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Client of the Month : JULY


Jack L. Client of the Month - July 

jack blog post pic 1    jack blog post pic 2


Jack came to Aspire a year ago with horrible hip and knee pain.  His face was grimaced in agony, he had hunched over posture, and limped laboriously into the studio.  His hand was firmly planted in front of his right hip, as if trying to protect it.   His pain and stiffness was so great that he used a special tool to help him get his socks on in the morning.  


A true skeptic, Jack admitted that his daughter who loved Pilates so much that she decided to become certified, had forced him to come. (He later also admitted that he thought that I had made up the website testimonials, as there was no way that exercise could help so many people with pain.)  Qualified by his doctor as a candidate for two hip knee replacement surgeries, the doctor told him that they could operate whenever he could no longer stand the pain.


We began very slowly and carefully so that Jack's pain would not increase while working out.  We started by strengthening his Core, then began working on the strength, flexibility, and balance of the muscles that support the hip and knees. By working the postural muscles of the upper back, we slowly started "uncurling" him, which enabled him to stand up straight.  Add this work to an intense focus on improving his body mechanics, and Jack was surprised that he was soon able to participate fully in life.  



Jack worked very hard and was consistently surprised that small, subtle movements could bring about such fast improvement in the pain level of his arthritic joints.  He enthusiastically increased his physical activity level as he began feeling better and better.  Known in his neighborhood as a super-friendly person who invests lots of time supporting local kids, he walked into Aspire one day totally amazed. The neighborhood kids were excited that he had "finally had a hip replacement".  They danced around him imitating his "before and after" walk; hunched over limping, then upright, smooth walking.  His look of amazement was priceless when he said, "Tonya, I haven't had my hip replacement, it's the Pilates".



Jack's new strength, flexibility, balance and new body mechanics have gone a long way to improve the quality of his life.  "I've avoided surgery for the time being.  I have a new lease on life".  He recently started cycling, bought a tennis racket, and is now going toe to toe with the neighborhood kids on both the basketball and tennis courts.   


I feel so lucky to be able to watch Jack's incredible transformation. A truly kind man, his big heart is evident in how he treats everyone around him.  Best of luck, Jack!  To many more years of taking the kids to the hoop


Other quotes by Jack:

"In less than a year, I have gone from experiencing debilitating pain most of the time, to occasional, moderate pain.  And my posture is now as it should be". - Jack L.


"I never thought that I'd be playing tennis or cycling, let alone jogging ever again". - Jack L. 

Sneak Some Fitness into Your Holidays




"The most wonderful time of the year" is upon us. Twinkling lights, office parties, family fun, and expectations of joy and merriment abound. Children wait breathlessly for the holidays, while adults often experience a mixture of excitement, feeling overwhelmed and melancholy.




With all our big plans for fun, we know that we should take care of ourselves during this whirlwind time. But we soon get discouraged and often give up, opting instead to "take care of myself in January." But,with a little strategy, you can have an outrageous holiday season while mitigating stress and depression.




Live in comfortable shoes so that you can take advantage of using your body physically at any moment. Instead of driving around in circles for that perfect spot at the mall, park at the far end of the parking lot and enjoy a little cardio. Use the stairs versus the elevator.




While traveling by air, carry your own bags to do some strength training. Avoid the moving walkways. Stretch, do isometric exercises and practice deep breathing while at the gate. If you get stranded waiting for your plane, you may as well take advantage of it and take a brisk walk around the terminal. You will feel great and your stress level will certainly drop.




Workout before going to stressful family meals.This will help with nervous eating, as well as your ability to cope with those "interesting" conversations.




Walk with your family to see the neighborhood lights. Avoiding the car can give you a great time of family bonding while establishing a tradition of holidayexercise.




And while you're at it, get a massage and enjoy a hot bath!



Socializing and eating questionable food is part of the fun of the holidays. Sneaking in a bit of exercise will keep your energy up, your stress level down and your waist line in check. You can then begin January with high energy, a great sense of accomplishment, and ready to make 2012 a fantastic year.


Serious Athletes Cheer!


Cheerleaders Are Serious Athletes

Gone are the days when cheerleaders stood on the sidelines without breaking a sweat and "rah rahed" while shaking pom poms. Today's cheerleaders participate in a heavy-duty contact sport that demands a high level of athleticism, strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, all of which are driven by the power of the Core. Cheer now requires a high level of discipline, long practice hours, and infinite bravery. According to the Sports Injury Center and National Cheer Safety Foundation, over 70% of cheerleading injuries are strains, sprains and soft tissue injuries, and cheerleading accounts for over 65% of the catastrophic injuries in female sports. The athletic demands of today's cheer can no longer be ignored.


These young athletes (most aged 5-18, unless they continue through college and professionally) dance hard, lift their teammates overhead, tumble like gymnasts, and get tossed around like confetti at a wedding. Take a moment to think about the strength it takes to do all that! It's no wonder that hamstrings and groins get pulled, backs get injured, knees, ankles and wrists get sprained, and shoulders get dislocated. And because cheerleaders often start stunting very young, there is a high potential for strain on immature joint structures that may not have yet developed the muscularity to keep the joints stable.


The best coaches take conditioning seriously and stress safety. They drill basics, teach progressions, and do a great job trying to keep their teams healthy. But with the high number of injuries sustained performing super human feats, it is clear that cheerleading has developed into a sport that deserves athletic kudos and requires a high level of cross training in order to be successful and healthy.

So whether you're a solid base or a flyer who craves anti-gravity, cross train for success. A strong conditioning program starts with solid Core strength, flexibility, balance, healthy body mechanics, and addresses the muscular imbalances of the sport. Don't let the smile and pep fool you. Cheerleading deserves serious respect. Train both your body and mind for success. Go Team!

If We Skipped the Elevator, Would We Still Need the Stair Master?


 Gone are the days when most Americans had to fetch water to bathe, forage for food in the forest, chop wood to build homes, chase after large prey, and farm the land just to get dinner. In other words, we've lost our built-in daily exercise. Have you ever stopped to think that the fantastic level of comfort that our culture enjoys is killing us with convenience and ease? We stumble out of bed, walk just a few steps, and run a hot shower. We press "heat" and we suddenly have breakfast. We exit our garage via an electric door opener, drive to work where we ease into an elevator, then sit all day in a chair. We even go through the drive-through at lunch to keep from getting out of our car and walking inside. I'm sure most of us would agree that getting up to change the TV channel is now way too much work. In other words, we have perfected the ability to do the least amount of physical activity possible. Now we have to figure out how to get to the gym in order to put movement back into our bodies. Strange, right?

Want a couple of really great tricks to get some exercise and movement back into your daily routine?
Park your car down the street from your home, at the far end of the parking lot at work, at the grocery store, and at all of your errands.
Take the stairs vs. the elevator.
Misplace your remote control for the TV.

If you are recovering from joint pain, you may have to gently build up to this new movement as your body adjusts to more activity. By adding these baby steps, you will be amazed at how quickly you build new strength and endurance. These extra few minutes of exercise will soon add up and have you energized and focused for the rest of your day, easily making up for the minutes that you "spent" doing the exercise. So while you may not need to sprint to catch your evening meal, you'll soon be looking for excuses to run more errands. Keep yourself moving so that our modern life and technology (which is designed to make our lives easier) doesn't kill you slowly and comfortably with its "Ahhh" factor.

Gotta' Love Pilates, it Makes Golfers Great!


Who says that golfers aren't athletes?

Most of us agree that basketball players, gymnasts, swimmers, and even professional dancers are athletes. It's expected that serious athletes approach their sport with serious physical conditioning to compete well. Whether it's traditional weightlifting and stretching regimens, to more progressive workouts found in Pilates or yoga, athletes know that they must build strength, flexibility and balance if they are to play well, avoid injury, and gain an edge over their competition.

So what about golf? As golf is often seen as a kinder, gentler, social activity, many people start playing as older adults or casually on weekends, and overlook training their bodies for high level athletics. But because of the percussive force and rotational torque through the body, the golf swing requires a high level of athleticism to be effective and sustainable. How are players able to produce more driving power and minimize the impact on their joints year after year? By building a finely tuned physical instrument armed with Core strength, flexibility, balance, and healthy body mechanics.

Strengthening the Core (the deep muscles that create stability in the spine and pelvis) gives us untapped power, explosiveness, and helps protect us from injury. Improving flexibility helps our range of motion, creates an ease of movement, and the ability to distribute force more uniformly throughout the body, which prevents us from over taxing joints in areas such as the shoulders and lower back. Balance and healthy body mechanics help build a smooth and consistent swing with less effort. And a well designed golf conditioning program not only helps your game improve and speeds recovery after long weekends on the green, but enhances your daily life with more energy and fewer aches and pains.

So if you want great club head speed, a smoother swing, longer drives, and faster recovery time, tap into your inner athlete. Regardless of your age or fitness level, by taking your conditioning to the next level, you can improve your handicap while improving the overall quality of your life.

Ad info:

Love Golf? Tap Into Your Inner Athlete
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Smoother Swing & Longer Drives
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I’m able to maintain & lower my handicap, continue to excel, & play at a more competitive level." Joe Z., 0.0 Handicap, Aspire Client


From "Brick Man" To "Gumby" Golfer

Client of the Month, Joe Z.


"Before Pilates, I didn't even really know what my Core was and now I can feel it working during my daily activities."


Joe is an energetic, personable, smart man who truly loves golf. In his mid-50's and with a 0.0 handicap, he competes at a high level in amateur golf tournaments around the country. When Joe walked into Aspire 18 months ago, he was frustrated, in pain, and wasn't sure where to turn. The long hours on the golf course, coupled with many hours at his desk at work, had grown into severe back pain complete with several herniated discs, a torn rotator cuff which had turned into frozen shoulder, neck pain, knee pain, and a multitude of other daily aches that made his life difficult and playing golf very painful. People were telling him that he may have to retire from golf, as his body was "giving out" on him. "When I started Pilates over 1 ½ years ago, I was searching for something that would eliminate joint and muscle pain without causing more injury. I was also searching for a way to still play golf and get better." While working with a chiropractor and a massage therapist, a local body worker told Joe that he should try Pilates for Core strength and joint stability.


When Joe started Pilates, he was lacking strength in key areas of his body that help keep pain at bay and help with athletic performance. He was also extremely tight and inflexible, which quickly earned him the friendly nickname of "Brick Man." As with all of our clients, we started very slowly and steadily with Joe. We began building from the "inside out" by first strengthening the deep core muscles in order to stabilize the spine. Then we began addressing the rest of his body with good body mechanics and strengthening. "Tonya has been a life savior. She has given her time and energy to identifying my individual bad habits, weak muscles, and stressed joints, and to providing me with specific exercises that have not only helped reduce my pain level, but have also increased my strength, flexibility and balance."


Not long after starting Pilates, Joe noticed a big decrease in his back pain, which was followed by reduced pain in his other joints. Once we got his body mechanics working better, we began building his strength, flexibility and balance. This continued to improve the comfort in his body and then we were able to start golf specific Pilates training. Using not only traditional Reformer and Cadillac Pilates machine exercises, we added balancing on props that wobble, rotation on moving objects, swinging the golf club while standing on unstable and tricky surfaces, and breathing techniques to increase rotation and power while driving the club. Soon, his friends noticed that he was suddenly "going long" and wondered if this Pilates stuff that he was doing was really working.




"I am able to play and practice more and

my body mechanics are much better, allowing

me to swing the club more effectively,

producing more club head speed."



After a few months, he noted that he was able to play and practice for longer and longer periods of time without feeling like he was "shredded." With Pilates, Joe is now able to play 36 holes a day with little or no pain. And now, even when he is sore, the pain is less dramatic and his recovery time is faster. "I am now able to help myself when my muscles get tired or stressed. I now know which exercises will help reduce my pain and speed my recovery." While Pilates has helped eliminate much of the pain that Joe has had in his body for such a long time, the bonus is that it has also given him new and untapped strength, which in turn has improved his golf game. Pilates is a fantastic form of training which focuses on your body's specific needs. "Pilates has really changed my life and taught me about my body and its unique traits. With my new found flexibility, I am able to maintain and lower my handicap, continue to excel, and play at a more competitive level." A reflection of his new found flexibility is Joe's new nickname at Aspire - "Gumby." Golf is an integral part of Joe's life, and now he has many more years to hit the ball as his golf continues to improve and his body continues on its path to happiness. The overall shift in Joe's body not only has given him new power, endurance, and a better quality of life, but it has given him many additional years of joy playing his beloved golf. Best of luck, Joe! Here's to fewer strokes, longer drives and a pain-free life on the green.



Athletes: Performance Through The Roof


Real men doing Pilates.


Did you know that athletes do Pilates? Or have you always thought that Pilates is just for "girls"?

Actually, Joseph Pilates was a professional boxer who extensively trained competitive athletes in the fields of boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, circus arts, dance, as well as actors, police officers and people of all walks of life. The Williams Sisters, Tiger Woods, John England, the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions, the Milwaukee Brewers, and closer to home, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, all use Pilates as an integral part of their training.

Why is Pilates such a great form of strength training for athletes? Pilates is a method designed to strengthen the core while increasing whole body strength, flexibility, and balance while emphasizing healthy body mechanics. Many commonly used training regimens utilize high repetitions with

Joseph Pilates at age 57.
Athleticism that many
20 years olds would envy.

heavy weights, followed by stretching (hopefully) to prevent the tightening of muscles. In contrast, Pilates emphasizes short reps focused on perfect form and the "eccentric" contraction of the muscle. (An eccentric contraction occurs when the work of the muscle happens while it is lengthening, versus shortening.) The result? A workout with the perfect balance of strength and flexibility, a newly found awareness of one's body in space, topped off with the training of solid, healthy body mechanics. And healthy, balanced body mechanics create a smart and efficient quality of movement that allows you to throw the ball farther, run faster, and jump higher.

Athletics (and life) requires the dynamic, multi-dimensional movement of our bodies. In sports, movements are not simple and two-dimensional. Tackling and hitting require rotation and torquing in any given direction with force. That means that two-dimensional bicep or hamstring curls and crunches don't translate into the dynamic, multi-dimensional movements needed for the power and agility of high performance sports. Athletes need to strengthen their muscles in multiple planes and alignments in order to throw a ball effectively, swing a bat, dismount off of an apparatus, sprint towards home, or defy injury of a hard hit.


Stronger, More Flexible &
Faster With Pilates
Strength and flexibility also determine your speed. You may have a very fast gait, but if your muscles are tightly bound, your stride will be shorter than its potential. And tight muscles often lead to injury which can haunt an athlete for their entire career. Sadly, such injuries can force an athlete into early retirement from the game that they love so much. Pilates can help prevent injuries and can also help strengthen an athlete after they have "recovered" to regain their pre-injury strength, flexibility, speed and more.


In addition, using Pilates equipment is a phenomenal resource for plyometrics. Athletes can jump in a horizontal position; decreasing the effects of gravity, while allowing their trainer to help them re-pattern old, bad habits which may slow them down and decrease


Pilates takes an athlete's already dynamic body and mind and transforms it from the inside out. What happens when you increase deep core strength, flexibility, balance, and new movement possibilities? An athlete's game goes through the roof!


Reaching New Heights: Natasha C.


April Client of the Month, Natasha C.!



Natasha C. has pretty dancer lines, a wonderfully focused and hard working attitude, and plenty of potential for a career in dance. We met two summers ago while I was teaching contemporary dance at Contra Costa Ballet in Walnut Creek.  
The following summer, I again had the privilege of teaching Natasha and was happy to see that she had improved nicely over the year. Through Contra Costa Ballet's detailed technical training and eye for excellence, an inspiring summer away at Ballet Austin,  and Natasha's love of dance, determination and great work ethic,  she was beginning to transform into a solid dancer.

reachingnatashaIn order to be as strong and prepared as possible for her upcoming summer program auditions, Natasha began studying Pilates at Aspire about 6 months ago. Like most  dancers, she was concerned about the height of her leg extensions, her strength, flexibility and balance, and the potential for injury. Having a delicate, ballerina-sized frame that had not yet come into it's power, she had only glimpsed her future potential when we began working together.


Like all human beings, dancers develop unhealthy compensation patterns in order to succeed with movement. This over use of certain muscles and under use of others, hinders athletic performance and often causes pain. As with all Aspire clients, we began with our "inside out" path of strengthening and stabilizing Natasha's core. As her core strength increased, Natasha quickly discovered that movements initiated from this deep, center of the body were suddenly stronger, easier, more graceful, and didn't hurt.


Our next task was to focus more specifically on the alignment and stability of Natasha's foot, ankle, knee, hip and spine. Natasha has beautiful "banana" or "croissant" feet, as they are referred to in the dance world. "Banana/ croissant foot" is admired for the high graceful arch which gives a dancer's lines a lovely, polished look. However "croissant foot" is often accompanied by weakness in the ankles and feet.  And weakness in any joint usually translates into wobbles of instability, loss of power in movement, and possible pain in the future. 


"Soon after starting to work at Aspire," says Natasha, "I found that I began to use muscles that I didn't even know that I had. My big toe, which had always refused to point with the rest of my foot, now curls over with the rest of my toes.  Right away, my ankles started getting stronger and more stable." 


Natasha knew that she wanted her leg extensions to be high and turned out, but couldn't quite get her
leg up without pain in the front of her hip.
"When I figured out how to connect my core to the rest of my body," says Natasha, "my whole body became more flexible. My extension got higher without the "ginching" of my hip flexor. My turnout improved and I could suddenly balance for FOREVER." "Ginching" is dancer speak for "ouch."
Taking Pilates right before her dance classes and rehearsals meant that Natasha was already warmed up without being fatigued, and able to access the correct muscles from the very first note played in class. She was soon thrilled to discover that "my ankles and body no longer wobble on promenades and I can jump much higher with less effort." 

Each day Natasha continues to get stronger, more flexible, better balanced, and smarter in her body and approach to movement. Using Pilates technique, she has excelled beautifully and has "leap frogged" forward in her dance progress during her past 6 months of training.

After being accepted to several world class summer dance programs, Natasha is excited to be off to the prestigious Miami City Ballet in Florida. She will get to enjoy the sun and sand, while training with fellow ballerinas from across the country. Natasha has begun to open her beautiful, newly found wings as a young butterfly and will soon take to the skies. 

Best of luck, Natasha! We can't wait to see your name in lights!



Lisa T. -February 2010 Client of the Month


When Lisa walked into the studio, she was in horrible pain and without much hope that she could feel better. She was on a medical leave of absence from work and spent much of her time icing her back. Before being injured, she was a vibrant elementary school teacher and avid world traveler.

 "A year and a half ago, I slipped at work and slipped a disc at the same time. I underwent four months of physical therapy, chiropractic appointments and two epidurals. Doctors were telling me that the pain was 'normal' and I'd probably be in pain for the rest of my life. My daily activities had become excruciating. I was so badly injured that walking was painful. After trying yoga, I started Pilates."


When Lisa started working at Aspire, we started out slowly. "The first couple of weeks in private sessions, we worked on breathing exercises to get my core muscles to kick in. It doesn't sound like much, but I was in pain and too weak for anything else." These basic exercises gave Lisa a solid sense of body awareness, began strengthening her deep core muscles, and helped to stabilize her spine. In order to minimize her pain, we also suggested changes in how Lisa approached her daily activities, such as how to sit while grading papers and positions in which to sleep, which began to make an impact on how she felt.


Prior to beginning Pilates at Aspire, Lisa had little success relieving her pain or strengthening her body. But with this new and careful "inside out" Pilates approach, she gained strength, stability, improved body mechanics and endurance. She worked very hard throughout the summer, integrating the new techniques into her life. Then just before school started, a dramatic announcement came from her doctor: Lisa was cleared to return to work! "When I went back to work, I was SO HAPPY, but so nervous that I was going to hurt myself again or be back in pain. Thankfully, that hasn't happened."


Lisa continues to get stronger and stronger. After 18 months of not being able to workout or exercise, she still surprises herself that she is now able to spend an hour on the Elliptical. "Now I really understand what it means to use my core and am always surprised that now my stomach and legs are doing most of the work for me instead of my back."


"At my last appointment, the doctor said that my injury was considered 'stationary' and that I was working at 90%. Tonya has made it her personal challenge to help get me back to 100%." Will Lisa ever be back to 100%? Only time will tell. But through her hard work and positive attitude, Lisa has already gone far beyond what she or her doctors had dared to imagine. With less than eight months under her Pilates belt, she gets stronger and stronger, and the quality of her life has changed for the better. Our guess? That we will soon see Lisa, once again, leading youth groups across the world.


Best of luck, Lisa! You are a true inspiration!



This is the Year! (How to keep your New Year's Fitness Resolutions

"This is the year! I'm going to do it! I'm going to follow through on my New Year's resolution to get in thisistheshape no matter... how badly it hurts!" Unfortunately, because many of us tend to over extend ourselves during the first week of January, all of the positive energy and enthusiasm created by our aspirations are quickly dampened by sore muscles or even injuries. The injuries stop us in our tracks and the sore muscles transform working out into torture.

When we eventually stop working out - to end the torture - guilt sets in because we've bought into a "no pain, no gain" philosophy that, in the long term, really doesn't serve us well. Moving towards an outlook that embraces "no pain, big gain" as part of our 2010 New Year's Resolutions, is the perfect way to break the old patterns and start fresh. What's the key to "no pain, big gain"? Start slowly and build a foundation of healthy body mechanics. 

Tips to Build Successful Fitness Resolutions

Build a solid foundation of good technique. This enables you to realize fast results while simultaneously preventing injury.

Start slow and steady. This enables your body to become strong, flexible and prepared to tackle your athletic aspirations.

Remember that there is always tomorrow. You don't have to hit that athletic goal before the gym closes tonight.

Find a good teacher or mentor. Working with someone well qualified makes a huge difference in helping you start and stay on the path to long term success.

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