Big Pilates

The rise of Big business has been quickly devouring our urban landscapes and rural terrains.

Its everywhere these days. Gone are the days of getting your coffee from someone who actually knows your name and doesn’t have to ask it just so they can write it on your cup. Pretty much every city in the US is being bombarded by chains. Consumers are being conditioned to follow familiar branding and corporations are cleaning up because of it. No surprise then that Big Business has now come to Pilates.

Corporations have caught on to what we as instructors have known all along- Pilates works and people will pay for those results. We are seeing the rise of gym Pilates programs/certifications as well as dedicated Pilates chains. I’m sure Joe would be happy that Pilates’ popularity is booming but how does this effect what’s nearest and dearest to our hearts- our own Pilates careers?

Throughout my 15+ year Pilates career I have worked in every teaching situation there is. Small studios, big studios, gyms, to opening a studio for myself. The challenges studio owners have grown accustomed to in our industry are being replaced. Where there were once three studios, you can now find ten. Baby instructors are being “born” in certifications every day. I can see the industry has evolved tremendously since I started. With the rise of competition comes the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, as well as finding and keeping talented instructors in your studio. The private instructor now has almost too many options of where to hang their teaching hat. Work at the studio down the street, for the man, or for work yourself? How do you choose?

In my Pilates NYC studio we have disrupted the industry norms. At FORM we empower teachers to run their own business without the necessity of brick and mortar. While I get lots of teachers applying to become part of the Co-Op, most of my candidates are disgruntled workers from said Big Business chains. Not all teachers are born for the entrepreneurial life which requires much more than just what happens on the mat. What was tolerable for those newborn teachers has become a burden for the seasoned instructor. Teachers with a few years under their belt are now finding that corporate culture can get old, and fast. Not only must you adhere to company policies and procedures, you can work for years in a joint with nothing to show for it other than a line on your resume. As a result of years of resentment, indignant Pilates pros are opting for  “micro” one room studios for themselves and dedicated clientele. One room, with your type of equipment, decorated as you wish, just you and your clients. Sounds like heaven right? But is it?

While owning your own studio may be the Pilates American Dream, it’s just not profitable or recommended for most. Not only do you and your clients feel isolated from the world, instructors start to feel lonely and uninspired when teaching from their solo space. Working dollar for hour, your sessions and clients are your primary income, which could become problematic in time. What happens when you get sick or can’t make it in to teach? I’ll tell you what…NOTHING because you are the only one bringing home the bacon. Teachers who make the break from working for someone else are realizing the value of “owning” their own client list and being their own boss. However, with Pilates popularity booming, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding someone to sub your clients while you are away. That means no vacay and still rent to pay. When your space is tiny how do you leverage your off times? No one wants to rent a space solely during off peak ours. So what’s the solution? Time to pick a side.

I know it may sound like I’m bemoaning Pilates Big Biz, but it can have it’s place. Infusing cash into increasingly expensive brick and mortar operations, Corporate Pilates creates jobs and opportunities where there may not have been any before. Having health insurance and a 401 K are nothing to sneeze at. The key to finding your stride is to feel like you’re being validated and respected wherever you make people sweat. So, if you don’t want to work for the man and opening your own mini studio isn’t sustainable…what’s left?

The FORM Pilates Co-Op

FORM Pilates is where studio meets autonomy. As an instructor, I structured FORM as a place that is serious about Pilates. Fully equipped and manned with friendly and helpful staff, both you and your clients feel like they are getting the experience of a Big Business studio with your own personalization of style and Pilates philosophy. Instructors at FORM can charge what they want and take home 70% of clients fees, but most importantly they own their client list, and THAT is priceless. FORM also offers the business education you’ll need to get more clients, diversify your revenue streams, and do things your way.

Interested in becoming a member of our Co-Op?
Click here for a short application!

Spring is For Sales!

Spring has officially sprung! The days are getting sunnier and longer, the weather is finally getting out of its wintry funk. But with spring can come a certain feeling of fear-have you done all you could have to build your business over the fall and winter, so it can flourish? Or, like so many of us, have you run into what can feel like an insurmountable brick wall in trying to draw new clients in? Well don’t fear-it happens to us all, and there are several ways around both the feeling and the problem.

We all know that it can be difficult to grow a business in New York City, especially for health and fitness professionals. With a crowded market place, fast paced lives and a schedule that can sometimes feel difficult to manage, it can feel impossible just to manage your own clients, let alone drawing new ones in. But trust me when I say that you want to focus on your growth in order for your business to start its climb to success!

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As anyone who has tried to build a business knows, perhaps the most difficult thing about the beginning stages are creating and maintaining a client base. It can feel time consuming, sometimes expensive, and even nigh upon impossible. But don’t fret yet-there are ways to grow your business that require a little patience and dedication, but that are ultimately simple and even free of charge!

In my latest Periscope, Planting the Seed of Sales, I take you through the beginning steps of authentically and organically growing your business. Start with list building, opt-ins and email providers, and before you know it, you’ll have a group of real people-no spam bots just for numbers and show-that have really, truly opted to view your content. Time and dedication are the keys to success-the paid ways to boost followers can feel instantly gratifying, but may not be the right decision in the long term.

Keep your eyes peeled for more biz tips and tricks from me, and more Periscopes taking deep dives into biz topics.

Guest Post: Burning Out is Not an Option

The bright lights lured me here to make a name for myself. I wanted to make it big and what better place than New York City. I did what most people do when starting a new career; I went the safe route and joined a big health and fitness club.

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While I enjoyed the comforts of working for a company, I have always had the desire to start my own business. With that dream I took the leap and I started my own personal training business. I left the comfort of the big brother and went out on my own. It was cool, it was exhilarating, and it was scary!

It was great at first, the money was piling in, I was my own boss, and I was making a name for myself.  The more money I made the more work I took on and before I knew it I was exhausted. Soon after I started I was completely burnt out. Trying to do so much was killing me, or to be less dramatic it was aging me. I started to look like a vampire with bags under my eyes. I had to fix this. How could I be helping people better their lives while neglecting my own? I was making people happy and healthy but I was looking and feeling like crap!

The solution was to take care of myself first so I can take care of others. What did I do? I didn’t have time to go to the Himalayas and hang with Buddhist monks, however, I made the time to sit quietly, plan, relax, breathe and have fun.

Here is my routine to success (or sanity) 

  • Start the day with YOU

Scarfing down breakfast while responding to emails and rushing out of the house is so unproductive. Instead, wake up a little earlier and give yourself time to jumpstart the day. During this time don’t allow emails, texts, social media, or any other distractions. This time is solely about you and your thoughts.

  • Write it out and give gratitude

While sipping my coffee I write down all my thoughts and worries. This might seem daunting but writing down your worries actually makes them seem more manageable. This process is a great form of release and most times it helps you come up with a solution. After I am done I write a short gratitude entry. This includes everything I am happy or grateful for. Seriously folks, this really changes your attitude. This is so therapeutic and has changed my life forever.  When you try this you will be forever grateful. (see what I did there?)

  • Plan, plan and plan again

Planning everything in a business is a must. After your morning notes take time to look at your schedule for the day. Fail to plan and plan to fail kind of thing. This will help resolve conflicts and organize your day. I do this with my personal life and business since they always overlap. I plan my free time. This might sound silly but if I have learned anything from being a workaholic it is that you have to PLAN TO HAVE FUN.

  • Take the day off

There will be days that your body or mind just needs a break. Listen to your body. You’re a business owner and you will always have work to do, its inevitable. Your task list isn’t going anywhere but there are times when you are running on empty and need to recharge. When I am feeling like I am getting run down I clear my day. I rather sleep and rest a day then be sick for an entire week. Take the time for yourself when you need it.

  • Practice what you preach

We like telling our clients to get their rest, stay hydrated, eat healthy, sleep 8 hours a night, and exercise regularly but it is astonishing how many health practitioners don’t take their own advice. My health and wellness is my priority and it should be yours. My energy and focus have been amazing since I make sure my meals are healthy, my sleep is adequate and I am moving and recovering daily. Practice what you preach.

  • Hard Stop—“Work Hours” 

This is something I have been culminating over the years. I have an end of the workday hard stop. Usually it’s at 7pm and sometimes 9pm if there is a particular time sensitive project I am working on. I stop, put my phone away and just unwind. I have employees, customers, friends, and colleagues that all know that I do not respond to emails or phone calls after 7 pm. Once you set those boundaries your quality of life will improve dramatically. Put your mobile device in the other room, turn off alerts, and unplug from the matrix. Spend time with a loved one, even if that loved one is you. If you respect your time so will everyone else.

These are some of the tools and practices that have given me sanity through the craziest of times. We are entrepreneurs, employers, leaders, and coaches. We need to take action in our own lives so we can lead by example. Learn to take care of your health and well-being so everything else can follow. Give yourself as much as you do to your business and clients.

 

 

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Joe Barbagallo is the owner of Joe Barbagallo Fitness training systems; a New York City based coaching service that focuses on fat loss, performance, and strength. His clients include professional athletes, actors, models, and mixed martial artists. Joe also is the co-owner of the film production company Planet Nerd Rage Productions. He is currently in production working with his comic book idol Larry Hama of GI Joe shooting their latest film “Ghost Source Zero!”

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What Is A Cooperative?

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Three years ago I took over a little Pilates studio in Union Square, called Union Square Pilates. I painted the walls, changed the name, and hung some art, and voila- FORM Pilates Union Square was born. I had absolutely no idea how things would evolve, butI wasn’t worried. I knew what I didn’t want- a factory like studio pumping out clients and controlling  what other teachers taught. I was clear on what I DID want- a studio to bring my clients to that was clean, happy, had a wonderful vibe, as well as a place where the Pilates community could come together instead of pushing each other apart.  So like one of my favorite quotes, “I dream because there is no other way I can see it happen” I dreamed big and boom- I saw it happen.

 

I first heard of the concept of a cooperative in the context of the grocery store, the Park Slope Coop. Members agree to work once every month in exchange for discounts on healthy fare. Very cool I thought and that planted a seed. Then through a woman’s networking group I heard about a shared workspace in the city called In Good Company. It was a place female entrepreneurs come to work, meet, and learn. Cut to two years into my owning FORM USQ and it kind of sounded like what I was inadvertently doing- renting out my space so other instructors could build and incubate their businesses under mine. I wanted a place we could be a community, so like they say, “your dream job does not exist you must create it”, and I did.

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The true definition of a cooperative is an autonomous group of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit. People have been cooperating since the beginning of time. Tribes were organized as cooperative structures, allocating jobs and resources among each other. Bottom line is that cooperatives are a good thing, but why weren’t there any for Pilates instructors? Why were we being left out?

 

The daunting costs of NYC commercial rent, equipment prices, and the shear need for space to house a proper studio keeps wannabe Pilates soloprenuers from branching out on their own. In a sprawling metropolis like New York my colleagues needed a place to bring their clients and work out of. Notoriously divided, Pilates people can be snotty and pretentious. They can be afraid of sharing and living in a world of lack instead of embracing abundance. I refused to believe that’s all there is. What if you could come as you are, with the type of clients that “get” your style, and build a thriving business without going into a mountain of debt. No reason why not so, after months of building our new structure with my team, the FORM Pilates Cooperative was born.

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At FORM you can join our cooperative at one of two levels. As a Drop-In member who sees less than 10 clients a week but is looking to build, or as a Subscriber who already has a full practice, 15+ clients a week, but wants to maximize their time, profit, and diversify their revenue streams. As their fearless leader, I offer office hours, group coaching, and one-on-one consultations to help supplement the practical training we received in our certifications with business savvy. As a fully functioning Pilates studio, we also receive inquiries from potential clients and match them with their ideal Pilates instructor. The client can continue to shop around and work with several cooperative members or if it’s a match made in heaven, the teacher can take on the client as their own. This approach makes for both happy clients AND teachers.

 

We are excited to be the first Pilates Cooperative in NYC!

Want more info on how our cooperative works or an application to join our team? Email us today!

 

Teacher Focus Feature~ Angilique Campbell

My first thought when meeting the amazingly gorgeous Angilique Campbell was that she was a Nubian Princess in a past life. Statuesque and striking, standing 5’8”, she is a pure joy to be around. She has an air of poise and self-assurance that makes you want to be her and an relaxed nature that makes you want to also be her best friend. Don’t let her beauty and hysterical stories fool you- she will kick your butt Pilates style!

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Angilique started her career in movement teaching group fitness classes that focused on cardio and strength training. During her packed classes her keen eye found that many students had issues with their bodies. Her desire to help address correct and restore them to proper movement led her into Pilates. She started taking Pilates mat and apparatus classes and fell in love. Immediately she felt the benefits of the method and decided to get her certification through Power Pilates.

Angilique’s favorite part of teaching Pilates is the challenge it provides for all fitness levels. She works with professional athletes and dancers helping to improve their game or performance with her rigorous regime (I told you she was a tough cookie). She’s also keen on the fact that Pilates is a perfect fit for rehabbing injuries since it can be modified for those with special needs. She even gets to practice this softer side of Pilates weekly since she also teaches out of a physical therapy office here in Manhattan.

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She enjoys working with the variety of clients but especially with dancers because she also dances. She loves that dancers have a great sense of body awareness but then also need the conditioning outside of classes, rehearsals, and performances. In addition to the dance community, Angilique also loves to work with men. She sees them lifting weights and running but neglecting their core and flexibility training. She gives them exercises to help improve their core strength, increase their flexibility, and show them that Pilates is not just for women! It was created by a man after all…Joseph Pilates!

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When Angilique’s not in the studio she most likely is getting a fierce mani/pedi! Her nails are kinda an obsession and she can name almost any color on the shelf. She takes yoga, ballet, contemporary, and modern classes regularly, sometimes three in one day! She loves a great brunch and is diligently practicing her French with aims to become fluent.

Here’s some fun facts about Ms. Campbell you might not know:

  • She gets her nails done so often that the salon she frequents  gave me her Korean name, Soo Hee
  • She loves cooking and will take classes to learn new recipes and is always experimenting on her own at home
  • She loves animals and often goes to the pet shop just to play with them
  • She had emergency eye surgery this year which prevented her from going blind. She loves going for follow up visits because she has the biggest crush on her surgeon:)
  • She’s fancy like the Iggy Azalea song

Click on the video below to get a taste of the goodness that is Angilique then click here to book with Angilique in our Union Square studio for a sweaty workout or a cure for what ails you.

photos courtesy of  Simon McDermott-Johnson and Nina Robinson

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Suffering From Failure Phobia? Here’s Your Cure

Wondering if I know Pilates Instructors? I mean really know them? I’ve been living and breathing Pilates for over 10 years now. I hold two certifications, have worked in more studios than I can count on two hands, taught out of a little home studio, and eventually inherited an 850 sq foot Pilates studio in the heart of Manhattan. I am an instructor, some of my best friends are instructors, and I work with said instructors all week. Hell yeah, I KNOW Pilates instructors! Which is why, being so close to my industry, I see the struggles and needs of these teachers daily.

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I know its a specific type of person that becomes a teacher, especially a good one. Guiding others is for the giving, self-less, and compassionate. Sometimes though, these same trainers strengths can also be their weaknesses. The good characteristics can go bad- like being people pleasers, conflict avoiders, and, (ek!) martyrs. Nearly all the instructors I’ve encountered while mentoring and guiding on how to run their businesses, love the teaching but loathe anything that eludes to business. They would rather just stick their heads in the springs than market their practice or (eek!) sell anything. There are a handful of us that find creativity and joy in having a little business baby and seeing grow, but not many, and mostly not by choice. Why then do the majority of instructors think they’re alone in feeling like a business disaster? My hunch is we are afraid. More specifically- afraid of failure. How the heck did we become this way and how do we heal? Read on my little Pilates fanatic, read on.

Stereotypes, while somewhat biased, are often true. Forgive me while I wax poetic about the origin of a Pilates Instructor. We come from movement backgrounds- the dancer, the gymnast, the athlete are our tribe. We know what it’s like to be in our body, push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable, and what it’s like when we break. We learned at an early age that excellence requires revery and direction following- we will do whatever our coach, teacher, or choreographer says to achieve our dreams. We would never think of talking back or disagreeing with the status quo. We are good little soliders, which in turn makes us good little teachers because we learn quickly and practice for perfection despite the fact it doesn’t exist. These are the qualities required to become a pro-athlete or professional dancer, but not ideal traits for the successful entrepreneur. Never fret! Even though we spent our years in ballet or baseball instead of getting our MBA, we are smart, we are creative, we are adaptable, we know how to hustle.

So this is the deal- you can work in a studio or venture out on your own, but to be successful you’re gonna need skills other than knowing the difference between internal and external obliques or 100 ways to use a magic circle. This is what successful people do differently….

#1 Believe Perfectionism is a Prison

Although it may be obvious- we all do it. Unfortunately there is no such thing as perfection. It’s a nirvana you’ll never reach. A fictional planet in a universe far, far, away. The quicker you can get used to being human, the quicker you can start forgiving your imperfections and get free! In business, perfectionism is death. Do you think that Thomas Edison never failed when creating electricity? Pshaw! I would be writing this in the dark if he stopped when he thought it wouldn’t be perfect. Joe Pilates himself must of scratched at least a blueprint or two of his inventions before he settled on the reformer. Would you ever not teach a client an exercise because they couldn’t do it perfectly? I. Don’t. Think. So. Why would you do it when you’re making business decisions then? Allow yourself to brainstorm new classes or offerings. Step outside your comfort zone, create something new. It will feel funky. There will be failure, it will be imperfect and that’s just perfect.

#2 Just Do it

Time after time I hear clients and instructors hemming and hawing over what their niche should be or what they should name their business. While a certain amount of contemplation is necessary for finding your north star, months and months of it will get you no where fast. This behavior, commonly known as procrastination, can suck the life out of any dream you might have. Even if you’re afraid of making mistakes (see #1)- just do it. Do something- anything. Make a bold choice even if you end up with egg on your face and your pants around your ankles. This is how you make things happen…by doing.

#3 Above all keep it moving

Once you start moving forward, keep it moving! Forward momentum will create a breeze in the universe that will carry you on, but you have to initiate it. A body in motion stays in motion.

 #4 Set a goal, pick a path, 

I can’t stress enough how much goal setting is an integral part of being successful. Sitting down to work without a plan is like taking a trip to a new place without a map. You’re gonna get lost. Lost in FB, lost in your inbox. Get organized. Pick like 3 things to get done that day, and then (like #2) Just do it! Sit down and eat your greens! Once your plate is clear then reward yourself for the good work. (Chocolate is my fav but Mani and pedis are always nice;)

 #5 Keep Moving Forward- No Matter What

I wise man once said, “Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” Pilates kept keeping on and now you can make a living teaching what he designed. Don’t let down Joe. Keep going, be patient, you’re worth it!

Need more than just 5 tips to quell that fear and get you and your business to where it needs to be? Get a FREE 30 min consult with yours truly. Whadda ya waiting for? Schedule it today.

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Will The Real Joe Pilates Please Stand Up?

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The fitness industry, known for being notoriously fickle, has embraced Pilates- even if it can barely pronounce its name. Most people think it is merely a form of exercise that can yield strong abs, but what they don’t know, is that there is a man at the core of these body changing exercises. Today, Pilates has over 10 million practitioners all over the world, As the New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964, “in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as a pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.” Those who have studied the method, know it is so much more. They know it is the work of an actual genius, Mr. Joseph Hubertus Pilates.

Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. A sickly child, he suffered from Asthma, Rickets, and Rheumatic Fever. At an early age he was fascinated by the ideal Greek man who balanced mind, body, and spirit. Pilates or “Contrology” as Joe actually called it, has its roots in his personal experience. Determined to heal himself from his ailments, he gained inspiration from Anatomy books and the movement of animals he watched in the woods. His passion to cure himself led him to study many types of movement including yoga, boxing, diving, and gymnastics.

In 1912 Joe lived in England and was a defense instructor for the Scotland Yard. When WWI broke out in 1914 , he was placed in an internment camp where he fine tuned his method and was able to successfully rehabilitate injured soldiers by removing the springs off their beds and using them to exercise their fragile bodies. This is was the origin of first piece of Pilates apparatus.pilates.240

After the war, Pilates returned to Germany but was uncomfortable with its political and social conditions, it was then he made his decision to emigrate to America. In 1926,on his voyage across the sea, he met his future wife, Clara. Together they opened the first Pilates studio in a former boxing gym, right here in NYC, at 939 Eighth Ave. His gymnasium attracted the professional dancers (that had rehearsal in his building) actors, business men, and normal people alike that would willingly subject themselves to his authoritative prodding in hopes to be transformed by Uncle Joe.

At FORM Pilates we focus on learning Pilates as it was intended: one-on-one. While we know that Pilates is both and investment in time and money, we want you to have the most out of your sessions. This is why we offer an introductory special to all first time clients at our NYC studio. This customized approach allows our instructors to specialize a Pilates program just for you. Build your foundation solidly. Sessions are by appointment only so reserve the first of your 3 private sessions in our our New Client Special today!



Interview With An Instructor: Edya Kalev

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May is my very favorite month of the year. For starters it’s my bday month, all of the flowers are a bloomin’, and the hellacious humidity of NYC hasn’t hit us just yet. Now May has gotten even better. I’m learning how to massage- wait for it….massage myself!

As part of our continuing education series we’re hosting a workshop for a wickedly good method called MELT. Ever felt after a looong day at the computer or on a plane that your body was wound tighter than bundle of piano wire? While we believe that Pilates can help put you back on track (obvi!) science now shows that that’s just not enough. Enter MELT. In conjunction with a regular Pilates practice this is the missing piece to release “trapped stress” that lives in our connective tissue which surrounds every joint, muscle, nerve, bone and organ. In short, MELT-ing will set you up for optimal performance in your Pilates practice.

Join expert instructor and MELT teacher trainer Edya Kalev, May 11th at my Union Square studio, FORM Pilates to learn it for yourself. This workshop will introduce you to the basic MELT Core program, including MELTing the ribs, and pelvis, decompressing the lower back, and releasing the neck. In addition, Advanced Core techniques will be covered for those who want to jump right in and challenge their newfound stability. All participants will receive a printed “MELT Map” to take home containing all the exercises, illustrated and with detailed instructions. All are welcome, and no previous experience is required. Click here to register to join us while we learn to MELT into rebalance!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Including where you currently teach.

I am an Advanced MELT Instructor with a background in education. I used to work in living-history museums, in many different centuries, in many different costumes.  It was really fun!

Now I teach weekly MELT classes at the JCC Manhattan, the West Side YMCA, The Breathing Project, and in various locations in Washington Heights.  I teach workshops at fitness centers, yoga studios, and Physical Therapy offices in NYC and MA.

2. How did you find Melt?
I found MELT at the JCC, took my first class in 2006, and went up to the instructor afterwards to ask when there would be a training.  I knew right away I wanted to teach it. I became certified in 2007 and have been teaching ever since. Now I also assist Sue Hitzmann in her trainings and coach other instructors.

3. What was your inspiration in the path you chose?

My body hurt.  It doesn’t anymore.

8660080040_376ec5ac9a_m4. What is your favorite MELT exercise and why?
For MELT I love the 3 Dimensional Breath Breakdown.  It’s so comforting after a long day. A second favorite is the Soft Ball Foot Treatment.  Feels so good and makes such an immediate difference in how I stand.  My head feels lighter.

 

5. Do you have a motto, a favorite quote, or mission statement that you live by?

Feel and follow. If you trust your body and just follow it’s lead, it will take you in the right direction.

6. What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?
I have a 3-year old little girl.  She MELTs another part of my body completely!

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Interview With A Pilates Instructor: Benjamin Degenhardt

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Benjamin and I met on Twitter. Yes, that’s right Twitter. Turns out that the twiter-sphere is a great way to connect to our community and this time it lead me right to Mr. Degenhardt. There are so many things that I love about Benjamin, but what first drew me to him was his enthusiasm for the history of Pilates. His passion to know how Joe lived, thought, and  intended his method to be is inspirational. I’ve nick-named him the Pilates anthropologist.

Benjamin will be visiting my little NYC studio this month. He’s presenting an amalgamation of two great seminars. His 4-hour workshop starts with an exciting journey into the past. We’ll look at rare archival writings, discover what Joe Pilates was looking to achieve, the philosophy behind his method, as well as his plans for the future of Contrology. Next, his ‘Upright Pilates’ will focus on the essence of the Pilates method – transferring the results of the work into our everyday activities and achieving functional strength. Click here to get more info on the workshop and to register. Ben will also be available for private, duet, and semi-private sessions at the studio. Don’t miss this chance to see all his research and Pilates artifacts as well as be touched by his teaching. Now onto the interview…

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Please make sure to include where you currently teach.

My name is Benjamin Degenhardt and I currently reside in Boston, MA. I have been involved in the Pilates world since 1999 in addition to an extensive dance and movement teaching background. I created 360° Pilates, a continuing education program designed to reconnect instructors to the original teachings of Joseph Pilates, with a keen eye on modern knowledge of functional movement. Most recently I initiated a campaign called March MATness to inspire people to incorporate Pilates into their everyday lives. You can find me online at benjamindegenhardt.com

2. How did you find Pilates (or your area of expertise)?

Pilates Mat classes were part of my dance training about 15 years ago. Needless to say, it was a complete game-changer! It helped me stay strong and healthy through several dance-related injuries, and I never lost Pilates out of my sight throughout my dance career.

 3. What was your inspiration in the path you chose?

In addition to the amazement about the impact Pilates had on my physical health and life in general, I remember being completely in awe of the wealth of knowledge my teachers had about human movement, and their passion for teaching. They are still my biggest inspiration, and it fulfills me to be able to pass some of their generosity on to other teachers now.

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 4. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

If I had to pick one, it would have to be The Hundred. While it seems to be so different from all the other exercises, I find that it truly packs the challenge of the entire Pilates repertoire into one simple move. In less than a minute it warms you up and tells you more about your body than most other exercise ever could.

5. Do you have a motto, a favorite quote, or mission statement that you live by?

Communicate selflessly. Teach generously. And move scrumptiously.

6. What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

I’m a true Pilates geek, so much of my spare time goes into continuing my education, as well as researching the history of Contrology. I managed to collect well over 200 pages of original writings by and about Joe Pilates, as well as over 4 hours of video footage. It fascinates me how clear Joe was in his trajectory, yet how lost we are as an industry when it comes to pinning down what Pilates actually is. I am hoping to shed some light on just that with my work. But when I am really away from the studio and my materials, I enjoy movement of any kind (and try to immerse myself in a new physical activity every year), traveling, and I’m a bit of a foodie – good thing I love to exercise!

Benjamin Degenhardt is the mastermind behind 360° Pilates, a continuing education program for Pilates teachers. He has been involved in the Pilates world for over a decade in addition to his extensive dance and movement teaching background. While performing as a dancer he found a passion for teaching movement and, inspired by Joe Pilates, immersed himself in the study of injury prevention and body mechanics. With his expertise in historical Pilates and modern fitness he established himself as a “teacher of teachers” and conducts workshops around the globe. He has maintained a true passion for the Pilates method and its ability to improve people’s lives. You can find him and his articles for Pilates teachers on his website at benjamindegenhardt.com

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An Interview With A Pilates Instructor: Christine Baltes

This new series, is the first of many posts of interviews with my peers, mentors, and Pilates greats. For it’s maiden voyage, it’s an honor for me to be interviewing one of my very first true dance teachers, Christine Baltes. Chris taught me the beauty and discipline of jazz dance and quickly became one of my favorite teachers. Years later, Christine’s daughter, Nicole (who also happens to be a Dancer. Guess it runs in the family) and I met in my studio in NYC. We became fast friends and soon after I was reconnected with her Mom, who (you guessed it) is also now teaching Pilates. This truly is a small world. So, now that we’re reunited and it feels SO good, we are planning to use our super powers for only good….

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We’re super excited to host Christine at our Union Square studio, FORM Pilates in March! She will be teaching a Master Class March 28th as well as being available for Private, Duet, and Semi-Private sessions March 28th, 30th, & 31st. Register for the Master Class here and email us to book a session with this master. THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED! Onto the interview:

Tell us a little bit about yourself (including where you teach)….

The first thing that comes to mind when asked what am I all about is, passion.  Sometimes, I could just burst with all the love & passion I have inside of me.  I am a dancer, an artist, a choreographer, a teacher, a mother, a wife, and a sister. I am sarcastic, funny, disciplined, ethical, caring, silly, business minded, dedicated, nurturing, and yes, shy at times.  I am the oldest of seven children and the only one in my family who pursued dance.  I put myself through dance classes and at the age of 18 years was making a living with a dance career. I have always been lucky enough to have a career that I love.

At present time, I teach at a community college, professional dance studio, and in my pilates and Gyrotonic studio in Southern California. Most recently, I created choreographic sequences and have been giving Gyrotonic for Dancer group classes at two of Gyrotonic master trainers facilities.  I love what I do.  

How did you come to Pilates and Gyrotonic?

I came to Pilates after I blew out my knee in Nov 1991.  During my first pilates session, the instructor was poking & prodding my ribs, abs, hips, etc. and I said to myself, ‘I love this’, ‘this is exactly what I do to my dance students’, and it made me work on myself. I have been a practionier ever since.  It wasn’t until 2001 that I actually decided I had the time to get certified.  

I can’t exactly recall my first introduction to Gyrotonic, but I do recall that I sought out Marie Jose Blom at Long Beach Dance Conditioning to work on myself through her teachings of pilates. It was through her that I eventually tried out the White Cloud, now known as the Gyrotonic Pulley Tower. That lead me to seek out Gyrotonic Master Trainer, Donna Place, mainly working on rehabbing areas that needed attention.  I instantly loved the complexity and ‘real’ life movement patterns that the Pulley Tower & Gyrotonic program offered. I felt like it had similarities of taking a dance class.  The Gyrotonic method really is how people move, let alone the dancer, thus my gravitation to this program.  

 What was your inspiration in blending Pilates and Gyrotonics?

Well, I don’t necessarily blend the two, but rather pull the concepts of movement from the Gyrotonic method and apply it towards all movement- whether it’s pilates, dance, yoga, etc.   Human movement isn’t linear, it’s anything but; twisting, leaning, turning, spiraling, bending, and circling.  I have gained so much knowledge working with the amazing people that I have.  I love to really study an individual and figure out what they are doing by breaking down the movement so they can improve their quality of life and enhance their movement. I am also very grateful to learn a great deal of technique from one of the greats of American jazz dance, Gus Giordano.  He shaped me at a young age and it’s because of him that I have such a strong technical dance background.  

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Today, there are so many fusion of pilates styles. Classical, east coast, west coast, contemporary, combinations such as cardio-pilates, yogalates, barre pilates- you name it, it probably exists. Bottom line, its all movement.  I stay true to having proper technique and the importance of a sound foundation. No matter what combination of pilates, or any other program, clients will flourish with a great foundation/technique.

In working with clients in my studio, I have access to not only pilates equipment, but Gyrotonic as well.  Sometimes, I will give a client an entire pilates session, sometimes, Gyrotonic and sometimes the combination of the two.  I pull from every source of training and knowledge that I have gained throughout my many years of moving. This is what helps define my teachings.

What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Wow, what an interesting question.  I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that.  Without really going through the entire repertoire of Pilates, I simply must say, it’s the entire package.  It is complete when you practice a range of exercises that work on your entire body.  I will say though, that the fundamentals are what I typically focus on mostly.  Too many people really don’t know or understand the simple basic things.  Without the understanding of this, your workout, is being cheated.  I often get asked, “What is your Core?”  People to this day, still don’t know where that is nor how to truly use it.

Do you have a motto, a favorite quote, or mission statement?

There are so many wonderful quotes that are inspirational to me, but can’t think of one at the moment.  This is silly, but this question is like asking me to tell a joke.  I never can remember any.  Awhile back, the phrase Freedom in Form came to me.  So, I registered various domain variations of this, so maybe that is a statement in itself.   

 What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

Sunday is my only day off, and I treasure spending time with my husband.  Doing anything but work related stuff.  I love going to the beach & enjoying the sunshine and ocean.  I realize one could consider this work related, but I love to take class; dance, pilates or Gyrotonic, but I won’t do that on my only day off, rather setting time aside for me to workout, between working with clients or teaching dance.   If the weather is nice, (and it is most of the time in Southern California) I enjoy being outdoors. I get excited to see my favorite tv shows as well as see concert dance performance.  I guess if I had to pick one thing, and if my children lived near me, it would be to spend family time.  I not only love my family, but love to spending time with them. 

Christine Baltes Is a master teacher, specializing in jazz dance technique and recognized as a teacher who “teaches”. Originally from Chicago, IL, Christine was trained in ballet, modern, tap & ethnic dance forms with specialized study in jazz dance with Gus Giordano, one of the fathers of American Jazz Dance.  Ms. Baltes possesses a California Teaching credential in dance and a certification in Pilates. (classically trained with sessions from Ron Fletcher, Rael Isacowitz (BASI), Marie Jose Blom (Long Beach Dance Conditioning) She is a Gyrokinesis® pre-trainer, and certified in the Pulley Tower, Leg Extension Unit, Jump Stretch Board and Archway of the GYROTONIC® EXPANSION SYSTEM. Christine’s teaching career spans over 40 years and she has held faculty positions that include the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, California State University, Long Beach, Orange Coast College, Orange County High School for the Arts, and more. She has taught for studios that are leading the industry for professional dancers such as DeFore Dance Center (Orange County), Debbie Reynolds Dance Center (L.A.), Elevation Studios (Long Beach), Lou Conte Dance Center (Chicago & home for Hubbard Street Dance Company), Gus Giordano Dance Center (Chicago & home for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago Dance Company), to mention a few. She has trained many dancers who have received scholarships into the Ailey School, Lines Training program, Ballet Hispanico, Julliard, Hubbard Street summer program, Giordano, and the Graham School. Others are working in the entertainment industry with resumes that include Usher, Britney Spears, Pink, George Michael, National Tours of King & I, Wicked, Cats, Cabaret, Miss Saigon, Fosse, 42nd Street, Arthur, Fiddler on the Roof, Rent movie, Vegas shows and the list goes on & on.

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