Don’t kill yourself.


Jamie Graham putting me through my paces

In my workouts, I often come upon an exercise that I find particularly challenging. My legs are shaking, my abs are popping out (when they should be staying in), sweat is blinding my eyes. I want to give up. I want answers. Why can’t I do said exercise with ease and grace? I want the pain in my hip-flexers and quads to migrate to my middle. So, I ask whichever teacher I’m working with, either Shari Berkowitz or Bob Leikens, and, I always elicit the same response, “WORK HARDER!”

I take sessions with these master teachers in hopes that their resolve and sometimes strident corrections will, by osmosis or other magical means, meld me into a Pilates superstar. The truth is, I do my weekly workouts on my own, but just can’t get as much out of them.

I give up too easily on myself.

My senior year in high school I dropped out, ran away from home, and moved to Hawaii. I know, pretty dramatic huh? I spent two glorious years there, somehow making a life for myself despite my naivete. When I returned home, I finished my high school work and earned my diploma. After my time away, I lost the momentum of learning and didn’t end up  going to college. What could school teach me that I didn’t already know? I was working as a professional dancer, living on my own, paying my own way. Who could teach me more than life already had?

I went on to go to dance school at a prominent studio in LA, and eventually became a Pilates instructor piecing together my learning when I had the extra cash. I was successful, if not in traditional terms. Living on my own in my own apartment and scraping by with odd jobs between dancing gigs. I eventually bought my own reformer with cash from a particularly lucrative gig and saw clients out of my home, I was suddenly a small business owner.

Years later, when the murkiness of inexperience faded away, I reflected back on my life to see where I’d been. Frankly, although I had been places and done things, I felt like a fraud. I had no degree, I had no job, I was in my 30’s and I had no health insurance or a ring on my left hand. In society’s view, I was nowhere but here. I was sore at all those responsible for my deficiencies. My parents for not chaining me to bed when I wanted to skip town. The absent school counselor who didn’t instruct me to research schools that cater to budding artists like me. My ancestors for not making it big and leaving me a trust fund.

That's me 2nd from the left- always a bridesmaid, never the bride

That’s me 2nd from the left- always a bridesmaid, never the bride

It was right then that a very wise woman (my therapist) reminded that I shouldn’t assassinate the one person I was left with, me. So, while the absence of all the things in my life is real, ultimately it’s up to one person to work harder and deliver it to me. That’s yours truly. When the exercise feels unbearable and impossible, it’s up to me to rally and make it happen, “Work Harder!” When I’m lonely, or abandoned, or slighted, it’s up to me to supply the cure. Don’t kill the messenger, or yourself. You’re all you really have.

Having a hard time getting motivated? Beating yourself up for not working out hard enough, or even working out at all? We’ve got just what you need. Our expert instructors will teach you the joy of Pilates, and will whisper (or yell) WORK HARDER depending on what your needing that day. Get a solid foundation and your confidence back with our >New Client Special, three private sessions to get you moving well.

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Fear regret not failure

In my almost 10 years of teaching experience, I’ve found that not everyone learns the same way. Some people are intrinsically hard workers and just need the information to process, while others need more encouragement and direction. Then there are those who are just challenging. Although I still love them, they can make me wake up at night grinding my teeth to nubs and having to bribe myself with Pinkberry to get into the studio for their sessions. They want to do Pilates, they want to be stronger, they want to change their bodies, but they don’t want to do the work.
Now, I pride myself in being a good teacher, but I’m not a magician. What good would it do for me to waive my magic wand when rewards like this can’t be manufactured like pulling a rabbit out of a hat? It would be so easy for me to assume these clients as liable, but that’s the easy way out. As an instructor I have to assume the burden of reaching those reluctant clients, but how?
Lately, in my existence as an entrepreneur, I have been following Jen Groover. She’s a beautiful woman with flowing blond hair that is breaking down female stereotypes as she pursues her numerous successful businesses. She is a woman after my own heart, influencing others, while making a living doing it. Jen is very inspiring in a time when our economy does not encourage going out on your own and following your passions. She has a famous tag line that stuck in my head, “Have more fear of regret than failure”. This resonated with me in so many ways, but specifically reminded me of my plight with my trying clients. They are so afraid of going outside their comfort zone and “failing” that they would rather not try. How could I encourage them to be more afraid of regret than their failure?
I began by looking inside and at what inspires me. I came to Pilates like many others as a dancer with injuries and the desire to live pain-free. My mentor, Shari Berkowitz and her story, are what ignited my fire for the work. Shari, also a dancer had crippling injuries that she overcame with the help of Pilates. Her passion, as well as lots of gentle discipline and forceful elbowing, inspired me to progress in Pilates beyond my limited thinking. Her fear of regret is what she passed down to me in her teaching.
I continue to study Pilates and to make my passion for it as vibrant and real as I can. My hope is that, like Shari did with me, I can pass that fervor on to my clients. I will gladly lend them mine until they find their own, as long as they return it with interest!

More on this subject later….in the meantime what do you want to hear me blog about next?
Would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and suggestions. I LOVE your comments!

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The Egg Cream Incident


Today, I had my first real egg cream. The egg cream, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a New York institution. An egg cream from Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on 5th is as authentic as it gets. There is nothing like living and eating in New York City. Being from sunny California, I’ve never experienced a city with more history in every block, more life on every street corner. The energy here can either invigorate or flatten you, but living here is never boring. A typical day can start out with a plan. Go here, do this, and suddenly you just might find yourself having your first egg cream at a historical New York joint. Dave, one of the owners of Eisenberg’s, picked up on my California scent right away. “This is your first time here isn’t it?” Busted. Did I look so confused and out of place?

Egg Cream at Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, New York, NYBecoming a New Yorker takes practice and I’d been here almost 3 years now. I’d learned to navigate the subways, found the perfect comfortable shoes for all weather situations, even yelled at someone on the street. I was surely no virgin. But there’s no fooling a master. While I nervously looked on, wondering if I should remind him I wanted a chocolate egg cream not a vanilla, Dave juggled orders, called customers by name, and concocted egg creams all in a New York manner. Lightening speed, unfettered, and with a look of slightly disinterested ease, all from years of practice.

Similarly, I remember the first time I had a Pilates session with my mentor. I was already professional dancer and had been practicing “Pilates” for at least 2 years, I was by no means a virgin, but again, there is no fooling a master. Shari hails form New York, and possesses all the characteristics of a good New Yorker. She is waay honest and sometimes painfully blunt. She’s quick witted with razor sharp intuition. She sussed out my inexperience from the get-go. After an hour of sweating and flailing like a fish out of water, I became fully aware I had a lot to learn.

Although Pilates is a complicated life-long practice, I realized I was ok where I was at….because that’s where I’m at. Shari taught me Pilates is in the details, it’s a technique. Good Pilates technique requires hard work. There’s no avoiding that, but when do we start accepting who we are and where we’re at in this very moment? “Progress not perfection”, I am always telling my clients. I have to learn to listen to my own advice. Learning new things, adapting to new places takes time. Instead of rushing towards our destination we can take our time and enjoy the journey. Yeah right. No seriously, I am proud of my California roots and where I’ve come from makes me who I am today. How do we think masters became masters anyway? Practice my dear, lots of practice.

Shari and I

Shari and I

I’m sure Dave trashed a bunch of egg creams before creating his masterpiece. And I know Shari crashed and burned a teaser or two on her way to becoming my mentor. Mr. Pilates himself was aware of this as well and often said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. He expected his clients to mearly show up as themselves, work hard, and let his work happen.

At my intimate Pilates studio FORM Pilates in NYC, we teach all levels the joy of Pilates. We love Pilates virgins!!! First timers can get a taste of Joe’s method with our New Client Special. Get more info on how FORM works here!

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