MADISON, NJ -If you’re anything like me, you consumed mass quantities of sugar, carbs and, yes, alcohol this summer and are now left with a decision: continue the slide into debauchery or swiftly get back on track.
Fortunately for you, getting back on track is easy thanks to Club Pilates, Madison’s newest exercise studio. Opened at the beginning of May, Club Pilates offers anyone of any age or fitness level the finest functional strength training available anywhere.
Cara DePaul, general manager of Club Pilates, said that Pilates -- more than other, more traditional exercises -- has the power to change your body, and it doesn’t take long. She told me that Joseph Pilates, who founded the discipline, said in 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body.
DePaul speaks from personal experience. After having her third child in 2008, DePaul was looking for a way to stay fit without having to spend hours sweating through her clothes at a gym. She found Pilates, and was immediately drawn not only to the physical benefits but the mental ones, too.
“I found that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else except the motions and how to do them properly,” said DePaul. “As a result, I left each class feeling more centered and better able to tackle the endless demands of motherhood. After a few months, I was happier and less stressed, and in the best shape of my life.”
It was those words that were reverberating in my head when I recently went to a complimentary 30 minute demo class at Club Pilates, offered to anyone on Mondays at 5:45pm and Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30am. To be perfectly honest, I was apprehensive, having associated Pilates in the past with celebrities like Madonna and Cameron Diaz and not with normal people like myself. Also, I am not exactly a fan of exercise. I am the least coordinated person I know, have nothing to wear to a fitness class that doesn't shout “dork about to attempt something she has no business attempting,” and just generally feel like I don’t belong.
But nonetheless I forged on into the class because truth be told I like being healthy and I fantasize about achieving some kind of muscle definition in my arms. I have also been told by my doctor that I, along with most women of childbearing age, should pay more attention to my pelvic floor, which is very much associated with the core in Pilates.
“Everything is connected to the core,” said DePaul. “Where other exercises concentrate on your large muscle groups, Pilates teaches you how to concentrate on the movement with precision and control, which activates all of the tiny muscles that support the larger ones. This is when the biggest changes can happen.”
The first thing you will see when you walk past reception are 12 “reformers,” which resemble an odd type of torture device with all kinds of straps, springs, doohickeys and thingamabobs attached to them. DePaul explained that Joseph Pilates designed the first reformer using a hospital cot when he was interned by the British during World War I as a way to combat poor posture and inefficient breathing which he believed contributed to bad health. Many years later, he established a loyal following among elite ballerinas in New York City who were looking for extra training and rehabilitation.
Caroline Collins, owner of the Madison studio, as well as the neighboring Short Hills studio, has been practicing Pilates for more than 15 years and teaching for nine. She attributes it to keeping her strong and healthy in her busy life. “I am an active mom and better athlete due to Pilates,” she said. “It has taught me to move my body properly and efficiently, avoiding injury and staying strong.”
Our first exercise on the reformer involved putting my feet on a bar and pushing backwards. Immediately I was struck by the difference in movement and muscle groups I was activating compared to those I have previously activated on a Nautilus machine. DePaul took us through several more movements, which were challenging but doable and, dare I admit, super fun. More than once I felt like I was going to slingshot myself across the studio, but I didn't, so yay for me!
There are other apparatus in the studio as well, including springboards mounted on the walls, TRX equipment, an EXO-chair, a ballet barre, and a lot of other fun and interesting props. DePaul showed us a number of exercises from the wall that use the weight of our bodies for resistance, and how the use of springs offers increasing resistance in both directions and is far less aggressive on the body than traditional weights.
At the end of the class, someone shared that she was taking a trial because her friend had completely transformed her body since starting classes at the studio a few short weeks ago. This unbiased confession, perhaps more than anything, has lit a fire under my flat, non-existent butt, compelling me to beat the rush and buy a membership now before everyone else realizes just how slippery that summer slide was. I am sitting straighter in my chair just thinking about it.
For more information about the various levels of membership and to sign up for a trial class, call the studio at 973-765-6260 or visit www.clubpilates.com/locations/Madison.