How a Hong Kong convert to Pilates went from strength to strength

Karen Lim cured her pains through Pilates, took a teaching course to learn more, and with a friend went from running pop-up classes to a permanent studio. She tells us about her routines and where to refuel afterwards

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 6:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 6:01am

While working as a finance professional five years ago Karen Lim suffered all the hallmarks of someone who spends hours at their desk: stiffness, pains in her lower back and tightness in her shoulders.

Just as she had resigned herself to the pain, she discovered Pilates. Engaging her core and stimulating long-neglected muscles, her aches and pains gradually disappeared.

With newfound freedom in her body and eager to learn more, she began training to become a teacher. “I decided to take the course simply for my own benefit at first – to deepen my knowledge and improve my practice. But during my training I discovered that I really enjoyed teaching,” says Lim, 33.

Together with friend and fellow teacher, Mylene Mackay, she experimented with teaching pop-up classes in various studios. They were so popular the pair moved into a permanent location in Central in 2014 and named the business Barre 2 Barre.

“I am happy when I see a positive change [in my students],” says Lim. “Not just in their bodies, but also in their outlook, as they get stronger and more flexible with each class.”

You teach a workout called BarreAmped. What is it, and how is it different to regular Pilates?

BarreAmped is an intense and effective barre workout programme influenced by classical and modern dance. We use a barre to achieve the right position. Insights from Pilates and orthopedic stretching also inform the practice. The movements are small with isometric holds [whereby the muscle contracts but doesn’t noticeably move] – sometimes until the muscles shake.

We also have different variants of the traditional class – “boot camp”, for example, incorporates cardio elements. Each class is a full-body workout targeting the arms, legs and core muscles. Regardless of which class you take, expect a challenge and prepare to leave feeling calmly energised.

Does one have to have a dance background to take part?

Not at all – I had never taken part in a dance class before trying BarreAmped.

What attracts you to the workout?

The focus on form and alignment, which is great for posture. And that it simply works.

When do you find is the best time to work out?

Morning. I love starting my day with a good workout.

During my workout I think about… nothing, because I am too busy burning and shaking!

After my workout I feel… taller.

The best-known celebrity really into my workout is Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Natalie Portman and a whole bunch of Victoria’s Secret angels.

The body part that hurts the most after my workout is... my thighs.

What’s your go-to post-workout refuel spot? Pololi on Graham Street, that serves fresh fish with a Hawaiian feel. Their food is fresh and simple, and I love fish.

You’ve just had your second baby. How does Pilates help mums-to-be and new mums?

As a new mum, your time is limited. You want a workout that produces results fast. BarreAmped gives you that. The classes are safe, and they focus on posture and alignment to help you be more aware of your body in class, and hopefully outside of class in your daily lives.

Barre classes are also fun because they offer an intense, mindful, full body workout; your mind is utterly present.

Barre 2 Barre, 4/F, Cheung Hing Commercial Building, 37 Cochrane Street, Central. Classes are 50 minutes long; packages and drop-ins available.