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.

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.

Sustainable Fitness

“Well now” my doctor murmured. He lowered his eyes to his clipboard and raised them solemnly. His look said it all. With just one glance and for what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke. I wasn’t surprised to hear what he had to say nor was I in any position to debate the facts. For years, I lived with pain as the result of a skiing accident. I was plagued by chronic low back and knee pain as well as relentless shoulder joint achiness. After countless attempts to find the one method of exercise to cure what ailed, I found myself back at square one.

My quest to unearth one single method of exercise that kept me active, injury free and motivated was elusive. My first attempt was running. Over time, running compounded my injuries and created additional long-term knee damage. Soon after, I lost my motivation to run and became a prisoner to my stationary bike. My second attempt was bodybuilding. I was convinced that strong muscles would resolve my situation. Years later, still tormented by pain and completely defeated, I was determined to find a cure once and for all.

Finally, my doctor suggested that I combine different methods of exercise into my weekly fitness routine. I discovered that adding Pilates and hiking to weight lifting was the key. As a health and fitness professional, I concluded that integrating a variety of disciplines into working out was the most sustainable approach to keeping my joints healthy, my body strong and to remain motivated. As a result of combining a variety of disciplines into my exercise routine, I have renewed strength, flexibility, enthusiasm and a significant decrease in chronic pain. I am stronger than before my accident and can enjoy my favorite activities to the fullest.

For many people, exercise routines are sacred and the idea of change can be intimidating. Giving up my current exercise routine was the last thing I expected to do. The idea of starting a new fitness regime and jumping head first into a group class full of unfamiliar faces can seem overwhelming. Personally, I exercised alone for many years, with headphones as my only companion, so I wasn’t convinced I could easily make the switch. Honestly, embracing change was the best choice I ever made and I have never regretted the decision.

Adding multiple methods of exercise has made exercise fun in a way that it never was before, and I truly love the results. I feel better, I look younger, and I am definitely healthier overall. Adding Pilates to my routine helps keep me flexible and has eliminated my aches and pains. The Pilates reformer reduces joint and spine pressure and easily adjusts to target every body part.  The best part is that Pilates is sustainable for any age, body type and fitness level. As with any fitness program, it is important to have fun, stay engaged, remain motivated and achieve results.

Get Eight! Sleep, the overlooked component of total health

When it comes to health, exercise and healthy eating are fundamental to living a long and vital life. However, there is a key element that is often overlooked and instrumental with respect to supporting a healthy lifestyle repairing your body and optimizing its functionality. What is it? Read further for the answer.

It takes more than sound nutrition, state of-the-art supplements, optimal protein levels, proper hydration and varied workout programs to continually meet the physical demands placed on your body. Adequate sleep is an often-neglected aspect necessary for optimum muscle growth and tissue repair. The importance of quality sleep cannot be negated when trying to improve overall health. While you sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds muscles and tissues. Good sleep really is that important! Most adults dismiss the importance of sleep and its effect on rebuilding healthy muscle tissue. Often times, as adults, we accept that sleep interruptions are “normal” and that only getting 5-6 hours of sleep is a part of the fast paced, multitasking world we live in today. If you don’t allow your body to rest, you have the potential to negate all of your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Current scientific research indicates that consistent sleep interruptions can reduce your ability to cope with daily stressors, accelerate the aging process, and ultimately shorten your life expectancy. According to Dr. Michael Irwin, professor at UCLA, “Even a modest interruption to sleep cycles increases the inflammatory response in the body, which can inhibit the body’s ability to repair tissue.”

Experts suggest that you get 7-8 hours of good quality deep sleep. Unfortunately, light sleeping, where you toss and turn or wake up throughout the night. prevents your body from reaching the deep stages of sleep where repair occurs. Eight hours of sleep is ideal. However, consistent deep sleep cycles are just as important as the number of hours to aid muscle recovery. The majority of all cellular regeneration and growth happens during deep sleep. Deep sleep is very important to the release of a growth hormone that our bodies use for tissue repair. According to Dr. John Zimmerman, PhD. in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience, “We release growth hormone from the pituitary gland into the blood stream. Growth hormone has the beneficial effects of building up lean muscle mass and burning fat.” Without adequate hours of deep sleep this process cannot take place. Quality of sleep must improve in order to meet the physical demands of daily life, work, relationships and exercise.

Lack of good quality and consistent sleep habits will eventually catch up with you and cause serious health problems in the future. You may not always get the perfect night of sleep; however, creating an environment where you can get the best possible rest is a step in the right direction. Achieving quality deep sleep can be different for everyone. Factors that contribute to a good night of sleep include:

Television, computer and electronics: The light emitted by computers, TVs and electronics may lead to insomnia. According to sleep experts, artificial direct light from electronics inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, which signals the brain that it is dark, and time for sleep. Remedy; turn off the computer and TV an hour or more before bedtime.

Caffeine and decaffeinated drinks: Countless studies show that caffeine disrupts sleep even if consumed early in the day. It is important to know that decaffeinated drinks are not caffeine-free. They contain roughly 15% of caffeine that, in many cases, is enough to disrupt sleep. Remedy; discontinue or significantly reduce your caffeine intake and consume caffeinated or decaffeinated beverages prior to lunch.

Pain, Anxiety, and Other Medical Conditions: A wide range of medical conditions can impact and disrupt sleep. Remedy; consult your physician for advice on how to minimize physical discomfort while sleeping. Helpful ways to reduce anxiety/stress such as “journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, reading, hot bath etc. can be helpful in mitigating painful symptoms.

Light: Too much light at night can shift our internal clock and makes restful sleep difficult to achieve. Remedy; sleep in the darkest room possible.

Noise pollution: The TV on in the next room, the neighbors barking dog or that annoying car alarm that always goes off right before you fall asleep can prevent peaceful sleep. Experts say that indoor and outdoor noises affect our ability to fall asleep and remain so. Remedy; wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to reduce the sounds that surround you.

Room temperature: Temperature extremes can affect our comfort when we sleep. Research shows that the ideal temperature range for sleeping varies widely among individuals. Therefore, there is no prescribed “best” room temperature that produces optimal sleep patterns for everybody. Remedy; find a temperature that feels most comfortable to you and stick with that year round.

In the end, what matters most is considering all components of a healthy lifestyle, including sleep. If you experience ongoing sleepless nights and find that you are not getting the quality of sleep you need, get creative and research ways that will help develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. Remember, good sleep doesn’t always have to come from a pharmacy. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle and gain the benefits of your hard work with the help of a good nights’ rest!