Friday, 8 July 2011

Dynamic Pilates Reformer Hits St.Helens

Dynamic Pilates Reformer Hits St.Helens

Special July Offer 2 Beginners Classes, Cost £14

Must be taken on a Wednesday or Thursday at 8:30pm within July.

Dynamic pilates:

Dynamic Pilates differs from Pilates because it uses a reformer machine. It's faster, more fun and is more of a cardio vascular workout. It's more interesting using poles, dumbells and boxing. There are just a lot more options and is normally a class of 10. Niko Agieri is a personal trainer and runs Dynamic Pilates classes using the "reformer machine." His classes are fun, versatile and always tough. He has trained celebrity clients such as Natalia Imbruglia, Holly Branson and Davinia Taylor. Good for ages 16-60 but not frail, elderly or people with serious back problems. He tends to have women of 25-45 in classes but men often think it's really easy but it's tough. Niko thinks it's the best all over body workout he has ever done. 55 mins of continuous variety and a test for the whole body. It is mostly available in London and big cities.

How Power Pilates fixed my bad back
(The Sunday Times,January 12, 2008)

I used to think there was nothing more dull than people complaining about back pain. Lie down, take a pill, have a rest, how bad can it be? And then, for reasons too boring and complicated to go into here, about two years ago I hurt my back. Talk about divine retribution. Suddenly I had to sit down to sneeze, or at the very least grab hold of a wall. If I missed my footing in the street I was doubled over in agony.

Worst of all, I was unable to exercise in any serious capacity: couldn't run, couldn't cycle, couldn't even do yoga any more. For a person who used to take her fitness quite seriously, this was depressing to say the least. Not only was I missing out on all those lovely endorphins, I was struggling to control my weight. And friends and family had to put up with my grouchiness (constant low-level pain does that to you) and general inability to unload the dishwasher (OK, there are some advantages).

Needless to say, I tried everything in my quest to fix the thing: osteopathy (cranial and ordinary), physiotherapy, special mattresses, Ayurvedic oils, heat packs, acupuncture, industrial-strength painkillers. All had their merits; but none was conclusive.

Then, last summer, on one of my many visits to a physiotherapist, I was given an ultrasound. For whatever reason, the muscles in my lower abdomen were almost nonexistent, shrivelled and weak. This, the therapist surmised, could be a significant part of the problem. She thought that I should try to address the problem from within, as it were, and recommended Pilates. I knew that Pilates could help a bad back; indeed I had done a lot of it before, as part of my general fitness regimen. I resolved to find a class and get started as soon as possible.

A few days later, I was out for supper when an author friend of mine, a slim, tall blonde with a perfect bottom, started talking about her new Pilates regimen, a regimen that, she assured me, was responsible for the fabulous behind. This was not just ordinary, church-hall Pilates, though, but something called Power Pilates. All the celebs were at it, apparently: Liz Hurley, Jennifer Aniston, Teri Hatcher, Christy Turlington. Aha, I thought. I scribbled down the number of the gym she went to and the following morning made the call.

The difference between Power Pilates - or Dynamic Pilates, as it is sometimes called - and ordinary Pilates is the reformer bed. This is a peculiar-looking contraption (below) consisting of a flat, sliding cushion on which you lie, a series of springs and two pulleys with hoops on the ends. The springs provide varying levels of resistance, and the hoops can be slipped over feet or hands to perform the strengthening and lengthening exercises that characterise this method.

As a Power Pilates novice, I had no concept of what I was letting myself in for. My friend had warned me that it might be hard at first - impossible would have been more appropriate - but David Higgins, the instructor and owner of the West London studio Ten Pilates, was used to this. After my first hour-long class, in the company of several other frighteningly fit women (never more than ten per class), during which I was all over the place (it was thanks only to his watchful eye that I didn't do myself a serious mischief), he suggested that, given my back problems, I ought to have a few one-to-one sessions before trying another class.

My first remedial session was more successful. Slowly, and with extreme caution, I began to familiarise myself with the machine. It is a very clever device indeed. It allows you to focus on small muscle groups, restricting the range of movement so that you can isolate and strengthen problem areas and I was horrified to discover that my left side, which is where most of my back pain is focused, was significantly weaker than my right. I couldn't see it myself, but it was obvious to Higgins: my whole body had begun to go wonky in its attempts to bypass the inflammation. Our first priority was, quite literally, to straighten me out.

He went easy on me for our first few sessions, then, seeing that I had grasped the basics, he began training me for real. Never, not even in the days when I used to take regular Spinning classes and tie myself up in knots in yoga, have I experienced a more challenging workout. Because of the way the machine works, every single exercise engages the core muscles. It brings a sheen to your brow just holding the thing steady; when you then add weights or resistance, you find yourself breaking out into a proper sweat. By the time Higgins has finished with you, you're taking your air in gulps.

To cut a long story short, my first 10 to 15 classes were murder. The most I could manage were two sessions a week, and I ached badly in between. At home, between sessions, I did basic mat work. Then, the stuff that I had thought was physically impossible became merely fiendishly difficult; then distinctly possible; and finally, easy. At which point, of course, Higgins stepped in, upped the resistance on my springs and made it all hard again. When I protested, he smiled and turned the music up. Good job too, given my language.

Now I go three times a week, sometimes four. It has not completely cured my back pain, but I reckon it has reduced it by about 80 per cent. It just hurts in the mornings, when I'm stiff from lying in bed, and late at night, when I'm tired. Thrillingly, I can get back into all my prebaby clothes (well, almost) and wear high heels again. It's been a long slog; but worth it.

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