Guest Post: Is Working Out Just Another Chore?

Just the other day I overheard a trainer-client conversation about setting up the next workout appointment. When given the options between two slots, the client said: “Let’s do it as early in the day as possible. Then it’s out of the way.”

It’s the “out of the way” that got me thinking. While I recognize this sentiment from whenever I schedule my own workouts for an already packed week, is it true that working out is just another chore?

It’s probably true: if we could maintain a happy, healthy, and good-looking body without exercise, chances are we wouldn’t go out of our way to work out and stretch. We know about all the health benefits, yet some of us think of it the same as walking the dog on a cold and rainy night – something we know we should do, but don’t really feel like doing. So it’s important to remind ourselves from time to time why exercising is different from walking the dog, washing the car, or doing our taxes!

  • QUALITY “YOU-TIME”
    Let’s face it: how often do you get to have some personal time, away from family, career, and assets? Exactly. Whether you are taking a run, pumping iron, or doing Pilates, focusing on nothing but the physical task at hand will get you in a zone in which you can put everything else on hold for a while. Think: work out = time out.
  • FITNESS IS WELLNESS
    Ever spent a workout session thinking “what I really need is a massage” only to find out afterwards that you didn’t need one anymore? No surprise here: exercising and stretching relaxes the muscles, strengthens and lubricates the joints, cleanses the skin and detoxifies the organs, improves the circulation and immune system, stimulates the brain, rejuvenates and energizes – basically it’s just like a visit to the spa! Let it be something you look forward to.
  • ENDORPHIN-RUSH
    Do you know that amazing feeling after a really good workout, a sense of power, bliss, and instant stress-relief? This happens thanks to the release of endorphins, a chemical produced by the brain during exercise. It also occurs when feeling excited, in love, having an orgasm, or eating spicy food. Exercise is clearly your best bet if you want to schedule your next endorphin-rush (and rely on it.)
  • CHANGE YOUR POINT OF VIEW, OR CHANGE THE TYPE OF EXERCISE
    As you see, there are plenty of reasons and incentives for you to look forward to your next workout. Still seeing it as a chore? Then maybe you are simply not doing the right thing! Try a different kind of activity, find something that you truly enjoy, independent from the desired results. We all tend to stick to activities that stimulate and challenge us physically AND mentally – and that are fun!

Of course, Pilates is my workout of choice, but at the end of the day – as long as you’re moving, it’s good for you!

 

 

Benjamin Degenhardt 282483_10151157663845706_2094099938_n-300x300 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 andbody 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

Teacher Focus Feature ~ Monika Harczuk

Tall and stunning, Monika Harczuk will get your attention just standing on the floor at FORM Pilates. Serious with a smile, Monika came to me as an instructor looking for a home to see her clients, but she has since become so much more. A good friend and coaching client, Monika sees wellness as a true mind, body, and spirit job. She is always quick to offer advice about healing food, tea, or meditation techniques. Her dreams include eventually traveling back to her home in Europe and spreading Joe Pilates’ work with her company Harmonized-me. Here’s her story:
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Monika never exercised as a teenager and was very weak and tight, but always loved ab exercises. The year was 2002 and she was living in Amsterdam and in an effort to get the most out of her gym membership she wandered into a class called “Ground Work”. It was 45 minutes of killer ab work: Monika’s favorite. After class she found out this was not your Mom’s ab workout — It was a method called Pilates. From that point on, she began her research. Back in Berlin, she could only find two Pilates studios but that didn’t stop her from traveling for her weekly private lessons and mat classes. After a year of working hard, practicing a lot, she saw what Pilates was doing for her body. Monika decided to move back to Holland and begin her teacher training program in Den Haag.
For Monika, Pilates changed everything. She never felt very connected to her physical body and the method opened up her eyes wide. Today, she loves to pass on the gift of Pilates to her own clients. She is focused, deep, and detailed in her sessions to make sure that the basics are understood and that clients develop a deep foundation. She often works with imbalances like Scoliosis and through her careful command of the Pilates technique change and growth are inevitable.
When she’s not teaching, Monika balances her schedule with doing well,…nothing. She loves having no plans and taking the day by surprise.

 

Monika wants us to remember that our body is the vehicle that carries us through life and it is important to care for it and give it our undivided attention. Having a body that is strong and healthy is the key to living your most joyful life.
Here are a couple interesting facts about Ms. Harczuk:
  • She loves listening to Eckhart Tolle
  • She is nearly vegan
  • When she has the first sip of sparkling water, she gets a hiccup
  • She speaks 3.5 languages

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Chasing Carrots

I had a conversation with a new friend the other day about love. Is love as we know it real or just an illusive place to visit? The invisible road with a map that’s yet to be discovered. Love is intangible, yet we still constantly fight 24/7 to hold it in our hands. As an Californian born single child, I didn’t have the best love role models. My parents divorced. My Grandparents fought viciously. As far as I was concerned, if this was love, you could have it. I wanted nothing to do with that drama, yet somehow I felt the pull and allure of butterflies and swoon. Love, or what I thought love was, just felt so good. The Adrenaline, Dopamine, and Serotonin cocktail of love was a high I could get behind, and drink it I did. The chemical haze fogged my better judgement and often left me well, addicted. When the relationship (or lack there of) ended my brain didn’t know the love fix was over, and my heart was already enraptured by the habit. Scientists say that, “love isn’t so much an emotion in its own right”—although aspects of it are obviously highly emotional—as it is a “goal-oriented motivational state.” I had my target. Got the bullseye, and now I wanted to play darts every damn day!

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So, if love is chemical and really about chasing the carrot to satisfy your brain’s craving for the Kool-aid, what other ways can we use this obsession for good?

  • Health and Fitness

I am super familiar with this struggle. As a professional Pilates instructor I find it just as hard as to get my clients motivated as I do my own ass. Come on, why would anyone want to move instead of just lie around or eschew birthday cake in lieu of rice cakes? Well turns out that it’s not just the generating the love hormone of Dopamine that matters, but also where we physically generate it. That girl who you always see at the gym sweating it out most likely has her dope (short only for dopamine:) production in the stratum and prefontal cortex- the two areas known for motivation and reward, while the “slackers” like me produce the stuff in the anterior insula, the area of the brain that is for emotion and risk perception. The sheer act of moving your body, especially with cardiovascular exercise, makes your brain release dopamine and will make you feel like a million bucks. That’s right. The more you do the stuff the more you want it, and eventually crave it as much as that chocolate bar.

  • Goal Setting

The same goes for the goal setting goodness. Why do you think it feels oh so good to cross that to-do off your list? Dopamine baby. Check. Rush. Repeat. So if you get a shot of the good stuff every time you complete a task, make sure you break each goal into easy completed segments to get the most dope (short for dopamine again, sorry) for your buck. The easier smaller segment of your goal, the easier it is to complete, the better you feel, the harder you work. Done and done.

So next time you’re lamenting your procrastinating or sloth-like ways, just get off your buns and starting the good vibes will follow, after all it’s all just in your head.

 

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Teacher Focus Feature ~ Liza Ard

There’s nothing I hate more then when I introduce myself to someone and they reply, “I’ve actually met you already”. Duh! I feel like a total jerk for not remembering their face, let alone their name. This was the case when I met Ms. Liza Ard. I remember it well now: it was 3 plus years ago before I took over the Pilates studio I now own, and Liza and her friend, also now one of our cooperative members, popped by the studio looking to rent space. If her striking beauty wasn’t enough to capture my attention, I was imprinted by her quiet demeanor and serenity. So when she reached out to me about becoming part of the FORM team I was hopeful that some of her tranquility might rub off on me. After teaching next to her for almost a year now, I realize that her relaxed nature is just a means to her lazer-like clarity and on point teaching of the Pilates method. Here’s her story:

It only took one session for Liza to get a fixation on Joe Pilates’ method. Her older sister recommended she try it out and she was so smitten that she immediately decided to become an instructor and started her training with the Grande Dame of Pilates, Romana Kryzanowska.

For Liza, the Pilates method is everything. She loves how it’s fluid, ever changing, and efficient it is. Before she started doing Pilates she was always bored with her workouts and could never quite achieve the musculature she desired. Pilates keeps her constantly engaged and rewarded for her all her effort.

As a civilian (not a dancer or athlete), Liza’s translation of the Pilates method is truly user-friendly. Not influenced by years of perfectionist seeking training, she focuses on the body in front of her acknowledging it’s unique structures and limitations, allowing this to inform her teaching. Free from her own nasty critic, she can work with her clients towards the ideal instead of expecting them to be ideal right off the bat. Liza likes her sessions to be fun and free moving and the sweaty smiles on her client’s faces says they like it too!

When she’s not teaching Liza is playing cards, hitting the movies, getting lost in a Netflix marathon, eating out, or dancing. She is always laughing (even at my bad jokes), and has a smile that’s worth a million bucks. One of my most dedicated instructors, Liza diligently gets her own Pilates practice in 4-5 times a week. She is truly an inspiration to us all teachers and practitioners alike.

Here’s a few things you might be surprised to find out about Liza:

  • She makes an excellent Chicken Vindaloo from scratch
  • She loves science fiction of any kind
  • She holds a degree is in Molecular Biology (!!!) from Princeton
  • She loves to sing old fashioned Blues and jazz songs

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Teacher Focus Feature ~ Brittany Crosby

It’s no surprise that Brittany Crosby, a red haired Pilates maven, is as fiery as her locks. Don’t get her wrong though — she’s as precise in her teaching as a scalpel and will get you sweating even in her hushed tones. Her visible tattoos and a wicked sense of humor is what got my attention at first glance, but her teaching passion and ability to help others heal is what had me welcoming her with open arms to the FORM family. Here’s her story:

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Brittany, a professional dancer, got into Pilates like so many of us that teach it, through her art. Looking to improve her dance technique she started studying the method. When she realized how much mindfulness and concentration it required, she was instantly infatuated. The transition from practicing to teaching was natural. She had already been teaching dance classes off and on for years so as she got into her Pilates practice and the opportunity came up to be able to certify, she jumped on it. Learning the theory, how to practice for herself, and how to teach others just overlapped. Even now, after 10 years of teaching, it blows her mind how when you allow the work to center yourself, you can actually realign your body.

New York Dance photographer Sofia Negron Brittany Crosby Pilates

Fascinated by anatomy and physiology, Brittany’s focus as a teacher is on rehabilitative movement for special populations. Her favorite clients are those who are post-op knee/hip replacement, rotator cuff surgery, and spinal fusion. Working with this type of clientele is really gratifying for Brittany because finding the movements that relieve restriction and pain are a huge deal. Every subtle shift and advancement in her client’s ability is a notable milestone that drives those working against injuries or disabilities. Helping people to realize that they have control by mindfully moving and truly focusing is a spectacular thing to see progress and makes her a better teacher. More and more she’s also getting into working with those who are stunted by diseases like Fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s.

When Brittany isn’t teaching she’s dancing (duh) or watching Youtube videos of hip and knee replacements (this is true! I’ve witnessed the horror many times!!!) Her bigger vision is to be part of innovative movement research that furthers the understanding of the brain-body connection that can be applied to help those dealing with pain and movement-debilitating conditions. We have no doubt she’ll do just that!

 

4 Fun Facts About Brittany:

  • I used to work on a cruise ship as a dancer
  • I developed my own major at Indiana University
  • I like being connected and collaborating with my client’s health care practitioners (acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, orthopedists)
  • The first year I lived in NYC I dressed up like an elf and did a flashmob in Union Square

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For The Pilates Virgins

 

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I’m always the first to say, and have been known to shout it out loud in a mat class or two, Pilates instructors LOVE Pilates Virgins. I mean, I can understand from the perspective of a newbie not wanting to show their rookie status, favoring hiding in the back, and meekly or not at all raising their hand when asked if they’ve done this before. I get it. We want to always be the expert in the situation. No one wants to look the fool, but as the other side of this equation, as the instructor, let me tell you: we <3 the beginners. I know — you virgins may not yet be convinced.

Well, here’s three reasons why no experience is needed to be our favorite population to work with:

  • You’re like clay

That’s right! Like a malleable piece of clay, we can use Pilates to mold your body into exactly what it’s meant to be. Since everything is new we can just observe how the work looks on physique without a bad movement habit throwing you off. You’re soft (no pun intended) so we can shape and work to create a strong foundation in the Pilates method that will serve you for years to come.

  • You are usually eager

Since you’ve had absolutely no previous Pilates experience, good or bad, you are less likely to be resistant to our corrections, suggestions, and instruction. Beginners are usually the most eager to please, the hardest workers, and the most present in their workouts. You don’t have a previous Pilates “movie” going on in your head which means that you are in the moment listening to our every word. Besides the fact that it boost our teacher egos, it also helps you get the most out of your session so you “finish” feeling completely worked and rejuvenated.

  • You see the most change

I often say, there’s in-shape and then there’s Pilates-shape. This work guarantees to be different than ANYTHING you’ve ever done, because simply there’s nothing like it. Our bodies usually respond best to varied movement and challenge so your first 10-30 sessions will be your most memorable. You’ll always remember when you mastered that seemly impossible exercise, saw your pants getting a little baggier, and notice a muscle growing where you didn’t even know you had one. This new-ness only comes once in a Pilates lifetime and we love to be a part of it.

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So, own your naiveté and know that your instructor is stoked to have a novice in their midst. When it’s time to declare that it’s your first time in class, raise your hand high. Remember you only have your first time once…

The team at FORM Pilates wants to take you through your first time…email us today to speak to our Pilates concierge

 

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Teacher Feature: Co-Op Life!

Greetings from all of us here at FORM Pilates USQ! Having just completed the implementation of our new cooperative structure, we wanted to take a moment and feature a little bit from a few of our teachers who shared a few words about their experience so far. We’ve been plugging away at the new quarter, and hope that you are all spurred into action and productivity by the cool winds of fall! So here it is, straight from the source–What is it like to be apart of a Pilates Co-Operative?

Carrie Campbell

DJG_1837“I enjoy being part of the cooperative because it enables me to have the freedom of running my own business without a lot of overhead. I also enjoy being part of a team of self-motivated, like-minded Pilates teachers.”

Jamie Graham

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“It’s sort of like the best of both worlds in that you have the independence and freedom of working for yourself, but the environment and inspiration of being in a studio and teaching next to other great teachers. You feel less alone!”

Audrey Carney

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“The co-op provides a home and supportive base but even better, tools and connections to propel my career forward. It’s a fun, helpful and passionate group to be a part of!”

Julia Starobin

photo“The FORM Co-Operative feels like home. It’s a great space filled with energy and positivity. It’s amazing to feel like you’re part of a studio while running your personal business. I feel like FORM offers me the best of both worlds.”

Alissa Alter

“I love the freedom and flexibility I get being a part of the alissaFORM Team. I am also thankful for the wonderful people I have met.”

Liza Ard

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“I love having the freedom to arrange my own schedule and the perk of working in a nice space that’s graciously maintained. It’s fun to work alongside teachers that are in charge of themselves, it creates a very positive work space.”

So are you interested in joining our family?! Check out more info about our membership options by clicking here. What are you waiting for? Fill out an application today!

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Teacher Focus Feature ~ Vanessa West

One of FORM’s newest teaching additions is Vanessa West. I first met Vanessa in my studio at one of my business seminars. I found her incredibly smart and insightful so when she told me she wanted to be part of the FORM brood I was thrilled! I am pleased to have this opportunity to get to know her better and share my findings with you! Here’s the scoop on Vanessa: ChairpullUpb&w

With a childhood speckled with ballet and dance, Vanessa knows the importance of moving well. As a “corporate animal” she was looking for something that could alleviate thediscomfort of sitting in boardrooms and airplanes all day, and she got it with her first taste of Pilates on a mat in a dusty old room. The Tribeca space was in need of renovation, a converted dance studio, but that didn’t phase Vanessa- the class was amazing and it was love at first workout. She was especially drawn to the key principles of Pilates – control and centering, which helped her manage a demanding travel schedule during her career in media sales and marketing. Eventually she decided that a stiff back and the 9 to 5 schedule was not her style and decided to leave the office to become a fully certified Pilates instructor and teach full time.

Besides the way the method made her feel, Vanessa was attracted to how Pilates challenges every body, regardless of age or fitness level. The initial draw of the work in her body was fused with seeing how her client’s mind-body connections improved and finally helping them achieve the results they always wanted with the magic of Pilates.vw102.hr

So, it’s no surprise that Vanessa loves to work with clients who have spent their professional lives in corporate environments. She can relate to how the pace and pressure of corporate life can create a disconnect between our minds and bodies.  Helping people incorporate the method into their daily lives – sitting up at their desks, controlling their breathing while giving a presentation, scooping their abs when reaching up for that bag in the overhead bin. She loves helping people build & improve that bridge, making them more confident in their body’s abilities

Vanessa seems to always be teaching these days, but when she isn’t she’s been getting back into cooking. Tackling the “Balthazaar” cookbook, who’s most recent dish was their coq au vin.  Art & travel is also on the agenda, and she’s ready to get more stamps on her passport.  Ireland and Greece are at the top of her list.

Here’s 5 secret nuggets you may not know about Vanessa:

  • She’s afraid of birds, heights and clowns. At times that’s a challenge in NYC!
  • She loves a good martini, slightly dirty.
  • She believes that life is too short to take ourselves too seriously.
  • She likes tall men who can make me laugh.
  • And she believes that it IS true that sometimes you’ve just gotta dance.

 

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What the Fuck is Pilates Anyway?

In a conversation with a couple of clients over brunch, I realized how little people know about what Pilates is — even those who actually practice it.

As I took the time to ponder this anomaly, I started wonder what is Pilates anyway?

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There’s the textbook answer: Joe Pilates was an actual man. A boxer, gymnast, movement enthusiast. He was an inventor, an innovator. A man’s man. A beer-drinking, cigar-smoking German. My clients all have that basic knowledge, and maybe some of the New York lineage. “Yes, Romana, she’s the Pilates guru,” but that’s really it. As I sat explaining the roots of Pilates, its foundation, family tree, and my line, I realized that it still doesn’t really explain what it actually is. SO, if Pilates isn’t the people that created it or teach it, what the fuck is Pilates anyway?

 

It might be easiest to start with what Pilates isn’t. It’s not yoga, or ballet-based. It’s not weight training, or just mat work. Pilates falls somewhere between mind/body modalities and cross fit. It’s not extreme or passive. It stretches, strengthens, energizes, relaxes, and heals all at the same time. There’s equipment involved, and while it’s most beneficial if you use it, you don’t have to if you want to do some Pilates.

 

No wonder Pilates is confuIMG_4501sing to most people — even to it’s instructors. We come from all different backgrounds — from dancers to dog trainers — and hold certifications from different schools in over 20 states and 24 international countries. It was Joe’s dream to have a Pilates studio on every corner, in every city, in every country. The thing with expansion is that the more hands you have on something the more it morphs and changes, and some say, mutates. Joe used to give each person their own personal workout and then let them loose in the studio nudging and elbowing them into correct form. So whatever Pilates was for the business man that came to the studio, it may not be the same for the ballerina next to him. The definition of Pilates wasn’t the same for him as it was for her.

 

Here’s where the family tree grows branches and spreads it’s seeds across the world, making Joe’s dream come true. Many hands, many amalgamations. But isn’t that what their experience warranted? The industry gets bogged down with arguments and “discussions” on who’s actually teaching the true work of Joe, but really who the heck knows what Joe would do if he were alive today? He would probably be sitting back, sipping a cold one, and laughing at all the money in the bank.

 

 

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Three Reasons People Are Afraid To Try Pilates — And Why You Shouldn’t Be

I’m not gonna lie. Pilates is hard. I was a professional dancer before I came to Pilates and I still thought it damn hard when I started. Sure, I had the coordination thing down already but I still had to re-learn how to move the Pilates way and that, my friend, was not easy. From a teaching stand-point, I try to convey this struggle to my clients. They will merely roll their eyes in disbelief and say, “Sure, your teaser looks like you have been doing it since you came out of the womb.” Not the case. When I started taking lessons I couldn’t do a roll-up to save my life because my lower back was locked solid from years of butt-clenching at the ballet barre. I find it particularly irritating to dispel all of the Pilates rumors and try to convince men that there really was a man who created the work and it was not a flouncy ballerina in a tutu. So, if you’ve been interested in trying that thing called Pilates this article is for you. Pilates is a challenge, but anything worth having is always worth working for isn’t it?

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  • Reason #1 – Pilates is just for dancers and women

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the method. To dispel the rumors correctly let me give you a quick history lesson. Joe Pilates was an actual person who was very much a manly man. He was a boxer and a gymnast who smoked cigars and drank beer. There was nothing girly about this German powerhouse. The first studio in the US was opened in NYC, and just happened to be in the same building as two of the biggest dance companies. When dancers heard that Uncle Joe on the 5th floor was helping heal injuries and strengthen weak muscles, they jumped right on that. Dancers became some of his biggest devotees not because the work was dance-like, but instead because they danced better and healed themselves with the work. When your body is your source of income, it is indispensable. In the modern Pilates studio, men may feel intimidated by all the ladies in the house. They shouldn’t. In that very first Pilates studio, business men were sweating it out right next to the dancers under Joe’s watchful eye. Remember, this was the 1920s and most women were home with the babies and didn’t seem concerned with working out. Men dominated the studio and Joe knew just how to work with them since he created the method for himself and well, he is the man.

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  • Reason #2 – I’ll look stupid/awkward/feel embarrassed/or won’t be good at it

Ok, let’s just say that anytime you try to learn a new skill there’s going to be a learning curve. No one jumps on a bike for the first time and pedals away. Sure, some of us pick up certain things faster than others but we’ve all fallen, stumbled, or tripped along the way so you’re not alone. Learning Pilates is no different. It’s something you have NEVER done and it’s NOT like anything else so duh, it’s going to be a challenge. The thing is, it’s not about getting somewhere or reaching some illusive Pilates level. No way, Jose! It’s about the movement, and in that moment, being present with each muscle and sensation. Learning to coordinate those movements together to work your body (the only one you’ll have in this lifetime btw), to its most efficient, healthiest self. Plus, Pilates instructors don’t see all of those so-called missteps. We’re trained to be so focused on what YOU need as the individual and how to give you that. We aren’t really paying attention to nervousness. We just want you to work hard no matter how it looks. So, feel a little awkward. Maybe even be a little embarrassed. But don’t give up because Pilates is one of the BEST things you can do for your self.

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  • Reason #3 – I don’t have the right body type or I’m too old

Joe’s biggest dream was that there would be a Pilates studio on every corner, in every city, all over the world. What he didn’t envision, was that only skinny, anorexic-looking women would be doing his method. Nuh uh. He had fantasies of kids doing Pilates in school, elderly men standing tall for the first time in years, and sedentary office workers getting color in their cheeks from finally getting their blood pumping. Pilates is for everyone and every body. It is safe enough for the 80 year old or the injured; it is challenging enough for those pro-dancers and athletes. In archival documents and interviews Joe Pilates never talks about muscles or bones but rather breath and blood. He wasn’t promising flat abs or a perky ass, but optimal health and space for your organs to do their thing without obstacles. Feeling good was waaaay more important than looking it. So, whether you’re a super model or a just the average Joe — Pilates IS right for you!

In short there is really no good reasons not to be doing Pilates, so get over yourself and get into the studio. I promise you’ll thank me. If you’re in New York, schedule your New Client Special here at FORM Pilates USQ here!

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