Plank Pilates & The Tower Class In This Tiny LES Gem….

Plank Pilates window -ESOn Monday, I got the chance to try out Plank Pilates, the LES studio that I have wanted to check out for a while. I knew it was a “small” studio since almost every single review mentions it but I didn’t have any idea how teeny-tiny this studio is until I showed up at the front door. The way the space is set up, you walk directly into the studio, slip off your shoes and then cut through the space to the stairwell to get down to the reception area. When I got there, a private session was going on so I quickly made my way to the back and down the stairs where I found the cozy, spa-like reception area. It is small but lovely with cucumber/lemon water jars, a large changing room with warm Eucalyptus and cold Lavender towels prepped to use. It was such a pampered introduction to Plank, I briefly thought the class would be a breeze. I was VERY wrong.

plank pilates classAll of Plank’s group classes are based around the Tower, an awesome wall-mounted apparatus that gives studios the ability to do some of the traditional super-effective Pilates machine moves in a group setting, without the need for the larger Cadillac machines. Plank has 5 of them lined up against one of their walls and they take up the majority of the studio. When I finally made it upstairs, after thoroughly enjoying the pampering touches downstairs, I snagged a Tower and settled in for class. I always feel like I am suffering through a Pilates mat class but once springs are involved, it is a whole different story. Pilates designed machines using heavy springs that you pull and push in varying ways and it is that resistance that makes all the difference. I have loved every Tower class I have ever gotten the chance to take and was really excited to get to try another one.

Plank class taught by JuliaLeading our Tower class was Julia Fouts, who actually created Plank’s signature “Plank 360” class. On top of her Pilates certifications, Julia is certified in Sports and Personal training, which I have to say, now makes me really intrigued by the 360 class. One of my absolute favorite things about Pilates in a boutique setting is how focused on form and good at corrections instructors are – Julia was no exception. She had the ability to spot even the smallest miss-alignment and correct it. Her verbal cues were clear and helpful but more often than not, I would just miss the mark of where I was supposed to be and she would come over and deftly fix what I was doing wrong. Julia moved the class through a fluid series of movements, using the arm and leg springs and the roll down bar – while never allowing the class to feel choppy as we changed from one set of springs to another. I loved her take on the leg series, too, with a couple of fun versions of my favorite classic Pilates machine moves. It was a challenging, quick hour and by the end I felt thoroughly worked out from head to toe. I really just wanted to lay there on the mat and bask in that happy good workout bliss but another class was already making its way downstairs to get ready for their class, so I hopped up and wiped down my Tower mat instead. I walked out of Plank with a new spring in my step, just a little happier to have found this gem of a studio in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Top photo by Eric Stafford, middle & bottom photos from Plank Pilates Facebook page.

Springtone at Real Pilates

In a world filled with terrible “gym Pilates” mat classes it is so easy to forget how amazing Pilates can be – when taught by someone who is really well trained and in the classical method. I HATE mat classes with a passion, largely from one too many bad experiences. Since equipment classes are always too expensive for me, it is a very rare treat that I get to take one. It is easy to forget just how amazing it is to have access to the best of the best in NYC, but once in a while, it is awesome to be reminded.  This is how I feel when I get to take a class with Alycea Ungaro, the founder of Real Pilates in Tribeca. She wrote the first Pilates book I ever bought, which I got because the way she described movements really helped me in the classes I was taking at the time. Being around Alycea almost always makes me a little star-struck but because she is so immensely down to earth and friendly, thankfully, that usually subsides for the class.

Recently, Daily Candy had a deal for a class at Real Pilates and of course I had to snap it up. The great thing about the studio is that all of the group classes are small and in some part, use the Pilates tower, an apparatus that basically uses attached springs with handles that you loop on your feet or hold in your hands for resistance. While you might not think it, getting those damn springs to move can be a huge challenge at times, and the class I took called Springtone – mostly forgoes any regular mat moves and just works with the springs for the entire 45 minutes of the class. Exactly what I was looking for: a Pilates challenge.

                   

The thing about the use of resistance in the subtle movements of Pilates is that it works muscles in such a unique and intense way, it is so easy to see why people get obsessed with it. I was obsessed – when I could afford the equipment classes. The amazing thing about Springtone is that it makes the resistance aspect of Pilates accessible in a group class. YAY! The only part of the class I didn’t love was the beginning 3-pound weight section that thankfully, was really brief and transitioned into challenging abs, arms and leg sections with the springs. Of all of the great parts of the class, the leg section was easily my favorite. Those straps and springs target your inner and outer thighs like nothing else I have ever done. Man, I would love to be able to add this class into the mix of classes I get to take regularly! I love the mix of the exercises and pace of the class, which, while methodical and precise, kept a good, consistent clip.  I never once thought, “Oh, when will this end?” – although, I did burst out laughing at one point when, while laying on my stomach, I couldn’t both move the springs toward my ass and lift my thighs off the mat. I mean seriously, there would have to be a LOT more of these classes before that move even seems like it might be remotely possible! The other ladies in class were not amused at how funny I thought it was but thankfully, Alycea did, or else that might have been a little embarrassing…