Wednesday, 28 December 2011
I'll admit it, I'm a half-hearted exerciser. I start every year with the best intentions (don't we all). I draw up elaborate schedules for running, gym visits, circuit training and madcap diets. Yet, the minute I'm left to my own devices on the cross-trainer, I get bored after 10 minutes, irritated by the first bead of sweat that (sometimes) emerges on my brow, tell myself 10 minutes is better than nothing and pootle on home, usually in a car.
This sad state of affairs has resulted in two things. A waistline that is slowly but surely expanding, and a complete and utter reliance on exercise classes to battle said waistline and my total lack of self-discipline. Considering that I am basically allergic to the gym, and lately may have found an exercise form I actually like in yoga, I recently decided to try out Pilates, tempted by the first class free offer I found at local studio Bootcamp Pilates.
Bootcamp Pilates has four London locations, but the most useful for all your south-westers will be the Fulham Studio (Bishops Road) and perhaps the Notting Hill branch (Porchester Road). The Fulham video is fairly small but incredibly sleek, featuring 8 or 9 very well maintained Reformer machines, that to the uninitiated look somewhat like a modernised version of a medieval torture rack, but in fact are specially designed to allow you to change the resistance on the pulleys and springs, and stretch, tone and create resistance, all without putting too much pressure on the joints. According to Bootcamp's website, Pilates originates from an exercise regime thought up by WW1 prison camp resident Joseph Pilates, designed to give bed-ridden inmates a resistance workout whilst lying down and using only the facilities provided by the prison hospital beds.
If starving prison camp inmates could do it, I reasoned, surely I can do so as well without breaking the sweat I am so adverse to... well let me tell you - it's harder than it looks. Particular for those, like me, who are not in possession of anything remotely resembling "rock hard abs".
The 55 minute class consists of several deep leg stretches, squats, resistance movements and dumbbell work, using the system of moving parts, springs and pulleys on the reformer bed. There is particular emphasis on using your core strength to retain balance and pull your lower body around. As mentioned, the studio will only allow for small classes but the machines are well spaced and the studio bright and sparkling clean, giving a spacious and slick feel, and ensuring you have lots of space to work out. The perennial problem of how far you can move about, fling your arms, or bend over before your face is positioned immediately on top of somebody's posterior that afflicts so many exercise classes is definitely not an issue here. The work out is conducted to music which I find raises your energy levels (although in my case, the CD in question was a rather dubious early Avril Lavigne album). The teacher monitored the entire class and demonstrated each of the moves, giving extra tips to make the postures either easier or harder depending on how each individual was doing. However, she did not correct postures on an individual basis which I found surprising considering the size of the class would have made this very easy to do. That said, the postures are not especially complex so perhaps we were just doing them all perfectly!
I really enjoyed the class and really felt the burn in my stomach and thighs for a few days afterwards. Judging by the figures of my fellow class-mates too - I know this shouldn't be a barometer but I don't think I'm alone in judging the efficacy of exercise classes in this way - this is clearly an exercise form that works, and I think I'll be back to give it another go. I even broke a sweat, and I still loved it, so that might be the biggest endorsement of them all!
Classes at Bootcamp Pilates are bookable online and cost £18-25 each. First class is free.
Marvic House, 30 Bishop's Road
London SW6 7AD.
All photographs credited to Bootcamp Pilates' own website.