Chew On It: Pioneering Group Reformer Classes

After setting up 11 new Healthland Clubs (now all Fitness Firsts) in Sydney and Melbourne, my contract was terminated in 2000 as I was ‘not corporate enough’. I think that was another way of saying I spoke my mind too much.

I initially regretted selling my pride and joy. But I later realised I gained a lot of valuable experience working for a public company. I also learnt about the mindset of corporate business, which was all about growth and the bottom line.

With the desire to set up my own health club again, I noticed the wave of interest in Pilates and Yoga in early 2000. I endeavoured to establish a mind-body health club that was different to everyone else. Fortunately, it worked out!

I met Katharine Millard in 2000 when I attended my first Pilates Mat class (she was the teacher). Now Katharine has been our Pilates Education Director since 2005.

To ensure I had a good understanding of Pilates to set the program at Elixr, I learnt Clinical Pilates from a physiotherapist in Melbourne, a Canadian Pilates school, and a US Pilates school.

At that stage, I was the greatest advocate and critic of Pilates. As an advocate, I realised the beauty of precision in techniques and the benefit of core conditioning. At the same time, I was critical of the lack of scientific application for certain exercises.

My understanding of exercise science was sufficient to ensure Elixr Pilates was safe and effective while debunking many of the silly Pilates myths, such as attaining long lean muscles.

There was resistance from Pilates schools in Sydney when I opened Elixr in Park St, CBD. We pioneered Group Reformer Classes to over 20 reformers in a room. I was told by the Sydney Pilates community that I could not teach more than 8 people in a class. This made no sense to me after years of teaching very technical karate to a class of more than 50 students from beginners to black belts.

The biggest breakthrough was learning from Prof Stuart McGill, the world’s leading authority on Spinal Biomechanics. His lifelong research has been instrumental in Elixr Pilates development.

Elixr has twice hosted his courses in Sydney. I have attended several of Prof McGill’s seminars alongside Katharine Millard, Rachel Crompton, and several of our other instructors. His courses are regularly attended by surgeons, physiotherapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors.

Members have occasionally questioned why Elixr does not teach certain exercises they have done in various other Pilates studios. Very simply, it is because they could cause injuries.

Our instructors are encouraged to be creative with their exercises, but at the same time to bear in mind that complexity is not creativity.

The success of Group Reformer Classes continues to grow. When Elixr first introduced them in 2002, I was unsure how long the interest would last!

Coming up to our 20th anniversary, we are still pioneering and leading the industry with the Elixr Pilates Tower Studio session. Designed to take your Pilates to another level, Tower Studio sessions are exclusive semi-private classes combining the Reformer with Tower, Extended Platform, and Jump Board. It’s a workout to challenge your body and stretch your mind.

To attend the session, it’s presently a payment per session system. 10 packs are available and in time there will be a new level of membership which includes the Pilates Tower Studio session.

I’m one of the original dinosaurs, having served in the fitness industry for over 40 years. I have seen and experienced numerous changes and progressions. In 1979, when I started teaching Group Exercises classes (formerly known as Aerobics) Bondi Junction only had one tower above what is now Westfield.

In 2029, I’ll be able to say I’ve been in the industry for 50 years. Even though I am still in denial of my current health condition – ageing.