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Before I started training with Jonathan Goodair & Christina Howells at the Total Body Plan gym at Home House, the idea of doing any exercise was anathema to me. I ride my bike around the city, which I love, and walk P Bad in the park, but I lack the drive to exercise on my own. I haven’t got around to buying a TV yet, so there’s zero chance of me doing an exercise DVD either.

But I am so fired up by the incredible results I am seeing through their intensive training, and the discovery that there is a set of stomach exercises I can do without straining my back & neck (the reason I hate doing ab work that involves sit ups), that have gone and bought myself a Pilates barrel

This truly is an invention of genius. When Jonathan first produced it, I was doubtful – it looked both far too simple but also worryingly so…(In my experience it’s the simple gym tools that are the most evil.) A wooden arc, covered in padded leatherette, it looks innocuous enough, but it gets the most amazing results. And, best of all, it actually helps my back.

You use it by draping your body over the barrel, with the curve of the barrel supporting your lower back. Your upper back and shoulders are flat to the floor – no straining your neck here. Doing that alone gives a brilliant stretch to the lumbar region – so I often just lie on it at the end of the day, but its genius lies in the workout it gives to your abs. By simply lifting your legs up and down like a pendulum, it gives a deep workout to the abs. I also bicycle my legs on it, and do scissor stretch sideways and forwards. It’s hard work, but not painful. I roll out my yoga mat, turn on the Radio 4 Today programme and keep my mind occupied by shouting at politicians. The whole exercise is enormously therapeutic.

I found mine on Amazon for about £135 and it arrived within three days. Thrilled, isn’t the word.

Pilates-Mad Stacking Arc Barrel £135.95

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19 comments

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I’ve done mat Pilates back in the day. Does this come with any specific exercises? I have a gym ball I use at home.

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@Catherine: It doesn’t – I was shown by my trainers – but there’s lots of info on the internets. LLGXx

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It looks a little bit mean and scary, but I’d give it a go, anything is worth a shot for flat abs?!

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@Onyx: Not at all mean & scary, I promise you!. LLGxx

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I’ve got a bad back and have recently become addicted to pilates – but I’ve never seen such a thing! I’m feeling quite jealous.

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@That’s Not My Age: My back hurts ALL the time, and I cannot tell you the relief at finding a floor exercise I can do for my abs that doesn’t involve lifting my neck. LOVE! LLGxx

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I am absolutely rubbish when it comes to exercise and I really need to incorporate more of it because I literally drive EVERYWHERE so I’ve started going swimming, it just requires so much effort and I get bored. X

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@Lola: You and me both lovely – all I can say is if I can do it, so can you! Have you tried a waterproof MP3 player for swimming? – I listen to audio books LLGxx

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@LLG: I didn’t even know waterproof MP3 players existed?! That will definitely make my swim time more fun-googling now…xx

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Another startlingly simple, yet amazing Pilates tool is the roller. It’s basically just a hard foam roller, but it does amazing things to one’s back and is fab for doing leg lifts. I’m sure your trainer must have one in his bag of tricks.

I am so thrilled you’re doing Pilates! If you are ever back in New York (Humph!) we could go for a duet session 🙂 xx

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@Lolly: Back in October, I think for a month!!!!! Love to do a class with you. Miss you darling. Kisses to the bear xxx

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@LLG: Hurrah and yay! Will be here, will be waiting. The Bear sends bear hugs.

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Back in the day when I used to do gymnastics (oh how I miss the toned body, the strength, the flexibility!) we had a similar shaped deviced that we attached to wall bars for leg lifts. This is bringing back memories of days in the gymnasium, so maybe I should consider investing in a pilates barrel.. hmm..

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@Eleanor May: I am EVANGELICAL! Do it! LLGxx

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My gosh, I’ve never even come across such a device! Am going to attempt to DIY (if that’s possible?!) and see what it does. So looking forward to more exercise tips (so nice to hear them from a normal person!).

Also love the bit where you say you distract yourself by ‘shouting at the politicians’. Ha, brilliant!!!!

Briony xx

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@A Girl, A Style: ooh – sounds dangerous B. Come and play with mine first. I don;t want to be responsible for injuries. Plus I need you fighting fit for LFW!!!!!! LLGxx

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Well done on getting into pilates. It is truly brilliant. If you like the barrell try going to other equipment based studios like Body Control Pilates. It has changed my life, I only wish there were more studios outside of London.

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Simplybepilates.com, un bonito estudio de pilates urbanicado en el centro de barcelona. Las clases estan en español y ingles Y en verano hay clases en el parque de la ciutadela. Desfruta pilates en nuestro estudio o en al aire libre! 644316850

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