September 03, 2019 at 08:49PM by CWC
“Never give up.” Those three words are painted on the floor at Solidcore, a megaformer studio in Chelsea in New York City, and some other 20 cities nationwide. To be honest, this mantra is the only thing keeping me from collapsing out of what feels like my 900th plank of the day. As I use my core muscles move the carriage in and out as slowly as possible, I can’t help but grunt out loud Serena Williams-style at the level of exertion and the fact that every single part of my body is shaking like a jello mold. There is so much sweat dripping off of my face that the concrete around that “Never Give Up” sign looks like a Jackson Pollock painting. It is absolute hell, but I feel strong.
Though it took me until this summer to discover Solidcore, the brand has actually been around since 2013. It first launched in Washington DC (where it quickly became one of Michelle Obama‘s favorite workouts), and has since expanded to more than 50 studios in 21 cities. The brand is on the verge of a massive expansion with plans to open at least 20 more studios before the end of the year and hopes to hit their 100th location some time in 2020. If this is the first you’re hearing of Solidcore, it certainly won’t be the last: They’re primed to become the Orangetheory of megaformer classes, if you will.
The workout itself is no joke. It involves a megaformer, free weights, and a whole lot of being really, really mindful of the way you move your body. The method uses slow, controlled movements (“the slower the better!” is a common refrain in class) to burn out your slow-twitch muscles to the point of failure. The thinking is that this creates long, lean muscles over time.
While it’s technically a Pilates-adjacent workout, it is truly unlike any other class I’ve ever taken. “I like a lot of intensity, and that’s the approach that you get at Solidcore,” says the company’s founder, Anne Mahlum. “It’s much more of an athlete’s workout, whereas some of the other [Pilates-style] classes can be a little bit more restorative and a little bit more gentle.” Classes tend to focus on a specific body part or muscle group, but in every session you’ll get solid work throughout your core, legs, glutes, obliques, and upper body.
It’s not just the workout itself that makes Solidcore’s classes so captivating; however, it’s also the people. Before each class, teachers take time to greet each student, and over the course of the next 50 minutes make it a point to cheer them on by name. When it’s over, they come around and give you a high five and a compliment. Mahlum explains that “creating a space that people feel really good in and that they’re a part of something” was one of her main goals in developing the brand, which shines through in the finished product. “I think people feel that,” she says.
Every time I walk out of that dark, blue-lit room, I feel accomplished. No matter how many breaks I had to take (and sometimes, there are a lot of them) or no matter how many times I fell out of a move, at the end of class I am both mentally and physically stronger than I was when it started. There are times when I lay on the machine panting, long after I’ve finished the last move of class, trying to wrap my head around what my body was able to achieve over the course of those 50 minutes. I can say this truthfully: Every day it’s able to achieve more and more.