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I took Pilates classes for a year. I was the only man in a class full of women, but it's become my favorite workout.

Ash Jurberg   

I took Pilates classes for a year. I was the only man in a class full of women, but it's become my favorite workout.
  • At 50, I tried mat-Pilates for the first time to add variety to my workout routine.
  • During my first class, I was the only man in attendance and thought the exercises were difficult.

Over the past few years, more exercise enthusiasts have turned to slow, low-intensity workouts like Pilates. Though the exercise can benefit almost anyone regardless of their abilities or age, I hesitated to try it for myself because I didn't know any men who did Pilates.

I've been a member of my local gym for several years, usually focusing on weights, cardio, and boxing. But after some convincing from my wife, I decided to give Pilates a try.

In total, I paid about $15 a week to attend classes at my gym. Given that I was already reasonably fit, I thought it would be easy. Here's what my yearlong Pilates journey was like.

I thought Pilates would be gentle and relaxing, but I struggled through the first hourlong session

I immediately noticed I was the only man when I entered my first class. Initially, I thought Pilates would be easy, but I felt self-conscious doing unfamiliar exercises.

Many core exercises required me to hold my legs in the air, which was too difficult for me. I kept letting my legs flop onto the floor and needed regular breaks throughout the class as my muscles ached.

My flexibility and reach were poor, and I couldn't keep up with anyone else. By the time class ended, I felt like I had done a worthwhile workout and had no energy left for a cardio session.

I decided to take another class to see if it was worth sticking with Pilates, and I began to enjoy it

I improved considerably in my second class. I had purchased a mat, which made me feel like I belonged in the class of women who brought their own personal equipment. After a few more classes, I came to love the workout.

Each class felt unique and entertaining, as our instructor mixed up the exercises and had us use various equipment. I soon became familiar with different weights, sliders, and booty bands (resistance bands made for glute and leg workouts).

The equipment became an excellent measurement of my improvement as I graduated from easy to heavy bands.

I also enjoyed using weights to add shoulder, bicep, or tricep work for a full-body workout. For example, we'd combine a lunge with a bicep curl or a squat with a tricep kickback.

After three months, I noticed changes in my physique and strength

When I began Pilates, I had the curse that befalls many middle-aged men: a dad bod. But after consistent core work at Pilates, I could see the faint outline of a six-pack. I wouldn't call it a washboard stomach, but this was the most toned I'd been since my early 20s.

As my ab muscles strengthened, raising my legs and holding them in the air became easier. My flexibility improved, and I wasn't as tired after working out.

The low-intensity workouts also helped alleviate some back pain I had when I started these classes. It was great to see my hard work paying off and notice the benefits of the sessions.

Now, I know more about Pilates' benefits, and a few other men attend the weekly classes

It seems many people, like I did, think of Pilates as an exercise for women. I think men tend to focus on the chest and biceps at the gym, so Pilates may not appeal to them as much as exercises like weight-lifting do.

That said, I've found far more benefits by working the core and related muscles than when I relied on chest and arm exercises. My class now has a few other men in each session, and they seem to love Pilates as much as I do.

Because it's a low-impact workout, Pilates can also be great when dealing with pain or building lean muscle — which explains why professional athletes incorporate it into their fitness routines.

Regular Pilates classes were completely worth it, and I love how they've impacted my body and mind

Investing in Pilates classes was worth it because the sessions exercised my body and mind and kept me motivated.

The physical progress and strength building in class also helped my mental mindset, a benefit I hadn't anticipated when I started. Concentrating on each Pilates exercise distracted me from thoughts about work or my to-do list.

I highly recommend more people, especially men, incorporate this workout into their fitness regimen. It took me 50 years to try Pilates, and I wish I had taken the classes earlier.

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