Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review of SpringTONE Class at Real Pilates

Over the past few months I have been hearing some buzz surrounding a brand new style of a Pilates class. The class is called SpringTONE and its creator is Alycea Ungaro. Alycea is a sort of a rock-star in the world of Pilates  She has trained celebrities like Madonna and Uma Thurman, has written lots of best-selling books on Pilates and is the owner of Real Pilates, the popular Pilates studio located in Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.

The SpringTONE class is described on Real Pilates' website as:

"Our all new, high intensity spring driven class. Work out in timed circuits that cycle through your body and train your muscles with our uniquely effective springs. Upper body and lower body circuits will raise your heart rate and your body heat – all while sculpting you a brand new shape. No one else uses springs quite the way we do!"

When I got to the studio I was greeted by a friendly receptionist who asked me to fill out some forms and then directed me to the lower level studio where my class was going to take place. The studio has two levels. On the top level I saw many clients working with trainers on reformers and various other Pilates apparatus.

The lower level studio has ten stations set up with Pilates Towers and corresponding mats (a maximum of 10 clients can take SpringTONE at a time). The Pilates Tower is, in essence, a metal tower that has loops located on its sides at different heights where coiled springs can be attached. The Towers in this class HAD two arm springs, two leg springs and one waist-level wooden bar that was attached to the Tower with springs.

We started class with a warm up, bringing our knees first to our chest and then out to our elbows. We then grabbed a set of light hands weights and did a series of squats while doing overhead raises with the weights. The squats were done slowly and held for a few seconds so the burn started almost immediately during the warm-up. 

We then started the SpringTONE section of class, and it was non-stop for the remainder of the 45 minute class. We did exercises like the Pilates 100 except we would be pumping our arms while holding onto the arm springs which surprisingly had a lot of resistance. Alycea told us how to increase resistance (move further away from the Tower, tautening the springs) or decrease resistance (move closer to the Tower, allowing the springs to become looser).  We then inserted the loops of the leg springs onto our feet and again, while lying on the mat, our feet in the Pilates stance, we slowly pushed our legs in and out, in a frog pose, against the resistance of the springs, holding in between repetitions. We kept our legs straight and made circles with our heels and then pulsed the weight of our legs down against the springs. There was no distinct separation of an arm and leg series. The exercises were all done in short circuits. We did chair squats while holding onto the arm springs, hip lifts with our feet pulling down against the leg springs, stomach curls while holding and pulling down on the waist-level bar which also added resistance from its attached springs. We packed a lot of different exercises in the 45-minute class, all utilizing the intense resistance of the Tower's springs.

After class I asked Alycea how this class differed from a typical Pilates Tower class. She told me that typically those classes are partly done on a mat and partly using the Tower. This particular class which she developed utilizes springs exclusively and can pack in many more exercises where the springs can be creatively used as compared to a regular Tower mat class.

Alycea Ungaro

The Good:
1. The class:  This class updates traditional Pilates by giving you a workout that is heavy on the resistance-training. I really enjoyed using the springs. I started doing mat Pilates almost 10 years ago and stopped once I felt like I plateaued. The elements in this class will make it harder to plateau, especially since you can vary the resistance by adjusting your own position.

2. The instructor: Alycea is great. She is funny, down-to-earth and is really passionate about both Pilates and her signature SpringTONE class. The mid-morning class I attended was full, a testament to her popularity. 

The Not-So-Good:
1. The class: With the exception of the warm-up there is no real cardio element in this class. You will be working hard but it is almost purely resistance training.

2. The class length: The class is 45-minutes long. By the time I got the hang of the springs the class was over! I would have liked the class to be at least an hour long.

Resistance training is what this class is about. You will be working in mini circuits alternating between exercises targeting the arms, legs and core, all the while using the coiled springs as your method of resistance. While I did enjoy the use of the springs and did feel challenged, I am more of a cardio junkie and like the feel of my heart racing when I exercise. Having said that I would love to go back and take another class at some point. 

Also, if you have not entered my Tonique Method DVD giveaway, this is your last chance! I will announce the 5 winners on Tuesday.