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Man Meets Pilates Machine At Equilibrium Fitness

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Photo by Christina Frary. Used with Permission
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Walking into the Equilibrium pilates studio, you can’t help but feel that this isn’t your typical sort of fitness studio. Surrounding the dozen or so pilates contraptions (that appear, on first glance, to be reconstructed from medieval torture devices) are chandeliers, crystal charms, and black-framed mirrors. People generally consider pilates to be a workout system for women and the décor, even if unusual for a gym, appears consistent with that stereotype. But Equilibrium offers a men’s only class, which is why I was there.

I met the studio’s owner, Annabelle Rosemurgy for a tour of the studio and a short pilates session. Initially, she told me, she was a bit unsure about offering a men’s only class. Would the men take her - a small, attractive blonde woman - seriously? But Annabelle has some serious athletic chops herself, having participated in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, in the horse vaulting competition. Think: gymnastics performed on the back of a cantering horse. She later confessed to me that the men’s classes were actually her favorite ones to lead.

After checking out the facility, Annabelle led me through a few movements on the Megaformer machine. No sweat, I thought. But there was sweat, indeed, and only after a few minutes. After about twenty minutes I thought I was going to die. I knew that I was going to regret it by the next morning. Annabelle’s promise that one can achieve more results in less time than the stereotypical workout seemed to be holding up. After downing a couple bottles of water, we took some time to chat about the differences between typical workouts and the pilates-inspired workouts she offers at Equilibrium.

How do typical weight-trianing workouts go? One day you work on arms, another day legs, another day chest and back, perhaps a fourth day you focus on abs. And that doesn’t include the time spent running or jogging - whether in the gym on a treadmill, or outside on a running path - in order to increase cardiovascular endurance. It means that if you want to address each component of physical fitness each week, you need to spend at least five days at the gym. And if you’re like me, it’s hard to make it to the gym five days a week, an hour or two per day. And its boring.

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One pilates session, on the other hand, combines cardiovascular endurance with resistance training for every muscle group. That seems like reason enough to make the switch; you can can hit every muscle group in one 40 or 55 minute session that you could only get at a regular gym after a whole week.

Pilates operates on the basis of slow, highly controlled movements (just as a properly executed weight-lifting session should, as well). Each repetition takes at least eight seconds to complete: four seconds in the lifting phase and four seconds in the lowering phase. Not only is this a bit safer than typical weight-lifting, but it places each muscle under tension for longer amounts of time. Because each type of movement requires balance, in addition to working on a particular muscle group, your core is continually engaged. It’s as if you’re doing 40 minutes of sit-ups while spending forty minutes lifting weights.

The same principle applies to the amped-up stationary bikes that can be found in the cycling room at the studio. Stationary bikes that you could find in any other gym are fairly limited in how you can use them: pedal faster or slower, and with more or less resistance. These bikes, called RealRyders, also tilt to the side, mimicking the feeling of turning a curve on a road or mountain bike. Just as with the Megaformer machine, you have no choice but to keep your core engaged the entire time as you struggled to maintain your balance.

Annabelle told me that if I were to attend her classes 2-3 times per week, I would begin to see and feel results after only 2-3 weeks. Can it really be that easy? Is this crazy pilates-style workout the holy grail of exercise? Travis Saunders, a Certified Exercise Physiologist and PhD Candidate who blogs about exercise and health at Obesity Panacea, told me, “basically any type of regular movement is a good thing, and it's more important to find something that people enjoy than worrying about which one is absolutely optimal.”

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Optimal or not, if the the pilates-style sessions at Equilibrium, which are described as “heart pounding, bone crushing, muscle shredding, blood, sweat and tears body changing” workouts, sound like your type of thing, why not give it a try?