Looking to shake up your fitness routine? Give one of London’s reformer pilates studios a go…
A quick Google of ‘reformer Pilates’ may reveal machines that resemble torture contraptions, but take it from a longtime exercise-phobe, it’s not half as hard as it seems – and it might just spark a new lifelong obsession…
The reformer method was first developed by Joseph Pilates during WW1 when he attached apparatus to hospital beds to help train and rebalance the muscles and joints of those who were injured and bedbound. Now far more glamorous but based on the same principles, the modern souped-up reformer machine is the secret behind the toned, lean and lithe bodies we have long envied – that LA yummy mummy physique that seems totally effortless and unattainable, but is actually the result of many hours spent ‘reforming’ the body.
As Gaby Noble of always says, ‘with 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference. With 20 sessions you’ll see the difference. And with 30, you have a whole new body’ – and she’s right. I’ve lengthened and strengthened my limbs all over London to bring you the best reformer pilates studios in town. See you on the (raised and cushioned) mat…
Pilates in the Clouds
Does this pose look familiar? It’s likely to have popped up on your Instagram in the past few months courtesy of in-the-know fashion editors, actresses and influencers who have been flocking to Pilates in the Clouds, a private reformer pilates studio in Kensington. But it’s far from a fad – pilates here is done properly, and owner Lauren only accepts clients who are set on improving their bodies in the long term and will take the discipline seriously, as opposed to those simply seeking a fabulous photo and a few hundred likes.
Lauren introduces new clients to the studio with an initial one-to-one session in which body concerns, aches, injuries and goals are discussed, and she assesses the kinds of exercises that would benefit you the most – this is individual attention on a level that is rarely found in studios nowadays and a big reason why clients are lifelong and willing to travel from all corners of the city for an hour’s session. The focus on alignment and minuscule adjustments make all the difference, and there’s nothing quite like a class in a gorgeous, lofty rooftop space where, whatever your level, all that light and far-reaching city views are enough to make your soul soar. Classes are by appointment only. Get in touch with Lauren via
If a quiet gym environment where everyone takes themselves seriously is enough to bring you out in hives, Tempo Pilates’ reformer classes will be a far more enjoyable way to ease into the discipline. With edgy studios in Shoreditch, Hackney and Covent Garden and blaring, upbeat music, this is a far cry from your usual reformer pilates session. The music provides a fun flowy pace that makes the hour fly by, and the workout is second to none for toning (prepare for sore glutes the next day!). For extra ‘tough love’, try the up-tempo level 3 classes or X-press that incorporates HIIT to crank the workout up a notch.
The brilliant and ever-ebullient Gaby Noble heads up north London’s award-winning premier Pilates studio, offering a mix of tower, reformer, chair and barrel classes that are available in group or private sessions. She’s gained quite the reputation within Pilates circles thanks to her unyielding dedication to the classical method that has in recent years been so watered down by the trend-led London fitness scene. But far from being old-fashioned, Exhale is packed with the latest Stateside apparatus that aids the modern results-driven method that’s still firmly rooted in classical theory.
Gaby has opened the eyes of everyone from Harry Styles and Sadie Frost to stroke victims, CEOs and pro athletes to the magic of Pilates, and the personal touch with which each class is imbued means injuries are prevented and posture improved for life. Most new clients are treated to a one-to-one consultation with the woman herself, in which she will assess individual issues, tendencies and bad habits hailing from other regimes – something as small as a slight turnout in one knee or tension in the neck, that would elsewhere have gone unnoticed and untreated yet makes all the difference. But what distinguishes Exhale above all is the process of educating and connecting you to your body, and that’s an invaluable lesson that’s not easily forgotten.
A word of warning: do not book into the power reformer pilates class at FRAME if you’re still in the early stages of training. Even non-beginners will struggle with this high-intensity workout – increased reps and more dynamic movements mean there’s significantly more cardio and burn than usual, and confidence on the machine is key. That said, FRAME’s classes are on the more affordable end of London’s reformer offerings and there’s a good variety to choose from, from basic through to advanced as well as ‘ass and abs’ or ‘arms and abs’ specific classes. A good place to ease yourself in.
Yummy mummy favourite Heartcore has ten London studios, bringing the brand’s signature dynamic pilates workout to the most prestigious postcodes in town – including the most recent opening beneath Sweaty Betty’s Carnaby Street flagship (the ultimate wellness location: Farm Girl and Duck + Dry are upstairs for a post-workout reboot too). Founder Jess Schuring developed her own brand of Reformer machine so it’s slightly different to ones you’ll encounter in other studios and more appropriate for the signature Heartcore class which combines athletic conditioning and classical Pilates with a focus on strengthening the core. Each 55-minute class is different with a range of instructors and styles at each studio, as well as gorgeous, soothing interiors, top-notch music, and herbal teas to end each practice. This is swanky, luxe reformer pilates at its best, and though classical Pilates devotees can be skeptical about the method, all agree that it’s a darn good workout.
This modern Classical Pilates studio in Wandsworth wins the prize for most varied class offering and having every piece of Pilates apparatus under the sun – and putting it to good use! An intro level class will see you make your way around the lofty studio learning to use each piece of equipment that you’ll rarely see elsewhere – barrels, chairs, towers feature as well as the reformer machine and mats, giving you a hands-on taste of the discipline from all angles. Classes are small and focused with an unusually regular mix of men and women, and are taken by brilliant, friendly teachers who emanate a true passion for pilates that’s infectious – and might just change the way you connect with your body forever.
Leafy South Ken is home to Caron Bosler’s private studio that never has more than three people working out at the same time. Now that’s what we call boutique fitness! The reformer machine forms the basis for the unique brand of body that Pilates Squared provides – lean, toned and enviably trim. Longtime Pilates teacher Caron (who has 25+ years under her belt and an inside-out knowledge of the industry) and her ex-military (but complete gentle giant) second-in-command Hakan tailor each session to the client’s abilities and aims, and even run ‘Alphalates’ sessions to ease men into the discipline. Under their expert eyes, even the most exercise-averse will see results in just a few sessions – and enjoy it, too.
This teeny reformer-only studio in Angel Islington is a haven of calm above the crowds with its roof garden and skylights that flood the room with sunlight. Classes focus on strengthening, lengthening and increasing flexibility, and with simple machines and three class levels, there’s something for everyone – and the advanced classes are something solid to work towards. The no-frills, relatively basic studio removes the intimidating aspect of ultra-luxe counterparts filled with lithe glamazons, and instead focuses on delivering challenging classes for anyone interested in getting into the discipline.
TEN Health & Fitness
TEN’s swanky Mayfair studio is where I first caught the reformer bug. The beginner’s class is the perfect mix of introduction to the apparatus and challenge for the body – and will have you back the following week for more. It’s a little more fast-paced than a classical class, boasting the same benefits but going a few steps further by adding elements from other disciplines to create a more intense workout that you’ll feel from head to toe. Classes are always small and with eight city-wide studios, it’s accessible from all corners of London – so what are you waiting for?
If you’re interested in trying a few different types of reformer Pilates, this is the studio for you. In just one room, they have a Cadillac (the full frame that allows you to – excitingly – hang off the top), two different types of the standard reformer bed ( boxes for extra exercises) the barrel and chair for more targeted stretching and strengthening – and there are classes for teens, older adults, pre and post-natal women and with a focus on rehabilitation. Tucked away in a light, airy and quiet side street just off Kensington High Street, Core is a treasure trove for the newbie and expert alike. The trainers’ anatomical knowledge is second to none, and you’ll be pushed to limits you’re not even aware you had – often without you even noticing until you’re already doing it. The best kind of improvement, we say…