5 Fun Plank Variations​ To Challenge Your Core

Planks are one of my favorite exercises! 

I know you’re totally rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true. Planks are a great way to get a fullbody workout. They are perfect to help you build isometric muscles and can even improve your posture. Plus planks are so versatile that you won’t get bored. You can do planks on the floor, with weights, on a reformer, with a ball or even add in a little cardio. 😉 Just what you want right? I’m still kinda giggling from when I taught a circuit bootcamp class a few months ago and I taught an entire 7 minute circuit with all planks. I’m pretty sure everyone hated me during the circuit. 

Now even tho I’m obsessed with planks, I know not everyone is as in love or even knows how to properly plank. So I’m giving you a list of all my favorite plank variation to truly get a full-body workout within minutes. Before we get into some plank variations, I want to go over a few key tips for your form that you NEED to know. 

  1. Keep your shoulders right over your wrists or elbows if you’re in a forearm plank. This will activate those shoulders and help you get out of your wrists. 
  2. To protect your back by slightly tucking your tailbone, this will also help you from arching your back and dropping your belly down or deactivating your core.
  3. Keep your ears pulling up to the ceiling to help keep the back of your neck long

Now keeping those tips in mind, try these planks out! Attempt to do these for at least 30 seconds each, it should only take you 5 minutes. For the side plank 30 seconds each side.

Commandos:

Starting on your hands in a full plank, drop down to your right elbow then your left. Now you’re in a forearm plank, from their place your right hand back onto the floor then your left back into your full plank. Continues going down and up, but make sure you switch which arm is starting. The hard part is keeping your hips level and not moving then. The faster you go the more cardio this becomes. 

Carlie showing commandos.

Mountain Climbers

Most people know how to do these but they are such a great way to get a little cardio in while in a plank. While in a full plank you will draw one knee to your chest then step it back and switch legs. The faster you go the harder it is to do while keeping the correct form of your shoulders over wrist and your butt in line with your body. You can also add a little rotation to get into the obliques a little by drawing your knee to the opposite elbow. 

Side Plank:

Carlie holding a side plank. Wearing @Athleta pants and @ToeSox.

Start on your right side, you can either be on your right hand or on your forearm. The left hand can be on your hip or behind your head. Bring your top foot in front and lift your hips off the floor to get into your side plank. In this position you will hook your back toe under your front foot heel. You’re going to hold just a static plank for 30-60 seconds. 

If holding this plank is too challenging take your top leg and bend the knee to step your foot onto the floor in front of you. Now you can press down with your heel to help you keep your hips up. (I prefer this modification over going down onto your knees as I find it keeps your obliques more active.) If you need more of a challenge you can try stacking your legs giving you less stability and making your core work a little harder. Another option is to lift your top leg and hold it in the air. 😉 

Single leg balance:

While in your plank either on your hands or forearms you’re going to focus on keeping your upper body and hips completely still. Slowly start to lift your right leg off the floor about hip height and hold for 5 second then set your foot down and switch to your left leg. You can increase the challenge by reaching the opposite arm long in front of you as you lift your leg up.

Hip Dips Side-to-Side:

Holding a forearm or full plank, dip your right hip towards the floor then exhale and lift your hips back to center before dipping your left hip down. While doing this try to keep your shoulders stable and only move through the lower half really using your obliques to make the twist. 

Carlie doing hip dips side-to-side while in a forearm plank.

Planks are truly one of the best exercises for core conditioning, while also working your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and improving posture. All great reasons to hop into a plank right now. Try out these 5 planks and let me know how you feel. Can you do all of these plank variations for 30 seconds back to back without a break?

I Made The Leap

Carlie pictured at Crossroads Fitness, sporting @Athleta
and @ToeSox

I did it… I finally took the dive, signed my lease, and committed. If you haven’t heard me talk about this yet, I have officially started my own Personal Training/Pilates business. After training under and with some of the best and brightest in the Bay Area fitness community since 2010, I have decided to take the next step and become my own #bossbabe. 

This has been something I have thought about for a while, however never pursued. What started out as a random cold email to a studio owner (from Bryan actually), turned out to be a great opportunity at an amazing studio close to our home. Could it have been a fear of failure? I’m not entirely sure why I hesitated, but I’m sure glad I made the decision. I am now officially a member of the Crossroads Fitness community and working alongside a community of supportive and strong personal trainers in Burlingame . I have already felt a part of this inspiring family of fitness professionals.

Now that I’m officially my own boss, it’s essential I get my name out and start marketing my little butt off to find new clients to help train. Being a part of a communal studio and larger fitness network allows me the ability to leverage the extra resources and benefits to create a strong presence in the community. Different Pilates studios have different setups; some hire the instructors as direct employees of the studio, and others, the instructors are contractors. After working in a studio for several years, I’m excited to have the freedom to teach the preferred style that best suites my clientele and be able to make my own schedule. I am excited, albeit nervous, about the opportunity to market and position myself as an up and coming Pilates instructor down in my new home in Burlingame. 

I now have the ability to productize and monetize my own services based on the diverse fitness background I bring to the table. Thankfully, I have a strong foundation in marketing, some savvy social media skills and an already functional website. All those years of learning and perfecting this unique style of Pilates has finally paid off. My recent experience building my book of business within Rodan & Fields skincare network has also been very valuable. Over the last year, I have been able to grow my personal skincare business, create an auxiliary revenue string, and learn about how to run my own business and be my own boss. These useful skills will most definitely help grow my fitness business as well!

After I signed the lease, I thought to myself, where do I even begin. I took a look at my current website, did a content audit, and brainstormed all of the possible ways to build and optimize my new business. I accomplished some tasks I even knew nothing about, creating waivers, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for my website. It was very interesting learning about LLC formation and how to best set myself and business up for success. Some of my additional thoughts are: creating a new logo, use of different types of multimedia to promote myself and my workouts, as well as creating a newsletter. As you will probably see over the next few weeks, my website is transforming and will be more representative of me, my businesses and the hub for everything CaliforniaCarlie. This will be the go-to resource for questions, scheduling inquires, blog/lifestyle articles and other exciting news. As I continue to become a part of my local fitness community, I encourage you to do the same by staying in touch and connecting with me.

What would you like to see on my website? Feel free to comment below and share ideas on what content you would find useful. I would love to hear your thoughts on what would be of value to you!

Also, please look out for (and subscribe) to my inaugural newsletter to find out where and when I will be teaching, organizing a running club, or promoting other community and fitness-related events. This also allows me the ability to better manage my busy schedule, maintaining my day job working in operations at Amplify Partners, taking care of my pup, and working out on my own. Plus, I will also have some additional free workout content coming soon! 

If you are down in the peninsula area and looking to start adding a new routine to your schedule or want to see how Pilates can benefit your life, let’s chat and see if I can be your partner in helping you achieve your fitness goals.

Why Don’t More Men do Pilates?

Usually, I’m the one who is writing the blog posts on here about my experiences and knowledge but Bryan and I have been talking about him doing a post for a little on his personal experience with Pilates and how it has affected him. So now that he has been doing Pilates for over a year here is his opinion on Pilates and the benifits he has seen.

Until about a year ago, I never fathomed the possibility of ever taking a group fitness class. I was your typical former high-school athlete, way less limber and flexible than I was a decade ago in my glory days. My typical workout routine consisted of stationary weight lifting, with a few bouts of cardio throughout the week, occasionally mixing in a run or hike. This type of working out was a way for me to ‘maintain’ my muscle, stay fairly trim and still feel like I was putting in the time and work to my physical fitness.

Who knew that some of the best and most elite male athletes utilize Pilates as a way to master their craft? Steelers All-Pro receive Antonio Brown and Phillies pitcher Jake Arietta are two star-studded athletes just to name a few. Both of these athletes employ Pilates as a way to maintain both physical and mental well-being. Perhaps this can help remove the ‘stigmas’ that surround Pilates and its efficacy.

Fast forward to today… I am 10 years post back surgery. In 2009, I had a minimally invasive back surgery consisting of a lumbar discectomy, which in layman’s terms essentially meant I had two herniated disks in my lower back (L4, L5, S1) that were pressing on my sciatic nerve. I used to make excuses about not being able to run, my inflexibility and lack or core strength to support my back. Enter Pilates. I had never taken Pilates before, let alone even really understand the basic principles and concepts. Add in the fact that my workouts, like most, got stale over time. My body was used to the same movements, even if I switched up exercises, and I knew it was time for something new. I also had no need to keep the bulky upper body muscle that I once used in sports. What started out as a simple date idea with my current girlfriend, turned into a lifestyle alteration.

Over this past year, what I once thought was a workout meant for ‘woman’, has turned out to have more benefits than I could have imagined. Sure, the majority of my mat and reformer classes have been female-dominated, but I now have a new appreciation for the art of functional movements, flexibility, and core strength. I have developed a real affinity for the different types of Pilates I have been able to experience recently. Maybe Men just do not like being told what to do…

In my opinion, Mat Pilates is probably the most underrated form of Pilates. It requires balance, body awareness and the ability to utilize your own body weight. Most folks think you need a ‘machine’ in order to work out, but truth be told, I personally think Mat can be more of a balance challenge. The core principal relay on core strength (no pun intended), where basically every move requires some type of abdominal engagement. This engagement has been particularly useful to someone like myself, who would rather find different ways to work my core (to support my back) in ways other than your standard sit-up, which can cause back pain. The movements of Pilates are very mindful and the flows are meant to limit compromising positions and allow for modifications if need be. It isn’t just about having abs and a six-pack, but rather a strong core to support my upper body strength and back needs.

Mixing in one or two Pilates classes a week has really helped out in many aspects of my life, both mentally and physically. There are the obvious benefits, such as increased hamstring flexibility, a stronger core, as well as more toned legs. The intangible benefits for me have been less daily back pain, and the ability to run and sprint at places such as Barry’s Bootcamp (11.5! what what). Though, I still try and steer clear of intense jumping movements, I’m able to jump squat, do jumping jacks and jack squats no issue! I have been able to perform more HIIT-focused workouts, helping build more lean muscle and provide valuable fat loss.

The other major benefit for me has come in the form of snowboarding. Snowboarding has long been my favorite athletic activity. I began skiing when I was 3 years old and have been skiing/snowboarding consistently ever since, including living in Colorado for 5 years where I racked up over 100 days. The 2009 winter was the first and only winter I had missed due to injury. This was a major blow to me, as my surgery recovery spanned about 7 months from Sept- April of that year. Post-surgery. I was limited to only being able to go one day and not feeling up to going a second day in a row due to back pain. However, Pilates has changed that and allowed me to shred back to back days, without the effects I used to feel after a hard day.

Having a strong grasp of these basic Pilates principals allows me to practice flows anywhere I have a mat and some time, even without professional instruction or a studio. Hopefully, I have inspired some of the men out there or at least informed their significant others that there are amazing benefits for your male counterpart. Remember, it’s not just about the physical result, there is a strong mental component to Pilates. Whether working on your breathing, letting go of real-world stresses or just needing to ‘sweat it out’, exercising in general is a great release and way to keep you strong mentally. Pilates is a great form of exercise, something I will continue to do as I get older, plus it is a great way to get a couples workout in. You know what they say, “Couples who work out together, stay together”. My regular workouts now consist of gym workouts (3-4 times), with Pilates and HIIT workouts weaved in once a week, keeping things fun and interesting for myself.

My goal is to help break down stigmas and educate my male counterparts on this unique type of fitness platform. Young, old, short, or tall, there is some type of mindful movement for everyone.


Things to Know for all Barre Newbies

As someone who has been taking and teaching barre for years, it amazes me when I meet someone who has never taken a barre class. It seems like a lot of people are mainly just scared about trying something new, trust me I know that the unknown is scary. I’m someone who usually sticks to a routine and hates changes.

But the reason for this post is to give you some insight on what you can expect for your first barre class, so you can feel comfortable to get your booty into a class asap. I love barre classes especially at MNTSTUDIO, I always leave feeling like I got a full body and well-rounded workout. As someone who was a dancer from a young age, I love the aspect of using the music for the movement and staying on the beat. However don’t be intimated if you’ve never danced before, my boyfriend who has no rhythm(Sorry Bryan) loves these classes too.

Barre classes are focused on strength, balance, and flexibility making them great for cross-training. Within a few minutes of class, you will find yourself shaking and using muscles you’ve never used before. Generally, when we work out on our own we work on the things we’re good at and like to do. So these classes are great to work on those areas that you’re not focusing on otherwise and it will make you stronger overall and less prone to injuries.

Wear Appropriate Attire

You should wear tight-fitted clothing so your instructor can see your form, to ensure you’re doing the movement correctly and avoid injury. I recommend wearing full-length pants or capris because you might be doing some movements where you hold a ball with your leg so the bare skin would make it slippery. Also, wear grippy socks to your class, these will help you from slipping and give you traction when making sudden movements. Even if the studio you’re going to doesn’t require them I recommend having them. Think about all of the germs on the studio floor from people sweating and all the barefeet everywhere. For socks my favorite brand is ToeSox,  they are great for when you’re moving quickly during barre classes because with each individual toe separated they stay on your feet and don’t move around like other brands. 

Show Up Early

Usually, when you’re attending a studio for the first time, you should arrive at least 10 minutes early. They might need to have you sign a waiver and also may give you a tour of the studio. Showing up early is also a good idea so you can get set up with any props you may need for the class, or change into your workout clothes without feeling rushed. You should also try to get set up near the instructor, this will help when you need to see what movements you’re supposed to do. This is also very important if you have an injury. Your instructor needs to know what is going on with your body and how they can help keep you safe and get the best out of your workout.

Embrace Those Shakes

For your first class, you may not be the most graceful person, but this isn’t a dance class so don’t let that get to you. Everyone will be struggling just the same even if they come every week, so they won’t be paying attention even if you’re going the opposite direction. Most people in their first class see the weights and usually go for the heaviest ones. However, don’t be fooled! Those little 2 lbs and 3 lb weights get very heavy during class. A lot of exercises in barre are small isometric movements that work your muscles in a targeted area. So your muscles will burn and you might even be shaking uncontrollably during the class. However, always be sure to listen to your body and take breaks whenever needed. All instructors should be able to give you any modifications you may need to help with any injuries you have.

HAVE FUN!

Don’t get discouraged during your first few barre classes, it might take a few classes to get the moves down. No matter if it is your first or hundredth class, it’s going to be a great workout so just try to enjoy the class and music. Even as an instructor I still have to come out of some exercises during a class because my legs and butt are burning! I’m someone that is motivated by music so I like to sing the songs to myself a little while taking a class maybe do a little wiggly dance. 😉

I hope this helps to give you a little insight on how to prepare and feel ready for your first barre class. 

If you have any tips to share please comment below! I would love to hear from you.

5 Items To Always Keep In Your Gym Bag

Getting to the gym is already hard work, don’t make it harder on yourself by being unprepared. Since I actually work at a gym I like to think I know what I’m talking about on this topic. I find myself jumping into classes at the spur of the moment all of the time and unfortunately sometimes unprepared. So I’ve created a list of 5 items that I now keep in my gym bag at all times…. I just need to remember my gym bag!

 

Water Bottle

Being hydrated is so essential for working out. I can attest to this from a personal experience a few years back. But now staying hydrated is so easy with this super cute bottle from BKR. I love having the glass bottle because I’m able to see it’s actually clean. Also, the silicone sleeve makes it easier to grip while working out and sweating.

 

Headphones

Since I danced most of my life, I find myself motivated by music a lot. My favorite part about working out in a gym is actually being able to blast my music and just zone out. Honestly if it was socially acceptable to sing while in the gym I totally would. I love using spotify, they have some great playlists for working out but I can also make my own so I stay upbeat and motivated.

 

Protein/Snack Bar

Keeping your body fueled is just as important as staying hydrated. My favorite protein bar to snack on for a workout  is a RXBAR. I love how transparent and honest they are with what is in their bars, you can literally see the ingredients printed on the packaging. Working out requires a lot of energy and if your body isn’t nourished you could get seriously injured. I’ve seen a lot of people nearly pass out from not eating before working out.

 

Face wipes

No one likes to look like a raccoon or worse “the star of a horror film!” Having face wipes is the perfect way to not only protect your skin but also your reputation for when you see that super cute boy running next to you. Make sure you clean off your face before a workout because your pores will absorb all of the dirt and makeup from the day during your workout. Then again after to clear away any sweat, grease or dirt from the equipment you used.

 

Hair Ties

Of course these are needed! I don’t know what it is about hair ties but I can’t ever seem to hold onto them, they are always disappearing or breaking. It’s a seriously struggle as a girl. Also, now with my hair short  I’ve found I wear it down more often and have no way to put my hair up for a workout class. Cue hair sticky to my sweaty forehead and neck…GROSS! I have really liked using these elastic  hair ties as they don’t crease my hair so I can take my hair down after working out and it still looks halfway decent for photos with some friends.

 

What are your gym bag essentials?

Fashionable Fitness Trackers You’ll Never Take Off

Say goodbye to your bulky, unappealing black plastic smartwatches and HELLO to sleek, stylish and 18k gold! You no longer have to sacrifice your fashion for your health. These 7 fitness trackers will help you stay on top of your daily goals this summer.

Tory Burch X Fitbit
This super chic leather double wrap design from Tory Burch for Fitbit, is perfect for your evening outs. You get all the benefits of the Fitbit Flex hidden by the sleek maze that’s Tory Burch signature. Track your steps taken, distance covered, calories burned—even how much you’ve slept, while not losing any street cred….
This gorgeous gold bangle is able to track your fitness activity, send vibration notifications from your phone, and even alert the police if you’re in trouble. The bracelets distress messaging sends your location to a list of preset emergency contacts.
Misfit Ray
One of the most versatile and stylish wearable trackers. Have the freedom of tracking Running, Swimming, Cycling, Yoga, Tennis, and even Dancing while wearing this as a bracelet or necklace. With this sleek design no one will even know that is can do all of that!
Ringly Aries Activity Tracker & Smart Ring
The best blend of fashion and fitness. You can get a wearable ring or bracelet that matches any outfit in 18k gold with emeralds, sapphires or obsidian. You can get discreet notifications with different vibrations. This Ringly ring accurately tracks activity, steps taken and calories burned.

Jawbone UP3 
This super chic fitness tracker can monitor your sleep patterns, Calories burned, heart rate and or your step during a night out on the town. With this piece you also won’t need your wallet, American Express card holders can link their account to this bracelet and charge that morning after macchiato with a simple swipe

This sleek Michael Kors design features crystal accents and a shining engraved face. Keep your health on track and look great while doing it. Get this step and sleep tracker, in gold, silver or rose-gold.

Designed specifically for women The Leaf tracks stress levels, steps, calories burned, sleep and menstrual cycles. This will be the only piece of techwear you’ll ever need to get an overall view on your health physically  and mentally.

Easy Stretches to Avoid Muscle Aches When Traveling

Summertime is here, which means long road trips, and plane rides. Vacations are always a fun and exciting part of summer. However, the muscle aches and tightness that follow from sitting for hours can have a negative impact on your body!

Here are 3 great stretches for you to do before, during and even after your trip to get your body moving again. Traveling no longer has to be a pain in the neck, shoulders, and back! Try each of these exercises and hold for about 20-30 seconds. Doing these should help loosen your muscles and get your circulation moving again so you can get out there and have fun.  🙂

1.Quad Stretch

When you’re sitting for a long period of time, your hip flexors, hamstrings, low back….in fact most of the muscles connected to your hips are all compressed. And when your muscles are compressed for a long period of time, it can make them tight when you stand up again and maybe even difficult to walk. Doing a quadriceps stretch is perfect to help stretch out the front of your thighs again.

Stand with your feet hip distance.

Shift your weight into your left leg, then lift your right heel towards your butt. Grasp your ankle with your right hand and lightly pull the ankle closer towards your butt

Safely release your ankle and lower the right leg down then repeat on the other leg.

2.  Piriformis Stretch or Figure 4

This stretch is perfect if you tend to get tightness or pain in your back. This is also great to help keep your hip and knee joints properly aligned especially during exercise. This stretch can also be done sitting in your chair on the plane, train or car if you have poor balance I recommend sitting for this.

Plant both feet on the floor shoulder width apart.

Shift your weight into your right leg, and lift your left. Turn out the left leg so that your ankle is resting just above your right knee.

Bend your right knee so that you are in single leg squat and gently push down on your left knee using your left hand or elbow. 

Repeat with your other leg.

3. Chest Stretch

This one is great because the longer we sit our posture tends to get worst. This will help to open your chest and keep those pesky shoulders back!

Claps your hand behind your body and interlock your fingers.

Gently pull your hands away from your body. Causing your shoulders to squeeze together and open up your chest.

These stretches are pretty easy to do even while on the plane or train. You won’t draw too much attention, so stretch away and take care of yourself. Safe traveling!

4 Tips to Stay Motivated this Summer

Don’t let BBQ’s, music festivals, or travel plans get in the way of staying healthy this summer. So many of us work hard to get in shape so we can feel confident at the beach or in our crop top and shorts. However, once summer is here our hard work goes out the window with all the ballpark hot dogs, beer and ice cream!

So I’m sharing some tips and tricks to help you stick with your workout routine and not lose the motivation to stay healthy all summer! Here are my favorite tips to keep you moving.

1. Keep it Fresh
Many of us tend to plateau or get bored with our workout routine. My first tip when it comes to staying motivated is finding something that you actually enjoy doing. When it comes to fitness, you need to remember that the same routine won’t work for everyone. It’s not “one size fits all”. Nowadays there are so many different ways you can workout, you just need to find one that makes you get up and move. Whatever it is, it should make you excited to keep going and motivated to work towards reaching your goals!

Recent Barry’s Bootcamp class in SoMa, with some new friends.

I personally love group classes! Not just because I teach them, this has been a love of mine for many years they have variety, providing fresh and fun workouts while still challenging you. In a group class, you have an instructor that has created a full workout for you. All you have to do is show up, be nice (my personal preference) and do what the instructor says! SUPER EASY, well kinda…..the workout will be hard but it will be less mental work. You just need to find a class style you like, Barre, Spin, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Bootcamp, your options are endless.

I teach classes at MNTSTUDIO in SF, I would love to have you join me for some Barre or Pilates. However, if you’re not in my area, I recommend checking out ClassPass to find a group class that fits your style. They have different types of classes, so you can try different studios until you find one that you really enjoy.

 2. Recruit a Buddy
Having a workout buddy makes it difficult to cancel your workout since your friend is relying on you to show up. Also, your friend is more likely to call you out if you do cancel which no one likes being a flake. If you’re that flaky friend be careful to not ditch them too often, they have a busy life just like you!

Personally, I find that having a workout buddy keeps me honest with myself on how hard I’m actually working, but it is also fun. When I find something is super hard during class I tend to laugh, so having a friend to laugh with is always a plus for me. I also feel like I work harder when I know my friend might be watching.

3. Join a Race
By joining a race you will have a deadline for you to prepare for the event. So you won’t be able to steer off your training pass or else you won’t be ready. Plus these event style races are so much FUN. Think of getting a little cardio in by running through blue, pink, purple and yellow powder!! My hair had a light tint of purple for a couple of days, so don’t do it around any big events if you’re blonde. Another option if you’re a total badass….you can crawl through some mud or climb over a wall. Having a race or event is a nice way to keep you moving because it gives you a set date you have to be prepared by. Whereas with just trying to stay healthy you might lose motivation with no specific goal or dates in mind.

After my first color run in 2013 at Candlestick Park.

I did the Color Run with some friends and had such a great time. I’m not a big fan of running so it was nice that it was only a 5k (3.1 miles). Also, a lot of people do walk so if you’re not yet able to run 3 miles take a little walking break, you’re still outside and getting your cardio in and that’s what matters!

A couple of my friends have done the Spartan races. They have three different levels Sprint (3miles), Super (10miles) and Beast (13 miles). These races are definitely difficult and require training. You will need to have a lot of upper body, and core strength for the obstacles along with long endurance cardio to make it through the entire course.

4.  Pump Up the Jams
Music always makes me want to move. Listening to the right playlist can make a big difference in the outcome of your workout. Studies have shown that playing music while working out can uplift your mood and even make exercise seem easier. Try to find songs that have strong, energizing rhythms, uplifting melodies, and motivating lyrics. For me, music makes working out so much more enjoyable. Some songs just make me feel good, even during a tough class!

In order for a song to be motivating the beat per minute (bpm) is very important. Having songs that are above 120bpm help to get you pumped and motivated to keep going. I prefer songs with a bmp between 120 – 155. I recommend getting Spotify, I love being able to create my own playlist for different workouts and find new songs.

I hope these four tips help you stay motivated and healthy this summer! Please share below if you find something else that works for you, who knows it might work for someone else too. 🙂

My “BACK” Story

Everyone has their own unique story about how they started their journey towards living a healthy lifestyle. Asking someone about their fitness journey is honestly is one of my favorite conversation starters because it really shows how different everyone is. Plus the different paths we can all take to end up at the same place, working towards feeling good and being our best self.

My story started when I was 16 years old, I danced competitively throughout middle school and into high school. Around my sophomore year, I started having persistent pain in my hips and lower back. After many doctor visits with my parents, we kept getting the same reasons, “It’s just growing pains” (now if you’ve never met me, I’m 5’2 so clearly this wasn’t the issue) Some actually mentioned that my muscles are just tight from dancing for several hours each day, but I was freakishly flexible so once again I knew that wasn’t it. This kept going on until one day at school I the pain was so unbearable I just sad down walking to class and started crying. I will never forget sitting down and not even being able to explain the amount of pain I was in, I knew something just wasn’t right. 

I started getting X-rays, and MRI’s done to see where the pain was coming from. After several visits I saw a spine specialist and was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis. Basically, my spine was separating from itself in my lower back (for my anatomy lovers L5-S1). 

After speaking with a few orthopedic surgeons, it was determined that as long as I could handle the pain we could put off the surgery for a little while longer, so I can finish up school and not have any issues. The vertebrae slipping would continue to move at a slow rate, so I would have warning signs before it got to the point of paralyzing me. So I decided to put off surgery until after I graduated high school. Regrettably, I spent two years causing more damage to my spine and taking large amounts of pain medication just to help ease the pain so I could continue dancing. (We did win two national titles during that time so I guess it wasn’t all bad.)

I went in for surgery 5 days after I graduated and 4 days after turning 18 years old. The surgery took 6 hours, the doctors started with a 5-inch incision on my stomach and push my vertebra back into place the screwed in a metal plate to stabilize my spine. After they flip me over to finish the surgery with screw more incisions and 4 screws to hold the vertebras in place. I now have 6 two-inch titanium screws, a metal plate, and a replacement disk, but I can still go through a metal detector with no issues. 😉

After the surgery, I was in the hospital for a week. I was on so much medication I don’t really remember the first few days at all! It almost felt like one of those movie scenes, where the person tries to open their eyes but they don’t open all the way and they can just see their eyelids and a little light and make out people in the room. After a few days, they had me doing “exercises” which was just me trying to sit up, stand and using a walker to take a few steps. I had to actually learn how to walk up the stairs again, which at age 18 felt crazy!

Once I was cleared to start physical activity again I started doing some private Pilates sessions at Pilates Collective in Sebastopol, CA. Quickly I began to notice the benefits of Pilates beyond just for rehabilitation and I fell in love with the method. I knew I wanted to be an instructor and share this new found passion with others. I started my certification training back in 2010, I now am able to teach Pilates and Barre. It’s because of Pilates that I can now walk pain-free without any medication!