I Survived Solidcore

Aiyana at Solidcore. Photo: Courtesy of the Author

Swellness” is a monthlong series exploring the health-and-wellness stuff no one talks about.

If you’re an early 20-something New York City transplant — like myself — then you’ve probably attempted a slightly expensive and overly popular workout class. The class gaining buzz these days? Solidcore: A high-intensity low-impact full-body workout on a Pilates-inspired reformer, with EDM music blaring. And yes, it’s basically a cult.

Over the last year I’ve been religiously taking Pilates and have become a self-proclaimed Pilates princess. At first, it was very intimidating. As the only Black person and the only fat person in the room, it’s overwhelming to look around and feel alone, even in something as simple as a workout class. I’ve built a love for the reformer machine and the wonders it’s done for my fitness, flexibility, and mental health. So I push myself to continue to go.

I decided the next step in my fitness journey was to try Solidcore. Solidcore expert instructor Rachel Hoffman emphasized that Solidcore is not Pilates. And within seconds of the class starting, I knew she was right. Upon walking into the Nolita location, I first noticed the extremely positive and slightly threatening phrases lining the walls. I looked around the room, and realized that it was filled with thin white women. Not surprising in a lower Manhattan workout class. Sigh.

I turned my attention to the Solidcore “Sweatlana” machine, which is a lot larger in length and width than the Pilates reformer; exciting as a five-foot-ten plus-size woman. Then, the lights dimmed and the house music started blaring through the speakers. “Get into a plank,” my instructor rejoiced cheerfully. I got into a plank. “In ten seconds we’re going into a plank crunch.” What is a plank crunch? Then three set of lunges. I wanted to stop. Which isn’t something I like to do. I usually just try to keep my body moving by choosing another exercise, in Pilates it’s called “a modification.” But in this case, I couldn’t. So I caved into a defeated flounder position on the Sweatlana machine.

But my exhaustion never trumps my struggles with feeling fitness inferiority. I got up and kept going. “Arms,” my instructor said. I sighed with relief because that and legs are my strong suit (my core strength has a very long way to go). This next circuit seemed simple, laying directly on our backs on the machine, legs in tabletop position focusing on a bicep curl. My springs were set to the beginner below 25 classes mark, and yet, I could barely get a few bicep curls in before I felt I was straining my arms — and not in a good way. Exhausted and worn down from the previous set of series, now I was being bullied by a circuit I thought would be child’s play. But at least I was nearing the finish line. I heard the ending buzzer ring and sighed with relief.

As someone still on their fitness journey, I couldn’t complete 50 minutes of intense core work, lunging, and arm workouts without needing a break. The workload, although “slow” was fairly intense for someone still working on carrying their body weight. I learned later, and the hard way, that for beginners, it’s ideal to attend class two times a week and then work your way up. I also would have benefitted from taking the Beginner 50 class, which is focused more specifically on learning the movements and terminology. “I would also note that the way our workout is programmed is really purposeful,” Rachel Hoffman says. In other words, I need to build up to it.

What I learned from the experience overall was that workout classes and I have a toxic prolonged relationship. They cause me severe anxiety, and yet, I still continue to go back. It’s of course more of a mental battle than anything else. The upbeat workout environment at Solidcore is perfect if you’re looking for a party-style class that’ll get you moving. For me personally, I love a morning workout that challenges me but also eases me into my day. I definitely see myself going back because I want to continue to test my fitness. I’ve been fat my entire life, but I’ve also always been an athlete. Whether it was volleyball or basketball or even leading choreography in my high-school theater program, when it came to movement I’ve always had a point to prove — an unyielding fitness chip on my shoulder. So now as a 24-year-old, workout classes leave me with the same need to push myself, which isn’t always entirely healthy, but I’ve learned to do my best and trust that no one is looking at me the way I think they are.

Individual classes at Solidcore are $42 and their monthly unlimited membership is $416, while their 12 month plan unlimited membership is $316.

I Tried … Solidcore