If you are looking for a precise and individualised workout with a qualified trainer, the Movement Practice, in the West of Amsterdam, might have just what you need. Emmy tried out a pilates class and was very impressed.
Anyone who has met me will know that I am not a fan of exercise. I like to swim (when I have the time, which is precisely never), and I bike everywhere with my trusty bakfiets but past that I am more of an exercise observer than enthusiast. It is safe to say then that when I turned up for a trial class with The Movement Practice, I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. Pilates...I had done Pilates before. Just about every gym membership I have ever signed up to has had a "free" Pilates class in its class schedule. So I thought I knew what I would be doing. I was so wrong.
This is the hardest work you will ever do while lying down.
The ever-smiling instructor greeted me when I stepped through the door with the immortal words, "You look a little nervous." Well, yes, yes I did look a little nervous for this was no gym-class Pilates studio. There are mats, foam shapes and something called "The Reformer". You betcha I looked nervous! After changing into comfortable clothing, it was time to get down to business.
We started with some floor exercises to centre the pelvis. It never looks as if the gentle movements and positioning were going to be tricky, but they really were. I found that no matter how hard I tried, my instructor kept having to step in to make minor adjustments to my posture and each time it got easier.... and harder. I was amazed at just how disconnected my head was from my body. She would give the instruction, I would nod and attempt it because it was easy, right? Just moving my own body. Then I would lay there, breathing out when she said in and in when she said out while she gently corrected me into place. It was clear I had some learning to do. Once we were both confident that I had a good sense of my core we moved to "The Reformer". There's no way to really describe this beast of a machine, so let's take a look....
Yes, you're right, it does look remarkably similar to a medieval torture device crossed with birthing stirrups but no, this thing is amazing. Working with the resistance and movements of your body, it is going to get your core into shape - and fast. Having an instructor there to direct and correct was invaluable and by the end of the stretching and pushing and breathing (don't forget to breathe) I was feeling energised rather than exhausted. Which meant I was absolutely prepared for what came next.
Back to the mat work again but this time with the addition of a foam log. Like an oversized frog, I lay down with the log underneath the length of my spine. We started to go through the now familiar pattern of instruction, attempt, and correction. Then something miraculous happened. I got off the log and lay flat on the floor. I lay flat. My spine connected with the floor along the whole length. No gaps or arches it was like melting into the floor and it felt really, really good. I was converted.
Talking to the instructor afterwards, it appears that my experience was not uncommon. People are often very surprised by what their bodies can do once they really tune in to them. This is something my instructor has quite a bit of experience with. Her background is as a professional dancer, where she first learnt the benefits of Pilates, but she has taught Pilates internationally in London, Australia, and now Amsterdam since 2005. She has also worked alongside physiotherapists to hone her techniques and understanding.
I wanted to know more about the longer term benefits of Pilates so I spoke to some of the Movement Practice's clients who are also mothers. Bettina told me:
With a chronic back issue that required several surgeries, Pilates training helped me gain muscular strength, flexibility and control in my body. When I found myself pregnant with my first child, I kept my classes up to birth - and shortly after - until now. It gave me the strength and energy throughout my pregnancy and even now with my daughter being 1 year old! Despite the contraindication in my spine, I still manage to have a workout that is closely supervised and carefully crafted to suit my needs. They continue to impress me with their tremendous breadth of experience, as well as highly detailed knowledge of the exercises and of the body.
I also spoke to Nadine who came to The Movement Practice as a mother-to-be:
Pilates for pregnant women at the Movement Practice is a great way of staying fit until right to the end of pregnancy and it does help you during birth and thereafter. Staff at the Movement Practice is highly qualified and provides a very personal touch. The lessons are a great workout and they are fun too. During the last weeks of my pregnancy I even treated myself to extra personal classes to help prevent pains in my hips and back. The atmosphere in the studio is warm and welcoming - you should go and check it out! I can highly recommend it to any women, prenatal, postnatal or just as a great workout when you have older kids. The Pilates lessons at the Movement Practice have a very positive impact on my well-being. A nice plus of the Movement Practice is its proximity to the Kinderboerderij Zimmerhoeve. It’s almost a tradition now that we all walk to the Kinderboerderij then mummy disappears for an hour and then we either have lunch in the neighborhood or we walk back through the Ten Kate Market and do the shopping for the weekend.
As with any exercise programme, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The Movement Practice offers a range of options so that you can find what works best for your body and your lifestyle. Just look at all the options: private equipment, duet equipment, semi-private equipment, group mat classes, pre/post-natal mat classes. And you can even bring your little one with you to the post-natal class.
Speaking to my instructor about the classes, I think that I will be taking a closer look at doing an initial three private classes so that I can get the benefit of the one-to-one tuition in the early stages, making sure I am positioned well and breathing correctly. Then I would happily switch to the semi-private equipment classes where I can share the instruction, cost, and camaraderie with up to two other students; each of us following programmes designed specifically for our needs.
As parents, we are reminded over and over again that we need to keep ourselves healthy for our children, but so few of us carve out the time in our busy lives to do that. Make the time, take care of your body, you won't regret it.
Disclaimer: The Movement Practice has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.
Emmy McCarthy is the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.