Editor’s note: Meet Me at the Gym is an occasional Tuesday column about Southwest Florida group exercise classes. Wellness reporter Shelby Reynolds finds the newest workout crazes, unique locations and the interesting people behind them, then gives them a try so you know what to expect. Have a suggestion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reformer beds might look like some sort of torture device. There are ropes and springs and a sliding bed that can be a little intimidating to a Pilates newcomer.
Turns out, they really weren’t that bad.
At Barre Fusion in North Naples, I joined a group class on a recent Friday morning to try an exercise that’s been around for more than a century.
My instructor and the studio’s owner, Lisa Daniel, has been teaching Pilates for about 20 years.
Before that, she was a massage therapist in the health care industry for 20 years. She was living in Orlando at the time and saw there was a need for Pilates instructors, so she took a workshop.
“I was interested in teaching something that was mind/body,” she said. “I took the course and I loved it.”
Daniel became fully certified and started teaching Pilates at fitness centers and country clubs. In Naples, she was fitness director at Wyndemere Country Club before opening Barre Fusion nearly two years ago near Livingston and Pine Ridge roads in North Naples.
“I always wanted to do my own thing,” she said. “I like the freedom, the space. It was just a dream of mine to have my own space.”
Daniel and four other certified instructors at Barre Fusion offer private lessons and teach group barre and Pilates classes, both on the mat and on the reformer beds.
There are eight reformer beds at Barre Fusion. The sliding bed uses springs as resistance, making the exercises impact-free. It’s like a pulley system; pull the straps forward, and the bed slides back.
“You’re lengthening and strengthening at the same time,” Daniel said. “It’s a lot of balance, core control, stability, coordination, flexibility — it’s working it all.”
There are hundreds of ways to use the bed. And there’s no cardio involved; it’s not the kind of workout that will have participants catching their breath and pausing to wipe sweat.
“When you weight train, you’re working the major muscle groups,” Daniel said. “With Pilates, what’s different than other workouts, you’re working all the smaller, intricate muscles inside the body.”
And reformer beds actually have a historic origin, Daniel said.
During World War I, Pilates founder Joseph Pilates was interned as an “enemy alien” with other German nationals in England, according to pilates.com. There, he rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs.
Nowadays, the beds are often found in hospital rehabilitation centers and at fitness centers for athletes and for people who are simply looking for a good workout.
So I gave it a try.
At Barre Fusion, Daniel started the class with a warmup using a trampoline base at the bottom of the carriage that we used our feet to jump off. It was actually pretty fun, at least until my legs started to burn from the constant squatting. It certainly got me warmed up.
After that we worked lower body, using the beds to slide into lunges. The movements were slow and controlled, the kind that don’t necessarily get your heart rate up but that cause your muscles to shake.
One killer move was when we lunged back and then straightened the front knee into a split position before bringing the bed back forward.
Next we used the straps to work shoulders and lats, then core, using many of the same moves you’d find in mat Pilates, but with extra resistance. During the hip thrusts, we added a leg extension to work the inner and outer thighs. During the planks, the sliding movement of the bed added instability, which engaged the core even more.
Daniel kept up a friendly banter with her students, which helped to lessen my initial fears of the equipment.
“I like to make jokes, and I like to get everyone laughing,” she said.
Beginner Pilates classes are at 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Daniel said she suggests people new to the reformer beds start with a private session or with a beginner class before joining one of the more experienced groups. Visit barrefusionfl.com for a full class schedule.
Most of all, Daniel said, she hopes students relieve stress and have fun during Pilates.
“I want people to come here and just love the environment and find a place they can have fun and get a great workout,” she said.
Pilates on reformer beds
Sweat scale: 1 drop out of 5
What to bring: Bottled water and Pilates socks
When: Beginners classes are at 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Where: Barre Fusion, 130401 Livingston Road, No. 2, North Naples
Cost: $35 for one class; $165 for five classes; $320 for 10 classes; $465 for 15 classes; $600 for 200 classes; new clients receive $20 off first pack of 10 classes
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