Pilates Barre: All the cool kids in the city are doing it; celebrities like Kelly Ripa and Zooey Deschanel love it, and ballet dancers swear by it. Well, guess what? We can do it here in Litchfield County too; and if you take a class at Mind-Body Connection in New Milford, you’ll be doing it in an extremely cool and unique studio located at a marina. Winning.
We recommend you read the rest of this post…but if you’re in a time pinch, head straight to the last paragraph for a most fabulous Unlocking Litchfield July giveaway contest – they keep getting better and better!
For those who aren’t up on their Pilates and its many variations (mat, Barre, Ball, Reformer) you can see how Wikipedia describes it here. Our description would read, “a strengthening, lengthening, toning, stretching series of exercises that make you oh so strong in the core and hits every muscle you never knew you had!”
Marion Cooper, owner of Mind-Body Connection, and our instructor for the evening, invited us along to take her Pilates Barre class, followed by a Reformer session. Having taken Pilates classes in the past, I promised Lora it would be a lot of fun, although my idea of fun and Lora’s are slightly different when it comes to exercise. Case in point – in the middle of the class during a particularly “challenging” move, I turned to Lora and said “I’m having a lot of fun right now” to which Lora gave me a very hairy eyeball (Lora’s note: I think she actually said, “I LOVE THIS!”).
Anyway, there we were, all set up and ready to get started, and Marion instructs the class to “go to the bar.” For a split second we think, “Yay, she’s talking our language.” And then we remember why we’re there and approach…“the barre”…dun dun dunnnn.
We face the mirror which takes a moment or two to get used to. We have to do the obligatory teeth check, mirror face, fish face, eyebrow twitch, etc., etc. Once we have that out of our system, we settle in and let Marion lead us through a whole lot of lower bodywork. With both hands holding on to the barre we squat, we pulse, we lower, lower, higher, lower, hold – we grimace, we groan, we make noises we’ve never made before. After each “round” and not a moment too soon, we finish, and the class does a collective laugh and pulls “OMG” faces.
Upper body is next. Before class we were told to grab some 2 or 3 lb. weights. Pffft, how hard could that be, I had thought…I felt as a fitness instructor myself, I should really go heavier…so, so glad I didn’t! The things Marion has you do with those little 2 lb. weights…they’re all you need to get a fantastic arm workout. Again, it’s a series of isometric moves, with an emphasis on alignment and proper technique. Think pushing the weights behind you in tiny upward pulses to target the triceps, or a bicep curl that stops half way – pulsing up, up, up. Throughout the hour-long class, each muscle group is worked to fatigue, and then stretched, leaving you feeling stronger and leaner, and actually able to move the next day!
The class ends with some fantastic abdominal work on the mat using a small Pilates ball. Marion gives great direction and visual cues that really help target all those abdominal muscles we have: transverse, rectus, internal/external – whatever, we feel just little bit closer to finding our six-packs, that are surely in there…somewhere. Our thumbs are UP – and pulse and hold and pulse – for Pilates Barre.
After a breather and a chat with our classmates, we move on to our Reformer session. The reformer is a contraption which looks a little 50 Shades-esque and a little gynecological. Imagine a bed with straps, springs, footbars, and a moving carriage. Be assured, it’s neither of those two things. The Cadillac reformer (which we were working on) is a machine used to conduct Pilates movements to the best of one’s ability. You’ll have to watch the video for a better idea than this description!
Marion took us through some sequences, adjusting the tension as she saw we needed. Like many Pilates moves, the Reformer allows you to isolate and work one body part at a time, stabilizing and working the rest of the body at the same time. No easy feat.
Marion is able to judge if one side is stronger than the other (fairly common) and customize some very specific exercises for both of us, and our abilities, helping our alignment at the same time as strengthening our muscles. We do slow, precise movements using our best form and posture. There’s no cheating and boy does it work! It’s possible to restore correct motion patterns using the Reformer.
At the end of our double session, Lora admitted to finding the whole experience enjoyable, albeit very hard work, and we enjoyed telling each other which body parts we could “feel” the next day. “Feel” in a good way of course. We’ll be back for sure! A lean ballet sculpted body? Yes, please.
Want to try it? First group class or private session is FREE!
Photos by Lora Warnick, except for photo of Lora, Bev, and Marion by Tim Lenz.