Tried & Tested: Reform Pilates


For years, I tried to ‘get’ yoga. The law school I attended briefly in Canada offered free classes in emails with comforting subject lines. Every session ended with me trying to drift off while lying on the mat, the cooing tones of our instructor saying nothing in particular. I never got to the inner place that would loosen all the worries from my person. More often than not I’d shudder when the teacher, a part-time lawyer, would unexpectedly rub lavender oil along my pulse points.

After that exercise in showing up, I tried the occasional class back in Dublin with friends who swore by the discipline. While they threw themselves into the downward dog, I said silent Catholic prayers the guy with the far too tight pants would not stand near me, for wherever there is a studio there is always a man with an enthusiasm for thinning lycra.

Then, before Christmas, I was reading India Knight’s In Your Prime: Older, Wiser, Happier, where the writer spent paragraphs extolling the virtues of yoga. The absence of my inner yogi was a missing gene.

This mounting frustration led me to Pilates. My doctor told me to explore a ‘gentle’ exercise to help with a condition. While I walk for over an hour every day, my muscles were cramping. The thought of taking up running was immediately overtaken with anecdotes about women I knew who had screwed up their knees on city pavements. Also, what if I became a marathon bore who thought talking about my diet plan during lunch was acceptable?

A beginners Pilates course before Christmas was a thrashing relief. After the first class I felt great. For the following weeks it was a straightforward anchor in my week. There was no need for insincere Namastes at the end of each class.

This new taste for all things Pilates saw me research Reform Pilates, a version of the exercise that involved using specialized equipment to wake up and stretch muscles that a normal session couldn’t. Anna Frankland’s Blackrock practice was the perfect place to try out a starting class in Reform Strength and Conditioning Pilates.

At first glance, the studio is a little bit daunting. Spine correctors, a reformer machine and a trapeze table are dotted around the room. I may have a made a Fifty Shades red room joke. However, the session wasn’t a race to aching muscles. It was slightly easier than my first couple of traditional classes, but I still felt I was operating on a tougher level, using my body to pull and push myself further. I felt stronger.

Anna was also a great teacher. She is a triathlete, or rather was, until an injury derailed her career while living in Sydney with her husband. Pilates proved invaluable to her recovery and she continued the practice during her pregnancy and the frantic months of new motherhood. During leave from her corporate career in venture capital she decided to become a Pilates instructor and returned to Ireland to set up Reform Fitness in Blackrock. The classes for mums-to-be and mums-with-babies enjoy a huge word of mouth success. However, Reform Pilates isn’t just for mums. Last month saw the launch of a new program called Operation Reformation. The whole purpose is to get people moving and to improve cardiovascular fitness. It’s a program designed to combat our increasingly sedentary lives, as Anna herself says, “Sitting is the new smoking and not surprisingly it has been linked to the rise in obesity and depression and has been shown to significantly increase the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes”

Anna’s studio is next to the Dart station, so when you’re not surreptitiously critiquing your pose, and arse, in the ceiling to floor mirrors you’re looking out on the grey blanket of sea. It is a relaxing space cut off from city living and definitely one we’ll be returning to.

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Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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