As well as doing a little spot of shopping during the day trip that Anthony and I took to London last week, I was lucky enough to take a class with Chloe of Chloe's Pilates (check out my previous post to learn more about her) at Lomax, Chelsea.
Lomax offers bespoke fitness, nutrition and wellbeing. The unique Lomax fitness suite is divided into several fitness 'pods' that can be used with a trainer, on your own, or during a class; this means no waiting to use equipment! Lomax also has its own treatment clinic as well as a café, which sells a huge range of healthy foodstuffs (I got my hands on some Ombar chocolate) and serves an extensive range of fresh juices and smoothies (which I will definitely be taking inspiration from!) designed by their in-house nutritionist. Chloe had sweetly put together a little goody bag for me including some chia seeds (which I had been meaning to try for ages), another packet of mixed seeds and a tasty 'Skin Enhancer' smoothie with an added shot of hemp protein, which was a lovely treat for the train ride home. If I lived nearby, I would be at Lomax every morning to try a different healthy cocktail!
After doing a quick change (the individual changing rooms complete with toilet facilities, shower and Ren products were luxurious!) I met Chloe upstairs, by the reformer machines. I wasn't expecting to be laying on my back on one five minutes later! If you haven't experienced reformer pilates before, the equipment can look quite intimidating (a bit like a torture device in fact, with a combination of bars, spring and pulleys) but having had a taster session at a local studio recently, I was looking forward to the challenge.
Before we got started, Chloe asked me if I was strong. I wasn't sure how to answer as I didn't know what was a good indication of my own strength. I eventually went with the honest answer, "I'm stronger than I ever have been, but I'm always trying to improve". This was a recurring theme throughout our session and a concept echoed in Chloe's own attitude to learning and training; you can always make improvements and strive to better yourself. I was delighted that at the end of our session, Chloe reported that I'm stronger than I think I am. However, being ever-competitive with myself, I asked her for some advice.
Did you think that there were any techniques or part of my body that I need to focus on or improve?
Overall I think your technique was very impressive – especially as it was only your second time! But the more you do the reformer, the better you will get at the more challenging exercises in terms of strength but also coordination and balance.
Your core strength was pretty good but you can always improve this, especially your lower abdominals and obliques.
As you work out a lot in the gym, isolating your small gluteal muscles is also something you can work on.
The glutes hold our pelvis level and steady when moving and keep our legs, pelvis, and torso aligned. Most strength-training routines don't isolate the glutes. If an exercise requires several muscles to perform the movement, the majority of the work will be done by the strongest of those muscles. Also, tight muscles, specifically the hip flexors, can inhibit the glutes and prevent their muscle fibers from firing.
Pilates, like barre fitness (you may remember I mentioned the burn I experienced during my class at Pineapple), recruits some of the smaller muscles through specific (often small) movements. I was really interested to learn more about this and asked Chloe lots of questions during our session.
Chloe, could you please recap, and explain in a little more detail, how pilates works these small muscles?
WARNING: lots of technical language!
Pilates tends to focus on isolating and activating the deep local stabilizer muscles.
There are 3 levels of stabilizer muscles at each joint:
1. local stabilizers
2. global stabilizers
3. global mobilizers
The local stabilizers control the joint segmentally and are characterized by being close to the axis of movement, non‑direction dependent and predominantly comprised of type I muscle fibers. These muscles are activated at low loads and proprioceptive challenge and are designed for endurance. Once these muscles can provide deep inherent joint stability, then the bigger muscles that create and control movements can be challenged.
It is really important to work these local stabilizer muscles to help rebalance the muscles around the joints.
They help to keep you balanced and upright when moving and help to keep your body steady, through isometric muscle contractions.
Global stabilizers are required when loads (weights) are increased and more control is required. They are larger muscles that often work eccentrically to control range of motion. Global mobilizers are the large, more superficial muscles that provide the power for explosive movements. They respond forcefully to higher loads (weights).
You also mentioned that it's really important to start by focusing on the core muscles?
Pilates focuses on the core muscles in the waist and lower back area (the centre of support for the rest of the body) to improve strength, flexibility and posture, keeping the body mobile and helping prevent or reduce injury.
Chloe was really lovely to chat with throughout the session, she made me feel at ease and I learned so much from her. I definitely found the benefit of a one-to-one session and especially appreciated the reminders to keep particular muscles engaged as well as to maintain correct form and breathing techniques.
Lomax is well-known for it's focus on bespoke fitness, how do you incorporate this element into your clients sessions?
The classes I teach at Lomax only have 4 people max, which means I can make sure that each client is doing every exercise correctly and safely. Most of my clients are private one-to-ones, which means that I can get a good understanding of their bodies and their goals and create a bespoke programme especially for them. I look at each client as a very unique situation, with specific strengths, weaknesses and requirements.
You instruct both mat pilates and reformer pilates, do you prefer one to the other? And do the two vary in terms of benefits?
I love teaching both! You can get just as good results on the mat as you can on the reformer.
As well as pilates, you're also trained to instruct Total Barre and TRX, do you teach both of these at Lomax?
Yes I occasionally include both barre and TRX into my client’s workouts as they compliment Pilates very well. I also teach a barre class at Lomax on Monday and Friday mornings at 10.30am.
I highly recommend Chloe to anyone looking to better their body for any reason, from recovering from injury to improving general wellbeing or sporting performance.
For more information, check out the Chloe's Pilates website or head over to Chloe's blog for a spot of reading. I particularly like her post featuring a pilates fitness circle (she has convinced me to invest in one!). Don't forget that you can also track her down on Facebook and Twitter!