Violinist whose career was ended by celebrity fitness trainer's Pilates machine wins right to compensation

An acclaimed violinist whose career was wrecked by injuries she suffered at a celebrity fitness trainer’s studio has won the right to compensation, and issued a warning to gym users of the hidden dangers of Pilates machines.

Maya Meron, 44, was hospitalised with a fractured left elbow and serious abdominal injuries after an exercise machine at the Heartcore studio in Hampstead collapsed while she was using it.

The award-winning musician, a Royal Academy of Music graduate who has toured the world and performed for the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle, recalls the “absolute horror” of being injured and realising her musical career was over.

Instead of sympathy and support from the gym, Ms Meron said Heartcore denied the accident had happened as she described, forcing her to launch a four-year investigation to gather evidence to back-up her safety fears.

She sued Heartcore Fitness Limited, the premium fitness brand founded by Jess Schuring which has London studios in Fulham, Kensington, St John’s Wood, Chelsea, Notting Hill, and Bayswater.

Ms Schuring, also known as Jessie Blum, counts Victoria Beckham, Elle McPherson and Robbie Williams among her celebrity clients.

Ms Meron’s elbow after an operation (Supplied)
Ms Meron’s elbow after an operation (Supplied)

Ms Meron went undercover at Heartcore gyms, and sent a private investigator in to collect evidence on the way the Pilates machines are operated.

She also enlisted the support of Sebastien Lagree, a fitness guru whose followers include the Duchess of Sussex, Jennifer Aniston, and Kim Kardashian.

Heartcore has now been ordered to pay 85 per cent of Ms Meron’s compensation claim, with a £250,000 upfront payment and the final bill due to be settled by a High Court judge.

“I have spent four and a half years of my life trying to prove this accident even happened”, she told The Standard, speaking from a rehabilitation hospital after undergoing her latest bout of abdominal surgery.

Maya Meron was injured by an exercise machine at the Heartcore studio (Supplied)
Maya Meron was injured by an exercise machine at the Heartcore studio (Supplied)

“They denied the accident ever happened, saying it’s impossible.”

She signed up to Pilates to regain fitness after the birth of her twins, and was in the “downward facing dog” position on Heartcore’s Coreformer machine when the locking bar collapsed under the pressure, on March 11, 2019.

“I felt a crashing shudder to my whole body”, Ms Meron set out in witness statements at Central London county court. “I felt that I had been violently punched with an enormous blow to my stomach region.”

She said she felt “trauma and shock through my entire body” as well as serious pain in both arms, and “realise with absolute horror at that moment that my career playing my instrument was probably over”.

Ms Meron said she was taken out of the class “as though nothing untoward had happened”, and says she was denied the chance to speak to the class instructor or collect proper evidence including details of the machine she had been using.

Personal trainer Jess Schuring (Matt Writtle)
Personal trainer Jess Schuring (Matt Writtle)

Undeterred, she signed up again to Heartcore classes to investigate the foot pedal mechanism on the Coreformer machine which is used to change the locking bar position.

Posing as an “inept beginner”, she recorded the way instructors tell gymgoers how to use the machines.

Her private investigator also collected evidence to show it is “possible for entire series of exercises to be performed on unlocked bars at Heartcore”, when the person doing the exercise may wrongly believe the bar is safely secured.

Mr Lagree, the California-based founder of Lagree Fitness, provided a witness statement in the claim, and has now spoken out about the lack of safety regulation over Pilates machines.

He says Heartcore gyms had a “copycat” version of his own Proformer machine, but with a modified design which he claims is unsafe, as the security of the locking bar cannot be easily checked before a workout begins.

“This is a huge problem in the Pilates industry, of lots of people hurting themselves”, he said.

“When I design my machines, I always ask ‘is it safe? Is it effective?’ Copycats don’t think about ‘what is the intention of this design’.”

Ms Meron added: “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry with nobody actually paying attention to the design of the machines. It’s not regulated at all.”

Mr Lagree also called for more people who have suffered gym injuries to speak out like Ms Meron, to reveal the true scale of the problem.

“More people should come forward if the get injured at the studio”, he said. “We have to get the studios to act on it, and if they don’t (come forward) the studios are going to continue doing it.”

Heartcore has been contacted for comment.

At Central London County Court in December last year, a judge ruled after mediation between the parties that Heartcore should pay 85 per cent of Ms Meron’s damages, as well as some of her legal costs.

An initial payment of £250,000 in “interim damages” had to be made by December 1.