by Marion Hunter

marion hunterPilates has been a revelation for me. I started one-to-one pilates with Karen a year and a half ago hoping to sort out recurring lower back pain and stiffness (which it did, very quickly) but it soon became apparent that there were many other benefits to be had as well. The main one has been Karen’s ability to tailor her teaching to my needs which are predominantly tennis based. Tennis has always been a big thing in my life, especially for the last fifteen years during which I’ve been playing doubles four times a week. These games, whether social, match practice or inter-club league matches, involve continuous play for at least two hours so there’s obviously cumulative wear and tear on the body which has become more apparent as I’ve got older (I get my bus pass this year!).

Tennis creates a huge strain on certain areas, for example the racket side arm, shoulder and neck and on the push-off leg when serving, leading to over-use niggles if not actual injuries. Karen will always give good advice if she detects something ‘acute’ going on, recommending a GP or physiotherapist diagnosis first so that she can work from that. The remedial techniques she’s taught me have helped enormously, settling and reducing if not completely removing any strains I was previously feeling. Karen has been excellent at identifying exercises and stretches to help with the specifics of tennis both for warm-up and cool-down and I feel that these are also preventative measures, heading off likely problems and allowing me not just to carry on playing but also actually to improve my movement and technique on court. An example is learning to relax the shoulders and engage the core muscles lightly just before serving which instantly improves my whole posture. The resulting balanced, upright stance enables me to execute a better but more effortless serve. That’s a huge bonus!

Over and above the specifics of tennis, Karen’s pilates instruction has led to improved posture, balance, flexibility and strength. I’ve found out what the core muscles are and how important they are in providing essential support for the back and how they are involved in and can improve all movement. Increasing years can sometimes lead to decreasing flexibility but Karen’s teaching has reversed that for me which also helps with all aspects of movement in daily life. The routines I’ve learned are easy to do at home and can be adapted according to what my body needs at any given time. They also amount to ‘switch off’ time so they make me feel great mentally as well as physically.

Karen is a delightful and very skilled instructor whom I would recommend if you have back problems or need specific help with tennis movements, but actually I would recommend her to everyone – you don’t need to have physical problems to gain from pilates and Karen’s teaching.