Peloton's Jess King On Why Everyone Should Be Doing Pilates

If you've just cued up one of Jess King's Peloton classes, you know you're in store for a high-energy experience, plenty of inspirational coaching, and a healthy serving of sparkle (after all, King philosophy dictates that "glitter is a strategy"). But if you've only ever experienced the former dancer's unique brand of magic on the bike or treadmill, you might be missing out on some of her freshest, muscle-building, core-crushing content — King is now conquering Pilates for Peloton.

"Pilates first came into my life when I was in LE RÊVE in Las Vegas, as a way of staying warm and conditioned between shows and rehabbing injuries," the 35-year-old South Carolina native says of her time performing in the Cirque du Soleil-style show. "I loved it. Even with an extensive dance and anatomy vocabulary, Pilates taught me so much about where my imbalances lived and how to mindfully strengthen and lengthen my body."

Peloton's Jess King On Why Everyone Should Be Doing Pilates
Peloton / James Farrell

Although King has been close to fitness her whole life (her mom Ximena Bernales is a personal trainer and former competitive bodybuilder), she admits that Pilates opened up a new world when she discovered the low-impact, flexibility, strength, and endurance-based practice in her dancing days. "I was very excited to learn and experience a new way to be in my body."

King devotees may be surprised to know that prior to joining the Peloton crew in 2014, she'd never even been on an exercise bike, let alone led a cycling class. "It's true!" says the former So You Think You Can Dance finalist. "The most challenging component for me was being clipped in and moving in a single plane of motion. As a dancer, I have access to every plane of motion and can move freely through time and space. Being clipped into the bike felt like being restrained, and it forced me to find other ways to channel my energy and communicate, all while moving only in the sagittal plane."

King says that once she started cycling regularly, she was heartened to find that she could infuse the modality with her own flair. "In terms of the similarities in the two disciplines of dance and cycling, there are hardly any overlaps," she says. "But because of the performative aspect of Peloton, I found a way to bring my dance and performance skillset of musicality, movement, and entertainment to the bike and tread." When the company offered her the chance to add Pilates to her class offerings earlier this year, she jumped at the chance, seeing an opportunity to grow as a fitness professional and to inspire others to discover a new form of movement.

Jess King on teaching pilates

Stepping into opportunities to grow, like this one, always makes me feel very alive.

— Jess King on teaching pilates

"It was a lot to digest at first," she says. "Pilates is very specific, scientific, and nuanced, and I worked really hard to learn as much as I could to create fun, interesting and effective class plans rooted in real Pilates. Stepping into opportunities to grow, like this one, always makes me feel very alive. I feel the thrill of trying something new and simultaneously confront the growing pains that come with being a beginner again."

King says reintroducing herself to Peloton members as a Pilates pro also allowed her to share a passion that's had a major influence on her life in and out of the studio. "I was excited to share this side of myself with the Peloton audience," she says. "Pilates also had a profound impact on my body personally, and I wanted to share that with our members."

Pilates has also helped King shake up her fitness regimen and explore a new outlook on overall wellness. "My body has never been happier than during the three months we were going through the certification and training process," she says. "I felt strong, from the inside out. I felt connected to my body and felt like I could trust my body to move gracefully without aches and pains throughout the rest of the day. I was totally sold on the importance and significance Pilates can have in anyone's life, not just that of an athlete, and have since made it a practice to visit Pilates twice a week. Feeling sore? Pilates. Need to warm up, gently, but fully? Pilates. Don't want to work out, but need to move to feel better? Pilates. Don't want to go ballistic? Pilates."

King, who is also the founder of wellness program MindFULL³ and co-host of the ridiculously delightful Ooo Mami! cooking show alongside fiancée Sophia Urista, also has a reality check for anyone who doubts the profound power of Pilates. "I think it's a misconception that Pilates is easy," she says. "It's not — at all. I'm working so hard to use my breath and the technique and create the shapes and movement that will make me stronger. Pilates is an entirely new way of communicating with yourself and creating new neuromuscular connections. You will find new ways to direct your body into action that will translate into your other fitness disciplines. I personally think that's something worth exploring and working hard for."

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