Fitness

Fit to the Core

Giving Pilates a try

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When I first heard of Pilates about 15 years ago, I had the impression that it was a fitness activity reserved mainly for celebrities. It seemed they were the ones always singing its praises in magazines and on television interviews, crediting it for their toned physiques, increased flexibility and better overall mind-body connection. At that time, though, Pilates wasn’t widely available in this area. To me, it seemed like a New York City- or Los Angeles-only thing, and while there were definitely studios elsewhere in the world, Pilates wasn’t a readily available fitness activity to pursue in this community.

I did buy a Pilates DVD set while watching a late-night infomercial once (I’m a pretty easy sell under the influence of insomnia), but it quickly became a dust collector on my living room shelf. It had kind of bummed me out that I couldn’t hang with the super-sculpted ladies on the disc who made all the abdominal exercises look so effortless, especially when my core was ready for a time-out about five minutes into the video.

Eventually, when the Pilates movement became more widespread and I had easier access to classes locally, I gave it another shot. Having in-person instructors guiding my practice and offering modifications made a world of difference in both the enjoyment and benefits I got from Pilates as I began to incorporate it into my fitness routine on a more regular basis. I’ve now had the opportunity to practice at a variety of studios.

Recently I had the chance to try out the core group mat class at Barrington Pilates. It was my first visit to the studio, which opened in 2008 and expanded this fall with a new fitness space next door called Studio 47, where my class took place. Mora Babineau, who has been teaching at Barrington Pilates since 2009 and is the Head Mat Class Instructor, greeted me with a big smile when I walked into the sleek new studio space. She introduced me to the other eight or so ladies in my class, and made me feel less intimidated about being the “new girl.”

There was a time when I thought that the only workouts worth doing were the kind that made me sweat buckets, but over the years I’ve found that exercise disciplines that connect the mind and body, like Pilates, are a quite effective – and even necessary – add-on to my fitness regimen. And that’s not to say that Pilates can’t yield some serious muscle soreness. Using only a Pilates ring and small inflatable ball as props, Mora led us through a series of exercises that really engaged my core muscles, especially those hard-to-reach ones along the sides (trust me, they weren’t so hard to feel the next day).

The one-hour class also incorporated breath, concentration, control and precision, some of the basic principles of Pilates, which helped to establish that important mind-body connection. All the while, Mora gave everyone individual attention, making sure we had proper form and alignment in order to get the most out of the exercises.

There is a sense of community at the studio, and it’s nice to see a business support all wellness needs and goals. Whether your goal is to tone up, improve your posture, increase your flexibility, work on your balance or a little bit of everything, give pilates a try.