Wednesday 23 May 2018

I tried the intense Pilates class Meghan Markle swears by - and it was the hardest workout of my life

Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride with instructor Emma Forsyth in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin studio. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle/Instagram
Meghan Markle in Toronto
Meghan Markle heads to afternoon yoga in Toronto, Canada. Picture: Splash News
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

The things I do for my job.

In the run-up to the royal wedding, I have become something of an unofficial Meghan Markle-correspondent, so in the spirit of my new role, I tried my hand at the intense brand of pilates she swears by, which works on strength, core, endurance, cardio, flexibility and balance in one session.

The Lagree Method workout is an exercise designed by Sebastien Lagree, which tests your body beyond weight lifting and cardio through running. It's a form of Megaformer pilates which strengthens your core (not to mention bum, thighs and arms) through intensive stretching and is only available in Ireland at Pilates Plus Dublin.

It is apparently the most difficult form of pilates available and in stark contrast to any other form I've tried before.

Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney

"Many clients comment on how they are working muscles they feel they have never worked before. We work the larger muscle groups such as quads, glutes etc but also the smaller intrinsic muscles. Also you are on the proformer for the first time, doing exercises you have never done before or at least have never done with the added benefit and difficulty of being on the machine so it is bound to be challenging," PPD owner Emma Forsyth tells me.

"The classes never get easier, you just get better at the exercises. We can always make them harder which is one thing that many of our clients who have been coming for years find so brilliant. It still challenges them years after they started."

Firstly: it burns, a lot. I haven't been to the gym since Christmas (we're on a break) and I foolishly thought I could go back in and resume my pre-December fitness levels. Foolish indeed.

The 55-minute long class was a struggle, I'll be honest, but I persevered in the name of journalism.

The session starts with stretching, but not the kind I'm used to. Move slow and strong. Tighten your core, raise and tighten your bum, direct your pelvis to the front. Now imagine you are on a reformer machine moving your body up and down, carefully targeting small muscles on your body, muscles you probably didn't even know you had.

Now keep that position for 55 minutes while trying to stretch, bend and squat and you have an idea of what the class is like.

Meghan Markle heads to afternoon yoga in Toronto, Canada. Picture: Splash News
Meghan Markle heads to afternoon yoga in Toronto, Canada. Picture: Splash News

During my first break, Emma tells me it's normal  to be so flustered, nevermind the fact that there is a photographer capturing all of my pain for this picece. She says everyone, even professional athletes, is shocked at how difficult it is and needs at least one break the first time around.

At this stage, I give our photographer Gerry the eye to pretend he needs to extend this particular shot to buy myself some extra break time.

Then, there's the "earthquake", so called because your muscles tremble during most of it.

"We do the exercises in a slow and controlled manner which actually challenges you more than doing them fast as when you speed up momentum can take over, as we slow it down your muscles are made do the work," Emma says.

Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Caitlin McBride pictured in Pilates Plus Dublin. Picture: Gerry Mooney

"When the exercises are done on the machine it is with the assistance and resistance of weighted springs, thus requiring constant engagement of the core for the whole class.

You can burn up to 700 calories per session so I can see why Meghan has been choosing this particular exercise in the run-up to her big day.

The verdict: Nothing worth having comes easy, right? The class is tough, but not impossible. If anything it was the kick in the bum I needed to get off the couch and back in the gym and I like a challenge, so I'm going to give it another try. Not to mention how sore I am two days later, which is a true sign that something must be working. The only problem is that Emma probably won't go so easy on me next time.

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