Athletic Pilates

The most often used quote, when I teach is: “If the resistance applied to the extremities, is greater than your ability to maintain proper breathing and alignment, the resistance is too heavy.”  Yes, I said it!  It’s not about strength, its about balanced and coordinated movement. In addition to lifting functional loads, one of most overlooked aspects of strength is flexibility.  Like a rubber band, if a rubber band is inflexible and cannot be fully stretched, it will not have the force to generate power.  Athletic Pilates is similar to other forms of strength training however, it is devoid of excessive and compressive spine loading.  The most notable difference is that the emphasis is on core control, breathing and alignment, and sharing the vertical and horizontal loads.  Don’t get me wrong, I want you to gain muscle mass, if that is your goal.   Although, I want you to do it well. I also want you to develop balanced muscle mass while adhering to the basic principles Joseph Pilates set out to teach in the 20’s.

Weightlifting has been a part of my life starting at age 18, and has contributed to many injuries, including damage to my spine and shoulders.  The dilemma with traditional weightlifting is that, anytime you load the spine while standing upright (vertical loading), you essentially compress the spine.  When a load is constantly held or placed above the hips, slowly, over time, this compresses the spine and in my case caused damage.  Most all traditional gym exercises are vertical loaded, and place excessive pressure on the entire body, including the spine.  This pressure is further compounded with improper body mechanics, poor posture, lack flexibility and simply; lifting more than your body can handle.  I often speak of functional training, with regards to daily life and the required loads placed on your body.  Weight lifting is no longer functional when you lift more than required in your every day activities.  As I discovered, lifting for years, and loading more and more over the years, my spine finally said enough is enough.  After two shoulder injuries, three disc herniations and chronic knee pain, I quit!  Years after learning the Pilates method and reversing much of the damage to my body, I began to discover new ways to exercise while using the Reformer without a vertical load to my spine.  I also realized that this balanced approach to building muscle, restored my spine length and allowed me to rebuild my lost muscle mass.  This discovery led me to introduce this athletic Pilates approach in a group class format, my workshops and soon to be published, my Reformer Athletic Pilates workbook.

Get Down to your Students’ Level

There’s a distinct and powerful difference between an instructor and a teacher. I define an instructor as one who provides students information on what the instructor has learned from a book, workshop, or training program. He or she has not personally experienced that which they teach. This is a one-dimensional approach to learning, and one that I see far too often. 

A teacher, on the other hand, offers a multi-dimensional approach to learning, making it a priority to personally develop their movement skills, apply what they’ve learned, and acquire teaching aptitudes through their personal practice.

I, for one, believe that to be truly impactful, you must share your personal experience with your students. Over the years, I’ve witnessed firsthand that when I share my aha moments and take the time to explain how my views on movement have deepened, my students take that understanding and apply it to their own personal growth. My goal is to provide you with tools to be an influential teacher—-one that grows and learns alongside his or her students.

So be a teacher. Get down to your students’ level, demonstrate, and share. You’ll then witness them excelling in ways only communal experiences can offer. And it should go without saying, but teach from experience only. I’ve taken many classes from various teachers who cannot properly execute an exercise yet teach it to their students. If you can’t do something, don’t teach it! When you ask your students to perform an exercise that you can’t do yourself, you’re essentially acting as an instructor. First learn that skill, then teach it to your class.   

The Key to Teaching Authentic Pilates

Perhaps, like many, you are uncertain with the two different meanings of the word, “authentic”.  It’s a very trendy word right now and can be used to describe something that is genuine.  A few words that describe authentic are; real, not counterfeit and true to a region.  I know it is confusing.  But there’s a way out.

The older meaning of “authenticity” is “genuine” like an authentic Champagne, it’s only authentic if it comes from the Champagne region of France, which is why Italian white sparkling wine is called Prosecco.  In relation to Pilates, the common word for this is Classical. If you teach the way in which Papa Joe taught, then you are teaching classical Pilates, the original style of Pilates.  If you teach in a way that is authentic to your personal experience and your beliefs about how the body works, then this too can be considered authentic Pilates.  The Pilates industry may have come under the influence of polarization and I want to offer my perspective.

If you have read my previous blogs, then you have an idea of how I came to experience Pilates and how it has become my life mission to teach movement.  Notice that I did not my write that it is my life mission to teach Pilates. I believe that Joseph did not set out to teach Pilates rather, he set out to teach movement and with that, his personal experience.  He created a unique way to teach movement that resonated with himself and his students. I have set out much in the same way but in a different region, era and background.  I use the word Pilates to describe my teachings because I work with his amazing equipment and I still use many of his original exercises in conjunction with my unique exercises which came about out of necessity due to my injuries and personal developmental needs.

We are all on our unique life path and hopefully blessed to share our experiences with one another. As a Pilates teacher, I impart my personal movement growth with my students which makes my method and style of teaching very unique.  I have recently discovered the power of social media and how it can positively connect teachers from all over the world.  I started posting a few years back and was surprised how many individuals were drawn to my athletic approach to the Pilates method.  I would say that the majority of feedback from most teachers is very supportive, however, I have had a few interactions with classical teachers who have said that I should take the word Pilates out of my title.

I am both Polestar Pilates certified, and Pilates Method Alliance accredited.  I strongly believe that continued education is paramount for growth as a teacher and the linage in which you learned the method is less important that the authenticity of how you teach.  Polestar Pilates is more method-based movement with an emphasis on teaching critical thinking skills.  I teach the method based on how the work resonates with me and find that many of the classical exercises are contraindicated with my injuries. Finding ways to move safely and efficiently, is my primary goal.  Teaching the classical repertoire is perfectly suitable for some and quite beautiful to watch.  Learning movement that makes you feel good and positively influences your everyday life is what Pilates means to me.

Get out there and teach from your personal experience.  Make every day an opportunity to learn and grow and be authentic!!

Am I a fraud for calling myself a Pilates teacher?

As a studio owner, a Pilates teacher and someone who lives and breathes Pilates, I have come to understand there may be necessary change on the horizon.  Teaching in Palm Springs allows me to work with students and teachers from all over the world.  In a typical month, I can have anywhere from 30-50 visiting international students and teachers attend my classes.  I hear countless stories from students and teachers who struggle to understand the basic movement principles and also have difficulty executing many of the exercises.  They often describe their experience both as a teacher and student as frustrating, repetitive, mundane and uninspiring.  I believe that a discussion on where the Pilates industry is heading is overdue.  I think that both teachers and students, as they embark on their Pilates journey, choose a method and studio that resonates with them.  This brings up a question;  How do you differentiate between a “Pilates Method” taught class and one that is an “exercise class” on the reformers?

Before I moved to Palm Springs I visited in the early 2000’s. There was only one Pilates studio tucked away in the south end of downtown.  Today, there are a number of studios offering various approaches to the Pilates method.  Once the domain of dancers and elite athletes, the Pilates landscape has shifted.  Franchise studios have opened in countless cities across the US to offer “affordable” Pilates that attracts a whole new demographic of students.  This boom has created a demand for teachers. It’s possible that these new teachers haven’t had the necessary time to become adept at teaching.

In 2005, I was introduced to the Fajardo Method of Holistic Biomechanics.  I was taught in-depth joint mechanics as well as a number of other important aspects to movement and how they relate to the nervous system and physical mind.  I was taught that if we allow the mind and body time to discover movement without judgement, we can correct many unhealthy movement patterns that impede our progression.  In my experience, both classical and traditional teachers follow a systematic series of exercises, rarely deviate from that class format, and teach the same exercises repeatedly until the students improves their quality of movement. My experience learning about biomechanics offered a completely different approach.  My teacher taught us to first understand movement before learning the series of Pilates exercises.  This taught me to be creative and constantly search outside the box for new ways to teach movement. I learned that the more I worked on finding new and different ways to experience movement in my body, the better I could teach movement to my students and watch them progress more rapidly than I ever thought possible.

Not long after moving to Palm Springs, I began to teach at a small studio.  I was unbelievably green and beyond nervous when teaching.  I was positive I was destined for failure.  I was overwhelmed with trying to teach movement when I was still in the process of learning myself.  With so many new teachers entering the Pilates industry, I think about my early days and how blessed I was to work under an incredible mentor who constantly worked with me to make sure I offered my students the quality they have come to expect from the method.  Can a teacher fresh out of learning Pilates jump right into teaching 6 to 8 classes a day and truly offer a quality class?  Truthfully, the answer is no.  I remember thinking I was a fraud even while working under an experienced teacher.  I cannot image how a new teacher feels when they are thrown into the fire teaching multiple classes a day and maintaining their class enrollment numbers in order to remain employed.

On my first day of teaching, I was introduced to my students a “Pilates Teacher.”  With very little experience and still learning the method myself, I held the same title as the studio owner, who had many years of experience. In the fitness industry, we are lacking something that is extremely important to help individuals understand who they are working with.  I believe that if we required titles that allowed our students to know our experience and education, our industry would be more transparent.  I use the medical industry as an example of how a system of titles alerts the patient exactly who they are talking with.  It would be egregious if a registered nurse and a doctor held the same title.  Why has the Pilates industry neglected to implement titles based on education?

It can be a challenge for a student to find a teacher who teaches from experience and one who is also qualified to teach the method in-depth.  With so many visitors attending my classes and seasonal students leaving for the summer, I find it nearly impossible to recommend a qualified teacher who has completed a comprehensive Pilates training course and one that also teaches from experience.  It’s like going to the beach: If you take off your shoes and socks and walk along the shore, you feel the wet, cold gritty sand between your toes and could describe this to someone in complete detail.  However, if you share your experience with someone else and they share your experience with another person, they are essentially describing something without experience. Or think of art: If someone takes a course on painting, could they go out and start teaching students how to paint? The answer is yes, however, their lack of experience working on honing their skills will certainly translate into poor quality of teaching.

As always, thank you for reading my blog in its entirety.  Writing is a skill that I am learning, and I am honored to share my experience with you as I develop my skill.  It can be difficult for me to write in a tone that is non-judgmental as I am extremely passionate and opinionated.  This blog initially started with me pointing a finger a the franchise Pilates industry and over time, my edits and rewrites made me think that I would rather offer a perspective and hope that my readers can draw their own conclusion on what would be best for our industry.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them with me.  I love learning and hope other teachers and students whom I have yet to meet, can share their experience with me.

Check your Gender in at the Door: It’s not all about Bulk Brah

In the early 2000’s, I worked as a personal trainer at a big box gym in Portland, Oregon. I remember those early days as grueling and necessary for character building.  I worked long shifts and constantly lifted weights between clients.  No matter what my other goals were, I wanted visible results, like muscular growth. I joined various group fitness classes and always felt frustrated.  When I would go on a yoga or spinning kick, I would get discouraged and end up in the weight room pumping iron to maintain muscle mass.  As a young adult, I remember that I always wanted to be big and strong.  Every time I saw a guy in the gym who was super fit and muscular, I would think, I want to look like him.  I believed that most guys who lift weights and stay motivated, require two things to keep at it; increased strength and visible muscular growth.

One warm summer afternoon, I finished training my clients and did a two-hour lifting routine.  When I could no longer lift my arms, I asked my coworker if she wanted to grab lunch.  Lori mentioned that she needed to drop something off to her mom first.  Lori said her mom exercised at a small Pilates studio to help with her chronic back pain.  She thought it was like “yoga on machines” and that it was very popular with dancers.

The Pilates studio was the strangest looking set-up I had ever seen.  The entire right side of the facility was filled with middle-aged women making noises that sounded like Lamaze. There were four or five teachers and roughly 10-15 students.  The left half of the studio looked familiar, with dumbbells, cable machine, and benches.  The other half, well, I would describe it as medieval.

Seven machines were lined up against the wall, and the students were all lying on their sides with straps on their feet making circles with their legs.  Two benches in the center of the room looked like hospital beds, and the women on them were twisting and rolling around. They were breathing so loud, you could probably hear them outdoors.  In the back room, there was a group of women jumping and dancing and holding small balls. Jazzercise, I wondered? No guys, so I thought this was something like Curves, “for ladies only.”

I must have looked like a fish out of water, because one of the teachers spotted me and headed my way. She introduced herself as the owner, and she looked at me like she had x-ray vision. If you’ve read my blog, you know I had suffered a skiing accident years earlier. This woman I had never seen before was able to identify every injury I had suffered and describe all the pain symptoms I lived with.  I was truly awestruck.  I told her that I was a personal trainer and how helpful it would be to be able to read my clients the same way.  How was she able to ready my body with such precision, I asked. She replied, “I am a Pilates teacher.”  That day changed my life.

I was very curious about Pilates but wanted to know where all the men were. Were there any male teachers? I began to study with the owner and, out of seven students, I was the only guy.  Years later, I took comprehensive training course and again, out of 20 students, I was the only guy.  Today, the percentage of men who practice and teach Pilates seems way below what I would expect from a form of exercise that was created almost 100 years ago by a man, Joseph Pilates.

When I started my business in 2007, I worked with primarily middle-aged women.  The occasional man would walk in and last maybe two or three classes before he decided that it was not for him.  It is a huge misconception that Pilates is for women and, thankfully, men are starting to slowly come around.  The thing is, Pilates is often portrayed in magazines and on social media as being for women. What men need time to realize about Pilates is that, at first, it is more mental than physical.

Recently, I asked Pilates teachers from all over the globe why men shy away from Pilates.  The consensus was that most men are intimidated to start. This is understandable.  Many men I have worked with don’t make it through their first class without feeling frustrated, intimidated and utterly confused. Everyone new to Pilates uses muscles that they have not used in a very long time, and the struggle can be an ego crusher. Additionally, certain personalities, not only men, tend to power through their workouts while Pilates demands precision and development of quality movements.  Men seem to want instant results, like I did, where women are satisfied with feeling the change.  It also may be easier for women to get introduced to Pilates, not based on the actual movements, but based on how society genders exercise. Men are drawn towards building muscle and gyms offer them that platform.  Women on the other hand are drawn to exercise that tones their body and doesn’t require lifting heavy objects. In addition, men are individualistic about their workouts, while women are frequently more comfortable in small groups.

If you enter a studio that teaches classic Pilates, you will see that they focus on breathing techniques, spine alignment, core control, and that the practice, omits muscle building. This is perhaps another reason why men shy away from Pilates.  Neither gender is more body aware or pre-disposed to excel at Pilates. Perhaps men, regardless of their exercise goals, do not see value in Pilates or they do not understand how it can positively impact weight lifting and other sports and leisure activities.  Pilates is equally difficult for both men and women.  In a gym, without any education, an individual can grab weights as heavy as they want and pound out a workout.  Pilates, on the other hand, requires that you to learn the foundational moves before progressing to more advanced exercises.

People can go to the gym year after year, lifting heavy loads and expecting their bodies to get better with age.  I have learned first-hand the value of Pilates, and I hope to continue to reach more men.  I always tell both my male and female clients that if the load you are lifting is greater than your ability to properly control your core muscles, it’s not worth it. It’s pointless to have huge biceps and a ruined spine.  The few men I have worked with long-term, tell me that they wish they had discovered Pilates years earlier.

As always, thank you for reading my latest blog and I appreciate everyone who contributed.  I want to inspire the Pilates community to reevaluate their practice and discover new ways to attract both male teachers and students.  Additionally, the Pilates community would grow exponentially and perhaps be the number one form of exercise if we could successfully introduce an athletic approach to the classical method.

Don’t you wish you knew then, what you know now?

As a young adult, I had a misguided approach to getting into shape.   My quest took me countless years and many painful lessons. I subjected myself to endless hours at the gym, lifting heavy weights, running on the treadmill, and attending group classes hoping to find something that resonated with me.  I learned from watching other people exercise and browsed the fitness magazines at the local grocery store. Looking back, I realize that my exercise education came from other people who probably did the same thing I did. So, who really knew what they were doing?

If someone looks physically fit, are they moving correctly?  Sadly, in my younger years, this thought never crossed my mind.  I wish that I had the foresight to understand that looks can be deceiving.  I was focused on one thing: looking good. Like a lot of people, I had no idea what I was doing.  My poor exercise habits slowly created muscular imbalances, spine compression, and unsustainable movement habits that one day would lead to injury.

Last year, I received an email from a man in his 60’s, inquiring about private Pilates training.  Andrew told me that he was born with structural scoliosis and that he had worked out for years. As a young man he lifted weights five or six days a week and managed to achieve significant muscle mass.  The weight training, however, did not address his scoliosis and further compressed his curved spine. By the time he was 50, he had shrunk two inches, leaned noticeably to the left, and his ribs were closing in on his pelvis, literally, squashing his organs.  Walking, standing and sitting were painful. Sadly, this is a story is all too common.

During our first lesson, Andrew told me that at 57, his spine was crushed from the constant compressive forces from weight lifting. Surgery was his only option.  The surgeon straightened his spine as best he could and removed twelve disks. His spine was fused from just below his neck all the way down to his pelvis. Everything was held together with stainless-steel rods and screws.  He grew about an inch and a half and stood straighter than he had in years. Finally, he could walk and stand without pain.

After the surgery, and the loss of more than 30 pounds, he decided it was time to get back into shape.  He started back where he had left off. He exercised the same way he always had and acted like nothing had happened.  The weights didn’t bother his lower back, which was a huge blessing. He was unaware that the stainless-steel rods weakened his core and lower back muscles.  To compensate, his upper back, glutes, and hamstrings worked overtime. They were always activated, always stressed. Now 63, the pain was debilitating. He no longer could sit comfortably.  He was unable to sleep. And he knew that something had to change.

Andrew had heard about the benefits of Pilates, so he decided to give it a try.  Prior to working with me, he lived in Malibu and experienced a group Pilates classes that was geared toward flexibility and did not address corrective movement patterns.  Not long after starting Pilates, he felt that this style was not the right fit. It was a feel-good break from lifting weights and mostly consisted of stretching. In his unique situation, he believed that private sessions were necessary.  He was convinced there were many Pilates exercises he would be unable to do and creating more pain was not an option. He needed more.

Shortly after Andrew began his work with me, his pain began to decrease.  He worked hard and learned everything he could. Applying what he learned to his daily life and exercise at the gym was paramount.  We had a conversation about his personal achievements, and he told me that now realized the full potential of the Pilates Method. I told him that he was ready for a group Method reformer class.  After several months of the Method class, he realized that he could keep up in a class and, with the right modifications, he could move successfully and safely. There were some exercises that required a flexible spine and hands-on assistance was necessary.  Andrew took on the challenge with enthusiasm. I told him that we all have personal limitations, and that the beauty of Pilates is that it is so adaptable. When taught from a biomechanical perspective, anything is possible.

Today, Andrew is keenly aware of how to engage his core muscles even with his fusion.  He told me that abdominal engagement makes everything so much easier. Walking, riding his bicycle, sitting at his desk, working out, even folding laundry – focusing on activating his core is part of his new muscle memory.  It’s the first thing he does before he makes a move, especially a move that challenges his back.

Overall, his pain level is significantly lessened, and he has managed to keep his muscle mass. People tell him that he looks healthier, more fit, and in better shape than before.  Andrew said that he wished he had discovered this unique method of Pilates years ago.

Maintaining muscle mass and not placing undue pressure on his unfused, upper spine and strengthen his core, was our next step.  Currently, Andrew attends my Athletic Pilates classes three times a week and he is progressing nicely. If it were not for my personal journey, I would not have created unique exercises using the Pilates reformer to build strength without compressive loads to the spine.  I am truly blessed to share my experience and guidance with Andrew and to share his story with you.

Thank you for reading this blog and I am honored to share my story and Andrew’s.  I hope that the lessons we both have learned can help the next generation learn healthy exercise habits.


A Black Diamond Story: I headed toward the snow bank faster than I had imagined and blew right through it like nothing was there.  There was nothing there. I flew through the air…

My day started like any typical Saturday.  I woke up, drank a cup of coffee and prepared my breakfast.  The Seattle winter had been dreary and cloudy, but this morning, there were high clouds and partly sunny skies.  After two cups of coffee and oatmeal, I was fueled and ready for a road trip.  The morning was off to a great start. My new friend picked me up, and we headed to the freeway.  Through a series of winding roads we made it to the Mt. Baker Ski Area.  We arrived around mid-afternoon and headed to Mountain Shop to rent our gear. Trying something for the first-time mixes anxiety with excitement. I was pumped with adrenaline.  Throughout the two hour drive, Blaine, whom I had just met a few weeks ago, gave me the low down on skiing.  This would be my first time on skis, and I had no idea what lay ahead of me.

Soon, we were off for my first run. It was a piece of cake, and I felt like a natural.  After an hour or so, we made it through the easiest runs and decided to give the more difficult runs a try.  At sundown we took a break to refuel and discuss taking one more run before heading home.

As we ate, we looked at the ski map and talked about what would be our next and final run.  He mentioned that we should try a “black diamond” run and said that the only difference was that it started a bit higher.  I had no reference to understand what he was saying, so I mentioned that I am not afraid of heights. “So I should be ok, right?”  I thought, I may be frightened out of my pants traveling 100mph down this run,but I decided to keep quiet.  Blaine looked up from the map and said with a confident smile, “It’s a bit more advanced than the others, yes, but after seeing how you nailed it today, I assure you that you will sail through like a pro.”  My ego had been stroked and there was no turning back.  A thought kept running through my head, “What had I gotten myself into!”

We made our way out to the ski lift and climbed aboard.  Instantly, my gut was talking to me. I started to feel clammy.  As the ski lift climbed higher and higher, I did the worst thing. I turned my head and looked back. I lost my equilibrium and grabbed tighter onto the ski lift.  It seemed that the other lifts we had been on were 20 miles down the mountain, and we still had not reached the top.  I felt my stomach turn. My knees shook, and I was dizzy and disoriented.  Blaine noticed I was turning green and said, “Hey buddy, don’t look back, everyone gets dizzy when they look back.  Take a deep breath and don’t look back!”  I was not totally reassured.

I don’t understand how I had missed the skulls and crossbones on the map, nor the text—“danger cliffs”–in red.  I suppose I wanted to impress Blaine. I was having such a great day that I didn’t want to spoil anything.  At the top, bright stadium lights shined to the left and there was darkness everywhere else.  A voice inside my head said, “Find a toboggan and get the hell off this mountain!”

As we inched closer to the start of the run, I looked for emergency stairs, thinking I could meet him at the bottom and live another day.  Blaine yelled, “take it slow but don’t die! I am outa here.”  Laughing as he blew by, he did not give me a second look and disappeared out of sight. He must have taken my look of absolute terror as excitement.

Standing there, alone in the darkness, I had no idea what to do. I imagined the lights powering off, like Kmart at closing time, thinking I will be stuck up here and die of hypothermia. I wonder why the fear of hypothermia was greater than the fear of plunging to my death at 100mph.  I inched closer the edge and looked down: it seemed like a sheer cliff with snow attached. I took a deep breath and willed myself to move another foot closer.

After what seemed like forever, I finally worked up the courage to go for it!  I scanned the slope and did some simple calculations in my head. All I had to do was a three or four sharp zig-zags. My chances of surviving were pretty good.

First zig and zag completed, I felt success. If I worked my way down the hill slowly, I would make it. I had kept my movements small at first. However, the downward angle of the hill increased, and they became faster and faster.  On my seventh zag, I got on my knees and looked around a curve that seemed to disappear into nothing.  I thought I could plow into the snow at the far right of the curve and use the snow to absorb the impact.  I got up and willed my body to go.

I headed toward the snow bank faster than I had imagined and blew right through it like nothing was there.  There was nothing there. I flew through the air and headed straight towards a tree. What took mere seconds felt like five minutes played back in slow motion.  I remember my ski making the first impact against the tree trunk. My bindings did not release.  My entire body began to spin out of control, while my leg, caught in my boot, wrapped around the tree.  The initial shock of my knee twisting made me scream, and I saw stars.  I looked for something to grab to keep me from projecting right off the cliff.  My hand grabbed a branch, and I knew I would live.  A second later, my hand went dead.  The weight of my body dislocated my shoulder, and my grip failed.  I spun around until my ribcage made direct impact with the tree. The blow stopped the momentum, and my body dropped down to the base of the tree.  I lay there like a rag doll unable to move. I hoped I wouldn’t slide down the edge of the cliff and plunge to my death.

I am not sure how long I laid there, cold and stunned from shock.  I wondered how long it would be before Blaine noticed that I had not come down. I passed out. Sometime later, I felt my body move and realized that I was being lifted into a rescue toboggan. My toboggan had finally arrived, better late than never.  I felt air being pushed into my lungs and started to come around.  I heard a voice with a thick Australian accent asking if I could understand him.  I nodded and lost consciousness again.

I woke up later to find myself in the medic’s room bunk bed.  I heard voices and started to move around. Blaine was there. He asked me if I was ok. I was grateful to be alive and thankful for all the help I received that night.  Thankfully, I did not suffer any broken bones or a serious concussion.  I would spend the next twelve months in rehab for torsion to my right knee, a dislocated right shoulder, and strained wrist.

Years following, I suffered chronic headaches, severe shoulder pain, knee pain when climbing down stairs and every few years, I would twist my right ankle due to instability at my knee.  It took me thirteen years to discover the Pilates Method and realign my body.  I was fortunate enough to learn from a brilliant mind that broke down every mechanical aspect of movement and taught me the value of understanding the practice and the appreciation of how heals.

If you think about it, any form of exercise can be dangerous and learning the skills and countless experience before advancing is key.  I share my accident for two reasons.  First, don’t do what I did!  Gain experience.  Just because you may excel at first, take your time and learn as much as you can. I have many students attend their first class and want to skip the learning process and go right to an advanced class.  I tell them, know how to move correctly with certainty and gain the knowledge.  Second, trust your instincts.  No matter what you think, your feeling sense is stronger and smarter.

“Oh my dear, you’re not a teacher.” Words that rocked my world and made me rethink who I am…

If asked, do you love your job, how would you respond?  Is loving your job really all that important?

For me, the dream of the perfect job began in elementary school.  I couldn’t think of anything other than getting out of school and on with my life.  I shifted my focus from hating school to convincing my mom that school was a big waste of time.  She saw it differently.  Rather than learn, I would constantly concoct new ways how I would escape my childhood prison.  I was totally convinced at eight, that I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Even though, I hated school, I justified my actions because I had a plan.

Third grade sucked big-time. Mostly, because of the senseless multiplication tables that were drilled into my brain.  The one thing that made that year tolerable was career day.  The most memorable speaker was one of our local dental hygienists.  She made an enormous impact and gave me the direction I needed.  It wasn’t her lecture on brushing and flossing or the silly dental hygiene cartoon that left an indelible mark.  It was her five foot red toothbrush.  Sadly, I image today, that kids would take toothbrush selfies, post it on their social media pages and be done with it. 

School was the bane of my existence and the source of all that was wrong in my childhood.  I was afflicted with ADHD and concentrating was out of the question. What made school unbearable were all the distractions.  If a bird flew outside the window, in my line of sight, I would gaze at it for a moment, watch its flight path and instantly forget everything I had been taught that morning. Growing up in a rural town and finding a qualified teacher that could manage my ADHD would not come until fourth grade.

As an adult,  everyone I’ve spoken with has had that one special teacher who made a significant lifelong impression.  For me, that teacher was Mrs. Eklund.  She stood out above all the other teachers because she was patient and caring.  She worked tirelessly to help me understand and organize my thoughts.  Her focused determination is a cornerstone of my personality.  Throughout the years, most of my other teachers lectured for hours, made us memorize what seem to be utterly insignificant information and put on a movie so they could step outside for a smoke break.

When you google the word “teacher”, the definition states; one who shows and explains with encouragement, and demonstrates a fact or principle and makes you understand with their personal experience.  Meanwhile, “instructor” is defined as a person who gives direction or informs of a fact.  Personally, Mrs. Eklund was definitely a teacher by all standards and my other teachers were merely instructors.

In my current profession, in the health and fitness industry, these titles are used interchangeably by individuals with various experience, education and skills.   You might be thinking who really cares and why is this so important.  I bring up this point because in the health and fitness industry, it’s nearly impossible to know who is truly qualified, educated and skilled at being a teacher.  I’ve seen countless personal trainers with multiple qualifications and they still do no more than instruct.  It’s a sad fact, that in a profession where we are supposed to teach, individuals merely instruct and collect their paycheck.

I remember a discussion I had with a mentor shortly after completing the final stages of a comprehensive Pilates teacher training program.  After completing the nerve-racking process of testing out, I approached my mentor to pick up my certification.  I remember the “I’m proud of you” hug she gave me just before she handed me the certificate. I stepped back from the hug and with a huge smile I said, “It is so rewarding to be a teacher.”  She paused, took a moment to think of her rebut and with a subtle eye roll,  which was followed with a sad and I must admit, a patronizing sigh, she said “Oh my dear, you’re not a teacher.” 

For a moment, her words drifted in the air.  I wasn’t sure if I felt like a deflated balloon or if I was a firecracker about to explode. I looked at her completely and utterly confused.  She had to be crazy I thought.  I was holding, right in my hands, the certification that signified that I was a teacher.  She put her hand on my shoulder looked into my eyes and said, “You have simply completed the necessary hours, education and personal practice that signifies that you have gone through the process of learning the Pilates Method.  Your certification does not make you a teacher, what makes you a teacher is years of practice and the passion to teach.”

I remembered on the flight home, feeling completely frustrated and lost.  I had no idea how I would go home and tell everyone what she had said.  For the record, I kept this little conversation just between the two of us.  I wasn’t humble enough to admit that she was correct.  It would be years later before I acknowledged her little nugget of truth.

Today, I understand what it means to be a teacher.  First and foremost, you need to love what you do.  You must continually experience and educate yourself on the subject you teach.  The truth is that you can only teach an individual something if you have personally experienced it yourself.  If not, you’re merely instructing.

Personally, I use my body as a teaching tool and constantly hone my skills in order to relay a clear message.   Learning how to better move, allows me to teach the depth that comes with experience.  I struggled with specific physical limitations from past injuries.  I consider my injuries as a blessing and use my experience to help teach my students how to move properly. 

The important question is, what makes a teacher great?  I truly believe you must love what you do in order to be an effective teacher.  Everyone picks up on passion and enthusiasm and that is what makes the biggest difference.  Knowledge is also a big factor.  Know your stuff and when you don’t know something, acknowledge it and look for the answers.  No one likes a phony.

One of my biggest peeves is when a personal trainer or Pilates teacher tells a student that they can’t do something.  I have worked with countless students, that have previously worked with health and fitness professions that have limited their growth because of their inability to teach.  When I ask them why they were told they can’t or shouldn’t do a specific exercise, they tell me that their former trainer had tried to teach them and when they couldn’t perform the exercise correctly or had pain, they told them that they were the problem.  Remember, an instructor can’t teach no matter how much they try.

Teaching should be fun, and to learn, you must be engaged.  Adults, are nothing more than big kids who want to learn.  What we need is the right teacher to do the job and students who are inspired to grow.

Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined. How I harnessed the power to overcome my insecurities.

When I was a kid, physical critiques were not an issue other than the occasional “you are looking too skinny”, yelled at me while mom prepared meals.  My adolescent insecurities did not stem from body image or wanting to “look” a certain way.  I struggled with fitting in and I constantly worried about “acting” a certain way in order to be liked.  As you can probably guess, despite my struggles for acceptance, rejection followed me everywhere.

I wanted to be the cool kid but discovered that I was destined to be the “weird” kid.  Suffering from ADHD and constantly getting overly excited made keeping my enthusiasm and energy in check nearly impossible.  I tried everything to be liked.  I constantly wished that someone or something would rescue me.  It would take me years to find that one thing that would change my life.

It wasn’t until high school and through the ever appreciated encouragement of others, that I began to view myself as a wimp and weakling.   This new insecurity began when I discovered how all the jocks had muscles and got all the attention.  The awful truth was that I could never excel at sports or athletics.  I began to dislike my body and with the help of my classmates, this self-loathing was magnified.  I had sprouted long limbs and my metabolism was out of control burning everything I consumed.

In the summer of ’88, I  moved to a new city, got a job and hoped that my move would bring a positive change.  I was one of many young adults who yearned to be noticed in a world that places far too much importance on good looks and toned physiques.  I was self-conscious and afraid to take my shirt off in public for fear of judgemental eyes. I found it easy to shy away from the public and believe that I was not attractive enough or deserving of others attention.

One evening, after completing a typical work day, I walked home and nearly fell flat on my face when an object stepped in front of me.  This “object” was the fittest man I had ever encountered.  As I shook his hand, my body quaked, and I felt faint.  I knew right then and there, I wanted to possess this amazing strength and build.

Our personal views are not entirely correct, and if we could step back and appreciate what we can achieve instead of how crappy we feel and look, our motivation would be healthy not harmful. Unfortunately, I chose to change my body instead of my attitude and whip it into shape no matter the cost.  I joined a gym.

Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined.  Everyone on the gym floor was staring at me as I strolled past the front desk, and I nearly turned around and ran out.  I eventually mustered up the courage to make it to the locker room.  I took a deep breath, found a locker and got ready for my first workout ever.  Stupid, I thought to myself, what do I do now?  After pacing the gym floor for what seemed to be hours, and feeling like a fish out of water, I decided to park myself on a treadmill that was pointed directly onto the gym floor.  This was my safe haven for weeks and served as my observation perch.  Each day, I would locate the most muscular guys and take notes on what they did.  After my test subjects had completed their routines and left the gym, I took my note pad onto the gym floor and, to my best abilities, I copied everything they did right down to mimicking their grunts.

Little did I know, I had it all wrong.  I went to the gym to change my body in hopes that it would quash my insecurities.  I failed.  It would be another 20 years before I realized it was not the muscles that would change how I felt.  I would learn that I first had to change my personal viewpoint before I changed my body.

In 2016, following the summer Olympic games in Rio, I had an aha! moment.  My students and I were debating on which Olympic athletes had the best physiques.  I suggested it was the gymnasts while others voted for the swimmers.  In that moment, I realized Olympic training had it right!  The answer was so obvious!  How had I missed it all these years?

It’s simple when you think about it.  When you have a kid who is good at something, the parents or caregivers typically push them into a sport or activity that will offer them a skill in which they can excel.  Kids begin the intense training to be an Olympic gold medal winner with the goal of winning the gold medal, not to look good.  Kids train and fail time after time and struggle to be reach their personal best.   Years later, after training their asses off, they have an amazing physique and the confidence to back it up.

Over the years, I have acquired helpful tools to locate the underlying cause of my insecurities and instead freaking out and losing my sh*t, I now can spot the triggers and make adjustments to my attitude.  I always joke that during a full moon, my childhood fear of rejection can rear it’s ugly head and cause me to regress.  I can tell you that switching your personal view point on what defines health is paramount.  If we continue to join gyms to look good instead of learning to be great, we will always fail.

With that said, I am less inclined to read articles on how to love yourself and steer clear on topics that span the metaphysical spectrum.  Rather, I read science articles and love them.  I have grown to understand that “healthy” is more than your perception, it is your approach.

If you focus on being your best and winning your personal “gold medal”, you will be rewarded with a physique that matches your confidence.

As always, thanks for reading my latest blog.  I greatly appreciate your feedback on this topic and any future or past topics.





No one wants you to get off your ass more than your ass itself. Too harsh? It’s time for a #truthbomb

When examining your life, how would you described yourself?  A fat ass or a hard ass? 

Yes, I actually ask my clients this question and I get the same expression you just had while reading the first sentence.  I profess to my clients, with a uncontrollable tone of sarcasm, that reaching your personal fitness goals and maintaining them is rewarding and tough.  This is typically followed with a disapproving look and me apologizing for something.

Like many others, you may have experienced the dread that creeps into your workouts when they become monotonous.  Or on a typical weekend afternoon, after a week of hitting it hard, your body may even scream, willing you to stop.  The important point to focus on is that you are creating a strong, flexible and toned body that will thank you in you later years.  I wont lie, it is a slow and arduous process that luckily has more benefits than drawbacks.  As you know, or should know, results do not come overnight.  “If you want a hard ass, you have to work hard on said ass.”  That is a tongue twister that I don’t recommend using in public.  I always mess it up.  LOL

Disclaimer: If you have an aversion to hard work, discipline and commitment, I recommend that you try the top three fitness approaches that every fat ass in America has done over the past two decades.

1. Google the latest exercise fad that guarantees you sexy and ripped abdominals overnight. 

2. Find the newest and coolest piece of fitness equipment that will revolutionize your body in 30-days. 

3. Read the proven diet that finally guarantees results while still eating donuts every morning for breakfast.

If you decide that choosing the top three choices is perhaps not the best idea or you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “I’ve already done them and failed.”   It’s not too late.  You can do the same thing everyone with a rockin’ body has been doing for decades.  FYI, it’s not a secret.

The easiest and most powerful piece of advice I can give you is the following: “Get your fat ass in gear and prepare your body and mind for the most rewarding and challenging journey you’ve ever taken.”

Here’s the #truthbomb, it’s called hard work. Remember, hard work and getting a hard ass isn’t really all that hard. All you need to do is listen the old adage, “take it one step at a time.” You’ll need to know, you’re going to trip and fall down the stairs hundreds of times but all you have to do is get your ass moving again. Personally, I’ve done this since I was 18 years old and I have more trips and falls than anyone I know.  Luckily, I’m still going strong at 48.  I’ve been teaching Pilates and physical exercise for many years.  I have had the pleasure to work with multiple different personalities, body types and personal fitness goals. The one thing that I can tell you is that it’s all the exact same sh*t. No one is unique when it comes to getting your fat ass on track. 

If you’re not interested in hearing the hard truth, may I suggest that you find a fitness blog tailored to the reader that promises rainbows will shoot out of your ass when you complain about how hard your life is instead of how hard your ass could be.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I can somehow help put some fire under your ass.  It is important to know that I am experienced in fitness education and not quite adept at writing.  I welcome any edits and comments on my writing and hope you will follow me and keep up with the ramblings that flow out of my mind.