Review: Pilates Squared – HIIP (High Intensity Interval Pilates)
Countless fitness magazines and YouTube workout videos have told me that my core could do with some work, and despite not even really knowing what my core is, I’m currently doing everything in my power to strengthen it. I’ve also been told that Pilates is a good way to go about this newly invented goal.
Before my first Pilates class, I had incorrectly lumped the exercise together with yoga in my ‘not really a sport, is it?’ fitness category. To me, Pilates sounded more like a romantic run through a beautiful meadow to me; a stretch here and a little deep breathing there. Little did I know that Pilates is intense. Really, really, physically and mentally intense. Intense enough to leave me sweaty, sore and a little bow-legged after each session, and if that image alone isn’t enough to encourage you to try out Pilates, well then, I’m clearly not doing my job right.
I’ve been to three classes at Pilates Squared now, to try out their High Intensity Interval Pilates (I know, the word ‘Intensity’ should’ve been warning enough for me, right?). Each session is 55 minutes in length and each is a one to one with a certified Pilates instructor – Hakan Erol was the instructor assigned to me. Hakan has a background in the Military and discovered the powerful regenerative properties of Pilates following a lower back injury. After an extensive training programme, he’s gone back to his passion for fitness and teaching, with a particular interest in injury rehabilitation, specialising in working with those niggly challenges such as bad lower backs or repetitive strain injuries. I didn’t arrive with any ailments per-say, but it’s good to know that if I did acquire any, he could quite literally have my back.
High Intensity Interval Pilates (HIIP) differs from traditional Pilates in that it incorporates cardio along with the exercise which is famous for creating ballet-esque bodies, for those who are willing to put in the work. Unlike other Pilates Hybrids such as Piloxing -pilates/boxing or jumpilates, HIIP uses reformer machines which are pulley-ed contraptions favoured by celebrities such as Gwyneth, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. Upon first glance, yes, these machines do look a little like they belong in a torture chamber, what with all their chains, straps and moveable parts, but after a few demonstrations from Hakan and a bit of practise, the array of different exercises that can be done using them to tone and pulse practically every muscle on the body demonstrates how this type of Pilates seems to have one upped its traditional counterpart.
During the sessions, the idea is to complete a series of exercises in quick succession in order to build intensity, break a major sweat and burn calories. HIIP combines the principles of Tabata, Reformer Pilates, Classical Pilates, Military type exercises and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I’m told that Pilates is a popular exercise for many boxers, which surprises me somewhat given my preconceived ideas of what was involved.
I’ve somewhat far-reaching dreams of becoming a semi-pro female boxer, and given how unfit I am and how much work is involved in HIIP alone, they seem to be floating even further away from my reach. Hakan switched up the exercises each week to keep things fresh and to ensure no muscle was left unworked. There were squats, pulses, press-ups and a few Jane Fonda-style leg workouts – all of which left me whimpering and trying desperately to ignore and shake off the burning sensations in my thighs.
The thing about HIIP is that you’re willing to put up with the pain and the “just one more set” for knowledge of the ‘bigger picture’, which is an improvement to your physical and mental wellbeing. Pilates is widely known for its ability to improve physical mobility and its helping of the soul – as it increases your sense of mastery, patience and persistence.
So if traditional Pilates is good enough for boxers, celebrities and the sporting elite, why the need for the added cardio? Why fix something that isn’t broke? Well, head instructor at Pilates Squared, Caron Bosler, says that muscles tend to function best with cardio, strength and stretching. At the cellular level, actin and myocin cross over each other like fingers loosely intertwined, and when we strengthen our muscles we break down this connection so it can build back stronger. When we stretch this connection, we give the entire muscle greater flexibility. Cardio changes all cellular activity, lowers resting heart rate, changes the rate we absorb nutrients and break down fat, and lowers lactic acid.
By combining cardio with traditional Pilates you can expect all of the typical changes to the body – better posture, muscle tone and definition, flexibility, range of motion – only faster.
And you know what? I don’t know about you, but that’s enough incentive for me to keep HIIP up.