You may have noticed over the years that gyms come and go or change name and management; and if you do go to a gym it’s usually not long before your favourite instructors move on.  Contrary to this trend, Susan Cockburn of Complementary Fitness has been teaching various types of fitness classes in the same place for 20 years, offering her blend of fitness Pilates for the last 8 years, even some of the original students still attend!  Susan says “I love welcoming and working out with new people to my classes as well as regulars”.

Last week I was lucky enough to join in on Susan’s Fitness Pilates class held every Thursday night at the Dreghorn Loan Church Hall in Colinton.  As it was my first class Susan gave me some great tips and advice, which I’d like to share as they are relevant to anyone wanting to start a fitness class:

  • Fill out lifestyle and health forms before class and arrive early to discuss.  This gives Susan time to offer personal tips for any modifications you might need to do.
  • Bring a towel, water bottle, yoga mat and other supports as needed (an additional small mat is great for extra comfort under the knees)


  • Work to your own level, follow the modifications, do as many reps as you can – rest and start again – or do every other (slower pace).
  • The Class is not a competition, don’t worry about others just enjoy your own journey, no matter what level you are starting at.  If you keep at it you will get better, stronger and fitter.

Introductions over, I was ready to begin!  We started with a superb active warm-up – it wasn’t long before I was sweating. There were many variations of lunges and squats, perfectly choreographed to music; progressively increasing effort and intensity was achieved through introducing the arms and/or modification to leg positions.  I was too engrossed to take pics during my 7pm class but did manage to grab a shot of the 8pm class starting their warm-up…


I’ve only done Pilates on my own using DVDs, which only include floor work, but the ‘fitness’ element Susan brought in included some cardio and strength with lots of lunges and squats – making it a great all round class.  The Pilates part of the class really kicked in with the focused breathing and the core work which is often missing in some workouts and so important to overall well being as the core supports the back – especially good if you do a lot of sitting or have poor posture. Also key to Pilates were the small movements synchronised with the breath with lots of reps which really targeted specific muscles.

It’s possible for anyone to join or drop-in to these classes so every week there will be a mix of regulars and several new students. Susan seamlessly accommodated this mix by offering modifications to allow the exercises to be adapted to suit all abilities and by encouraging anyone who was reaching their limit to take a break or to do the repetitions at a slower pace; while still offering a challenge for the more experienced.  There was also lots of focus on technique (Shoulders away from ears!  I think that one was for me :D) and breathing to keep us on the right track.

Even with all my other activities which should keep me fit, I could really feel the burn in my glutes and quads and had a wee shake in my arms when holding plank.   Just when I thought I couldn’t do another rep, Susan would shout – 4 more (ok I can manage that!) 4…3…2…1 and rest! Ah, time to sink back into child’s pose with my forehead on the mat – a short break to release the muscles and focus on breathing – sitting up I noticed a big sweaty mark on the mat – guess I was working hard!!!  By the end, my muscles were shaking, I was sweaty and I was SMILING!!  It was tough but with Susan’s encouragement we all got through it together and felt all the better for it.

Overall I really loved the mix of conditioning, strength, core work and flexibility – If you do this class once a week – you will be fit!!  It would also be a great complement to other exercise – running, walking, cycling; to round out your fitness programme and to improve your co-ordination, balance and posture.

Susane also  leads other classes in Dreghorn Loan Church Hall: Wednesdays 9.30am Body Conditioning class and Fridays 9.30am Fitness Yoga Stretch.  She also teaches another Fitness Pilates class at 7.30pm in Craiglockhart Parish Church Hall on Tuesday nights.  These classes are for all levels too.  You can keep up to date with all Susan’s classes by checking out the Complementary Fitness website and signing up for her weekly newsletters.

The Venue: Colinton Parish Church Hall, Dreghorn Loan.

I just wanted to say a little bit about the venue. Looking at the board in the entry, I noticed there are lots of classes on throughout the week.   It’s great to have a space near your home or work for fitness and social activities so please check out your local church halls, community centres  and leisure centres (such as Craiglockhart Parish Church Hall, Craiglockhart Drive North;  North Merchiston Club and Edinburgh Leisure).  Not only do you save time and money on a commute but you’ll get to meet your neighbours!!!

susans dreghorn classes

Susan’s classes at Dreghorn Loan


Selection of Fitness Classes also on offer

2 thoughts on “GETTING FIT WITH COMPLEMENTARY FITNESS – Functional Active Fitness Pilates

  1. I have been going to Susan’s classes for many years but she always introduces new exercises or variation of old one to keep the classes fresh.

    My daughter broke her back in a car accident and doctors said her full recovery was greatly due to the core strength she had and guess what she loves Susan’s classes too.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. Fitness is a lifelong committment and with great teachers like Susan it makes it easier to keep a routine without getting bored. Well done to you and your daughter for sticking with it and seeing the benefits.

Leave a Comment