Over the last few months I have experienced various, alternative therapies at Da Vinci Centre which involved nothing more strenuous than me climbing up on a couch and relaxing. However alternative therapies and beauty regimes can only do so much: maintaining health, staying supple, retaining good posture and muscle means work and that means some form of exercise. As part of their anti ageing philosophy different types of exercise classes are offered at the DaVinci studio. In the past I have flirted with yoga and have maintained an erratic but fairly stable relationship with pilates for a few years now, so I opt to try The Tracy Anderson Mat Workout because it has mat in the title which I interpret as entailing some gentle stretching exercises while lying leisurely on my back. I turn up on Wednesday at 6:00 at the Da Vinci studio to meet fitness instructor Jennifer Bily who runs the class. Jen is a member of the national volley ball team as well as being a personal trainer and if The Tracy Anderson Mat Work out will give me a body just a vague approximation of hers then sign me up!
Not being a great fan of gyms or mass aerobic classes I am pleased that the studio is not huge. Jen explains she likes it this way as it keeps the classes small, giving her an opportunity to keep an eye on how people are doing and give them more personal attention.
I have never heard of Tracy Anderson and before the class starts, Jen explains who Tracy Anderson is and her exercise theories. A dancer from an early age, when she became a professional dancer she began to put on weight which led her to study and research muscle structure and specific training techniques that would keep a balance between weight loss and a healthy body. Having successfully reshaped her own body, she developed several fitness systems which challenge the small muscle groups by offering resistance as well as forcing the body to rely on its balance. Jen says that a lot of the time we over use the large muscle groups to the detriment of the smaller ones whereas Tracy’s method is to strengthen the smaller muscle groups so that these muscles can pull in the larger muscles. The exercise routines are low impact meaning thankfully there is no jumping about. The point is more about gaining suppleness and creating long, lean muscles.
Anderson has an impressive list of clients which includes Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Cox to name a few – Jen at the moment has me and three other ladies who have been doing her class for a few months now. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and Jen tells me as the newcomer I should just do what I can. We start of standing and moving to music we extend our arms and lean from side to side while twisting our arms from front to back then making arches above our head. Initially I think “OK I can cope with this” but surprisingly quickly I realise how powerful the exercise is and it becomes harder and harder to hold my arms up. I keep going with the thought of replacing my loose bat wings with beautifully toned arms. We move on to do some twist and shoulder exercises. Jen talks about the importance of keeping a strong core and keeping your shoulder blades down to get the full benefit of the exercises. We do a few more stretching twisting type exercises. So far so good. Then we move on to pliés. With our feet out we lower ourselves down then come back up on our toes. We are also supposed to be doing something with our arms too but I am concentrating too much on getting up and down so leave my arms to their own devices.
From now on we start moving up a gear, for me it is getting difficult as the next exercise involve sliding your legs out at right angles (if you are Jen) and pulsing. My legs feel as heavy as cement blocks and I can feel my hip joints creaking but I also recognise that with time this exercise would significantly improve flexibility and muscle strength.
The abdominal exercises come as a shock as I am reunited with a part of my body I had forgotten I had. We finish off with a few stretches. I have actually really enjoyed the workout, the music is fun and keeps you going and the time has passed quickly. There are lots of movements and shapes to keep you interested and Jen says that there are lots of different variations with in each movement as you get more experienced so there is no chance that you can get bored. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, if you are not sure what you are doing Jen will take time to show you. I feel really energised, a lot straighter and know the exercises have reached parts of me no exercise has before. I am so impressed that I sign up for another class on the spot!