Ever since Meghan Markle got engaged to Prince Harry, the world has been dying to know more about her. We want to know what she eats for breakfast in the morning, we want to know how she gets her hair to look so perfect at all times, and yes, Meghan Markle's Megaformer workout has also become a topic of great interest. Despite the fact that I've heard that this cult exercise class was basically the hardest workout of all time, I gave it a shot, just for you, dear reader.
Now, even though I've actually tried a Megaformer workout class once before in the past, after arriving a little late to my class at the SLT studio on 57th Street in Manhattan, I truly had no idea how to correctly use the machine, despite the helpful cues from a kind woman next to me. Still, I was up for giving the Megaformer — which also has been experimented with by the likes of Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian, along with Markle — just one more shot.
The popularity of this exercise machine, designed by inventor and exercise guru Sebastien Lagree, seems to stem from the fact that it's a low-impact workout that is also reliably challenging and seriously effective at strengthening your body. The Megaformer itself looks a little bit like a pilates reformer; it has a carriage that slides back and forth on two rails, and attached to it are a row of springs for resistance, as well as a variety of other small ~accoutrements~ for targeting specific body parts. All of this allows for a uniquely complex workout combining cardio, strength training, and pilates-esque movements.
Now, for the most part, I am not very keen on using exercise machines, and the most complicated I get with my workouts on the day-to-day is maybe by hopping on a treadmill. So, going up to the SLT studio, where I was scheduled to take my very own, fancy-schmancy private lesson on a Megaformer with trainer Emily Calhoun, I was admittedly apprehensive, and frankly, a little frightened. Being on my own with a trainer meant it would be more difficult to, you know, go real easy if things got tough.
But Calhoun assured me we would be doing an introductory-level class, and that she'd be there to push me along and encourage me the whole time. She also had lots to say about the workout, too, which she says continues to be really challenging for her, even after six years of working out on the Megaformer machine.
Plus, as you keep working to refine and understand how to move on the machine, Calhoun explains, the workout "really just keeps getting harder and harder and harder."
As for my workout, we started with a variety of planks on the machine to warm up. Some of these moves required me to steady my arms into plank position on lifted bars, while my feet were down on the moving carriage. Then I was instructed to lift my legs up, and I suddenly found myself in a downward facing dog yoga pose, using only the strength of my abs. It doesn't just sound painful, guys; it really, really is.
Calhoun and I then moved on to lunges, which had me pushing the carriage back and forth with my elongated leg, while continuing to hold a lunge with my stationary leg (think the shape of a crescent lunge in yoga).
We continued to do targeted moves for each body part, and basically, every set of movements we did — whether it was for my triceps, glutes, or abs — consisted of micro-movements that required me to pulse and hold after doing an initial set of the exercise.
Now, TBH, I found the workout so difficult that I kind of stopped thinking at a certain point, or retaining any information. I just nodded and listened to what Calhoun was telling me to do in order to get through it.
While Calhoun did compliment my form, she also mentioned she should be taking pictures of the hilarious expressions on my face. I may or may not have yelped and pleaded, "No, no, I can't, please," more than once.
Alas, I managed to finish the whole thing without hurting myself, and I was actually pretty proud of how I did. I truly felt like I was on another planet by the time it was over, it was that hard.
Of course, I don't just push my body to its absolute limit for the sheer sake of telling you all how painful it was. Those repetitive micro-movements are actually really good for your body, and much like pilates, these movements are great for your joints, because of how small and precise they are. The muscle control needed for the exercises builds strength from the inside out.
But an added benefit unique to working out on the Megaformer is how it gets the heart rate up, adding a cardiovascular element that's a bit unusual to traditional strength and stretch training.
"It's low-impact, but really high intensity," Calhoun tells me after the workout. "There are moments on the machine where you're doing these really small movements, and it feels or looks like you aren't really moving that much, yet your heart rate is through the roof."
She adds with a laugh, "You're thinking [while you're doing it] 'how is this even possible?'"
And let me tell you, I asked that question to myself more than once during the workout. But I lived to tell the tale, and it seems like Meghan Markle has, too. Plus, Markle managed to capture the heart of a prince, so clearly, the woman is doing something right.