The Reformer/Tower Pilates machine — a system of springs, pulleys and straps and a long, padded bench to support the body — looks like Fifty Shades of Ow when you first approach it. But after engaging the attachments, which provide smooth resistance and a measure of control as you pull and stretch your arms and legs in various configurations, you start to feel good after an hour-long class.
Students report feeling energized and even taller afterward since the movements are designed to lengthen the muscles and improve posture. The versatile machine even allows for a round of Hundreds, one of Pilates’ signature moves.
For the Hundreds, which set fire to the abdominals, you are initially flat on the bench, bent knees toward the chest. Instructor Deanndria Seavers will soon command everyone to lift their upper bodies carefully toward the chest and pump both arms in small movements at the sides 100 times.
One can’t do Pilates — mat or Tower/Reformer — and hope to avoid the dreaded Hundreds.
Pilates, for the one or two of you who have yet to try the popular fitness program, is a series of movements centering on the core muscles of the abdominal area. Working these muscles help us maintain balance and provide support for the spine.
Pilates, named after its creator, World War I-era fitness buff Joseph Pilates, has grown beyond the basic mat work, which requires little more than your body, a mat and the floor.
Seavers opened her storefront Pilates studio in Coral Gables this month and offers free community mat classes on Sunday as an enticement to draw newcomers.
We know ol’ Joe’s Pilates on a first-name basis, so we were ready to try her Tower class on a weeknight for a go at the machines in a class of no more than five.
Seavers says her goal with this total body conditioning class is to “empower” her students, to help “them to develop more self-awareness, to move and feel and live a little better.”
Given the small class size, personalized instruction is practically a given.
“Deanndria really addresses injuries and if she’s aware you’ve had an injury she goes the extra mile to make sure the workout is programmed to fit your needs,” said Nora Matelis who lives in Coral Gables. Matelis, who gave her age “as the new 40” has had two knee operations. The Pilates Tower, and the accompanying Chair, a two-spring machine for seated and standing core work (think: modified sit-ups), has helped her regain range of motion.
“I wanted to get a whole body workout and this has helped me with my core strength, muscle development, balance and flexibility.”
Classmate Melinda Prague, 63, a retired Miami Dade College professor, mixes mat training with Tower. The mat, she feels, is more challenging because there is no assistance from the machine’s props and springs. But the Tower’s resistance is a plus, too.
“It’s a good combination,” she said. “Pilates gives you a sense of your body and it feels so good emotionally, physically, and it doesn’t beat you up. If you can make a change at my age and become more flexible at this point, I didn’t think it was even possible.”