amaze plus size magazine

with michele weston

Making the Body Mind Journey
The Second Installment
An ongoing conversation for
health and well-being
Click for first installment

I decided to start this journey gradually and with the area of changing my lifestyle that was the least daunting for me. Now don't laugh, but it's fitness. Go figure! I love the way I feel when I do yoga, take aqua-aeorobics and lift weights but never had great follow thru. (I always blamed it on lack of time or needing more sleep instead.)

I was ready to dive back into the world of exercise but needed to do it on my own terms and with a new way to work my body that was more gentle but still had the elements of core strength that would also help my balance, cardio and continued flexibility I craved. One other stipulation was that I did not want have a military personal trianer pumping up the weights, or cheery person yelling at a fitness class for an hour with super-loud music at the front of an aerobics class. Tall order huh? Not at Duke Diet and Fitnes Center!

I was matched up by Gerald, the fitness manager, with personal trainer and class instructor Tara House. She quickly became a 'mentor of movement' for me. She was teaching and guiding her classes and clients on how to modify the Pilate's Method on the mat no matter what size. I was in love. The Pilate's Mat classes have caught on across the country in many gyms due to the cost and ease of not having to get to a Pilate's apparatus (such as The Reformer or The Cadillac that cost 100's to 1,000's of dollars) for one on one classes and has helped the movement of core strength in Pilate's have more and more followers.

Tara understood. As she is also a massage therapist at the DFC she has the sensitivity and understanding in working with her clients with bigger bodies. Many of us thought we don't have those core stomach muscles nor connect to them with all of your layers of curves – women particularly. Getting to understand that you do have those muscles and connecting with the ideal they do work becomes a more subtle and excercise and yet more I found I had more energy – which led me to a new feeling of control of miantainig a level of fitness and developing longer leaner muscles. It's not a class about competition - but a journey and a real time for one to focus on yourself and feel the core muscles that connect your whole body from head to toe.

Tara's enthusiasm is catching. We moved on to the notorious "hundreds": Lying on mats on our backs, legs in a chair position for connection at it's deepest, and arms at our sides, pumping our arms up and down slightly - knowing that inhaling and exhaling in sets of 5 till you got to the 10 sets of 100 was the toughest workout you had done in a while - but you were not winded. The Pilates movements are intentionally quite small. "Pretend you're slapping water," she says. The goal is to strengthen the abdominal muscles, what Pilate's instructors call 'the powerhouse.' Tara explains: "When you sit and stand, you tend to sink all your weight into the gut. If you concentrate here and build these muscles, they will upport you even more. The essence of these exercises is proper breathing and control over your body and its muscles, with particular emphasis on the abdomen. You build strength in that central "core" of your torso, and with stronger abdominals you also strengthen your entire spine and, incidentally, leads to great posture. But that isn't to say that the rest of you takes it easy. You might be holding 3 or 5Lb hand barbells while you stretch to firm up your underarms, but your legs are constantly working, too. Instead of repetition, Pilate's involves a series of more than 500 different movements that you do for 5 sets and move onto another Pilate's exercise. So you NEVER get bored cause the instructor always can mix it up!

Tara also shared with me a few key pointers of what we should think about when you feel 'daunted' about joining a Pilates mat class. I want you to truly think about these ideas before we go into talking more about Pilate's:

[1] “Your body is capable of doing these exercises and working the core muscle underneath payers of fat  – just because you can’t see them working does not mean they are not there!”

[2] “Basic Rule - Three classes seems to be the ‘magic’ number – look for the right analogies to connect the idea of the core muscles – Keep with it and know that slow and steady wins the race.”



“You need to get past the numbers … When you have an obsession with numbers you can’t heal your self image… This applies to the scale, the number in your clothing and how fast you are shrinking your body. Be kind to your body and it will help you heal.”

[4] “Mindfulness is key – Most of our day our attention is on the ‘outside’ of ourselves not on the inside…Take this time to focus on yourself - Lengthen and connect and strengthen your mind in regards to how your feel about your body - through and with - your body from the core of your being and there will be less stress on your joints back and even your mood…”

Tara's favorite Pilate's instructor and author of the bible guide and shares with her clients is - The Pilates Body (Broadway Books) by Brooke Siler – who is based in NYC with her Pilates studio re:AB downtown in Manhattan. Siler has a brand new book that just hit the bookstores titled: The Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, which I'll share with you later- As well as Rebecca "Boo" Pfeiffer who created Poolates that marries water exercise and land based Pilates three years ago - based in Florida and is catching on like wildfire thru Health Clubs and Spas nationwide as she certifies more and more instructors and continues to teach herself (Including Tina Orloff at Sports Club LA/East Side which happens to be my gym in NYC!! How lucky was I to return home to that?!

You can check out her new book at or a local bookstore near you.


Brooke has even created the portable, interactive fitness program kit. Available at



Until next month, off to Poolates! Plus the next installment, Food Being Fuel.

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