Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A San Francisco Treat

Hey everyone! Sorry for the silence on my end since posting about my white water rafting trip- Hopefully you enjoyed that!

Since then, I’ve been spending some time on my other favorite coast with my good friend A (who you all may recall from my Puerto Rico kayaking “workout” post). A and I know each other from home (Georgia) and she even used to live in NYC with me but last year she moved to San Francisco for a job. Horrible friend that I am, it’s taken me this long to get out here! Well, joke’s on me because I’ve been having a lot of fun since I arrived last Thursday and I should’ve visited sooner.

While A works at said job, I’ve taken the opportunity to explore her cute little neighborhood of Glen Park and lo and behold, lookit what I found on my first day just one block away from her apartment:

                                              Need a closer look? Here ya go: 

I was super excited to find Centered Body Pilates because I’ve been meaning to try this both for LaFemmeFITalle and just because I’ve heard it’s an excellent workout for toning and lengthening. (I build muscle easily and it’s always been a fear of mine that I’ll start to look too muscular/bulky… probably mostly in my head but still.)

I’m pretty sure I have bought pilates classes back home (via Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.) but have yet to use them so this seemed like a perfectly suitable way to spend my solo Monday morning in San Francisco. Besides, my six hour flight just a couple of days before and the hiking A and I did around the vineyards had me feeling wound up tight. I signed up online the night before for a mat pilates class and headed over bright and early the next day.

When I arrived (a bit early), the instructor, Avenne, was still finishing up with the class before mine. I took the time to check out the studio and observe her teaching style. The studio is small, about 600 square feet and it has five pilates machines along the wall. Its all natural wood finish and huge window in the front that allowed light to cascade in gave the space a calming yet energizing feel. Avenne had all of the characteristics I love to see in a teacher- First of all, she looked healthy (I always scratch my head when I see unhealthy- looking teachers leading a class or working in a gym), she kept up the pace of the class, and she got down on the floor to show the proper way to do the moves she wanted her students to do.

As the first class finished up, other people arrived for our 11 o’clock class. Most of us, as it turned out, were newbies. Avenne instructed each of us to grab a mat and a roller (a large foam cylinder) and head over in front of one of the pilates machines on the wall. We started out by finding our “natural spine”, that is, how our spine lays when we were lying on our backs with no tension anywhere. Some people have a “flat back” while others have a little space between the end of their spine and the floor. Avenne explained that, as we performed each exercise in the day’s class, we needed to be aware that this is where our back should be to avoid injury and guarantee proper form. We then did some breathing exercises and got started.

Because our class was “Mat Pilates” we didn’t use the aforementioned machines. Instead, we used the weight of our own limbs for resistance. The key to getting in a good workout this way is to focus on inhaling and exhaling at the right times and to be sure that each and every movement is slow and controlled (including your breathing). Most of the control comes from your core so this is a GREAT class if you’re looking to tighten up that area; Avenne made sure that we targeted both our abs and our oblique muscles and bless her for that! The elongating element of pilates comes from all the stretching you do. With every contraction you make (for example, a crunch), you come out of it in a somewhat dramatized (though still very much controlled!) stretch to ensure that your muscles really have a chance to “breathe”.

Again, I think Avenne was a great teacher because she not only explained what movements she wanted us to do but she demonstrated most of them and walked around the classroom correcting our form when we needed it. She also used a lot of positive reinforcement and encouraged questions throughout the class. It was a very comfortable atmosphere and I am jealous that A has this little mecca of relaxation so close by.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN: Yep. While I won’t be able to visit Centered Body Glen Park again anytime soon, I have searched for and located the pilates classes I have already purchased back in the City. I’m especially psyched because the classes I bought are held outside, on a pier at the Hudson River, and I can just imagine the zenning out that’s sure to come!

PROS: Avenne was a great teacher, as I said. I’m also really glad, as a newbie, that I took this fundamentals class. Realizing the importance of focusing on my breathing and form will no doubt be helpful when I take more advanced classes in the future. Financially, this class was a reasonable $17. More than a few of the other women I met in class bought a package deal on bloomspot; I was a little jealous because, though I’m not sure what they paid exactly, I’ll bet they got a great deal. Kudos to Centered Body Pilates for giving their customers a great opportunity to take advantage of!

CONS: None. Seriously. I almost wrote here that the Centered Body Pilates studio was a bit on the small side for my liking but actually, I think that works in favor of the clients because it means they can only accommodate small groups, ensuring that we each got plenty of personal attention.

Pilates has definitely become mainstream over the past few years so I’m sure a lot of you have done it at least once which begs the question: What do you think? 

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