Health & Fitness

Pilates toughens up – by degrees, with hot classes in Sacramento

Steve Meth participates during a hot Pilates class earlier this month at the P20 studio in midtown. The new fitness trend, reminiscent of Bikram yoga, is done there in a humid, 95-degree room.
Steve Meth participates during a hot Pilates class earlier this month at the P20 studio in midtown. The new fitness trend, reminiscent of Bikram yoga, is done there in a humid, 95-degree room. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

It was only a matter of time in the trendy exercise industry before heat hooked up with Pilates.

After all, hot yoga (first made popular through the Bikram series) has become a staple in all kinds of practices, from Iyengar to Ashtanga. And like yoga, Pilates – which was developed in Germany at the turn of the 20th century and is popular with dancers as well as body-conscious celebs such as Pippa Middleton, Madonna and Jennifer Aniston – also has an emphasis on core muscle development and controlled movements.

About six years ago in a Las Vegas hot yoga studio, instructor Gabriella Walters designed the first hot Pilates class, and a new discipline was born. Today, hot Pilates studios can be found around the globe, including in Sacramento, and have become a recent fitness fad for its hard-core approach to creating a lean figure.

“It just blew up and became really, really popular,” says Lindy Hobbs, 33, who along with UFC lightweight fighter Danny “Last Call” Castillo opened a hot Pilates studio in Sacramento in 2013 called P2O Hot Pilates & Fitness.

Hobbs learned hot Pilates from Walters in Vegas, where Hobbs was splitting her time between project IT work and dealing blackjack at the Playboy Club. When she realized she had a passion for fitness, Hobbs enlisted Castillo and the two founded their midtown location, which includes classes in Barre, Dyna-X medicine balls and TRX suspension training.

What are hot Pilates classes like?

Yes, it’s hot – 95 degrees. And humid.

At P2O, a portable forced-air heater at the front of the room pumps out a perspiration-inducing breeze during the entire 60-minute class (there’s also a 75-minute class that includes more stretching).

Closer to the heater means hotter, so those who want a slightly cooler experience should head to the back.

What’s the workout?

Each class at P2O follows a similar pattern, but order of exercises can vary. “We take traditional Pilates principles and incorporate them with high-intensity interval training,” explains Hobbs.

You won’t find any reformer machines here; this is strictly mat work. Classes start off on the floor, where participants warm up with sets of hip raises that target the glutes, then move on to abdominal work, arm work and lower body moves targeting each side separately. (Be ready for lots of thigh-burning leg lifts.)

Mixed in are sets of plank positions and push-ups to work the upper body.

Then it’s on to the standing cardio part of the regime, which uses sets of low-impact, high-intensity movements such as squat-and-kick combinations and lunges that raise the heart rate of even the most fit.

The class ends back on the floor with a yogalike moment of reprieve.

How hard is it?

A chalkboard on the wall sums up the hot Pilates philosophy: It never gets easier. You just get better.

If you’ve never done Pilates, understanding the correct form the first time out can be challenging enough. Like many studios, P2O offers an introduction to Pilates class that runs through the basic moves – well worth the time for beginners since the rapid pace of the regular class (set to the boom-boom beat of dance music) makes learning on the fly difficult.

Since Pilates (and the long, lean results it promises) require attention to detail and form, having a grasp of the basics is key to maximizing this workout. But even Pilates devotees will be challenged here, as major-muscle groups are used in multiple sets.

Who does it?

While Hobbs, whose athletic body makes her look like the poster child for hot Pilates, might seem the stereotypical participant, the classes include a variety of people, including men.

Dave Sauvage, 48, a special education teacher from Elk Grove, has been coming to P2O for about six months.

“I was looking at myself getting older, thinking, ‘I don’t look as good as I used to,’” he says of his reasons for trying the class.

Now he’s sold on it. “It’s one of the best workouts I’ve ever had,” he says. “If you want to sweat your butt off, it’s great.”

Who shouldn’t do it?

Anyone with a heart condition – or any other medical issue that could make working out in a heated room problematic – should always check with a doctor before taking a class.

But Hobbs says that the self-paced nature of the exercise makes it something that can be adjusted for a range of fitness levels, and modifications of poses can be done for injuries or pregnancy.

Shelly Decante, 35, is a dance teacher from South Land Park who has been doing hot Pilates for about a year. She’s now 10 weeks pregnant and is continuing the workout, although she now puts her mat near the door where the temperature is lower.

“I want to stay active, and I love being physical so I didn’t want to lose the things that make me happy,” she says of continuing the workout. “But I am tired.”

What do you wear?

Although the moves are low impact, they’re fast with lots of kicks facing the mirror in front – so no loose clothing like baggy shorts (or any that’s going to lend to oversharing when a leg is up in the air).

Tights and tank tops or T-shirts and shorts are the usual combinations. Leave your shoes at the door; you practice barefoot.

Also, bring a mat and a bottle of water (or get either from the studio). You’ll also need a towel.

What will it do for me?

Unlike fitness boot camps, a popular workout that can promise bigger muscles, hot Pilates focuses on creating length along with strength. That means no bulk.

Hot Pilates also raises the heart rate, improving endurance.

“It’s a cardio workout as well as a lot of body movements,” says Brooke Sandy, 29, who recently started and has done it about a half-dozen times. “It’s not like a cardio class at the gym. It’s more developed.”

Where can you do it?

P2O (2012 P St.) offers a one-month unlimited-class introduction for $30. Hobbs and Castillo plan on opening two studios this spring, one in Elk Grove and one in Natomas. (www.hotpilatessacramento.com).

Body Heat Hot Pilates and Yoga in Rocklin (6624 Lonetree Blvd., Suite 300, Rocklin) also offers classes. All new students receive one free week of unlimited classes (www.bodyheatyoga.com).

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