What It’s Like to Workout at… Toolbox Pilates

Reformers… Cadillacs… Tower Chairs. These contraptions may look like torture devices — and some might think they actually are — but these fascinating machines are pretty standard for Pilates exercises. While you can do Pilates without them, they allow you to use your own body’s weight and resistance to give yourself a full-body workout.

Pilates chairs at Toolbox

Toolbox Pilates in Dupont Circle offers both reformer and mat Pilates workouts, but reformer classes are its most popular.

Located in an alley behind Connecticut Ave., the studio is easiest to find from 19th Street. Inside, the multi-use event space is at once a workout studio and an art gallery, with large tableaus on the walls downstairs.  It’s a rare combination of art, architecture, and athleticism.

Up the stairs are two rooms of equipment.  (Also worth keeping in mind: Instructors come in just before their classes and may leave right after, so don’t expect strong customer service from a front desk agent.)

Cadillacs (right) and Reformers (left)

No matter your fitness background, Pilates offers a low-impact workout with full-body benefits. Toolbox classes last about an hour, during which you’ll experience varying exercises for arms, legs, glutes, and abdominals. The exercises themselves are not complicated, but sometimes setting up the machine correctly can seem that way, so look to your instructor for assistance. Classes are fairly small, usually less than 10 people, so individual attention and hands-on coaching are possible.

Author taking a Reformer class at Toolbox PIlates

You’ll want to wear form-fitting capris or leggings and avoid anything with a knot on its back as you’ll be lying horizontally most of the time.

One red and one blue spring?! What does the strap and spring thing even mean? While instructors never exactly explain, each has its own level of resistance.  And this is what gives those little movements such large impact.

Expect shaky legs, and arms on fire. And that’s before you get to the abs portion! Using combinations of resistance levels, your muscles will burn during class, but if it becomes too much or you have extenuating circumstances with your own body, modifications for the exercise will be given.

One difference between Toolbox and other Pilates studios is that Toolbox instructors use no music.  You may like how this allows you to hear and understand the instructor, or you may think this makes the workout feel interminably longer. (Personally, some beats would be a welcome distraction.)

One thing is certain.  After just one class, you’ll leave feeling just a bit taller… and you’ll be surprisingly sore two to three days later.  Pilates isn’t for pansies.

Toolbox reformer classes run $40 per class, with package discounts available.