I’m a big proponent of finding the types of exercises that keep exercise from feeling like a chore. Put me in a Pilates class or send me for an easy run down the river, and I’ll love (almost) every second of it. Put me in a HIIT class with flashing red strobe lights and a screaming instructor, and I’ll be looking for the emergency exit before I start my watch.

For January, I swapped all my strength training with Pilates – and it made me a much happier, calmer person. As a runner, I often incorporate strength training into my routine to help me go faster and run harder, but I dread weight training, which makes me feel another one something I have to fit into an already busy schedule. Instead, I paused my gym membership, got out my Pilates ball, and rolled out my yoga mat (we found the best yoga mats for home workouts here) for a month of Pilates sessions.

I must add that I am not completely new to Pilates. Before the pandemic, I attended a week-long intensive Pilates reformer retreat in Thailand, but haven’t practiced much since, so I was definitely a little rusty when I embarked on my quest. I did five 30-minute Pilates sessions a week and found them on YouTube (watch this 30 minute Pilates class here) or Lilly Sabri’s Lean app, which tops our list of best workout apps to download now. All classes could easily be done from home, although some required a Pilates ball or resistance band (see the best resistance bands to train at home here).

Four weeks later, here’s what I learned:

My core wasn’t as strong as I thought

As a fitness editor, I thought my core strength was good – before Christmas I ran my fourth marathon and I spend a lot of time testing the best abdominal workouts as part of my job. A week into my month of Pilates, I realized I had been dreaming. The deep burn I felt in my core after a particular sit-up session using the Pilates ball under my pelvis told me I had worked muscles I hadn’t targeted in a while.

Of course, strong abs aren’t just an aesthetic goal. Having a strong core can help you run faster, lift more weight, and improve your posture. I always ran in January, and while I didn’t notice my speed increasing, I did find that regular core work reminded me to engage my core while I run.

Pilates can give you DOMS

If you thought DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was something only for gym goers, think again. Sure, my legs weren’t hurting as much as they would after a heavy weight session, but the DOMS was still there after one of my most intense Pilates workouts.

The goal of Pilates is to sculpt and tone strong muscles without bulk – think of a dancer’s body, super strong, but lean. I really felt like I was working hard, even though I wasn’t really sweating or burning huge amounts of calories during the classes themselves.

I felt calmer

As someone who has suffered from poor mental health, I train for my mental health as much as for my physical health. January is a long, dark month for many, and I have found real joy in the mind-body connection involved in Pilates classes. I also loved being able to do them from my spare bedroom, in the dark, before the rest of my house got up, and I definitely felt happier and calmer than the days of rushing to the gym.

I haven’t been this happy with my body in a long time

Another surprise I didn’t expect – after four weeks I started noticing changes in my body. Having changed nothing in my diet or running routine, after a month of Pilates I can see more definition in my stomach muscles and around my waist. Pilates is great for targeting the deep abdominal muscles that we often overlook, as well as the outer abs that we work out in hopes of getting a six-pack.

Of course, the point of Pilates isn’t to get a six-pack – no matter how good the Pilates instructor, he or she can’t alter your genetics, and Pilates itself isn’t. cardiovascular training, which is one of the best ways to lose body fat. That said, as part of an exercise routine that involves cardio and good lifestyle choices, Pilates can target your core and, as I’ve found, have positive results.

I’m not ready to take the weights back yet

After a month of Pilates, I feel great and I’m in no rush to get back to the weight room at the gym. Of course there are huge benefits to lifting weights and when it comes to training for my next long distance race I’m sure I’ll end up in the gym but for the moment, I am not ready to exchange my calm and peaceful workouts.

My main lesson? Do what’s right for you and your body, and don’t make exercise a punishment. Whether it’s yoga, dancing, running or boxing, moving in a way that makes you feel good will help you establish an exercise routine that lasts much longer than the rest of your workouts. New Year’s resolutions.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Check out this exercise which is better than squats for building your glutes, the best arm exercises for building your triceps and the best exercises to do if you sit all day.