By Katie Witham
Looking for an exercise program that will tone, strengthen and increase flexibility, but not leave you dripping in sweat? Pilates may fit the bill.
One of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s most popular fitness classes, pilates, is taught by Stephanie McCluney. Pilates offers a variety of benefits and can meet the needs of many different exercisers.
“It’s very good cross-training for athletes. It stems from the core, so you’ll gain strength, speed, and power,” McCluney said. “For non-athletes, it offers proper alignment, balance, and it evens out the muscles.”
In addition, those who practice pilates have often found it relieves chronic back and neck pain.
“I like pilates because it strengthens my core,” said participant Katie Clawson. “I’m a dancer, so that’s important for me. I also have back problems and pilates helps me stay flexible.”
McCluney graduated from PBA in 2004 with a major in dance. She first became involved in pilates through dance.
“I just happened to take a class while on a dance trip and I saw the difference in my dancing,” said McCluney on how her interest in pilates developed.
After graduating, McCluney continued dancing with Klein Dance Company, teaching pilates to the dancers in the company, until last spring.
She and several other dancers are now trying to regroup and form their own dance company.
McCluney became a certified pilates instructor three years ago, forming her own pilates company called Tight Tummies.
She began teaching at PBA during the fall 2008 semester. Over the year, participation has risen dramatically.
“Word gets around,” said McCluney. “There’s been a huge increase in attendance.”
Outside of her classes at PBA, McCluney now runs a pilates studio out of her home.
This move has broadened her clientele.
“I used to teach mostly dancers, but now I’ve found a little niche,” said McCluney of her studio. “I have a lot of moms and middle-aged women now, since many women are intimidated to go into a regular pilates studio.”
Having the studio in her home, McCluney has found, makes many women feel more comfortable.
Within the next year, McCluney planes to open her own full-size studio in either downtown West Palm Beach or Palm Beach Gardens.
Despite the current economic problems, opening a studio now still looks like a good idea to McCluney.
“People are a lot more interested in taking care of themselves now,” said McCluney. “Fitness studios are one area of the economy that’s not hurting.”
Students at PBA certainly seem interested in pilates’s many benefits, as classes are often completely filled.
“I think it’s a wonderful alternative to a high intensity workout,” said first-time attendee Regina Smith. “You feel that you’re at your peak, but you don’t have to do strenuous activity. The instructor is wonderful because she knows how to modify the moves for each individual.”
McCluney says that people often don’t expect the intensity of pilates the first time they attend. Others expect it to be similar to yoga or other stretching exercises.
“Just try it. It’s not what you think,” said McCluney. “Leave your ideas about pilates at the door and come with an open mind. It just makes you nice and strong and toned.”
Pilates classes meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. in the Greene Complex’s group fitness room.