One Client’s Brutally Real and Sometimes Funny Experience

I’ve known and worked with Andree Khalaf for several years now.  It’s a rare person who I meet who is so passionate about helping others be their best selves. Andree is a champion for healthy choices and healthy living and it shows in everything she does.

So when Andree told me that her son, Jonathan Warren, was partnering up with her to open the only ARX studio in the Gulf South area, I knew it would be something I had to try.  I don’t even remember exactly what she said but I do remember things like “each exercise is about 2 minutes,” “zero impact,” and “no risk of injury” jumping out at me.

I know we don’t know each other at all so let me tell you that when it comes to weight loss and fitness, I’m like almost everyone else in this country:  give me the magic pill, give me the overnight results, and if I can wake up in the morning and be a size 6, I AM IN!

During the summer of 2016, I went in for my first workout. I’m not a person of petite stature. I’m 5’9” and though I will tell you a few personal things in this article, I’m not telling you my weight. My mother doesn’t even know that. 2016 was a tough year for me (no, you don’t need to know why) and I’d recently dropped about 40 pounds. Suffice it for me to say, I’ve got quite a bit left to lose. I share this because I consider myself a physically strong person and my first thought was, “Surely, I can beat these machines.”

After my first session:

Machines 1

Melissa 0

It is true that the total workout is less than 15 minutes.  However, you can expect that there will be a few minutes of instruction and chit chat so do allow for that. Jonathan is extremely well-versed in all that the machines can do and he’s great at pushing you a little further than you had planned to go.  He’s very encouraging. He does tend to crack a joke at the wrong time when you get to know him but to me, that is a forgivable offense.

After that first session, I hobbled down the stairs and walked to my car. I used the speaker phone a lot that day as it was a challenge to hold the phone up to my ear.  For me, I loved that I did what seemed like hours of work in only a few minutes and I was very curious to see how this was going to play out.

I started going twice a week and I started seeing results and not always the typical results.  Very quickly, I lost an inch off of each thigh, I definitely felt stronger, my numbers on the machines were improving (take that machines!), and I noticed some definition in my arms. I’ll tell you what else I noticed. I noticed that when I sat down, my thighs no longer spread out to twice their size. There was a lot less thigh to spread around because all the muscles were tighter.  At this point, I was only a couple of months in.

Now, remember when I said 2016 was a rough year?  I meant ALL of 2016.  What happened during that time isn’t relevant to this story but it is relevant for these reasons:  I didn’t always have the best diet and I didn’t gain a pound and I got through the holidays without gaining a pound.  I didn’t lose as much as I would have liked but I didn’t gain and to me, that was really important.

Additionally, those machines really helped me get my frustrations out in a safe way.  It is amazing how much you can kill the leg press when you’re super ticked off.  What I also loved was that in a time when everything else was falling apart, I literally saw myself getting stronger because those machines record everything.  In many ways, ARX really kept me sane.

“But Melissa, that sounds good but I was hoping for some dramatic results!”

But wait, there’s more.  And here’s where we will really bond. I wouldn’t share this with everyone but I’ll share it with you.  I’ve had to downsize my bra three times since starting ARX.  I know I just lost half of you but hear me out. There was a time in my life that I considered a breast reduction so down three sizes is big but I can afford it.  Five inches in total are gone from my back and chest.  NO MORE BACK FAT!  I’ve never been able to do anything to get rid of the dreaded back fat until now.  Not only am I down three sizes but the girls are lifted.  Praise the Lord!  Now let me ask you?  Would you rather go under the knife OR complete a few dozen 15-20 minutes workouts? 

I can now wear something sleeveless and wave to someone in front of me without being fearful that my flabby tricep would hit the person behind me.  And if that sleeveless shirt is a bit snug, there’s no back fat!

Jonathan is a truly dedicated trainer. He will push you out of your comfort zone and always commend your efforts, even on a day when you don’t see any green. (When you improve, the numbers on the screen that track your progress turn to green. I love my green!) If you are a person who prefers a female trainer, Brittany is available to help.  In general, The Pilates and Yoga Loft where the ARX studio is located is a place of positivity and support.  I always feel good when I walk in and I always feel good when I walk out; walking in because people are genuinely glad to see me and walking out because I know I’ve worked hard.

Is it always easy? Hell no! However, the positive changes I’ve seen are worth every bit of effort. So?  What are you waiting for?  Don’t let the back fat win!  Schedule your free demonstration.  Go on…you know you want to.

- Melissa Mitchel Willis 

18 months after two surgeries for lower spinal stenosis and several other visits to the operating room I lived with continuing low levels of pain. The pain was attributed to muscles getting used to new situations and I determined to work through. It was obvious that my former physical self had greatly diminished. That was frustrating. Pilates was not yet on the horizon and PT was a thing of the past.

Chiropractic care has long been part of my regime and acupuncture was added. The chiropractor suggested Pilates but it was still not yet time.

Enter my daughter in-law who said she had seen a great Pilates studio on Metairie road, near home, and I should check it out.

Fast forward two years and my posture is improved along with stamina and balance. All of that is attributable to Ms. Andrée and the Pilates Loft. The welcome was warm, the comprehension of my situation was practically instantaneous and the empathy was incredibly helpful. Exercises or moves that were too difficult were skipped till another time, moves were adjusted to suit the day's challenges and a lot of progress was made.

One more event is part of the story. Andrée brought in a trainer for a weekend of workshops and invited me to work with her. The upshot of that encounter was an entire re-adjustment of the approach to working out that is having another good effect and thing are improving. We may never reach perfection; but The Pilates Loft, Andrée Khalaf and her staff have made an enormous difference in the way I am able to live my life.

- Bill

Centered in the heart of Historic Old Metairie on Scenic Metairie Road is The Pilates and Yoga Loft offering a variety of pilates, yoga, reformer and many other great classes. I am in my sixties and have been a loyal patron for over 2 and 1/2 years. This studio is most energizing and welcoming. Its owner, Andree, and both the teachers and clients are friendly and supportive~ creating a family atmosphere for young and old alike. Each of the very professional, well-trained teachers has a special nuance which she brings to her class. This is not one of those studios where you have to be concerned with how you are dressed, how you look, or in what physical shape you may be. This is not about competition with others. You work at your own pace and are in your own zone.

The Pilates and Yoga Loft is set to expand in the coming couple of weeks. There will be a special area just for Yoga! "The Loft" is both affordable and offers various classes 7 days every week. It is easy to view and schedule classes and select a payment option which works best for you on their free, downloadable app.

Come join in the vibrant work-outs and great fun!

- Sally

This “before” picture was taken in May 2010. My weight was creeping up to 140 lbs and I was between a size 6 and 8. At five foot two, this was probably the most unhealthy I have ever been. A year and a half later, I have dropped 25 pounds, weighing in at 115 lbs and wearing a size 0 – 2. Here is my story.

I was an athlete since I was a kid. Gymnastics, dancing, and volleyball took up much of my spare time since age 3. I can attribute my athleticism to my father. Approaching 55, he has been working out every day since – probably forever. An athlete in high school and college, he carried his disciplined routine into his adult life. I don’t think I’ve ever known him to miss a day at the gym. Weight lifting, spinning, and stretching are just a part of his daily routine. He has been a living example of the benefits of nutrition and exercise, even being photographed for an ad for his gym!

I am sure my father had much influence on my athletic past, but one thing I did not inherit from him was my love and passion for music. After my second year of college, I ended my career as a collegiate athlete to pursue my studies in music.

By the end of my college career, I was trying to juggle three jobs, executive board positions in two professional organizations, and an unpaid, full time internship with a 45 minute commute each way. Almost immediately after my internship, I found myself in the overwhelming position of first time home buyer in a city thousands of miles away from my mom, dad, and twin sister. At the end of the year, I was struggling with all sorts of health problems including kidney stones, GI issues, headaches, stiffness, eczema, depression, and significant weight gain. My life was completely out of balance. I felt like I was trying to play a song with all the wrong notes. Since then, I have been on my journey towards perfect harmony.

I made a decision to patiently work towards being happy and healthy. No short cuts, just an overall lifestyle change. My twin sister, a biology major, reminded me that what you consume becomes a part of your cellular makeup, in other words, you are what you eat. Adjusting my diet alone attributed to almost 10 pounds of weight loss, before any sort of exercise regimen. I eliminated any and all carbonated beverages and surprise, surprise I eliminated any and all bloat. I incorporated more fruits and veggies into my diet and started shopping on the “outer edges” of the grocery store (think: produce and fresh items that need to be refrigerated) . Cooking at home helped me monitor portion size and ingredients.

I started getting into an exercise routine in September of 2011. After a month of pilates at the Pilates Loft once or twice a week, I joined a gym and decided to get 5 to 6 days of exercise in a week. Since then, my typical week consists of pilates or barre amped twice a week, yoga once a week, weight lifting 1 – 2 times a week, and on “off days”, I’ll go for long, 2 hour, walks with my toy poodle, Lulu.

I’m finally achieving the balance I’ve been looking for. Exercising and eating right keeps me physically fit, relieves emotional stress, and even adds a social element to my life (going to group classes and local farmers markets!). Gaining physical strength and endurance, and working on mind-body awareness has even helped me in my career as a performer. When my dad comes to visit, we spend quality one on one time at the gym together. The benefits to my lifestyle change are endless, and I hope by sharing my story I can help inspire others to achieve their own sense of harmony.

A big thanks to Andree and all of the staff members at the Pilates Loft for creating such a constructive, positive atmosphere every day. The personal attention and genuine care you give towards your clients is what keeps me coming at 8:30 am every week – even after a late show! I hope this narrative reflects the careful attention and personal touch the Pilates Loft team has shown to me.


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