When most of us are sleepily tapping the snooze button for the fourth time, Chris Archer has already completed his daily 5km ride and wrapped up his first Pilates class for the day, and it’s a routine he follows all week.
As the Chief Pilates Instructor and Studio Manager of Classic Wellness in Melbourne’s Bayside suburb of Hampton, his schedule is filled back to back with constant physical activity. For the last six months, in between instructing one of his nine daily classes, he’s been building, painting and prepping the new yoga and barre studio extension to his existing Pilates studio. While many would struggle to handle such a workload, Chris loves living an active and productive lifestyle.
“My training regime includes gym sessions and swimming as well as trying to ride as regularly as possible. When I don’t do Pilates for a while, I miss it, so I enjoy being able to demonstrate exercises to my members. When I’m not instructing in the studio, I’m personally practising Pilates, or working out and riding – always something active. I’m also a mad keen mountain biker and love to test myself on new trails as regularly as possible. I used to race mountain bike cross-country marathons (XCM), and I competed nationally before taking up long-distance road challenges. The Peaks Challenge Series were my favourite events, and after completing six of them over the past five years, I decided it was time to get back into racing mountain bikes again. The goal for next year will be to race in several XCM and Enduro events. Bike riding is a challenging activity, but Pilates makes it much easier to tackle the technical stuff and handle the physical demands.”
Bike riding isn’t the only sport that can be complemented by Pilates training either; the positive impacts are far-reaching, and it’s an exercise theology that creates overall wellbeing and a complete awareness of the body. Pilates emphasises postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance, and while it’s often prescribed for injury recovery or rehabilitative exercise, it's for all kinds of people and every kind of body.
“Fundamentally, Pilates is about spinal health and alignment, which is achieved by strengthening your core, or ‘powerhouse' as it’s called in Pilates. We achieve this goal by utilising the Mat Repertoire (a series of exercises using only the body as resistance) or with equipment such as the Reformer, Chair or Tower. Pilates benefits the body in so many ways, and it balances movement, flexibility and strength. It also improves cardiovascular conditioning, breath control, fluidity and ease of movement, and it strengthens and stabilises major joints such as the hips, shoulders and ankles. All of this translates into better control of the body outside of the studio environment, and when the principles of Pilates are taken into your life, it improves almost every activity you participate in. It makes you better at golf, tennis and swimming, and it makes you a better runner, cyclist and footballer. Basically, Pilates will make you a better version of you.”
It connects the mind and the body, and it’s a practice that – when mastered – demands a high level of fitness and mental commitment. After more than twenty years in the fitness industry though, the definition of ‘fit’ has dramatically changed for Chris. He’s come a long way since deciding what he wanted to be at the tender age of 12, after watching an episode of Cover Up featuring a six-pack-clad Jon-Erik Hexum. Chris bought his first set of dumbbells soon after, and at 15, started working at a local gym.
“As a teenager and in my early twenties, I was heavily into bodybuilding and when I hit 105kg, I decided on a lifestyle change. I started focusing more on core strength and postural training after a physiotherapist told me I had a weak core, which led onto training as a powerlifter for several years and an almost unhealthy addiction to fitness training. When I moved to London in 2003, I started my own personal training business, Integrated Training, and I specialised in core, postural and functional training. Then I met a girl who worked in a Pilates studio, and I was officially introduced to the world of Pilates.”
Chris developed a deep appreciation for the principles of the practice, and when he moved home to Australia in 2006, he started building his career as a Pilates instructor. He completed his professional certification in 2009, after a gruelling apprenticeship of intensive seven-days-a-week training, plus periods of observation, practice teaching and personal practice. In order to teach Pilates, Chris had to be able to perform every exercise to perfection, and so he did.
Now, Classic Wellness is one of Melbourne’s most regarded Pilates studios, specialising in semi-private classes based on the Classical Pilates method. Chris instructs small classes of four to ensure that every member is provided individual attention and conditional instruction for the best results. With the introduction of yoga to the timetable, the studio has recently gone through a fresh refurbishment and a name change too (formerly Classic Pilates), to reflect the studio’s well-rounded approach to health and wellbeing.
“Changing people’s lives is my main motivation. To help someone achieve a goal - whether it is a lifestyle change, preparation for an event, or just reaching a personal ambition - is the best reward you can ever wish for. When someone thanks you for helping change their life for the better or for helping them achieve something that they never believed possible, it’s the most rewarding feeling that I have ever felt. It is more motivating than money, and it is why I love going to work every single morning.”
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