Let’s start with the obvious- the brand name ‘Fitdankbaby’ is a German word which translates as ‘fit thanks to baby’. The name may be a bit of a mouthful but that’s where the complexities end- this brilliantly simple concept is a mum & baby Pilates based exercise class.
I do love a bit of a bandwagon so when I heard that Balans Pilates Studio at Scone Airport was the first to offer Fitdankbaby in the whole of Scotland I was all ready to jump on- and that was before I even knew who the instructor was. You see Balans is owned by Joakim (pronounced yo-a-kim) Valsinger- he’s not just a guy who teaches Pilates, turns out he is THE guy to those in the know.
Joakim is a Swedish born Australian who’s ‘a bit of a character’ as we say in Scotland- an ex-military man who’s done everything from Lifesaving on Bondi Beach to appearing as an extra in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Most importantly he’s an award winning Fitness instructor who specialises in Pilates. Joakim is one of only two ‘2nd Generation’ instructors in Scotland- meaning he’s been qualified to Master level by his 81 year old mentor Lolita San Miguel who was certified by Joseph Pilates himself. Now, I love a good name drop even more than a bandwagon and that definitely beats my ‘once brought room service to J-Lo’ hands down.
The Studio itself is stunning- a proper oasis, I’ve honestly been in Spas which are not as nice as this. It’s the biggest dedicated Pilates studio in the country, and as well as a fully equipped apparatus studio they offer sports therapy and massage. There’s also plenty of free parking right outside the studio so not far to go with baby!
There are no more than 10 mums & babies per Fitdankbaby class which are run in 6 week blocks and it’s suitable for babies aged 3-14 months or once they have good head control. It can be difficult to find a BYOB (bring-your-own-baby) fitness class where Freya won’t get restless and bored, but she absoloutely loves coming to Pilates every week. What makes this class different is that the babies are an integral part of it- not just a bystander! Classes are 75 mins long and very relaxed- if you need to take a break for any reason that’s fine, and there’s a separate feeding and changing area.
About a third of the time in class is spent with the baby in a patented Fitdankbaby elasticated belt- designed to support their back and cushion them from any shocks. Freya enjoys the constant movement and close body contact and one wee boy in our class even sleeps the whole way through his time in the belt! The belt fastens with strong Velcro to hold the baby in a safe and stable position throughout the exercises. The baby’s weight is safely distributed onto the mum’s hips allowing for easier and more effective movements. As a wee ‘bonus’ the training weight increases as the baby grows throughout the course so by the end of it you’re doing squats and lunges carrying quite an impressive load!
Joakim became a dad himself earlier this year and his own wife and 8 month old daughter Mariella attend the classes (his favourite part of the job!). Having his own new baby has meant that Joakim is sensitive to the physical and hormonal changes women experience after pregnancy but also genuinely appreciates the dilemmas they face when trying to get fit. Fitdankbaby classes always include an element where parents learn something new about their baby’s development- and so far I’ve learned some interesting little nuggets about Freya’s co-ordination and flexibility! There are several songs and rhymes used during the class which help keep the baby’s attention, and we often make use of the studio’s equipment and facilities including the ballet ‘barre’. We are so well looked after at the studio- there’s no need to rush away, mums often stay to feed their babies on the big comfy couches and are kept hydrated with jugs of iced fruit water.
I have to confess I knew virtually nothing about Pilates before I started. I expected a lot of stretching and breathing- I certainly didn’t anticipate it being a proper workout! This is a common misconception according to Joakim- people in the UK are used to doing what he calls ‘gentle’ Pilates; and although it should be low impact this doesn’t mean it can’t also be physically challenging.
Most of us don’t spend enough time extending and flexing our bodies and this becomes very apparent during Pilates, when even a ‘simple’ stretch can seem difficult. Pilates is not about repetitions but controlled and constant movements. You become very conscious of where all your joints are- and although I hated the giant mirrored wall at first it actually really helps you see what your body is doing. I really like that Joakim demonstrates new movements and will take time to correct everyone’s technique as we go so
Like any other exercise class, you get out what you put in at Fitdankbaby. I wanted to feel a bit fitter for going on holiday this month and I can definitely see progress already. I think Pilates might be the exercise for me- I might even be tempted to try out some of the other classes on offer! I’ve always had trouble with neck pain and I’ve noticed a bit of improvement since starting the classes.
**Try a class for free. Anyone who signs up for a block at their first trial class receives a FREE Bälans Babies/fitdankbaby vest for their baby.**