Dear abdominal muscles,
I want to apologise to you for years and years of neglect. You’ve been there for me through thick and… Well, through lots of stuff, anyway. Holding me upright, generously accommodating my discovery of microwavable mug cake and keeping me vaguely human-shaped throughout two long pregnancies.
Yep, about that. I know that I basically neglected you when pregnant, blithely expecting you to accommodate my life choices without question, and for that, I’m truly sorry. But I want you to know that I’ve turned over a new leaf. I swear that this year, I’ll treat you right. I’ll eat less crap, bend from the knees and actually do some exercise.
Can you ever forgive me?
Having finally caved and visited a chiropractor for my endless back pain (check out the lovely Dr. Michelle Zhou at Up!Health if you’re in need of a miracle), I was informed that, like many new(ish) mums, I have a large split in my abdominal muscles. The best way to fix this without surgery? Pilates.
So, off I skipped (OK, shuffled. What can I say? My baby wakes up a lot at night), up to Flex Studio, where I’d been assured that their instructors are very familiar with post-pregnancy bodies and their various issues.
Flex’s Central studio is on Wyndham Street, just before the top of Wellington Street and conveniently opposite the FCC where I
hide from my kids work a couple of days most weeks. Housed in a typically nondescript commercial building, once you exit the lift you’re in a bright and airy space, with an open reception and retail area, along with two studio spaces that are spacious enough not to feel crowded and look down over Wyndham Street – in fact I usually have a great view of the afternoon’s classes while I write.
The changing rooms here are small – come for popular classes and it’s a bit of a squeeze – but spotlessly clean, with piping hot showers and all the amenities (towels, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, deodorant, hairspray) you’ll need to spruce up after your class. Excellent news when your gym bag accommodates a laptop, a minimum of four lipsticks, a small toy ambulance, at least two half-used packs of baby wipes and a large wallet overflowing with receipts.
So, on to the classes. Deciding to proceed with caution for fear of making my back issues worse, I booked an initial assessment with Noriko Tojo-Eggar, who specialises in pre-and postnatal Pilates. Noriko and I spent an hour discussing my various back issues and exercise history (brief) assessing my posture and balance (terrible), and flexibility (poor). Noriko was full of helpful advice for a newbie like me, tailoring her workout recommendations to my personal needs and explaining the areas in which Pilates could help me. If you’re recovering from an injury or have recently given birth, I’d highly recommend booking in for an initial assessment before starting your classes.
Leaving Noriko with a head full of useful info, it was time to check in to Sally Adair’s Trio class. Originally a dedicated postnatal class, these sessions have now been adapted to suit pretty much anyone at beginner level. Combining mat Pilates with reformer (also known as Allegro) and chair work, this offers a great general introduction to Pilates as a whole and, with a maximum of three attendees per session, I found the Trio classes to be pretty much ideal for someone like me who needs a little bit of extra correction before braving a larger group.
Sally is a great instructor – she was very careful to ensure that each exercise was suitable for me, bearing in mind my back and abdominal issues, and her no-nonsense but encouraging manner encouraged me to push that little bit harder in class than I might otherwise have done. Over the next six weeks, I attended as many of her Trio sessions as possible, and was pretty surprised to notice a marked difference in my flexibility and strength in such a short time.
Unfortunately for me, most of those benefits vanished just as quickly as they’d arrived •shakes fist at my own Christmas holiday laziness and gluttony•, which I guess is a clear indication that I need to get back on the mat and so will be booking in for more sessions ASAP.
Having now tried Pilates for a few weeks, I can totally understand how people get hooked. The combination of a low-impact workout that’s accessible to virtually anyone, with noticeable results within a short space of time is pretty much irresistible. Pilates also interests me for its scientific approach to exercise and, as someone who cares more about improving my strength and posture than about weight loss, it’s a workout that ticks my boxes in a way that most classes (particularly ones aimed at women) just don’t.
With a huge range of sessions on offer – including private, teen and even aerial classes – there’s likely to be something at Flex that takes your fancy. I’ve not yet visited the flagship One Island South studio, but everything I’ve heard is very positive and I understand it offers even more space and choice of classes, so if you’re Southside, give it a whirl.
Prices vary by class and package – there is a dedicated postnatal package option available that includes an initial assessment, private and group classes.
Flex Studio, 3/F Man Cheung Building, 15-17 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong; 2813 2399
Please note that my classes were by invitation – thanks again to Flex, and especially Sally Adair, for all your patience with this total newbie!