Spa Junkie at… HeartCore Pilates

Our covert columnist can certainly handle the plank position – but horizontal pull-ups?

In Part One, Spa Junkie eased herself into the rigorous routines of this high-octane reformer-based class – with mixed results. Left holding a plank position, she has just started to feel the burn.

Next, we position our heads at the opposite end to the bar, and lie on our right-hand sides. I tuck my left foot into a loophole of a cord. I pull in my bottom so that it’s in line with my head and feet, fold my arms and lay my head comfortably on a rest attached to the end of the sliding carriage. We are told to push our left legs out to the side and move them in a circular motion (as if drawing round a dinner plate with our feet), inhaling and exhaling deeply as we go. Matt instructs us to change the direction of the circular motion. This is not an exercise for the poorly coordinated. Finally, he calls out for us to commence quick pulsing movements – speeded up versions of the same leg rotations. The muscles in my thigh that are doing the work feel hot and painful.

Now we are told to lie on our fronts, keeping the left foot in the loophole, and drawing the right leg up underneath us into a kneeling position. Taking hold of the shoulder pads in front of me, I lift my left foot, pulsing “up, up, up, up” in quick succession – this exercise is agonising for my glutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of the sole male participant. He is sporting a rather pained expression and soon falls flat on his face. I try not to laugh and power on through, feeling the muscle burn intensifying. These quick upwards pulses are interspersed with five-second holds. I am a quivering wreck – to say this hurts is an understatement. We repeat the entire routine – on our sides and fronts – with the right leg.

I unhook the foot strap and adjust the resistance to four orange springs and three blue. I assume the plank position, again taking hold of the shoulder rest. Working against the resistance of the springs, we use our arms to pull our bodies (on the carriage) up. It’s like doing horizontal pull-ups. We are told to hold the position at the height of the pull-up for five seconds, before releasing gently and slowly as we slide our bodies away. After the thigh- and glute-burning session, this pull-up routine provides a welcome break – for the first two to three reps, at least. After the 12th pull-up, however, I am at the point of collapse. I let go of the pads, coil into the foetal position and stretch out my muscles.

At last, it’s time for a gentle cooling-down session. The 55-minute ordeal has, thankfully, come to an end.

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As Matt walks me to the door, he talks me through the other classes they offer, including Xtend Barre (basic Pilates combined with a series of dance-inspired cardio moves, some light weight-training and ballet), and TRXCore, which is a mixture of suspension training (using ropes and body weight), Kettlebells and the reformer. The latter, he tells me, is “a fierce workout”.

As I head to the changing room, I am visibly shaking. So much so, that I have to sit down while I tap out an email on my BlackBerry. I feel drained, but stretched and sculpted.

The bottom line:

I am a big fan of intense, hard-core exercise sessions, but I think this is a new favourite. You can really feel your body being put through its paces, as each muscle is targeted. You also work up a sweat, but this is really down to the agonising constant repetitions rather than any aerobic activity. The Pilates-cardio hybrid is incredible as a results-driven workout; burning calories and fat while tightening the core to improve posture, and also toning and defining the muscles.

The next Chronicles of a Spa Junkie is published on Saturday November 3.

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