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There are a myriad of reasons why people exercise.
To keep within a healthy weight range, to gain strength, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, for flexibility, to recover from an injury, for balance…or because you have a serious addiction to ice cream. (No? just me?).
The truth is, exercise and fitness are highly individual pursuits – which can be problematic when you consider that many fitness facilities focus on one kind of fitness (like a yoga studio or a boot camp). If your fitness goals are multifaceted, or you a prefer a regime with a variety of different kinds of movement, it can be tricky to find a facility that meets your needs – unless of course you have a bottomless pit of money to spend on multiple memberships—in which case, feel free to splash some my way. There are your big gym franchises, of course, but with hundreds of members they can lack a sense of community or the resources to provide each member with individual attention.
This is what makes Embrace Pilates and Fitness so special. Located on the shores of Lake Ginninderra in Belconnen, this picturesque little studio offers a kind of one-stop fitness shop.
Embrace doesn’t really look like your average gym. For starters, the second floor is filled with Pilates Reformers, while downstairs is a spacious, multi-use room for their different kinds of group fitness classes – and boy, is there a lot of them.
My first visit to Embrace was to try out their Reformer Pilates class. To me, Reformer Pilates had always seemed like something very exclusive and expensive. Not many facilities have Reformer machines, and the ones that do tend to be dedicated purely to Pilates, with a focus on private lessons and membership costing a small fortune. I loved the idea of this kind of special equipment being co-located with different kinds of fitness facilities.
Classes are small, which made me feel safe given that I had little experience using a reformer. Director and instructor Catherine Creevey was on hand to show me exactly what to do, providing individual attention to each of the class participants. The class included a range of movements that focussed on balance, strength and flexibility. Pilates typically has a strong focus on core strength, and sure enough, I had sore abs for days after the class.
Next up was a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class with instructor Elle. Having been sick for the week prior, this class was my first workout in about a week, so I was a bit nervous about the ‘high intensity’ part. I needn’t have fretted, because this is the kind of class you can scale to your ability.
That’s one of the things I found unique about Embrace; it really is a very diverse community. There were people of all kinds of fitness abilities – from young mums to older men and every kind of fitness ability in between, all doing the same workouts together. The HIIT class was run as a kind of circuit, and Elle showed variations at each and every station. I noticed a number of people in the class had injuries or issues where they couldn’t complete a certain exercise, and Elle was quick to provide alternative options. Even though I scaled back a bit because of illness, I still left the class breathless and sweaty – which is exactly what you want with a HIIT class!
Next up was a Group Active class. To me, this class was like a mash-up of group fitness classics: a touch of Step, with some lower weight, high rep weights (a bit like BodyPump). As someone who is prone to stumbling over my own feet while walking around my apartment, the step component had me worried. Luckily, it was pretty straight forward without any turns, rotations or crazy arm movements, so after a few minutes I was able to keep up with the rest of the class.
I loved that once again, the weights were scalable, so I could pick a level that was appropriately challenging without compromising technique (which I find can often happen when you’re dealing with high reps). The class was set to high-energy music and I found it to be a lovely way to start my Saturday morning.
In my experience doing fitness road tests, I’ve found that every gym, club, studio or group has their own unique culture – and this can be just as important as actual exercise that you’re doing. Embrace has a culture that’s diverse and inclusive, with a real focus on connection. Every time I was in the gym I was greeted by the lovely Directors, Catherine Creevey and Anu Kael and welcomed by the Embrace members. It’s the kind of gym where people hang around after to chat or grab a coffee together. Where you feel supported, included and perhaps most importantly, like you’re being looked after on an individual level, as opposed to just being a membership number.
In addition to the classes that I tried, there’s a BootCamp, Fit and Flex circuit, Mat Pilates, Zumba and more. There’s also small group or individual training. Catherine and Anu are all about helping people find the movement that suits them as an individual, so it’s worth chatting to them about the different options that are available.
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Photography by Martin Ollman