I love Pilates, especially the kind that uses machines. So when I was offered a personal session with Gia Marakas, a private Pilates instructor based in Larchmont Village, I jumped at the chance.
I used to take lessons at Pilates Plus in downtown Los Angeles, and I loved using their proformer machines for added resistance to many classic Pilates moves. I did it three times a week and was getting in pretty good shape. Then I got a new job and never signed up for classes closer to my new office. A year goes by. And then I get this offer from Gia. Perfect!
But what if I’m too out of shape for this? The first time I took a Pilates Plus class, I nearly threw up on the studio floor. Pilates looks easy, but it’s not: you use muscles that you’ve long forgotten even existed. This is a good thing, really. But it’s definitely NOT easy.
So it was with trepidation and excitement that I approached this lesson with Gia. I told her what (almost) happened the first time I used a Pilates machine. She told me not to worry, and she was right. Gia led me on an hour-long workout that left me feeling refreshed, not sick.
Gia, a native Angeleno who originally hails from Sherman Oaks, works out of the Kara Wily Pilates Studio on Larchmont Boulevard just up the street from the oh-so-cute Larchmont Village area. The studio itself is housed in a nondescript building set back from the street, and is kind of hard to find since there’s no sign out front and the addresses jump from 508 to 512, skipping the studio’s 510 address number. But no worries; if it’s your first time, just call and someone will come out to fetch you.
Gia is a certified and classically trained Pilates instructor, which means she uses the original Pilates machines, including the reformer (Pilates Plus’ proformer is basically a double-ended reformer with another bar and a platform), the pedi-pole and the ladder barrel. She is encouraging and pushes you to do your best without acting like a boot camp instructor (ahem, some Pilates Plus instructors whom I will not name). She is also observant: she could tell that I had injured something on the left side of my body (knee) in the past because my right hip was higher than my left!
I struggled through some parts of the workout, including the classic Pilates hundred move — man, I need to work on my core! — but it was nowhere nearly as bad as my first Pilates experience. Even at the end of an hour, I felt like I could keep going! Then within an hour of leaving the studio, my hip abductors (muscles on the outside of the thigh) began to hurt since Gia had me do some work with a magic circle, holding it between my legs. Great, I thought to myself, I did get a good workout.
Then I woke up the next morning.
At first I thought I had thrown my back out because it hurt so much to move. But I soon realized it wasn’t my back that was in excruciating pain, my lats (the muscles that run along your sides) were the ones screaming at me. I knew this was from the exercises I had done using the ladder barrel: holding a magic circle over your head, you stand next to the barrel with your feet one in front of the other, and you slowly bend your body sideways over the barrel, working your lats. This resulted in pain — all day long! But it was totally worth it and meant that the Pilates were paying off.
Gia teaches one-on-one private lessons for $90 per 55 minutes ($100 for a house call), though she’ll go longer at no extra charge if she feels a student needs it. If you buy a package of 10 private sessions, the price comes down to $75 per session. She also teaches duets (two students, one Gia) for $35 per person; private group sessions for $25 per person; and a mat class at the studio every Thursday at noon for $20 per person. Though with the economy being what it is, Gia says she’s “flexible” when it comes to rates. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
She also does parties: Gia was recently hired to do a group session for a bachelorette party. You’d probably want to do that before all the drinking, though. Just sayin’.