With ten weeks to go before my wedding, I have decided to take on a fitness challenge: hour-long private Pilates classes three times a week.

In the hope that it will further motivate me to whip myself into shape, I'm going to plot my progress here in The Pilates Diaries.


The issue: Since buying my wedding dress in January, my hips have decided to host six extra kilos; each one a perfectly formed capsule of evidence, testifying to my consistent, committed love of food (and mainly chocolate).

The aim: To sculpt myself into shape.

The Place: One of the best places to practice Pilates in Santiago is The Place, a newly kitted out studio in the chic neighbourhood of Vitacura.

The instructors: Owners and instructors at The Place, Keka Lamarca and Carlotta Bouquet, are two of Chile's finest fillies with abs as flat as pancakes, long swishing hair and tantalizingly fat free limbs.

The deadline: Mid-July, when I'm due to return to London for judgement time: my final dress fitting.


Lesson One: At first it all seemed very relaxing. I lay back on the soft Pilates table and Keka stretched and moved my limbs around me.

"Beautiful" she said encouragingly, but I felt far from it as I tried to suck in my stomach and lift my lead-like torso off the mat.

Then the sit-ups began, and continued mercilessly for the next half hour. I'm not someone who does sit-ups for fun, so even twenty would have been a shock to the system, but being guided and shown how to do them properly made them almost pain free. Almost.

Lesson Two: Feeling light and ache free, I headed to my second lesson, this time with Carlotta. Rounding my back was the aim for today, not something that comes naturally to me.

"We're starting with very basic moves," said Carlotta "I want you to push out the lower part of your back and suck in your stomach."

I can't lie with my torso on my legs, and I've never had much success with the "angry cat" arch, so curving my back took a lot of effort.

"Come on Gabriel!" said Carlotta noticing I was about to give up.

I left the class having stretched my back more than ever before, reaching my hands past my feet when normally I struggle to grab my ankles.

But how can moves which seem so small, be so painful and difficult?!


Lesson Three: I arrived at my last class of the week with a gentle backache, not painful but just the feeling of having awakened certain muscles from a lifelong slumber.

Keka told me to do some bridges and soon all was loose again. Then the sit-ups started, and this time I had to lift my legs as well as head and shoulders.

I strained to suck in my stomach and ribs whilst also trying to remember to breathe. My face grew redder and suddenly I collapsed with laughter as I spotted a line of Pilates books along the window sill with cover photographs showing how the V position should be done.

I can't even get my shoulder blades off the mat and look more like a plate with lip edges than a V-shape. I wonder if I will ever get anywhere near 90-degrees, especially with only two more weeks to go.

"You'll be two inches taller than when you arrived!" said Keka, stretching out my legs at the end.

Now that sounds nice... but it would cause a whole host of new problems at the dress fitting!