PUSHING FOR PILATES
By ERLINA TULABUT
There’s no slacking off at Aline Studios.
Tracy Fitzpatrick keeps reminding me to "make my Chihuahuas bark" and to "keep my Porsche in the garage." In other words: shoulders back, butt in. In Pilates, proper form is key and Fitzpatrick, owner of Aline Studios, won’t ever let you slide.
"I don’t care if I’m training your grandmother," says the former dancer. "I’m gonna give it to her."
In the Costa Mesa studio’s Aline Technique class, students breathe and stretch their way through an hour of Pilates, yoga and dance. Students also work with exercise bands, fitness balls, weights, foam rollers and other apparatuses.
The class is never the same, says Fitzpatrick, who may spend several weeks focusing on deep abdominal work, then start to mix things up with dance and cardio. She also takes into account the number of students and their individual fitness levels. If men show up for the class, she ditches the dancing.
Today’s eight female Aline Technique students makes for a bigger-than-average class, Fitzpatrick says. The students range from another first-timer like me to a student who’s been attending classes with the studio for four years.
To start, we lay on our backs and use rubber flex bands to help get a deep stretch in our legs. After this warm-up we move on to modified crunches that involve very little movement but a whole lot of burn. Then it’s on to tricep-torturing push-ups and signature Pilates moves like the hundred and the single-leg stretch
Next, Fitzpatrick passes out an ominous-looking device she dubs "the boyfriend". The yellow contraption is reminiscent of the infamous Thighmaster, or, maybe something you’ve seen in your doctor’s office. Wedged high between your legs, you squeeze it to work your rear.
The final quarter of the class takes the workout off the floor and into some dance moves, including salsa, to bring the heart rate up.
While Aline Technique doesn’t offer intense cardio, the dancing coupled with the strength-building moves make the class a worthwhile challenge.
You don’t need any Pilates experience to take the Aline Technique class, but seasoned Pilates enthusiasts won’t be bored, either. If you’re like me and enjoy the convenience of popping in a DVD and doing mat Pilates in your living room, you’ll appreciate Fitzpatrick’s individual tips on form and breathing.
The studio also features ballet and gyrotonic yoga group classes, and private and semi-private reformer and gyrotonic sessions. Your first group class is free. Call at least 24 hours ahead to book a private or semi-private session. Group classes are $18 each, or $130 for 10 classes.
709 Randolph, Suite B, Costa Mesa
Parking: You can park on Randolph, behind the studio, or in The Lab parking across the street.
Locker room? None, but two clean and modern bathrooms make for comfortable changing rooms.
Payment: Cash, check and credit cards accepted.
FROM STUDENTS: Hemali Bhatt
Residence: Costa Mesa
Occupation: Graduate student
Number of times taken this class: 5
Her workout regimen: In addition to taking the Aline Technique class, she works with a private trainer once a week. Mostly works on upper body.
Why do you take this class? "I love the music and the personal attention, even though it’s a class. I feel like I really get a workout, but you’re not out of breath."
Cardiovascular conditioning? Intermediate
Benefits? "Lots of upper-arm body movements. It kills me."
Residence: Santa Ana
Occupation: Graduate student
Number of times taken this class: 1
Workout regimen: She goes to a gym every day and takes classes like kickboxing and hip hop. She also likes to do 30- to 40-minute sessions on cardio machines followed by weights.
Why are you taking this class? She and a group of friends decided to focus on getting healthy.
How does it compare to your gym workouts? "I like the personal attention. It’s a lot different from what you get in a gym."
Common Pilates cues defined
Pam George 2005
Pilates instructors often use verbal cues to help students execute movements correctly, but some may be a little confusing at first. Here are explanations for 14 frequently used phrases. Meanings may differ slightly, depending on your teacher’s training.
when you hear try doing this
Keep a neutral pelvis Maintain the spine’s natural curvature. Don’t flatten out or over-arch the curve in the lower back by tilting the pelvis. “Everyone’s spine is different,” says Barbara Huttner, owner of The Barbara Huttner Studio in Avon, Colorado.
Drop the sitz bones The sitz bones are the knobs on the bottom of your pelvis?if you sit on a hard chair you’ll likely feel them poking down. Letting the sitz bones gently drop toward the mat when lying down encourages a neutral spine.
Lengthen your legs Stretch your muscles without tensing or pointing your feet. Keep your hips even. Imagine someone gently pulling your legs by the ankles, says Kelly Robinson, owner of Infusion Pilates Studio in San Francisco.
Put your feet in Pilates stance Make a V with your feet by placing your heels together and your toes a few inches apart.
Activate the muscles Keep your muscles working. When your legs are in the air, draw your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and press your arms into the ground. On the equipment, the straps or springs shouldn’t do the work, says Tracy Fitzpatrick, owner of Aline Studios in Costa Mesa, California. Use your muscles consciously instead, pulling and resisting the springs.
Chin to chest With a long neck, curl the head forward. The chin shouldn’t actually touch your chest; keep the width of an egg or tennis ball between the two.
Articulate the spine Roll forward or backward through the spine one vertebra at a time. Feel as though you are imprinting each bone into the mat as you roll down, Fitzpatrick says.
Work from the inside out Concentrate on using the supportive muscles near the skeletal frame. “We’re too hung up on using the large muscle groups,” Huttner says. The expression can also refer to using your abdominal muscles to start a movement.
Move with your belly Use the deep abdominal muscles to stabilize your body before you move, and to
initiate the movement. “That’s the beauty of Pilates,” says Liz Holden, owner of Pilates of Larchmont in Larchmont, New York. “Even when you’re working the legs, you’re using the abdominal muscles.”
Navel to spine (or Scoop) Pull your belly button toward your back to gently “scoop” your belly in and up. Picture working through the four layers of the abdominal muscles.
Zipper your thighs together Squeeze the inner thighs and sitz bones toward each other, actively pressing your legs together.
Tabletop legs Lie on your back and raise your legs to a 90-degree angle from your body. Then bend your knees so your calves are at a 90-degree angle to your thighs.
Make a C-curve Bring the navel toward your spine, creating a C-shape with your back. Keep your eyes on your pubic bones. To avoid collapsing into your ribs, pretend you’re curving over a beach ball, Holden says.
Work in opposition “In our studio, everything is the world of opposites,” Fitzpatrick says. When you sit on the floor, try to lengthen your spine upward. At the same time, push your legs into the floor. The effort of lengthening in both directions builds stabilization and makes each movement a whole-body exercise.
Riviera magazine, June 2003
Since Pilates exploded, making its way into persnickety yoga centers and new studios opening across O.C., there’s worry that mass certification is watering down the exercise hailed by ballerinas as ultimate training. Fear not. Tracy Fitzpatrick of Aline Studios is the real deal. Step into her airy studio and you will feel the vibe of a serious dance class, with instructors snapping fingers and legs in leotards doing synchronized kicks. Coveted instructors including Sher Borrell and Isabela Nascimento (shown above) have
degrees in dance. Fitzpatrick is also certified in cutting-edge Gyrokenesis (yoga for dancers) and is a champion of “pure, pure Pilates,” as she calls it. “It’s the extra added discipline that a dancer does when they work out,” says Fitzpatrick. “Dancers know how to engage muscle.” At a recent Aline Conditioning class, Fitzpatrick directed her students with a favorite mantra: “Squeeze your gluts, reach your arms, lengthen your legs like Catherine Zeta –Jones.” Aline offers other group classes including Pilates
mat, ballet fit and Gyrokenesis yoga (which is performed on chairs) as well as its own Aline Conditioning where students work on the bar, the floor and anything else Fitzpatrick can conjure up to make your legs feel exactly like a ballet dancer’s after a good class. There are also private and semi-private sessions using traditional Pilates equipment. Watch out for our shipments of the Brazilian work-out gear, Bela, a favorite in the clubs of Rio de Janeiro. Sports clubs, that is. Aline Studios, 709 Randolph Ave., Costa Mesa (near the Lab), 714.979.2936