Trainers background: Equestrian, surfer, runner, Maddy has been doing Pilates for nearly 15 years and teaches Mat & Reformer Pilates from beginner to advanced level
Type of workout: 60-minutes pilates sessions
Target area: Pilates is a full-body exercise system that focuses on addressing postural weaknesses and strengthening the core from the inside out
Who’s the workout for: All bodies – young, old, ultra-fit or anyone completely new to exercise
What equipment do you need: A mat and other props like a Magic Circle, a ball, a foam roller or bands
Few names of clients: Models & CEOs
Hardcore level: Depends on what clients ask for but Maddy’s known for being hardcore
Two years ago, during a consultation with an oral surgeon about a possible gingival graft, he concluded the appointment by saying: “Vous brosser les dents comme vous vivez votre vie – trop vite.”
At first I thought it was a nifty mantra – “Brush your teeth like you live your life” – but then it dawned on me: a dentist made this personal assessment in a first and brief meeting.
From a professional point of view, he had the tools and the eye to determine that I had damaged a small section of my gums, but how could he tell that I’m always on the go?
My husband can tell. At my slowest, I’m always hustling five paces in front of him, or sighing at our front door waiting for him to get a move on. He blends into the laidback Mediterranean lifestyle; my lack of patience grates against it.
Perhaps this is the reason that the practice of yoga and Pilates has always escaped me. I can’t sit still for too long – my thought process at the best of times is in permanent overdrive – so when I’m on the floor concentrating on my breathing or holding one pose for too long that’s supposed to help lengthen my spine, my impatience flares and reduces my spine to tears.
After five minutes, and glancing back and forth from the ceiling to my watch 75 times, I’m done. Which is odd, because I can swimrun for seven hours during a Sunday training session and the time flies by.
In my mind, yoga and Pilates were part of some new age “non-exercise” bandwagon that female celebs jumped on to cover-up the fact that their toned bodies were actually a result of “I don’t do that eating thing” (actual quote by an A-List actress at Monte Carlo Bay).
After meeting Pilates teacher Maddy Karlsson, who was born in Sweden to a Czech mom and Swedish dad but moved to Belgium at the age of three, I can admit when I’m wrong.
Maddy gives me an intro Pilates session at Plage Larvotto. Before getting down to the nitty gritty, she explained that Pilates is the thinking person’s exercise system – “a maintenance for your body like a tune-up is for a car” – with movements and stretches to make the body stronger, longer and more flexible.
“Joseph Pilates called his method ‘contrology’,” she said, “and he believed the powerhouse – the core – was instrumental in maintaining our spines and in gaining better control in our movements. His exercises address all the muscles of the body, including the ones you didn’t know you had.”
While the popularity of reformer machines and portable apparatus surging over the past decade, people often assume that Pilates is “more efficient” with equipment but according to Maddy, who conducts the majority of her sessions in clients’ homes, “I would say the contrary is more accurate. The mat is more functional and provides no support.”
Maddy unrolls her mat on the pier with a flick of the wrist, and has me stand legs hip-width apart facing her as she begins Pilates 101: the Standing Roll Down. I quickly see has a knack for explaining, which not every teacher does. Next thing I know, I’m in a Downward Dog position, with Maddy’s strong hands on my shoulders to maximise the stretch. If I were a cat, I would have purred.
With a degree in Business, Maddy worked for a Member of the Shadow Cabinet in the British Parliament but left London in 2009. “When I first moved to Monaco I was only teaching Pilates as a hobby but over the years the demand increased and I made it my main occupation, along with health and wellness coaching.”
It’s clear why anyone interested in toning up wants to work with Maddy. Her encouraging nature is sincere, but it’s her one-on-one attention that stands out, ensuring that the single leg stretch, double leg stretch, single straight leg stretches, double leg stretch and crisscross, flat ab roll ups – you name it – are executed correctly. After years of doing the plank the wrong way, I have finally been set straight.
Even though we did a beginner session, using both the Magic Circle and a ball (there’s nowhere for your love handles to hide in Pilates), I was taken aback by how fast the hour passed and how strong my body felt the following day.
Which is part of the reason she latched onto Pilates in the first place. An athletic child, Maddy dreamt of becoming a professional jockey. At 19, she met a professional athlete and moved with him to Australia where she began intense training as a runner. A firm believer in the “no pain, no gain” approach at the time, Maddy focused on burning calories at any cost.
Knee and joint problems kicked in and her doctor advised she take up Pilates or yoga, and swimming instead. “I tried yoga but I wasn’t open to the spiritual element but I immediately started feeling the benefits of Pilates in my body and mind. Suddenly I was walking taller and feeling looser but also much stronger than before. My posture and balance improved dramatically and I finally gained the long lean muscles I had worked so hard for before – to no success!”
Another advantage with Pilates, if you have a broken bone, you can work your way through it, unlike running. “Last year I broke my ankle and Pilates allowed me to keep moving and stay super fit despite not being able to put my foot on the ground for several weeks at a time.”
Maddy said that with Pilates, her body responded much better to being a little kinder on it. Forget my teeth brushing mantra, my new easygoing words to live by are: “Treat your body as you want life to treat you”.
Maybe that way I’ll end up with a body like Maddy Karlsson.
A one-hour Pilates session with Maddy Karlsson is €90, or €800 for 10. For more see mkpilates.mc
Article first published May 13, 2017.