Exercise that's for everyone...

Looking to reboot your fitness regime this January but daunted by the prospect? EMMA CONNOLLY looks at reformer pilates at the Arena Clinic, based in the Mardyke Arena UCC, which is run by trained physiotherapists
Exercise that's for everyone...
Jacqui O'Keeffe and Agatha at the reformer studio at the Mardyke Arena.

JANUARY is the time of year people reboot their fitness regimes.

But for lots of people who are recovering from sports injury, have suffered whiplash, those with mobility issues, arthritis, or even women who have recently given birth, it may be something they approach with uncertainty.

However, reformer pilates at the Arena Clinic in the Mardyke Arena UCC, run by trained physiotherapists, is something that will appeal to those feeling that fear, but who want to get back to fitness in 2019, as well as those who want to try something new. All you need is loose clothing — and to take that first step.

Reformer pilates is similar to mat- based pilates but is done on a sliding surface and is generally more intense and more dynamic. The reformer machine adds spring-loaded resistance, and exercises are performed on a moving surface which challenges you to be able to engage core and to correct posture as you move against resistance.

Physiotherapist Jacqui O’Keeffe, who runs the classes, says it sounds more complicated than it is!

She explains: “As a physiotherapist I have always used pilates as a rehab tool but the reformer is so versatile that it is ideal to treat a range of issues and also to improve athletic function.

“For example, it’s wonderful for the post-natal population — it is safe and provides the tactile feedback needed for targeted core and pelvic floor rehab.

Jacqui O'Keeffe (right) and Agatha, (another chartered physiotherapist and also a refomer pilates instructor).
Jacqui O'Keeffe (right) and Agatha, (another chartered physiotherapist and also a refomer pilates instructor).

“The reformer is also a safe tool for the older adult with osteoporosis, and those that are less mobile.

“And it’s ideal for rehabilitation of back and neck problems, for chronic pain and for post-surgical rehabilitation as exercises are mainly carried out lying down so there is less room for bad posture and less stress placed on the spine itself.

“It is also great for athletes, for golfers, runners, triathletes, etc. as you can really isolate muscle groups.”

Jacqui also stresses that it’s all about the individual.

“It can be modified to suit the individual ability and strength and that’s what we do here at the Mardyke Arena. As you improve we will continually challenge you by changing the resistance on the reformer, reducing your base of support and teaching you new exercises.

“This means you gradually and safely learn to control your movements with your core and with better alignment and posture, more strength, flexibility and with better balance.”

She said it’s up to the individual how often to do a class, but that one is better than none.

“At first you will need to ‘ask’ your core to switch on but with practice it will switch on naturally and work to protect your spine and other joints as you function.”

She’s also keen to stress that this type of exercise, which is suitable for all body types, and all fitness levels and abilities, is also a lot of fun!

“And it’s very relaxing as the focus is so much on your body, I think it helps to take us out of ‘our heads.’”

Jacqui O'Keeffe and Agatha, (another chartered physiotherapist and also a refomer pilates instructor is in the black vest).
Jacqui O'Keeffe and Agatha, (another chartered physiotherapist and also a refomer pilates instructor is in the black vest).

As well as a whole range of physical benefits, she said it will also leave you ‘feeling calm and empowered.’

If you have an injury or have had a history of back pain and/or dysfunction in the past, she suggests a one-on-one session to start with.

“We’re extremely lucky to be able to offer our clients an array of different treatments, from hands-on treatment to aqua therapy, gym-based rehab, cardiac rehab and clinical pilates. We are also very fortunate that we can progress our patients into classes at the Mardyke so we can ensure a healthy progression and not lose touch with them too soon.”

For more information and for a class timetable see www.mardykearena.com


One-to-one physiotherapy-led sessions — this includes musculoskeletal assessment.

Clinical reformer class (physio-led and maximum of three people per class).

Beginner-level reformer class (max eight people).

Intermediate-level reformer class (ma eight people).

Advanced-level reformer class (max eight people).

Golfers workshops.

Post-natal reformer class (maximum six people).

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