Trial therapy: Pilates

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 January, 2009, 12:00am

What is it?

An exercise session at Iso Fit, a light, friendly studio in Lan Kwai Fong. Pilates focuses on the body's core and involves a series of either mat or machine exercises that aim to improve alignment and muscle tone. Iso Fit also offers Gyrotronics, said to be among the fastest growing fitness methods in the US, Europe and Asia.

What are the Pilates exercises like?

Unlike many studio or gym experiences, you won't be bathed in sweat, but you do work hard. Many Pilates converts have been relieved to learn there is a way to tone the body that doesn't involve lifting dumbbells and pounding treadmills. However, it's not a skip in the park, either. The machine I was offered was the Allegro Reformer. As it was an assessment, the trainer used illustrations of the human body to note minor problems with my standing posture, weight distribution and seated posture. Simple exercises such as leg presses against a machine (the counter-pressure is not hard, but core control and alignment while doing it is vital) and overhead arm movements, were recorded by the trainer. She could then advise how I could improve my stance and strengthen areas of weakness.

What was the result?

My right side is stronger, meaning my standing posture is misaligned. I have a slightly tilted back and compensate by leaning forward (all very common, she said). The trainer then advised the best way to lie/sit/stand when doing the exercises: keeping a neutral spine posture, not letting my knees splay and keeping my feet parallel.

What was good about it?

She was very precise and explained the machine and what she was doing very clearly. The exercises she prescribed were not so difficult as to put me off the concept, but it was challenging enough to make me feel that I had worked my muscles. Pilates is great for the desk-bound and time-poor. The simple movements are effective when done correctly. You wear socks, so there's no need to bring bulky shoes, and having someone to guide you means you know you're getting it right.

What is Gyrotronics?

Gyrotronics is based on the movements of dance, gymnastics, martial arts and swimming, although you are doing all of those in the studio on a single machine. When practised correctly and over a certain amount of time, the Iso Fit people say, it enhances 'aesthetic form' (muscle tone and strength - with a particular focus on the abdominals) without increasing bulk. It also enhances posture and alignment of the skeleton, co-ordination, flexibility, core strength, rehabilitation of injuries or blood circulation. The machine it is done on features a device called a pulley tower combination unit, a jumping board and a ladder.

Any drawbacks?

It's quite pricey compared to the usual gym membership. You can have private or semi-private sessions, and there are group classes to make prices more reasonable. A private session of Gyrotronics or Pilates is HK$825, and before doing any group class you must do an assessment, which costs HK$500. Packages make regular classes and private sessions cheaper.

How do I contact Iso Fit?

Iso Fit is at 8/F, California Tower, 39-32 D'Aguilar Street, Central (tel: 2869 8630).