Czech Life Popular fitness club opens new Pilates centre
Over the last twenty years many Czechs have drastically changed their lifestyles, eating healthier foods and taking up new sports. Every weekend, cyclists and rollerblade-users hit local parks in Prague from Vítkov Hill to Stromovka. Fitness clubs which emerged over the same period are also going strong, drawing regular-goers to work-out in the gym, cycle indoors, or attend aerobics classes. Martin Nehasil is the programme director at Solarium Fitness BBC – a popular fitness chain in the Czech capital. When I met with him at the club’s flagship gym on Vinohradská Street, he explained there are constant innovations in the approach to fitness, ideal for anyone looking to improve their health.
“Whether we’re speaking of new clients or seasoned sportsmen and women, more people are realising they want to be fit. It can be someone new who joins or it can be someone who has been bodybuilding for years but realises, with experience, they need to include other types of exercise as well, such as yoga, Pilates, and stretching. There are more options than ever before, such as zumba classes to help people get fit, and more people now have a better understanding and are taking advantage.”
The popular fitness centre recently opened a “club within a club” at its Vinohradská address, one specifically tailored to Pilates – the widely-popular fitness system developed in the first half of the 20th century, now recognised worldwide. The system focuses on flexibility and endurance and the building of so-called ‘long muscles’ for a lean, well-balanced and agile physique, as opposed to bunched up muscles common, for example, among hardcore bodybuilders. Trainer Anna Hrachová has taught Pilates for seven years:
“In the Czech Republic it has long been common to practice Pilates on mats but less so on machines. There are some studios of course that have them but the new one that we opened recently is the largest so far, with 20 re-firmer machines and other equipment.”
According to Ms Hrachová, the emphasis in the 55-minute long lessons is on the body as a whole; in short, the approach is holistic:
“It belongs among body-and-mind exercises: it is a combination of strength exercises and stretching, done without music and without choreography. And it focuses on the deep stabilisation system that some will know if they’ve ever had physical rehab.”
In what way do the machines help?
“If you are a beginner they help you achieve proper posture and toning of the right muscles and when you are advanced they help create more variation and difficulty in exercises.”
By now, by curiosity has been peaked, so I ask the charming trainer if she’ll allow me to try one of machines. Here’s how things went:
“Lie down on your back with your head on the headrest and your feet on the foot bar. Because you are holding the mic we will do a leg exercise. There should be a space between your shoulder blocks...”
“We will use these straps on your feet, so give me your left leg and your right one.You will lower your legs below 60 degrees, now lift them higher, keep your carriage stable... and the movement should be fluent and fluid and you should do it...”
“Twenty times! Ha ha! Yeah, that’s right.”
And that was it. My first ever Pilates exercise. It didn’t take long before my feats on the machine attracted other interested onlookers, like Sunan, an American in Prague who lifts weights regularly.
“It feels like a light workout but I am sure it is just a beginning. I know the focus is on stretching the body to keep everything limber.”
Lessons in Pilates can be in groups according to a regular schedule or individual lessons. In the beginning, least specialists including Martin Nehasil say it is a good idea to take a trainer to learn necessary steps properly and avoid picking up bad habits just like any other sport.
“Like in tennis or any other sport, it is possible to pick up bad habits or mistakes early. So at the beginning it’s a good idea to go over the specifics with an expert. Otherwise you could end up hurting and not helping yourself. The idea is to improve, not make things worse!”
“Of course the machines aren’t easy, as you saw yourself. It can be tough. They’re physical and emphasise breathing but are ideal for a better overall body and to stay in shape.”