Making friends with my muscles at The Pilates Pod
I spend far too many hours bent over my laptop – or stuck behind the wheel – and I’m starting to get to a point where my back has been protesting about it all. I thought I’d get some expert advice about what I can do to keep it from shouting too loudly, and so, after chatting to The Pilate’s Pod’s Michelle at the Muddy Herts Awards reception last month, I booked myself in for a 1-2-1 session in their studio. After all, they won Best Pilates/Yoga Studio in Herts (hoorah for them!), so they definitely know what they’re doing.
It’s definitely not false modesty to say that I’m not, er, a natural athlete but I have done a bit of Pilates and yoga in my time. But not for a long time. I had confessed this to Michelle before I went – as well as explaining to her how I spent most of my days (i.e. hunched over the keyboard or the wheel), and she got a knowing glint in her eye.
The studio – behind a deceptive front door and up a couple of flights of stairs – was light and airy, with the brilliant orange blinds intensifying the sunshine that was pouring in. And Michelle was friendly and welcoming – and got straight down to business. No letting me make excuses about what I wouldn’t be able to do. No taking me up on the suggestion that we have a cuppa and talk about what I need to do before we started. Nope. On with my kit and we were off.
Michelle talked a lot about ‘making friends’ with some of those muscles I’d not used in a while. I definitely got reacquainted with a few I’d been neglecting, although I’m not sure ‘friends’ is quite how I would have put it. What I did realise, in the days afterwards, was that I was much more aware of the muscles I should be using to counteract the slouching over the screen that I do too much of. So yes, maybe friends.
There’s something about one-on-one attention that is utterly brilliant – but it definitely gives you nowhere to hide. No skulking at the back of a big class, hoping to get away with not quite trying hard enough because you’re having a slow day. No taking a sneaky break on the grounds that you’re watching how someone to see how to do it properly.
Michelle had put together a programme for me that focused on the exactly what I needed. And while I focused on finding those muscles she had me looking for, she focused on me. What felt like tiny adjustments made a huge difference, as she re-introduced me to the bits of my aching bod that needed the most work. And made friends with them on my behalf.
So, the deal was mostly that because I spend most of my time bending in one direction (not the band), once I was on the mat I needed to bend in the other direction. Lots of moves to open up my hips – which get all tight when you sit all the time – and my chest (ditto). There were exercises designed to strengthen my glutes (which are a bit squidgy at the best of times), build up my core muscles (most of whom have been doing next to nothing for far too long), and lengthen my spine.
I love that her attitude is all about doing it the best you can – rather than doing it perfectly. After all, if I could do it all perfectly, I wouldn’t need the class, right? It’s all about trying, working on things, developing what you can do over time.
I loved the session (in a ‘oh-I-so-need-this’ sort of a way), and it is definitely somewhere I would go again. If I lived in Hitchin, I’d have signed up on the spot. I’d love to try out their regular classes– there’s a 50-50 yoga and Pilates class that looks amazing – and I just found the whole attitude to me and my reluctant muscles so encouraging. Yes, there was clearly work to be done – no punches pulled there, for sure – but there was such a supportive ‘you’re just starting, it’s fine’ feel to the whole thing that it left me feeling overwhelmingly positive (if a bit sweaty).
What I’ve noticed since is that I’m much more aware of how I sit, how I stand, which bits of me are tight and need loosening, and which bits are lazing around and need a bit of tightening up. I’m finding myself incorporating bits of what Michelle taught me into the way I am every day. And that’s got to be good. Not that you need to know this, but I’m pulling up my pelvic floor muscles right now…