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HIT Pilates

Healthy HIT Pilates, ‘Hits’ The Mediterranean Coast

By: Sam Mednick

Editor’s Note: This Is Part One of a Two Part Interview. Part Two Will be Published Next Week

Australian native, Shay O’malley has brought a unique and revolutionary workout to Barcelona. The forty-one year old Physiotherapist, Pilates instructor, Acupuncturist (and a host of other qualifications) has now become Spain’s first and only certified Healthy HIT Pilates Trainer. We had the privilege of sitting down one-on-one with the Aussie to get her take on this innovative new exercise program and its incredible benefits.

Quick HIT Explanation: Healthy HIT Pilates was created by Glenn Withers, a Physiotherapist and one of the co-founders of the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI). This new workout regime is a combination of High Intensity Training (HIT) and traditional mat work Pilates movements. The class is approximately 45 minutes in length with 20 minutes of high intensity workout, which is a mix of 30-second cardiovascular bursts and a 30-second Pilates recovery moves.


Q: Why did you decide to get involved with and become a Healthy HIT Pilates Instructor?

A: I started doing some research about the benefits of it and I found a few exercise programs online, which I started doing myself. I ended up tearing a hamstring in the process. The problem was the way the workout was composed; for example you’d have to run for two minutes without a lot of rest periods. So I did more research and realized that this could be done more safely. I had done my original Core Pilates training at the Australian and Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute in London and by coincidence this was the first time they offered a course in HIT Pilates. I flew to London to become certified, as I trusted their model. This is a very evidence based exercise regime as it’s founded on actual scientific research.

HIT Pilates interests me because in general, Pilates alone doesn’t address your cardiovascular system. It’s fantastic for your core stability muscles and general strength, but not your cardiovascular system. This is another way of addressing that other side of fitness that Pilates doesn’t touch on and it’s also done in a short period of time. It’s 20 minutes of intense exercise that still combines the Pilates principles but allows you to get a lot more out of it than say a slow 60-minute run. And most importantly it’s all done in a safe way.

Q: What would you say is the defining difference between HIT Pilates and other types of workouts? For example what is the difference between this and Boot camp?

A: From a physiotherapist’s stand point I’ve seen quite a few people come to see me who have been injured from doing Boot Camp. Boot Camp is quite intense and there’s not a lot of rest period in between. If you’re training for a good level of general fitness, Healthy HIT Pilates is really good for you. I’d say the biggest advantage over something like Boot Camp is safety, but still getting the benefits to your cardiovascular system. Sometimes you don’t need to go too intense and so hardcore. What are you trying to achieve? The core of the Healthy HIT Pilates is that 20-minute period and that, twice a week, is enough to make significant benefits to your cardiovascular system. HIT Pilates is great because it’s done in a short period of time and all the movements are done safely, IF performed correctly with the proper form and function.

Q: Wouldn’t all the movements in Boot Camp be safe as well, if performed correctly?

A: It depends on the duration because a lot of the time it’s safer to do one or two minutes of activity, than several. An element of fatigue comes into play and you lose your form and your function and that’s when you have a higher risk of injury. That’s why the 30-second spurts of the high intensity in HIT Pilates is so great. It’s not too long and not too short and it’s followed by the 30-seconds of recovery, which is your Pilates. It’s much easier to keep your form in that 30-second period than if you were to do it for longer.

Q: How is the 30-second recovery period beneficial?

A: There is a lot of research being done now about the benefits of the down time in workouts and they’re discovering just how good the results are. In HIT Pilates, you’re getting a little bit of recovery to your heart rate. You’re developing a lot of toxins and lactic acid during the workout and this is what makes us hurt the next day. If you don’t get the efficient removal of it, you get high levels of acidity in the blood, which can often result in a lot of pain and can even be dangerous. Sometimes people exercise so intensely that they start vomiting and that’s when your acid levels get really high. So the 30-second recovery period helps to get rid of all the toxins and get your blood pH back to a certain level before you do the next bout safely.

Q: What are your thoughts about recovery time between workouts in general?

A: There are so many theories and it depends on what you’re training for. If you’re an elite level athlete your training will be very different from myself. I believe in rest periods. I think if you’re looking at working out anywhere between 3-4 times a week that’s significant and will give you a really nice level of fitness. Having said that sometimes doing a little 15-minute routine every day to stretch the body and using some of your core muscles is good. But do to an hour-long regime every single day, I don’t think that gives your body enough time to recover. Rest is so important because our bodies rebuild themselves again.

Q: HIT Pilates is designed to get you ‘cardiovascular fit’ and lose weight. Are those the two primary benefits of doing this type of exercise? Are there others?

A: That’s true and there are several other areas we’re also addressing such as your strength, power, endurance and core stability, which is very different from your core strength.

Q: What is the difference between Core Stability and Core Strength?

A: There are two types of muscles in the body. Your core stability muscles are the deeper muscles, the small ones, which have great endurance. They are the ones that hold us up and can work 24 hours a day. Then you’ve got your larger muscles your biceps and quadriceps and these are designed to move joints. These muscles have good core strength but poor endurance. In Healthy HIT Pilates, you’re working on your core strength, core stability and cardiovascular exercise. You’re addressing pretty much all aspects of fitness.

Q: More aspects than any other type of fitness regime?

A: I think it’s very unique actually. In Boot Camp for example you’re doing a lot of core strength and maybe endurance. I worked at the Australian Institute of Sport and we’d see it all the time that a lot of our athletes had good strength but not good stability, which would make them more prone to injury. You have to sometimes build somebody from the inside out and that’s the stability. Those muscles are your deep muscles, the core muscles and then the others build out and you’ve got your core strength like your rectus abdominis, which is quite superficial and designed to flex the trunk. This is core strength it’s not core stability.

Q: What are the tangible benefits of HIT Pilates? If you had to name three changes people should expect to see what would they be?

A: For one, increased muscle tone. Then it depends on diet but you should notice a difference in your cardiovascular fitness. It might be easier to walk up the steps to your apartment, or you’ll notice it when you’re biking. You should experience a general feeling of improved endurance and more stamina. Thirdly, you’ll notice general strength – strength of your leg and arm muscles.

Q: Why do you say that 20 minutes of high intensity exercise is better for your cardiovascular system than 60 minutes of slow running?


A: Because you’re getting your heart rate up to a much higher level into your cardio. When doing this exercise you can get your heart rate up to about 120-130 and that’s into the fat burning zone. You can then take your heart rate up over 150 and once you go over 150-160 you start getting a really big increase in your growth hormone and your lactic acid levels. These are all things that help to push your endurance onto another level.


Q: You’ve said that it boosts your growth hormone (keeping us young) by 450 percent. How does that translate into actual terms for the regular person? Will I wake up looking younger?


A: You’re not going to grow I’m afraid and I don’t know if you’ll wake up looking younger but our growth hormone is what makes us young and helps to keep our skin nice and flexible; the elasticity, the collegian the cell renewal etc… It’s really important and tends to die off after the age of 30 where you’ll see a very sudden decrease. That’s why most of us get our wrinkles after thirty. So HIT Pilates is good in this sense because you’re exercising at that very high intensity and as human beings that’s what we were designed to do. If you go way back to when we were hunters and gatherers, we’d be running a lot trying to hunt down a herd. We’d do short bursts and stop and shorts bursts and stop, rather than just run all day. If you think of children what to they do? They don’t go for 60-minute runs they spurt and that’s a way of waking up our metabolism. It’s unfortunate, but unless you’re playing a form of sport that requires you to stop and run and stop and run, we’re not doing it in our general lives enough and that’s why many of us have problems with our metabolisms. It starts to drop so this is a really good way to kick start it and say ‘yeah ok we’re getting our metabolism going.’


Q: Another advantage to HIT Pilates is that it keeps the heart rate going for the next 24 hours. Why is this beneficial for someone?


A: Exercising at a higher level of intensity with your heart rate over 150/160, kick-starts your metabolism. When you’re exercising at that particular intensity your cells have to renew and so you’re really seeing lots of metabolic changes. After the class, because we’ve worked so hard, our bodies are trying to get rid of all the lactic acid to change the acidity levels in the blood stream and that’s why it has to stay high. It stays high for another 24 hours after class. Your heart rate stays high, your metabolism stays high and we’re burning that extra fat because we’re in that fat burning zone.


Stay Tuned for Part Two…


Shay O’Malley has been working as a Physiotherapist for almost 20 years. She’s also completed postgraduate training in Acupuncture and Pilates and currently works out of Studio Australia, in Barcelona. The next Healthy Hit Pilates, six-week program will take place in Parc de La Ciutadella at the end of May. To register for the class contact Shay directly as spots are limited –


Sam Mednick is a professional Life Coach specializing in time management and motivational coaching as well as lifestyle design, healthy living and transitional coaching. She has studied with Coach U, a university based in Europe and the United States. A Toronto native with a background in journalism, Sam has worked and lived all over the world including Fiji, Argentina, Ireland, Africa, Lebanon, the Philippines, Panama and Spain. Her international experience helps bring an open minded and fresh perspective when working with her clients.


Before embarking on her coaching career, Sam worked in Ghana as a foreign correspondent for a Canadian NGO (Journalists for Human Rights), as well, she was the Executive Radio Producer for an internationally syndicated lifestyle show based out of New York City. See Sam’s coaching philosophies at

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