Fitness: The benefits of Pilates

Comet reporter Laura Burge tried out a session at new business The Pilates Pod to see what the discipline is really like.

I’M SURE everyone has heard of Pilates, and from what I can gather, many may have tried it. What I’m not too sure of, however, is whether people really know the true benefits.

I wasn’t sure what those benefits are myself, but I soon found out when I went along to a session at The Pilates Pod, a new business in Hitchin set up by wife and husband team Michelle and Ed Smith.

To be honest, before the session, I couldn’t really differentiate the difference between Pilates and yoga (having done neither). The latter, I know, requires flexibility - something I really do not have.

Luckily, Pilates isn’t about that. It’s about finding your ‘core’, getting your posture right, and controlling your breathing. Plus, it does wonders for your muscle tone (just think of those abs).

Michelle, who took the session, is clearly proud of the business. It’s the only specialist Pilates centre in the town, and she has had more than 10 years experience of teaching it, including to some top professional footballers, such as players at Watford FC.

“It’s important to us that our clients enjoy our Pilates and that everyone gets our expert assistance,” she tells me.

Most Read

“We offer the perfect combination matwork classes and the reformer machine, to give amazing results with a friendly atmosphere.”

That reformer machine she mentions uses springs to provide resistance. And it’s this which we start off on.

Michelle tells me there are a number of principles to stick to. They include keeping my head, back and neck in certain positions, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, and squeezing in certain body parts during certain exercises.

It’s a strange sort of exercise - I really feel like I’m working myself and can certainly feel an effect on my tummy, arms and legs, yet you don’t have that horrible, sweaty feeling that’s inevitable at the gym.

While I’m trying out various exercises, Michelle explains how she found Pilates after being involved in a car accident. She believes it was the discipline that helped her improve her spine.

Having just had a baby herself, she also thinks it’s great either for those who are pregnant or who have just had a baby.

After the machine, we move onto some floor work, using weights, balls and other accessories. Michelle suggests trying some lunges. This sounds easy, but trust me, they are lunges like no other.

I’m advised to not bend the front knee too far, concentrating on the back leg instead, keeping my back in a certain position, relaxing the shoulders and squeezing in the abdomen. And it is a LOT harder than it sounds!

I can just about cope with that, but moving it to the machine causes me to take a bit of a tumble.

After our session, we warm down, and Michelle tells me some of the things she has found over the years of teaching.

“I’ve seen so many clients who have supposedly been doing Pilates for years but don’t even know how to stabilise their pelvis correctly,” she says.

“It sounds silly and we should know this already, but many so called core classes aren’t run by qualified Pilates teachers at all, but a fitness instructor that may have done a weekend workshop in core based training.”

One of Michelle’s missions now is to get men involved in the discipline. If they need persuading, it tones really well, is great for bad backs and she’s even launching a men’s session, so anyone who is dubious can try that out.

The Pilates Pod is based at 107 Bancroft (near Kenmore Interiors). For more information, visit of call in to the centre.