Saturday 22 November 2014

Why pilates has been a real boon for our Mr D'Arcy

The Leinster rugby ace and his wife Aoife Cogan have opened a Reformer Pilates studio a loft-style oasis of calm that will park all your troubles

Irish international rugby player Gordon D'arcy at Form School, the pilates studio he owns with his wife Aoife Cogan. Photo: El Keegan
7 December 2013; Brian O'Driscoll, right, and Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster, following their victory. Heineken Cup 2013/14, Pool 1, Round 3, Northampton Saints v Leinster. Franklins Gardens, Northampton, England. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Gordon D'Arcy of Leinster gets a kiss from Aoife Cogan as he celebrates his sides victory during the Heineken Cup Final between Leinster and Ulster at Twickenham Stadium on May 19, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Gordon D'Arcy is helped from the field by team doctor Professor John Ryan, left, and team Masseur Mike Thompson. Celtic League Play-off, Leinster v Glasgow Warriors, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin on May 11, 2013. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE...ABC
Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster, is tackled by Glenn Dickson of Northampton Saints. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

It takes a rather brave man to go into business with his new wife, not least in this harsh economic climate. But after a 15-year international rugby career that's seen its fair share of slings and arrows, Gordon D'Arcy is better braced than most for the choppy waters of owning his own business.

D'Arcy and his model wife Aoife have recently made public the passion project that has taken up most of their past year. Form School on Dublin's Grattan Street is the couple's Reformer Pilates studio, where the public can access Pilates, yoga and ballet barre classes.

"The first thing (about opening a business) is that you have to be passionate about what you're getting involved in," says Gordon.

"If you're interested, you'll want to succeed with it. Aoife has done Pilates for a number of years, even though she would be a person that wouldn't enjoy the gym. It was healthy, it offered toning and so it ticked all the right boxes for her."

Midway through his 16-year career, Gordon suffered an injury-plagued season in 2004-5. Yet he attributes Pilates with his hip and back injury recovery, enabling him to make the Lions squad for their 2005 tour to New Zealand.

"I was able to keep playing, and (Pilates) was so important for injury prevention and injury maintenance," he explains. "When I don't do it, my back will tighten up somewhere down the line."

Gordon and Aoife are clearly aware that their profile as a celebrity couple will get curious types through the door of Form School ... but they're confident that the service they're offering will ultimately speak for itself.

"My wife is in the exact same headspace (as me) on this," says Gordon. "We can promote it a little more than most people starting out in business, but that only takes you so far. You get people through the door, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. We won't be giving the classes, but we've hired the best teachers, and I'm blown away by what we're offering."

Certainly, no detail has been spared as the couple sought to create an oasis of calm in Dublin's city centre. Wanting to offer something different to other fitness studios, Aoife and Gordon designed a loft-style studio with plenty of hipster flourishes.

The studio décor - largely overseen by Aoife, and thanks to Kilkenny design duo Gild & Cage - features subway tiles, bison heads, reclaimed church paraphernalia and antique cinema seats. A first for a Dublin fitness studio, surely ... yet escapism and aspiration are clearly part of the package.

"We wanted to offer something different in the marketplace, and the whole thing about Pilates is that it's a mind and body workout," explains Gordon.

"It's a place to switch off your mind, park everything in your life for a good half-hour or hour and focus on the workout."

Pilates has doubtless been popular in Dublin in recent years, but in the hierarchy of workouts, Pilates and yoga can sometimes fall quite far down the totem pole. Given that they are workouts based on strength, control and stretching as opposed to kinetic, dynamic exertion, plenty of people simply dismiss them as a less 'serious' and effective workout than others; something that Gordon is happy to dismiss out of hand.

"People who make sweeping statements like that often haven't done the exercise before," he smiles. "It's a very male thing to think, 'I'll go in there and blow it out the door'. The first few times I did it I certainly went too hard, not realising that you need to build up your endurance.

"I probably would have thought that the ballet classes might have been easy," he says.

"I did look in on a class, and the faces of the people coming out were priceless. Like, 'woah, that's gonna hurt tomorrow'."

For the uninitiated, Reformer Pilates is the practice of 500 controlled exercises using a reformer machine, which is like a bed frame with a foot bar and arm/foot straps. Though it may look a bit like a medieval torture device, the idea is to improve posture, build flexibility and core strength and promote long, lean muscles. As it happens, there are two reformer beds at Leinster Rugby Club's training ground ... and according to Gordon, they always have a queue in front of them.

Irish Independent

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