Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness Challenge: Resist and you'll reform

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The Reformer Pilates machine makes seldom-used muscles wake up and go to work, improving flexibility as well as strength. Photo / Michael Craig
The Reformer Pilates machine makes seldom-used muscles wake up and go to work, improving flexibility as well as strength. Photo / Michael Craig

New Reformer Pilates machine

What is it? A workout on a spring-loaded, moveable, bed-like machine with straps, bars and shoulder pads. The Pilates Method was invented by Joseph Pilates while serving as a nurse in World War I. He found a way for patients to exercise in bed.

What's needed? Gym gear, towel, water, bare feet or yoga socks.

The experience: I'm at The Exercise Room for a one-on-one session on the newest pilates machine on the market, the Allegro 2 Reformer. It's a kind of push me, pull me machine. You can do 60 workouts on it, compared with about 30 on the older Reformers.

New to this gym, too, is trainer Bonnie Turner, back from her OE training Londoners on these contraptions at a Notting Hill gym. So she was used to A-listers like actresses Sienna Miller and Carey Mulligan, plus musicians, socialites and wives of Formula One drivers sweating it out.

Some celebrities would arrive wearing sunglasses and hats and the odd client "clicked their fingers for assistance". I ask Bonnie if she was tempted to super-springload one of the Reformers and catapult the bad-mannered morons to Mars but she laughs and says she loved all her UK clients and her time overseas.

As for Kiwi celebrities, Bonnie says she's the ideal person to join The Exercise Room because she's been away from Auckland for so long she doesn't know who's who.

Bonnie says women are her usual clientele, but she's itching to get more blokes on the machine because it can "give them even more benefits", ie, guys tend to be less flexible. She has trained a couple of Kiwi guys on it and reckons they've been surprised at how challenging the machine is. This includes fellow trainer, Jason Phillips, who quips, "I think I came off shaking."

Bonnie explains that the machine can target muscles often missed during regular workouts. She says it's also a low-impact workout, great for balancing (each limb is worked exactly the same amount), it helps corrects posture, and strengthens a body to keep injuries at bay. It can also help "fix" injuries (people tend to come via physios for corrective exercises).

Bonnie assesses me and gives me a workout to strengthen my lower back, given I've had children and like running. She adjusts the spring loadings. I lie face up, face down, sit up, sit sideways, all to work muscles in a resistance method. I even do pull-ups and push-ups while horizontal.

The machine hits my glutes harder than they've been pinpointed before. Most exercises also engage my core, so it's harder than it looks.

How much? A Reformer pilates starter package is $395 and includes eight one-on-one sessions over four weeks, plus gym concession ($160). Gym members can use the Reformer free after an introductory session.

Worth it? This gym has handy 24-hour swipe-card access.

Try it: The Exercise Room, 3 Akaroa St, Parnell, Auckland, ph (09) 307 2080, theexerciseroom.co.nz

Rating: 9/10

- Herald on Sunday

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