Nicole Jackson on one month of … regular Pilates

Despite being quite fit, I don’t have much in the way of muscle tone, a problem I’ve had to address since being diagnosed with a prolapsed disc. My lack of stomach muscles is not just affecting the way I look in a bikini, but also complicating the problems with my back. Could the answer be Pilates, an exercise method created in the first world war to help bedridden soldiers walk again?

Some places just teach Pilates on a mat, but Studio Pilates sticks rigidly to the teachings of the founder, Joseph Pilates, and so has equipped itself with apparatus that looks as if it could serve a dual purpose in an S&M dungeon.

I start on The Reformer – a leather bed with straps hanging from it – and go through a series of exercises that involve simultaneously pulling in my stomach, not letting my ribs pop out (apparently I’m a terrible rib-popper), making sure that my hips stay down, my bottom stays tensed, and my heels glued together but toes are kept apart.

Somehow, gradually, I get the hang of it and by the end of the session I feel as though my abs have done 60 Rosemary Conley videos, but without that horrible burning sensation in my muscles.

After a couple of weeks I could feel a difference. Not only were the sessions leaving me feeling taller and leaner (and not exhausted like the gym does) but they also made me far more aware of my body on a day-to-day basis. Instead of slumping in my chair at work, I started to use my stomach muscles to sit up straight. No more lower back pain, no more aching shoulders.

At the end of the month, I can see some definition developing and my back feels as though it finally has some much-needed support. This is so reassuring I can understand why Pilates is practised for life. I certainly would like to try.

· Visit Studio Pilates at

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