When Ange Kounelis walked into her first KX Pilates class in Richmond some five years ago, she knew she had discovered something special.
A personal trainer at the time in a leading Australian gym, she recalls the experience being a welcome breath of fresh air from the environment she had come from where the obsession had far surpassed health and fitness, and become all about aesthetic perfection.
“I just did it because I heard it was the latest thing. But I found myself at the studio working out in bare feet, and I felt grounded, I felt supported, I wasn’t with all these guys showing off, it was just a very authentic experience for me,” Kounelis says.
It was then that she realised, that if she was feeling that way, how were all the other women feeling? Inspired by the intimate studio space, personalised approach and community feel, she went on to become one of the first franchisees of KX Pilates and was the first to take the concept from the inner city to the suburbs in Glen Waverley.
Now five years on and she is the proud owner of four KX Pilates studios, adding Berwick (co-owned by Nicola Neville), Knox (co-owned with Eliza Myers), and most recently Oakleigh to her name.
While she says it has been a positive experience, the transition hasn’t been without its challenges, but she is confident that she made the decision at the right time and with the best of intentions to fill a gap in the market.
“Back at the gym that I worked at, it was very high profile; a different atmosphere. Only girls that were super strong and super confident would walk into the weights section, otherwise they were doing body pump, and there are 50 people in a class. They’re buckling their knees as I did many years ago, hurting their backs because the correction wasn’t there because if someone’s on stage telling you to do something, it’s very different to having a trainer like me close by saying ‘pull the pelvis around’ or whatever it is – they didn’t have that. So people were actually doing damage,” Kounelis told Neos Kosmos.
“Women wanted the personalised experience with their training and because you’re in an intimate environment there’s that community feel, and it’s intimate enough that you do get to know everyone. So it’s just taken off and I haven’t looked back, it’s been the best thing ever.” KX Pilates is a fast-paced, high intensity, body-toning workout that is suitable for all ages from beginners through to athletes.
Incorporating Reformer Beds, originally made for rehabilitation purposes with built-in springs that can be adjusted for different resistance levels, and no two classes are the same, helping to keep you motivated.
The exercises are the perfect way to burn unwanted calories, build strength, tone up, and prevent wear and tear on muscles.
“This has a clinical side to it and we add the resistance of the weights to not only enhance things but to add that cardio element. So I’m not just doing my legs, I’m doing a shoulder press as well,” she says.
Classes run for 50 minutes and are divided into beginners, intermediate and advanced categories, and with just 12 beds in the Oakleigh studio, people are guided and given the necessary support and attention by qualified trainers to ensure that exercises are being done correctly.
“We have a lot of people that are not ready but somehow if there’s a will, there’s a way. They love the environment, and so I reset the class structure, which is the good part about this whole thing; it is interchangeable and we alter classes as required. So if you’re a good trainer, and all of mine are, they can adapt it 100 per cent.”
Unlike other exercise programs such as HIIT training, pilates is non-aggressive, helping to build and stabilise muscles to protect you from injury.
Targeting all areas of the body, it helps to work both small stabilising muscles and big muscle groups, with exercises to target the upper body and legs, including the adductor (inner thigh) muscles, which many women often struggle with toning, and builds core strength – the power house for the human body.
Meanwhile with trends towards the use of technology such as laptops and smart phones on the rise, Kounelis says that at the very least, posturally, we could all benefit from introducing pilates into our routines.
“I’d have to say one of the best things about this job is people going ‘oh my god, I’ve stopped seeing my osteopath’. They started out thinking ‘I’ll just do that cause it’s a bit easier than jumping around in a HIIT class’ and then they come, they feel that support and then they’re changing their posture,” says Kounelis.
“All things that are useful in our functional life, is what, in a weird way, we’re doing on this machine. So there’s endurance, stability, balance, coordination; there’s so many elements to the workout.”
While Kounelis says that everyone can benefit in some way from pilates, for those who have sustained injuries, she recommends enquiring about their one-on-one classes with an in-house clinician to build up strength before joining group classes.
Meanwhile, the focus is truly kept on the workout. When you attend, no money is exchanged on the premises; all the packages are pre-selected and purchased online by customers, tailored to their objectives and schedule with no lock-in contract.
“You do what you want when you want. If you want to buy one that’s only valid for 30 days because you’re going back to Greece next month and you want to go really hard, you can do that. Or if you only want to come once a week on Sunday, because it’s the thing that you do with your friend from Oakleigh and you go get coffee, then that’s fine, you just buy the bulk pack,” she says.
Kounelis says the monetary investment, personalised approach, and everyone’s commitment to classes keeps people accountable and she has witnessed the flow-on effect upon people’s psyche, naturally leading them to make other positive changes to their diet and lifestyle, helping with overall mental health and wellbeing.
“At some of the other gyms and studios I’ve been to, I don’t see people connecting with people. When I left that big gym and left that superficial life, it was something that I said I was going to do from my heart,” an approach she learnt from her hardworking parents.
Born in Hobart to migrant parents from Mytilene and Samos, they were successful owners of a fish and chip shop and have passed on both their work ethic and passion for customer service.
“I love this product, I love being with people, and to this day my classes have gotten better and better because I’m so thankful for the culture we’ve created. It really does make a big difference and everything sort of stems and flows from there,” she says.
“This is just so beneficial for so many reasons, and for somebody who hasn’t exercised before, it’s just a clean, nice environment, we’ve got the music pumping, it’s intimate and people are really loving that community feel that the studios bring as well, so it benefits all.”
KX Pilates Oakleigh is located at Shop 1, 63/65 Atherton Rd, Oakleigh, VIC. For more information, call (03) 9802 4443 or visit kxpilates.com.au/studio/oakleigh-pilates-studio/
Take advantage of their introductory offer of five sessions for $50. (Valid for two weeks).