Located in the town centre of the splendid Hitchin is the Pilates Pod. It’s a dedicated Pilates studio and happens to be the only one for quite some distance – near Venus* I believe (*it’s worth noting my distance measurements can be inaccurate – don’t ask me to put up your shelves… In fact, do. It’s pretty funny watching me do manly stuff – smashing rawlplugs into wood and wildly jigsawing sellotape).
I’ll be honest here. Pilates, other than the word looking like PIRATES, was a subject neither of us knew anything about. We had assumptions, the same assumptions as many people. These include: it’s a Yoga variation, it’s for women, it’s for relaxing, it’s easy, it’s probably ineffective if you’re serious about being fit and healthy and there are probably many more, but they’re all nonsense…
It’s great being asked to make a film about a subject you know nothing about – the same theory as when learning a new language: learn the words that interest you first. So, we set about researching what Pilates was all about, the history and how we were going to represent it. It was eye opening.
We first met Michelle for a chat, awkwardly bobbing about on inflatable balls (not Michelle – she’s done it before). One of our stranger consultations admittedly, but pleasingly disarming. (We’re installing some in our new office. Drink some coffee on that auditeer, we dare our new clients).
In combining our research with Michelle’s enthusiasm, the natural step was to attend a class. Jamie had the upper hand here. Three years of movement classes at drama school had taught him how to connect his brain to his body. I found myself looking across at him with increasing fury. “Why does he not to look like a quivering duck?” I mentally stormed. I kept my cool though. It’s not really something you can tell someone off about.
It was hard work, and we ached for days.
(to our left is a shot from the intro footsteps sequence, the rails perched vertically atop a tripod)
The next part of the journey was the one-to-one session with Michelle on the Reformer (the cool-looking lying-down machine about a minute in to the film). We needed someone to step in here because Jamie and I needed to work out camera angles, lighting and other terribly important stuff. You may scoff, but knowing whether to have the blinds open or shut is a big decision and takes courage to call. In stepped Frankie (Jam’s partner).
It was hard work and she ached for days.
The focus point of Pilates is your spine. That thing in your body that dictates how well you do anything. I can’t masquerade as an authority on the subject but that is the crux. It’s a really simple formula – the better condition your spine is in, the better your, well, everything. Learning how to use the core muscles to support your back in everyday tasks keeps your body in good shape. Not self-conscious-celebrity-culture-aspirational good shape, it’s far more real than that. Pilates won’t flatten your belly or run you marathons, but it will make bloomin’ sure you’re able to.
The white noise of healthy living is never ending, not to mention a vast business, which is why you’ll hear so many shortcuts to good health: how to attain thirty-seven beautiful abs in JUST FIVE MINUTES and how to achieve all manner of personal prosperity. But without your spine firing on all cylinders, you can barely get out of bed to make a Slimfast shake, let alone achieve any personal goals.
It’s been a very interesting discovery this one. I even bought Louise (my partner) a one-to-one session followed by a four-week course. Louise has three prolasped discs in her lower back and Pilates will be key in preventing her from knackering it further, allowing her to continue putting up shelves and untangling me from sellotape.
If she chooses to.
Pictures courtesy of a waterlogged commodore 64.