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Stretch your way to suppleness with a fresh take on fitness; OUT of shape after Christmas? Bored of the gym? ALEXANDER PALLISTER looks at the growing popularity of pilates in the North East.

Byline: ALEXANDER PALLISTER

PEOPLE across the region are setting themselves new year's resolutions to get fit and healthy after all the parties, wine and mince pies over Christmas.

But as an alternative to the sometimes boring routine of gym workouts, which, let's face it, few people stick to after that first month, pilates is growing ever more popul a r.

Lynne Cavanagh-Cole, 36, from Heaton, is the senior teacher at The Pilates Studio in Gosforth and has been teaching there for the past seven years.

"I started out teaching individual classes at people's homes, but I found that I was travelling a lot," she said.

"So I decided to set up the studio in response to the demand there was. I asked my sister Judith, who's a partner in the business, to help with the administration. We now have seven teachers to cope with the demand."

Lynne, who spent a year training with the Body Control Pilates Association (BCPA) in London eight and a half years ago, took up pilates after a dance injury.

"My physio recommended pilates after I'd picked up a pelvis injury," she said. "This then had a knock-on effect and the rest of my body was misaligned. So I used pilates to work on my core-stability first and then built up strength in other muscle groups. Now I'm injury free."

The need for a dedicated pilates studio in the region has always been clear to Lynne. "At the time I was studying, there was no-one teaching pilates in this region," she said.

"The BCPA set up the training course so people could train in London and then take pilates to their local area. I felt there was a real need for this kind of teaching here."

Pilates, which is named after its pioneering creator Joseph Pilates, can be alone don at and age and with varying levels of difficulty.

"It's all about making your body fitter, stronger and more flexible," said Lynne. "Pilates was designed for improving posture, ab tone and general fitness. It's really suitable for anyone. For people with, say, back pain, it can be done at a low level or for more advanced people it can be done at high level."

With teenagers to people in their late seventies taking classes at The Pilates Studio, Lynne is quick to point out that anyone can do pilates.

"We even have a mother and baby class, which is very good for pregnant women," she added.

"We've also got plans for pensioner classes, sessions for teenagers that will help with posture, and a back pain clinic coming this year.

"And we're going to be doing more equipment training in the future. At the moment, I'm one of only two people in the region trained to use machines such as the reformer in pilates classes. I'm currently training three other teachers here in equipment training."

Two regulars at the classes are pilates enthusiasts Nicola Sugden and Jenny Steiner.

Nicola, 47, is a businesswoman from Heaton, and has been attending classes since the studio opened in 2001. "That was the first time I'd ever done pilates," said Nicola. "Definitely I feel stronger. I've got better posture and body shape, or silhouette, as they say. It's useful to me because I run my own business and it gives me more confidence.

"I've recommended pilates to all my friends and I'm a real ambassador for it. "Though people that go to the gym and think 100 reps is good may find it hard to adjust to pilates."

Jenny, 63, from Forest Hall, who is married with four grown-up children and three grandchildren, started going to pilates classes at the studio two years ago. "I was quite interested in pilates as it's used by sports people and ballet dancers, and I really enjoy dance," she said. "The studio has high standards of teaching and the small class sizes are an advantage.

"The thing with pilates is that you don't have to be very supple to do it, but you do progress. There is a measurable improvement as you get stronger. Also it's not done to music, so you go at your own speed, which I like. You really concentrate on yourself and you don't worry about what others do."

The health benefits for Jenny are clear. "My back and neck are much better for it, and I think it's good for your body," she said.

"And the thing that struck me most about the studio were the instructors. The demonstrations they do are excellent. They walk around the class making sure everyone is doing the exercises as best they can."

"The thing with pilates is that you don't have to be very supple to do it, but you do progress. There is a measurable improvement as you get stronger. Also it's not done to music, so you go at your own speed, which I like. You really concentrate on yourself and you don't worry about what others do."

The health benefits for Jenny are clear. "My back and neck are much better for it, and I think it's good for your body," she said.

"And the thing that struck me most about the studio were the instructors. The demonstrations they do are excellent. They walk around the class making sure everyone is doing the exercises as best they can."

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WORK OUT - A pilates class, concentrating on core-stability, at The Pilates Studio, Gosforth PICTURE: TONY HALL www.icNewcastle.co.uk/buyaphoto ref: 01229588
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2008
Words:913
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