I was always one of those people who looked down my nose at the “hippies” who spent their free time with yoga mats in one hand, carrot juice in the other, on their way to a pilates or yoga class. But about a year ago whilst still living in London, spurred on by an article in a woman’s magazine claiming reformer pilates worked miracles, I decided to embrace my inner yogi and give it a try. I was soon hooked, more so after my boyfriend proposed and I knew I had a wedding to work towards. I went twice a week, religiously, and quickly shattered any preconceptions I had about pilates.
The sessions were an hour long and based on a machine called a reformer. This essentially has a sliding platform which you can move by pulling hand or foot loops. As you are always sitting on the platform, you are always moving your own body weight, but there are also adjustable springs to increase or decrease resistance. The workout was a non-stop, heart pounding series of exercises that all focused on building strength in your core whilst lengthening and strengthening your muscles rather than bulking them up. I must admit that after my first class, I was in agony, but I started to see the effects immediately. Not only that, but there was something mildly therapeutic about moving in sync to a group in fluid streamlined movements, even if we were all panting and covered in sweat! 9 months later and my body was leaner, longer and more toned than ever before – everyone was asking how I did it!
However, my new physical prowess rapidly deteriorated after an indulgent 2 week honeymoon and then moving to Hong Kong, with all its deep fried food, daily drinking and indulgent temptations. Finally, after observing my muscles slacken and turn to fat, I shook myself into action and decided it was time to jump back into the pilates and bid my new fat cells goodbye. The research was hard and almost everyone I spoke to discredited pilates saying it was too boring and not real exercise. I was determined to prove them wrong and after hours of scouring online, I finally found a pilates and yoga studio in Hong Kong that didn’t just offer reformer pilates, but dynamic reformer pilates. The sort that gets your heart racing and body transforming. Flex Pilates has a gorgeous studio in Aberdeen, just the other side of the Aberdeen tunnel. The atmosphere is calm, the little cafe and honesty bar make for a tranquil spot to enjoy a green tea and read the papers post workout, and they even sell sports clothing should you so desire. But the spa like similarities end there, because their trainers know how to make you sweat.
The first class I signed up for was called jump-board pilates with their new British trainer, Suru. As it turns out, Suru actually trained with the woman who established the studio I used in London so has the same ethos of making pilates a cardio style activity. Suru was friendly yet motivating and I started the class happy to be back on my pilates reformer and waging war on my new found flab. I was stretching, I was strengthening, I was out of breath. Then the jump-board was integrated into what was up until then, a familiar workout routine. The jump-board is added to the end of the reformer and acts like a vertical trampoline. We embarked on a series of exercises which involved catapulting ourselves off the jump-board, whilst lying horizontally on the reformer, in a manner that made me feel like I was walking on the moon. This proved to be an extremely fun, innovative and immensely effective addition to the pilates workout, as my muscles could have told you the next day! However, if the thought of working your body THAT hard on a Monday morning doesn’t appeal, Flex do also offer slightly less cardio focused classes such as Suru’s Allegro/Mat combo or Lyndsay’s allegro classes – which I tried, and whilst being slower paced, still reached muscles I had forgotten existed!
Eager to continue my renewed foray into fitness, and keen to get my husband in on the game, I dragged him along to Adrian’s TRX class on Saturday morning. TRX is similar to pilates in that you are working with chords and pulling against your own body weight, but this time the chords are suspended from the ceiling. Adrian worked us hard but kept us motivated at the same time. The workout was intense – at points my muscles were shaking from the strain but I powered on through. I thoroughly enjoyed the style of exercise as you are essentially suspending yourself from the ceiling and manipulating your body and the effect is very similar to pilates in terms of lengthening and strengthening. I must admit that even sitting on the sofa the next day was tough, and even my husband, who scorns at group exercise, loved the class and felt the burn.
Feeling contented that in the war on fat it is currently; me -3: fat -0, I am signing myself up for more classes at Flex. Their timetable is varied, their instructors all fantastic and the effect of their workouts is astounding and well worth the pain. Upon leaving London I had lamented the loss of my beloved pilates but Flex has more than filled that reformer shaped void. With other classes including zumba, dancing and yoga on offer and a heap of fantastic offers such as two-for-one private training, I would encourage to march your overindulged festive body down to Flex for some much needed winter exercise stimulation.
From $175/class for normal classes and $235/class for reformer allegro pilates