Sitting Pretty: A Hot New Workout That’s Deceptively Hard

You wouldn’t think that a workout involving a chair could be that hard. Think again.

Two weeks ago, I tried out a “Cardio Chair” class at the new studio, Chaise 23, in Manhattan. The brainchild of former professional figure skater Lauren Piskin, who also owns the Physical Mind Studio uptown, this class uses one of the lesser-known Pilates machines (aptly named The Chair) to make your muscles burn and to get your heart pumping.

The backless, bench-cum-chair has a “resistance pedal” you can adjust to make the workout harder or less intense. Overhead, the bungees await, to help you balance and tone your arms. The end result: A workout that’s like no other I’ve ever tried. (And I’ve tried a lot of funky fitness trends.)

What was amazing (and terrifying) is all the muscles I never knew I had—and never knew I was neglecting. During my hour-long class, the instructor took us through a workout that got me sweating, but I never once looked at the clock. There were periodic cardio bursts (lunges, boxing moves, and other fast-paced stuff), there were poses and contortions that I didn’t think I would be able to do— that drew upon seemingly non-existent muscles so deep in my trunk/abs it’s like awakening them from a near-lifelong slumber.

The light-filled studio felt airy, cheery, and intimate, and the adorable instructor (Catherine) had the most perfectly lithe, strong physique—inspiring but not intimidating like some over-taut teachers I’ve seen. (But it also seemed vaguely attainable, too!)

Honestly, the Chaise 23 experience is one of those hard-to-explain hybrid fitness classes that have become super-popular over the last few years; many of them involve a smorgasbord of things, including Lotte Berk method, classical ballet training, Pilates work and traditional strength training. What’s important is the unifying principle behind most of them: a strong core—with nearly all the movements emanating from that stable base.

As droplets of sweat hit the padded portion of the chair and I struggled to hoist my torso in a pike position, I knew that the next day, as I rose from and sat down in my regular ole chair, I’d be feeling the burn.