Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Learning About Traditional Pilates at The Pilates Pod, Hitchin

[Gifted experience] As someone who has been less than active over the past few years, joining the gym last September was a turning point for me, and I find myself with a new found interest in forms of exercise - despite my lack of experience. Last Monday, I headed over to The Pilates Pod in Hitchin for a 1:1 Pilates session, and to learn more about traditional pilates. 

If you're unfamiliar with The Pilates Pod, they are an award-winning Classical Pilates studio in Hitchin, Hertfordshire - and the only one in Hertfordshire, too! They use traditional pilates apparatus and methods, and offer a range of classes, such as mat classes, tower/barrel and chair classes (using the traditional pilates apparatus), pregnancy/postnatal classes and 1:1 or 2:1 sessions. So there's a lot of variety and something for everyone!

On arriving at The Pilates Pod, I was greeted by the owner of the Pod, Michelle. Michelle was absolutely lovely, very friendly, and gave me an introduction into Pilates, and the origins of it... 

Pilates was created by a man called Joseph Pilates, in the early 1900s. Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He didn't want to be a sick man, so he spent his entire life trying to improve his physical strength, developing his own methods in the process and eventually becoming a very strong man. He initially developed his own set of exercises and techniques, which he later refined into a series of exercises using minimal apparatus and mats. He was a gymnast and a bodybuilder, and taught self-defence and wrestling - a far cry from the sick man that he once was. Alongside this, he also taught his methods to others. He continued to refine his methods, calling it "contrology" - Pilates is all about control, and controlling your body from your core. 

Nowadays, pilates has been adapted and changed over time, and often the mat exercises are the focus. Pilates is often taught in places like community or school halls, and although it is great that you can do pilates anywhere - all you need is a mat - often classical pilates is overlooked.  As I mentioned earlier, The Pilates Pod is a classical pilates studio - complete with classic apparatus. Classical pilates is all about following the traditions and authenticity of the pilates that Joseph Pilates created. During my 1:1 session, I got to use some of the apparatus. I've honestly never seen classical pilates apparatus before, so initially, they were slightly scary looking! But they're really not at all - once I got used to them, they were fine!

We started off on the reformer - a piece of apparatus with a carriage, which moves back and forth,  a footbar, which you can use with either your hands or your feet, and handles too. It is also powered by springs, which work similarly to weights on a gym machine. Springs are an integral part of classical pilates - pretty much all the apparatus is powered by them. It looks slightly scary at first, but I actually really enjoyed using this - it was an experience, although I struggled with a couple of the exercises. It really is amazing how much you can control with your core though, pilates really helps you bring out and use some muscles that you didn't even realise you had!

I also did some exercises on these chairs  - on the left we have the "Wunda chair", and on the right we have the "High Chair" - which is often nicknamed the Electric chair, due to it's appearance! Fear not - there's no electricity involved here, just a lot of core strength! I did an exercise on the high chair called "going up front". This is done by having one foot on the pedal, and one foot on the seat of the chair, and then you rise up - using the springs of the chair, and your centre for I brought myself up - as demonstrated here. I initially found it hard, but then got used it and found that when you put your mind to it, anything is possible! Like the reformer, this is also powered by springs - heavy ones at that! You have to be really careful getting on and off of this, because if you suddenly take one foot off of the pedal, you could send yourself flying over the chair (which would not be ideal!)

I definitely found the High Chair easier to use, as you can hold on to it and have more control of the top of your body, although interestingly the High chair actually has heavier springs - heavier springs give you more support though. I liked the Wunda chair too though, and it's especially good for if you really want to challenge yourself.  Pilates actually invented the Wunda chair to be an actual chair, that you just add springs to in order to work out!  You have to be careful though - I did feel like I was going to fling myself over the chair!

I had a really good afternoon at The Pilates Pod, and it was really interesting to learn about pilates, an area of the fitness world that I literally knew nothing about. It was also very rewarding - some of the exercises were quite challenging, but I'm really proud that I managed to do them - anything is possible if you put your mind to it.  I'm filled with curiosity about pilates now, so maybe I'll do more?! I'd definitely consider returning to The Pilates Pod - as I previously mentioned, they do 1:1/2:1 sessions as well as classes.

You can find more information about The Pilates Pod and what they do over at their website - Click Here to visit it!

And heres a selfie with Michelle - The Pilates Pod's lovely owner!

Have a great week, 
Sarah x


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