In Richmond the sun always shines…

It is a curious fact, but whenever I go to Richmond the sun shines.  This winter my part of London has had torrential rain, sleet and snow – and that’s just in the last week – but as I head southwest suddenly the weather is perfect.  The sky is blue.  There are little puffy clouds.  The sun is almost warm.  If it rains in Richmond, it does so when my back is turned.
            This may seem to have little to do with Pilates, yet it appears to contribute to the atmosphere of the Bootcampstudio off Richmond High Street.  The area is not so much a suburb (awful word: the natives would be shocked!) as a luxurious country village on the borders of the metropolis.  It has the sparkling river, the manicured fields, the celebrity mansions.  The studio itself, situated appropriately above Sweaty Betty and decorated in the trademark eco-greens, is full of light and sunshine.  Whereas the city clientele are often glamorous execs working out with the same dedication they bring to their high-stress jobs, here everyone is ultra-relaxed.  In the Saturday afternoon slot there are a couple of over-sixties, exercising with balletic grace – one of them did the splits with a flexibility that way outclassed mine – and a woman with a ten-year-old compound fracture of the ankle, who told me the Pilates regime was finally restoring her to fitness.  This was another beginners’ class, and as such the pressure was fairly gentle, though I did find myself straining hard to compete with the ballerina on my right when it came to inner-thigh stretch.  (The classes are definitely not competitive: that’s just me.)
            Trainer David Pexton is delightful, mildly camp – should that be bootcamp? – and utterly charming.  So charming, indeed, that you don’t realise you’ve had a serious workout until afterwards.  Most of the class was done lying down as usual, which I love, and at a leisurely pace, with much focusing on core strength, though in this case my apple pips stayed firmly in situ.  I still haven’t located my pelvic floor, but fortunately no one has noticed.
            My worst problem is the breathing.  I start off okay, but then find myself breathing in when I’m supposed to breathe out and vice versa, and somehow I can’t swap it round.  I mentioned this to David, who assured me the important thing was to keep breathing, one way or other.  This seemed like good advice!  People tell me it will come naturally in the end, but I’m not entirely convinced.  I’ve spent too much of my life doing the wrong thing at the wrong time to start making changes now…
            Afterwards, of course, that’s when you realise that you actually do push yourself quite hard.  There’s that wonderful unknotted feeling, carrying me out into the sunshiny street almost as if I’m floating.  And the next day I went riding, for the first time in ages, and then I really knew the Pilates had helped. 
The horse, Sophie, hadn’t been ridden in a while due to health problems, and had spent her convalescence eating her head off in the field and going from large to larger.  Her coat had grown shaggy in the winter, making her look rather like a yak, and my legs stretched desperately to reach round her hairy sides and squeeze her into action.  But there was a lot of her to squeeze, and it was hard work.  The next day, I expected to ache badly – but I didn’t.  Bootcamp had evidently eased my muscles back into an adequate level of fitness without my noticing it.  It shows that Pilates is a good supplement for other sports.  Many of the people I’ve talked to do it in tandem with something else – dance, yoga, even martial arts – and they all say it provides ideal support, evolving the muscletone for a wide range of activities. 
Like eating, and sex…
Now to move on to the more advanced classes.  If I survive, I’ll keep on blogging.   

Jan Siegel has published books with everyone from Faber to Penguin under a range of pen-names.  Her latest is The Devil’s Apprentice, with new Solaris YA imprint Ravenstone, available as both paperback and eBook, and the SF comedy/drama Odd Essays, eBook only.

Jan Siegel has been provided clothing for her Pilates classes from Tribesports