This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Cassandra, the beautiful empress and goddess of my goddaughters, Savannah and Laylah. She’s a magnificent inspiration and one of the strongest women I know. You can follow her journey through motherhood @cassandraplustwins for tips on how to support new mom’s or if you'd like a cuteness pick me up :)
Those humans who have left a lasting imprint on my Pilates career get mentioned by name, because they’ve earned and deserved that right in my 30 years of life thus far. One being the glorious women this first post is dedicated to; the other is Adam, who’s energy and presence I also blindly walked into almost a year ago, and words fall short to describe how grateful I am he stumbled into my life with the most amazing energy from Long Beach. He provided me with some amazing advice during our first coaching session together right at the beginning of my teaching career, and it's the same advice I channel now as inspiration to answer some of your most common Pilates questions that a quick Google search can help us answer.
I’m paraphrasing here, but this is how I remember the words being told:
“No one else can teach Pilates the way you do; yes, other people can teach Pilates, walk another person through the movement and exercise, tell them what to do on what springs, but no one else can say it the way you do, in the style and manner you choose to say it, teach it, deliver it - all of that is unique to you and how you choose to deliver Pilates. Focus on being you - your most authentic self as you teach your classes - and providing the best experience you possibly can for your bodies. The rest will fall into place from there cause you’ll start attracting the right people into your classes.”
What comes most naturally to me is to tell a story, because I had these same Pilates questions and creating a lecture style blog about these topics like I'm writing a paper for submission sounds boarding. This is your time, and it's valuable - I want it to be entertaining, educational, and only taking up a small bit of your time. With a story, I not only can answer your Pilates questions, but also share a little piece of myself with you in the process. Feel free to stay and get comfy, cause we're starting out with the benefits of Pilates first.
I had no idea what Pilates was when I took my first class. In fact, Pilates found me and I walked blindly right into it’s glitz and glamor as Cassandra & I went to our into class with Club Pilates. That was the first time I heard of Pilates, and that we were formally introduction; however, it wasn’t the first time we met. There is little I’m able to recall of this memory, but most of my workouts were done from the house; going out to a gym wasn’t quite for me cause I created to many excuses: too cold, lost time in the transitions, putting in so much work for 45 min before you had to go home, and if you got a late start: forgetabout it. I would have stayed in bed rather than try to put in all that work.
So I worked out in the space that had both enough room to jump around as lightly as possible and still have enough time or feel like I got the value of a workout in the morning. My brother hated it: cause our bedrooms we’re on the same floor. I would bet he prayed for me to go to a gym and get all my energy out, but I had access to a free gym for the company I worked for, and made 0 effort to go there before work, even with showers available to use. At the time, Cassandra and my brother - Matt - were still dating and she knew his frustrations to my working out.
So here we were, walking to our Pilates class cause it was down the street from us, bonding and talking about little things thus far; I was fighting against my urge to stay home. I have no idea how, but someone purchased the late Mari Winsor’s at home Pilates DVD set; curious as to what it was, took one of the DVDs and what felt like 5 min, I was in a teaser - a very wobbly teaser that mostly likely looked like some kind of attempt to balance a boomerang that could stay up for a second. And that’s where the experience ended. So I had this feeling at the back of my mind, walking with Cassandra, oblivious to Pilates aside from the 1 horrible experience from a home workout DVD, walking to Club Pilates for an into class to do more Pilates…I really knew nothing of Pilates aside from the desire to have humans balance on their butts for some reason all to bond and get to know Cassandra better.
We did manage to make our way to FitRow cause that’s the hub where they chilled in a fitness franchise cluster at Assembly Row - right on time but not early enough for all the paperwork the studio needed for us to fill out. So before I knew what Pilates was, I was brought over to this machine quickly guided as to what each of the different pieces where - then came the quickest Storytime of Pilates I’ve ever heard - but this is what I remember the take home ringing like this: Pilates is your secret ingredient to creating a physique with muscle definition, lean, strong, sculpture-que - like a dancer, which the instructor also admitted to having prior history of being a dancer as it was a dance injury that lead her to discover Pilates.
Awesome, and admirable; this Pilates thing could help to repair or restore your body from injury, allowing her to not only obtain again but heal her body from the dance lifestyle she had, but I also think she was able to develop the dancer’s sculpted physique that was lean yet mesmerizing like the next muse Michalngelo was about to carve in a statue from the years of dancing that also destroyed her body. I do think Pilates helped to main it, but her body already had practice trying to obtain this optimal open-posture I feel comes from dance in Pilates: chest proud like a boxer, neck long, shoulders “relaxed” and fighting for any inch of space you could find just to feel taller.
But physique aside, it was this part of Pilates aiding against injury - regardless if you are recovering from them or trying to prevent them. Didn’t matter what kind of injury or where it was, but it could also help prevent other injuries from happening…..I found this interesting as that’s been one of my physical superpowers. I had experienced pain but the most exciting and entertaining stories are about burning the back of my leg against a moped, or crashing a powered scooter into some hibiscus bushes on a scenic island, but the most that have come from these injuries were superficial. Bruises, cuts or scrapes, but I never broke a bone or part of my body where a cast was needed. Overall, I’m fortunate and lucky enough to say I have a low injury count, although there is still time for more living to occur.
In any case, back to Pilates.
While I was wondering when we were going to use the machine - this reformer - that I was sitting on, the person instructing the class had a few more facts to share about Pilates, causing it to start sounding like some magic, secret sauce that could not only fix what seemed like all physical pains a person may be experiencing, but also aid in preventing against future injuries or bodily aches and pains that may occur in addition to lengthening, strengthening, and working your body in a way that would allow you to feel stronger, capable, more energy and endurance while increasing flexibility and developing a posture that allowed you to feel good and walk out feeling like a supermodel. I was starting to wonder if there was something Pilates couldn’t do or if there was something Piltes couldn’t do or something it was bad for because there was a lot of good being mentioned I was beginning to feel like I was watching an in-person QVC infomercial that I needed to try in order to believe as a healthy dose of skepticism began to develop. Pilates sounded like this thing that was incredible for the body; it could work on anything and everything you could possibly want to help you feel and look good in addition to instilling a fierce confidence of a supermodel. I couldn’t help but thing, Maybe not right now, but one day - I could look like that too; Pilates helps create the physique of a dancer with the confidence of a supermodel slaying the runway, with that fierce energy revealed in their eyes.
Who wouldn’t want to do Pilates after that intro?!?!
Lastly, but most certainly not least - the most important part of the whole intro; Pilates was created and invented by Joseph Pilates. Extra emphasis on that it was created by a man, and men could do Pilates too; however, when I took a look around, there was a man missing from the room. Maybe the instructor wanted to refer to our male family member? But that’s it; no backstory to the man that created the method of Pilates: just that it was invented by a man and that in turn made it acceptable and ok for men to do Pilates, which they can - but I personally don't’ know many men that would want to look like a dancer walking around and they already had that fierce confidence of a supermodel. Could they use more? Sure, but I felt their current levels were enough.
FINALLY - after all the reformer anatomy, talking about the benefits of Pilates and learning a sentence about the man that created it all - we got to moving. Starting with this thing called footwork, then rolling onto some bridges, my abs start to work a bit after that. Then things started to get weird….
Lying down on this contraction, I was then told to grab some straps - ideally the short ones - and put one in each hand to do some arm stuff, then I could feel my abs a bit more after. Then feet in the straps…my head started to blow a little bit cause that’s when I had a pretty big epiphany - a lot of this stuff I had already done in dances - years ago - just on the floor. There was no contraption in the dance studio called a reformer, but the moves I was doing were the same. In fact, I could feel sparks of joy inside me with the sense of familiarity but that’s what made me stay with the fitness modalities I did stick with - they reminded me of dance:movements that flowed for me with ease and allowed me to feel successful even this was the first time my feet were in any kind of straps to begin with.
Then there was this box…it could be long or short depending on how it was chillin on the reformer, and then it felt like the session was over. There was some talk about this thing called a jumpboard, but we didn’t get to use that, but we could try that class out if we wanted something with jumping to get more of a cardio response while still being light on the joints cause all this was performed lying down on this bed with some springs on and this board at the end of the machine that kinda made a Pilates Trampoline. The session was over now, but as I looked around the room, there were more Pilates toys that captured my attention, glistening and gleaming before my eyes, wondering what each of them did. At that moment, I wanted to try all the toys, get to know what each one of them did, and just use them really. I remember feeling very disappointed as we didn’t get to use any of them, but I did take in the layout of the studio. There were 12 of us for that first “intro” class. Each of us had our own machine with a flat board mounted onto the wall with 2 pairs of springs hanging off the wall; each pair was a different color with a punch of different options for the springs to potentially chill with a BOSU, small ball, foam roller, and a small nightstand with a pedal.
Looking back on that day now, it was perfect timing planting me in that studio with my sister-in-law, walking through FitRow because Cassandra had already done some 1:1 sessions with one of the instructors; she had already done some research about Pilates as her doctor told her it could help with her lower back problem - and we were both onboard with this idea of doing a form of exercise that would help me become a supermodel/dancer. By this point I had 15 years of dance under my belt, but I didn’t look like a dance; I had a bit more round and “rolly polly olly” looking physique this. But what had also brought her to tell me about that class was she thought of me: how much I may like Pilates, and attempt a different way for us to bond. The idea still makes me feel so loved that I get emotional from time to time as they were and can feel like a rare occurrence at times. She thought I would like Pilates, and it was something I would have to get out of the house to do, letting my brother get more sleep, allowing us to have an activity we could potentially do together. F***ing. Genius. With that genius idea, I didn’t picture myself spending a lot of time in the Pilates studio; there were other areas also capturing my attention as I started to become quite the gym rat. Counting macros, trying the latest diet fad or craze to see how it was different and what other effects it could have on my body. I counted calories at times to help keep myself “in check” and dabbled in intermittent fasting at that time. The thing that was really calling my name was a HIIT circuit cardio based workout, with heart rate monitors hooked up to the TV screen where you could see if you put in enough work allowing yourself to get into the Orange or Red Zone - at least 15 min in a colored zone created by science where the afterburn effect was created: the one where you could still burn calories off for 36 hours. Now THAT’S what I wanted - the afterburn effect. Plus, it had all the triggers and buzzwords that made me want to sign up right away.
Although I couldn’t help shake this feeling of disappointment as we left the Pilates studio and the two of us started our walk home. For starters, I could have worked harder, moved more because I still had energy I could benefit from releasing from my system. Yes, there is a connection to work on and strengthen in Pilates, but I still had some energy left over from that class, even after completing the walk home. More importantly, I wanted to use and try the other toys. What happened to them? Why was this reformer so important or special that made it the star or main attraction the other items got forgotten about?
And although this was an introduction, it felt more like a reconnection, like running into an old friend after 15 years but learning there was way more to the person then initially remembered. My gut told me it would be a good thing to add this to my life, and although my body didn’t know everything about Pilates or understood what the instructor may have said, it felt like my body understood Pilates, or what was expected of my body to do Pilates.
Rather than choosing Pilates or OrangeTheory, I decided to do both. For someone who didn’t see herself spending a lot of time doing Pilates, 3x a week seemed like a good place to start for my high energy self. The other 2 days I would spend at OrangeTheory, working on that afterburn effect. That was my secret movement sauce. I remember telling the trainer of my plan, getting a walkthrough of OrangeTheory, and receiving a comment stating, “if you love strength training, then you’re gonna to love Pilates. That’s where you’ll see the biggest benefits of what your doing there-here. You’ll notice how much stronger your core will become after a few sessions, and you’ll notice yourself exponentially stronger in terms of power and endurance when you’re working out here.”
With that, my new workout routine was created. I rarely ran into my sister-in-law as I was a morning workout person, and a usual suspect in the 6-ish am classes at Club Pilates and OrangeTheory until I started to get headaches, a bit of lightheadedness, some side cramps, eating on a never satisfied appetite and was now spending more than half of class in the Red Zone. There was something going on with my body, it felt like I didn’t need to do much in order to be efficient in my movement. The only problem was I was unable to eat enough. I was always hungry, and I was starting to get to a point where I just wanted to be satisfied after a meal again. I tried to hold myself back at OrangeTheory to reduce the amount of time I’d be in the Red Zone, but it was a failure. I stopped doing what the instructor was saying and they left me alone cause I was already well past earning my after-burn, dripping in sweat. It was like my body became incredibly efficient I was incapable of maintaining it; it ultimately lead to me swapping that time with Pilates instead, growing my practice from 3x/week to 5x/week to then a daily participate in the first class of the day, cementing it as part of my daily lifestyle.
It wasn’t until months later, 3-6 months of Pilates classes worth, that Arnold began to sprinkle in the missing details about JP, the man who created and developed Pilates.