As I enter the studio, instructor Ellie is describing Mat Bats to another participant as “higher energy pilates to deep house that keeps your heart rate pretty low but still makes you sweat”, which is about as succinct and accurate a description as you could ask for.
My previous experiences of pilates have left me underwhelmed. I’ve found them a bit slow, a bit boring, and as someone who wants to leave the gym feeling like they’ve done something, they’ve never really done it for me.
In true Gymbox style, this class is different – for a start, there are LASERS! And as for getting bored – Ellie makes sure there’s no chance of that.
We start off with some thorough stretching before plunging into a series of push ups, planks, twists and bends that work every part of the body and despite the low impact (for which my knees are grateful), I’m sweating in no time and my muscles are on fire. No-one gets off easy in this class; high repetitions, varying the pace of movements and relying on bodyweight means everyone gets pushed. Judging by the palpable heart-sink in the room, everyone’s favourite moment is after a series of leg lifts, just when our thighs are about to explode, and Ellie cheerfully shouts “now, hold the leg there, and pulse!” There’s a synchronised heavy-leg-drop as soon as the counts are over as any thoughts of graceful movement go out the window.
This class might work the muscles in the same ways as a traditional pilates class, utilising control and core strength, but that’s where the similarities end. The house music works incredibly well, raising the energy in the room without jarring with the slow movements, while the laser show helps you lose yourself in the atmosphere to get the calmer mind you’re used to from pilates. You also don’t spend ages holding positions; you’re moving almost constantly, which keeps it engaging while never taking away from the intensity. It’s a holistic retreat class for those who don’t think they’d like holistic retreat classes.
The class absolutely flies by, and I’m surprised when the very welcome words “this is the last time” come along as we’re dragging ourselves up by the abs.
This is my kind of pilates – it keeps moving, it isn’t boring, and it’s tough. My thighs won’t thank me tomorrow though.
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