Tuesday 24 January 2012

Review: Pilates at the Perfect Balance Clinic, Hatfield

One of the Mums at the school asked me the other day at pick-up if I had been to the gym (I suppose because I was wearing trainers and I am not at all a trainers kind of girl), 'No' said I, 'I have just been to Pilates' and then I burst out laughing, as did she. How posh did I sound?  Those of you who have met me know that I am anything but posh.  I am just an average 38 year old woman who is pretty overweight and does not have any heirs and graces. I'll chat to anyone and am pleased to call everyone my friend.

I have to be honest and say I was a little nervous about reviewing the services at the Perfect Balance Clinic in Hatfield. It is situated on the David Lloyd site, which is the most expensive gym around and when I looked at the web site I thought it all looked rather swish.  The idea of there just being clinics in London and Hertfordshire gave the company an air of splendour and then when I saw there are clinics on Harley Street, in St Johns Wood and St Albans this confirmed my assumption that it was a quality company.

My first appointment was to see Stephen Makinde, an osteopath for an initial assessment to ensure that I was fit and well to attend the Pilates classes. When I read the web write-up about Stephen to dh we both chuckled at the fact that he regularly works with top class athletes and now he was going to see me! I may be a bit of a shock. 

How wrong I was, Stephen was a very gentle and approachable man. I felt completely comfortable in his presence, he did not even once mention about my size and before he physically assessed me he asked for permission and made sure I was happy with this touch.  I felt very respected and looked after during this assessment.  I walked away from the 25 minute appointment a bit shocked that someone could know nothing about me, just see me with my clothes on, ask some questions and take my case history and be able to provide such an accurate assessment of what I knew was going on with my body.

Stephen confirmed that there appeared to be nothing fundamentally wrong with me but that I did have diastastis, which is split abdominal muscles.  I knew this already, as about a year after having the girls I went to the doctors about the ridge I had from my boobs to my belly button.  I got sent for one session of physio where they laid me on a bed, explained nothing but said I had to draw in my tummy and now go away and do that all the time.  Needless to say I was not motivated by them and have spent 4 years doing crunches in the hope of helping.  Stephen confirmed to me that all I had done was close up the top part of the split as that is the area the crunch affects but that the lower part, which is the girdle like muscle that should support my back was very split and even weaker on the right side. I knew he was right from the way my distorted tummy looks. He sent me away with the advice to try out the Pilates classes.

Image Credit
The second time I came back to the clinic I attended a basic core Pilates class with an instructor called Joe.  I took a shine to him instantly, he is such a nice guy and again he really seems to care.  In fact that is my overriding impression of the clinic, that they honestly care and want to make you better and will journey with you.  From the lovely receptionist and the prompt call-back service to the professional instructors it really is all very good.

Anyway back to my class, I spent an hour in a class of 3 people, which costs £14. Joe managed to deal with 3 people with completely different reasons for being there with ease.  He gave me beginners moves and watched me perform them whilst helping someone else that was a Pilates pro and another needing rehabilitation for a knee injury. Everything was explained to me and even demonstrated, Joe was not afraid to help me move or hold me if he needed to. As I left the class I felt good, as if I had embarked on a new positive journey.  Three days later my body still told me that my muscles had been awoken and that this was a good thing.

The Pilates Studio

On my next visit I met with another Instructor, Slim and he was every bit as good as Joe. Today's class was a taster and assessment. Again there were 3 people and Slim watched us all perform basic moves to assess our ease and flexibility. Were we able to engage our core muscles, isolate them and hold them with good posture? In this class I really did learn how to stand tall and to relax my shoulders.  For the first time I tried out the Pilates equipment, which looks like it is made to torture you but was actually good fun.  At the end of the class Slim confirmed to me that I would be best to stay with the basic mat work class for the next 4 - 6 weeks to really perfect my moves and to learn the basics, so that when I did progress to the equipment I would get the most out of them.

I have been back again since for another class and Joe managed to show me that I had not awoken every muscle at the first class, there were at least another 20 more to ache this time and I am booked in again for next Friday. At £14 a session it is not cheap per see to use the Pilates classes at the Perfect Balance Clinic but it is a competitive and comparable price for the service.  The classes are kept really small to a maximum of 6 people, the instructors are so knowledgeable and approachable and the actual clinic is a pleasure to attend as the surroundings are luxurious but not intimidating.

I figure that I cannot afford to give up these classes now I know there is a way to repair the awful mess I have allowed my body to become.  In short I am exceptionally pleased with the interactions I have had with the perfect Balance Clinic in Hatfield and I would happily recommend their services, in fact I already have to quite a few real-life friends.

Disclaimer:  This is a review post, I received an assessment and classes in exchange for my honest opinion. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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