SLT classes bring a heart-pounding, sweat-dripping intensity that’s uncharacteristic of traditional Pilates classes.
How to Prepare
To register for an SLT class and purchase class credits, you have to create an online account. The class schedule for each studio is released on Tuesday at 11am EST for the following Monday-Sunday. It is recommended that you review the schedule and register well in advance because classes fill up quickly. A waitlist is usually available.
You can wear anything you’re comfortable working out in, but gripper socks are required. If you don’t own any, they sell some at each studio for $3. You should also bring a water bottle. Most importantly, you need to arrive at least 15 minutes early for your first class so you can sign the waiver, get oriented with the studio and the machine, and introduce yourself to the instructor. After that, plan to arrive five minutes early. Most classes are open to all levels, and your instructor will provide modifications if necessary. However, the best place for SLT newbies to start is the SLT Essentials class, which provides a more thorough introduction to the reformer, moves, body positions, and SLT concepts. Plus, the workout is slightly more sane (read: less crazy intense), and your instructor will provide extra feedback, guidance, and attention. Don’t worry though—you’ll definitely still feel the intense burn.
SLT offers a high-end, boutique Pilates studio experience, so it's not cheap. The cost for each class varies somewhat depending on which studio you attend, but in general, single classes are around $42. You can purchase class packs for a reduced fee (five classes for $200 or 10 classes for $380). If you are a real die-hard SLT fan, or hope to strengthen, lengthen, and tone your heart out, the best value is the unlimited monthly pass for $440. Most studios also offer a special intro price for your first class or first pack. And, for those who don't live near a studio, or who prefer to work out at home, SLT At Home Interactive classes are $20, or you can buy five for $90 or 10 for $170. Of course, you won’t have the opportunity (punishment?) of the infamous Megaformer at home though.
Why You Should Keep Trying
SLT classes are tough. Perhaps the best advice I can give you is that you should go to your first class with an open mind, prepared to work hard, and ready to give yourself a lot of grace. Even if you’re a seasoned Pilates pro, your muscles will be quaking and your heart will be pounding in your first SLT class.
Though the class itself does have a built-in learning curve, all the SLT instructors say that it takes a handful of classes to get the swing of the equipment and the moves.
As you struggle through your first class, counting down the minutes until it’s over, you may find yourself silently vowing to never come back. After all, none of us like to feel inept. But, like me, you will survive. And, like me, you should go back. Why? Because it feels like character work as much as physical work. You have to learn to quiet your inner self-critical voice, release your self-conscious inhibitions, and stay resilient and gracious with yourself through moves and sequences that are difficult. These are all skills that serve you well long after you’ve peeled off your sweaty grip socks and moved on with your day. Indeed, these skills may, for me at least, be the most important benefit of going.
The Final Takeaway
If you have the opportunity and means to do so, I challenge you to take an SLT class. Not just because it’s an amazing total-body workout, but also because it will challenge your mental strength. SLT classes truly do live up to the part of their mission to “Lengthen your limits.” You will have to truly push yourself, face your self-doubts, and quiet your negative internal chatter in ways that will help you rapidly and profoundly. The beauty of SLT classes is that they never get easy—you’ll never be a pro. But, you’ll build physical and emotional strength and confidence you can use in every aspect of your life.