Pilates: a word I’m sure many of us have heard, but one that is still shrouded in so much mystery. It’s a popular workout, but what exactly does it entail? Most think of it as a form of yoga class for the nation’s elite athletes; but, it’s actually a therapeutic workout that is beneficial for everyone.
Pilates dates back to the ‘20s and is named after its creator, Joseph Pilates. He battled chronic illness as a child and, wanting to gain health and strength, turned to exercise. He found work as a boxer and self-defense instructor, eventually working as an orderly in a hospital during World War I. There, he worked with wounded soldiers who were unable to walk. As a means to support the patients’ limbs, he attached bed springs to the hospital beds. This was the first iteration of what is now known as the “reformer,” the main piece of equipment used in Pilates.
In the early 1920s, he emigrated to America with his wife, and in 1926, he opened his first studio in New York. Of course, the method was a huge hit, and Pilates studios can now be found all across the country, including right here on the Space Coast.
The Club Pilates Viera location has a story as interesting and rich as the history of the workout itself. Owners Emily Rehkop and her husband Heath Rehkop are retired service-disabled military veterans. The two had always wanted to run their own business, but more importantly, they wanted to give back. After doing their research and venturing down a few different avenues, they decided that joining the Club Pilates franchise would be the best fit for them, as they could use it to help support people of all backgrounds in achieving their health and wellness goals.
“One of the things that both Emily and I are familiar with was working out, you know, being physically fit,” said Heath Rehkop. “We tried to carry that through when we left the military because it’s such an important piece in the balance between work and life.
“Pilates was something that really resonated with us as something that not only keeps you fit, but also has a lot of therapeutic and health benefits from these reformers for people that just aren’t able to work out in a conventional way,” he continued.
Right away, my misconception that Pilates was an exercise for those who were already in peak physical condition was thrown out the window. When talking to Heath and Emily Rehkop, I learned that Pilates is a low-impact workout designed to help with alignment, increase range of motion, increase stability and strengthen your core. Even better? You do most of this while lying on your back or your stomach. Of course, though you aren’t standing for most of the workout, you are still working up a sweat.
But, what do you do? That was my lingering question as we talked about the workout and its history. Upon first glance, a Pilates studio can look a little daunting. However, Emily Rehkop quickly assured me that the reformer is not a “medieval torture device.” During our interview, she very quickly and easily hopped onto the reformer and showed me how it worked. She demonstrated that you use either your arms or legs to control the movement of the carriage (the part of the reformer on which you lie). She also showed me that the springs attached that control the weight can be adjusted, so your workout can be as easy or intense as you need it to be. This is one of many modifications you can make to your workout to ensure you’re doing what is right for your body.
I was surprised by how easy it looked, so I signed up for one of the studio’s intro classes. As someone whose fitness background doesn’t go beyond an occasional yoga class or run around the block, I was pleased to not feel that overwhelming desire to quit that often comes with trying a workout for the first time. Emily and Heath Rehkop were right: Pilates is for everyone.
For this couple, educating the area about Pilates is their main goal. They don’t want residents of Brevard to fear Pilates, because as they’ve shared, most of the misconceptions surrounding the workout are just that: misconceptions. Heath and Emily Rehkop want everyone to feel comfortable in the pursuit of their fitness goals, so visit their studio or keep an eye out for them at community events.
Club Pilates is more than just a studio, it’s a community. I can honestly say that this is a studio to which you can turn to work on your overall physical well-being without judgment. Don’t let your fitness background, or lack thereof, keep you from an improved posture, range of motion or all the other incredible health benefits Pilates affords.