Burning Down the House
As the driving force behind Equilibrium Pilates Studio, Annabelle Rosemurgy strikes a balance between fitness, work and life.
By Brenda Rees 01/01/2011
Stepping into Annabelle Rosemurgy’s Equilibrium Pilates Studio on Glendale’s busy Brand Boulevard, I knew my rear was going to be in big trouble. This was not your everyday Pilates studio. Instead of the usual Pilates apparatus you would typically find –– barrels, towers, Cadillacs –– this spacious room was filled with ProFormers, a souped-up version of the classical reformer that hit the exercise scene about two years ago; only a handful of studios in the Los Angeles area possess one. Pilates SPX classes (a combination of Pilates and weight training with a cardio chaser) are on tap daily at this one-year-old fitness studio.
Bright and cheery but with a determined I-am-going-to-make-you-sweat-through-your-Lycra look on her face, Rosemurgy welcomed us students to this advanced class of Systeme Dynamique –– a full-throttle, butt-kicking, fast-paced series of ProFormer exercises. I wondered just how effective these bad boys are, and how much my glutes and abs would ache the next day?
Luckily, Rosemurgy gave me a ProFormer near one of her trainers so I could mimic the correct moves (sort of). Once the throbbing music was cranked, we were off, sweating and straining. Rosemurgy shouted out encouragement, carefully corrected our positions and glanced at a stopwatch to count down between exercises. Bless her athletic soul, she showed no mercy. And by the time the 55-minute class was over, we were exhausted but exhilarated. Indeed, we were in post-exercise Nirvana, having made our peace with the fact that all that grunting, struggling and flexing made us feel really, really good.
That fitness high is what keeps Rosemurgy, 31, going here at her Glendale studio and forging ahead with her new Miracle Mile location slated to open this month. An athlete in her youth in Northern California –– she was a gymnast who demonstrated horse vaulting at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta –– Rosemurgy views physical exercise as a holistic endeavor that must be stimulating and fun to be effective. And her students agree. “She’s awesome, and when I’m here taking her class, I feel like I’m going to a personal trainer –– except this is so much more affordable,” says Glendale student Lacey Martin, 28, who has attended for six months.
Rosemurgy offers two basic ProFormer group classes –– the beginner SPX Extreme and the Systeme Dynamique –– along with individual lessons. The ProFormer builds on the stretch and strength training of the typical Pilates reformer but adds levels of variable resistance. “You work on the ProFormer with slow controlled positions that maximize moves and lengthen muscles,” says Rosemurgy. “It’s the next step in Pilates, because we incorporate weight training, which means a powerful workout with every move you make.”
In addition to the ProFormers, she’s bringing in MegaFormers, the next generation version, with a larger carriage that can accommodate Rosemurgy’s bigger clients. “I train pro athletes and some of them are just huge human beings who couldn’t fit in a regular reformer,” she says. “The MegaFormer offers better range of motion for all moves. It’s an all-around fitness machine.”
Rosemurgy is also incorporating RealRyder spinning bikes; these high-tech roadsters mimic the real deal, offering steering and leaning that help approximate the feel of an actual road.
Before opening Equilibrium (eqglendale.com), Rosemurgy taught ProFormer classes at another local studio. She decided to open her own so she could work in a space that reflects her character and personality –– straightforward and inspiring. “I wanted to create a place to work out where I would want to work out; someplace that would challenge me but that would also be safe and effective,” she says. “I have a pet peeve about gyms because they can be distracting. You’re right next to each other working out so you can feel someone else’s sweat on you. Nope, not for me. I wanted a place with space.”
Not surprisingly, fitness has been a lifelong pursuit for Rosemurgy. As a kid growing up in Somona, she fell in love with horses even though her family lived nowhere near a farm, ranch or stable; she recalls begging her parents for riding lessons for years, until they relented when she was in fourth grade. Her instructor suggested she try out for the riding school’s horse vaulting team (vaulting involves performing gymnastic and dance positions atop a moving horse). She did, and when she turned 10, she started competing on a national level.
It wasn’t just Rosemurgy who loved the ring and spotlight of vaulting –– her younger sister, Lea, took to the sport as well. Even now, Annabelle loves showing photos from her “glory days” and shakes her head at her crazy colorful spandex show outfits. “Do you know who my biggest competitor was?
My sister, Lea! Let me tell you how ruthless we were to each other if one of us won and the other took second place –– which happened a lot. We sometimes didn’t talk to each other for weeks,” she says with a laugh. “Now she’s my best friend.”
A high point in Rosemurgy’s vaulting career was joining a team of seasoned vaulters who demonstrated the sport at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. At the time, the status of horse vaulting was in question; it was being considered as an official Olympic sport, a position it never attained.
Afterward, Rosemurgy continued to train and compete with peers at local horse shows and other outdoor events. She still loves horses (she seriously considered going to veterinary school) and her early memories of training, rehearsing, winning and losing helped lead her to a life dedicated to fitness and competition.
“I still am competitive, but today my biggest challenger is myself,” she says. “What I learned from my days training I still keep with me today and teach to my students. There are three key things to be successful: focus, dedication and a desire to make it happen. I like seeing other people succeed and those victories just thrill me. They make me want to strive for the next level.”