If you’ve been keeping up with some of my posts lately you may remember that in May I decided to tackle the Blogilates Beginner’s Calendar which can be found here in full at blogilates.com. Cassey Ho and her Pop Pilates videos are something that my friend Keeragh turned me onto years ago but I never really had the drive or strength to complete them. I’m happy to say that that has changed.
As of Wednesday I finished up the 28 days of the Beginner’s Calendar and as planned I rewarded myself with one of the Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks that Emily Bett Rickards wore on Arrow this season. I’m feeling pretty great about finishing the whole calendar. While I didn’t make any of the rest day recipes I did complete all the videos in the challenge. One day I even doubled up because I’d missed a day and I didn’t want to cheat myself. Let me tell you, that was a lot of pilates. But I made it and because I did I wanted to share my review of the calendar by outlining what I think are its major strengths and weaknesses. So here we go!
Set up – the fact that all your videos are set out for the day really makes it easier to jump right into a workout. There’s no chance of avoiding doing so just by searching for the ‘right’ video, you already have a set of videos that you have to complete so you may as well jump right in. This pro is actually what led to me making my own calendar for the month so I would have the same convenience with other workout programs.
Apartment Friendly – and house friendly of course. I was able to do all these videos in the small area in front of my front closet (a 7×7 space at most) and all I needed was a yoga mat. There was one day that involved stretches with a resistance band but I just went without. Overall this one is incredibly accessible and with the videos hosted online you could take them basically anywhere.
The coach – although I spent much of my time cursing and yelling at the beautiful and upbeat woman on the screen, the fact is that Cassey is a pretty great coach. Her upbeat energy can be annoying when you feel like you’re dying but she’s there to push you and to encourage you to keep going. She seems to know when people are ready to give up because her prompts to keep going almost always happen right when you need them. Some of her videos also have some great messages about loving your body and just doing whatever you can do to get stronger. I really enjoyed getting to know her a bit through these videos, even if I called her a few not-so-nice names.
The variety – if you’re someone who gets bored easily by repetitive workouts then the set up of the calendar will please you because there really is a mix of videos. A couple of the videos show up multiple times but not too often that you’ll be annoyed by them. For the most part, almost every day has a new video in it with new challenges in-store.
Cardio and Strength – most people have a solid understanding that you’re not going to get a flat tummy just by doing a million crunches. You have to target the abs in different ways and you need to shed the fat on top of those muscles which you’re only going to do if you get that heartbeat up and suffer through some cardio. Cassey obviously knows this because while you’re not doing cardio every day it does pop up often. In addition to this many of her pilates videos move at a fast enough pace that you may just find your heart racing anyway.
Is it actually a Beginners calendar? – reading into the comments before some of the videos you’ll find that I wasn’t the only one wondering this. A lot of people struggled making it through that first week. While some videos were good about giving modifications others were not and it could get frustrating when you just couldn’t handle the move. The moves can be difficult and it’s easy to mess up form or to expire quickly. It’s more of an intermediate level in my opinion.
No warm up / cool down included – it’s funny because this isn’t the case for all of the days, and there’s even a day where Cassey talks about how important warm-ups are but it’s not until late in the first week or early in the second. Either way there are certainly a good number of days that don’t have these included so you need to prompt yourself to find other videos / do them yourself. Forgetting to do so (as I did some days) can risk injury and make your body expire a lot quicker which is a problem.
Hard on the neck and back – pilates stance and I are not friends. Over the course of the calendar my form and my strength got better but I still found it quite painful to have my shoulders lifted so often. But it was the strain on the lower back in a lot of these videos that really got to me. I have a history of back pain so it’s definitely one of my weak spots. I found that overall there were not enough exercises working the lower back to compensate for the strain that some of the core moves put on it. Many times I would switch out a painful core move for swimmers or some other sort of back exercise just to find a better balance.
Overly core focused – while this wasn’t the worst thing for me, who’s lacking in core strength, it was something to note. Most of Cassey’s videos really target the core and are about slimming down that mid section. There’s a good selection of videos that target the legs but I found that upper body was often forgotten. I know sometimes as women we have a fear of bulking up on our arms and so we’re more likely to skip arm day than leg day but I really wish there had been more for arms and chest. Just doing half cobra to work the triceps seemed a little lacklustre.
While I’ve decided to keep my progress pictures private, I will tell you that I did see some little differences after a month of using the calendar. Most of all I saw changes in my tummy. The little pouch I have that hangs over my belly button appears slightly lifted giving me the image of a flatter stomach in comparison to before. I also felt that my legs had toned up a bit more to the point where I randomly noticed when passing a mirror the other day. While I wouldn’t consider any of these changes major, I have found that month to month overall my changes are small but they’re making a bigger difference in the long run. Additionally, I can definitely tell I’ve increased my core strength, and that going through the calendar made me more cognitively aware of keeping my belly button pulled in and my core tight during other workouts as well. These might not be huge changes to some but any progress is good.
And of course, I’m quite happy with my more tangible reward.
In a lot of the videos Cassey really pushes you to keep going, to not drop your legs or your torso and to push further. Sometimes this is going to be what you need to make it through a few more reps or to hold on a little longer but I also think it’s important to remember that it is okay to stop and take breaks. There was not a single video in this calendar where I made it through the whole workout with a break here and there. I think the key here is to do what you can and modify when you need to.
Overall, I think a lot of these videos are good for people like myself who are just starting into pilates but I’m not sure I would classify it as an overall beginner program. I definitely think I would have quit the calendar within the first week if I had tried this a few months ago when I wasn’t active at all. The compact and repetitive movements are a lot more straining than you expect so it’s easy to underestimate how much pilates is going to hurt, especially if you’re lacking in core strength like I am. If you’re just breaking into fitness for the first time I suggest trying different programs first (like Fitness Blender’s level 2 videos or a handful of Fitness Marshall’s dance videos) before you jump into this one. But if you’re ready for a challenge and need a starting point then I think this is a pretty good one. If you do give Cassey’s calendar a try at some point don’t be too hard on yourself: focus on form instead of repetitions. It’ll help your core strengthen and eventually you’ll be able to do more and more.
Have any of you tried pop pilates before? Are there any other instructors you’ve really enjoyed and videos that you think I would like to try? I always appreciate getting resources from others just so I can try something new that other people have liked in the past. Drop your links in to the comments below!