FFC employee Caitlin Preminger shares her account of going through the FFC Pilates teacher training program, and what she learned along the way.

I detest running. It aggravates both my shins and my asthma and has only ever been inflicted on me against my will. I played a few years of soccer and basketball as a kid, but I’m not competitive and could never understand why I was supposed to care so much–win or lose, we were getting a pizza party at the end of the season. This did nothing to improve my attitude toward fitness; physical education in California public schools either meant running, which meant pain, or it meant organized sports, which utterly failed to impress me. I vividly remember my disdain for those who got emotionally invested in capture the flag and the shame of wearing my middle school PE shirt purple-side-out to indicate that I would be walking a portion of my laps on running day.

As a consequence of my disinterest in what constituted exercise, I grew up thinking that I was bad at it. I took it as a given that I was issued intelligence at birth and as such could not also possess any sort physical prowess. No one can have everything.

Finding Pilates

Pilates teacher training program Chicago FFCBut a lot can happen between the ages of twelve and eighteen. In college I tried a group mat Pilates class because I got credit for it and it seemed unintimidating. I called silent dibs on the spot at the back closest to the door. I made eye contact and small talk with precisely no one, and was thoroughly bewildered to find that I didn’t hate being there. With cautious optimism, I conceded that I enjoyed it. I even felt good at it. I kept on with group mat classes through college and ultimately joined a gym when I moved to Chicago to continue my practice.

In 2016 I found myself involved with a food blog and pop-up dinner series, and through my associated travels found myself dating a New Yorker long-distance. I reveled in the budget jet setter lifestyle for a while before I had to face the music: the start-up life is a blast but the pay is terrible and I couldn’t live on savings alone anymore. In January 2017 I accepted a part-time position at Gold Coast’s local ‘84 Cafe, figuring I could earn some extra scratch and, more importantly, still take off for New York every six weeks without ruffling any feathers.

Gradually the food bloggers split over creative differences and the New Yorker and I started planning his move to Chicago. I had taken the cafe job to serve a very particular purpose and that purpose would soon become obsolete, but I still hadn’t quite decided ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’. I needed an exit strategy.

Related: read this account of how Pilates and the Pilates teacher training program helped this FFC employee transform her life post-hip surgery.

A Different Path: Pilates

The upside of effectively working in the employee break room is that I’m privy to everyone’s idle chit-chat. Sometime last spring, Gold Coast fitness director JP Maund mentioned that there was a blowout sale for employees on FFC’s Pilates certification program. 

I arrived at the first Pilates teacher training seminar still wearing my cafe uniform. Almost everyone else there was already a trainer at FFC. I tried not to let the panic show on my face and reminded myself that we were all embarking on this odyssey together and technically they didn’t know any more about Pilates than I did.

Over the months, I kept my head down and did the work. I gained a quiet confidence in myself both as a physically capable individual and as a teacher with an eye for detail. Pilates is about subtlety; it’s a quiet and introspective form of exercise and I’m a quiet and introspective person. I’ve met my match.

What I’ve Learned Along the Way

Pilates teacher training programs in Chicago at FFCI’m occasionally asked why someone should do Pilates. The objective, low-hanging fruit response is that Pilates is great for spinal health and that strengthening the core muscles alleviates back muscle compensation and spinal compression. Pilates improves posture, flexibility, body awareness, and skeletal alignment. This is all irrefutably valid and true.

More personally, I think Pilates is a revolutionary entry point for people who have historically felt bad at exercise. Someone who dreaded PE in high school because running was painful and organized sports were boring can find a much different, and potentially more meaningful, form of exercise in Pilates. That won’t be everyone’s experience, but it’s been mine. I think Pilates can give ‘non-athletic’ people not only an effective workout that’s physically good for them, but also a way to feel accomplished in a space that has been unwelcoming and uncomfortable for them in the past.

The New Yorker is a Chicagoan now, and it turns out I’m not bad at exercise; it just took me a while to find exercise for analytical introverts. Now all I need is to figure out whether I can write off stretchy pants on my taxes.

Post written by FFC employee Caitlin Preminger.

About Caitlin

Caitlin is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Chicago for a baking internship after college. While the service industry isn’t for her, she still loves food as a medium of expression and and approaches cooking with a practicality that takes occasional detours into reverence. When she’s not cooking or practicing Pilates, you can find her in pursuit of her next creative outlet. You can follow along with her on her Pilates journey on her Instagram here!

Related: want to learn more about the Pilates teacher training program at FFC? Click here!


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Created by Joseph Pilates as a method of exercise to strengthen the body AND mind, Pilates has been growing rapidly in popularity since the early 20th century. Now practiced by fitness enthusiasts, those looking to overcome chronic pain and ailments and professional athletes like the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews alike, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.

Want to take it a step further? While there are endless benefits to be reaped from practicing Pilates, there is no parallel for the level of knowledge you’ll receive from going through a Pilates teacher training program. Check out the testimonials from some of our Pilates Chicago grads below!

Related: how Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

Karen Ljungmann

I knew I wanted to take my fitness career in a new direction by attending Pilates school, however, I was undecided about which program to attend. I could not be happier about the choice I made! I knew from the beginning FFC’s program was going to be different from any other trainings I’d attended. I was very impressed by the organization and layout of the program, and I felt very supported – from the beginning to the end. There were times I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but now looking back, it was part of the learning process (like letting go of the training wheels). I was learning new things, new ways to move the body and new ways to teach.

We were able to learn from THE best Chicago Pilates instructors, not just one. But what was really unique was all the hands-on training we had. We constantly practiced with each other – I was able to use the instructors as a resource on a constant basis. The classes were intense, but I looked forward to every weekend. We all grew together. I’m still friends with several of my peers from the program. I felt we were immersed and committed. I am excited and am getting ready to take the PMA, which I am fully prepared for thanks to the FFC Pilates Teacher Training program. I’ve been in the fitness industry for 10+ years and have gone through several different formats, trainings and certifications. Hands down, this is one of the best decisions I have made. My only regret? That I’d done this sooner! – Karen (

Alyssa Bell

Pilates helped me get back on my feet. Literally. In mid August of 2016, I had a nasty fall and injured my right ankle. I was devastated because I was 3.5 weeks away from beginning my Pilates teacher training program. The healing process for a periosteum tear takes a while – I couldn’t walk and I needed a boot to get around. However, I wasn’t going to let that keep me down; I started the program and began learning Pilates Mat work (which was perfect during that first month, it allowed me to work free of direct weight on my ankle).

I couldn’t believe it but I was actually getting stronger, without having to stand on my feet. I knew as a massage therapist, this was speeding up my healing process. As time went on, the black and blue swelling faded and I was learning exercises on various Pilates apparatuses.

Thinking back to the first day of the program, we had gone around to introduce ourselves and say why we wanted to be Pilates instructors. I told the group that to me, it’s a form of therapy, and something additional I want to give my clients. It empowers them to discover their own bodies and learn things they can take with them for the rest of their lives. The strength I was able to get back because of Pilates is something magical that I want everyone, especially dealing with an injury, to discover. It’s a form of medicine! – Alyssa (

Related: read about this instructor’s life-changing pre and post-surgery Pilates experience!

Jennifer Dahl

As a long-time lover of fitness, I’ve always appreciated Pilates, but no more than working one-on-one with a trainer. I decided to take the plunge into the Pilates Teacher Training Program in August 2018 and have been thrilled to work through the program so far – the content is extremely well put together, the trainers are highly knowledgeable, approachable and willing to help me grow. As a fitness director at FFC, I have seen two of my personal trainers successfully complete the program which has set them up to be incredible hybrid trainers.

As a powerlifter, I was intrigued by Pilates as a means to improve my posture, stabilize muscles and increase my core strength – all as a means to life heavier! So far, Pilates has done exactly that. I’m sitting taller behind the desk I’m at for hours on end, feeling less pain in my hips, shoulders and knees, both in and outside of training sessions. Additionally, I can see my posture is improving – I look taller, my shoulders are more relaxed and the rest of my mind/body connection has increased dramatically.

The Pilates training program is perfect for anyone who wants to learn for their personal practice to enhance their skill set as a trainer, or even as someone craving education. – Jen (

Paula Ziols

I came to FFC a year ago with a modern Pilates certification, and enrolled in the classical Pilates teacher training program to learn more. I loved what the training did for my body, in strength, and found all three instructors to be very supportive. The training was exceptional and I would recommend it to any personal trainer to bring their training level to a new place. I have been incorporating the classical method I learned with clients and have had great success. – Paula (

Joanna Tomczynska

Many years ago, while I was living in Connecticut, I decided to try a Pilates Mat class because of my aches, pains, lower back issues, shoulder impingement and straight neck. I wasn’t aware of all the good that Pilates was going to bring to my life – but kept doing it and getting better.

I then moved to Chicago, joined FFC and started going to mat classes. That is where I met Kristin (very pregnant then) who would give the classes with such ease, knowledge and energy that I started to love it even more and would look forward to her classes. I’ve always been athletic, but Pilates gave me the inner core strength I needed to gain better posture and flexibility, AND get rid of my back pain. I didn’t want to continue going to the chiropractor, so I kept going to Pilates classes. That’s when a friend told me about becoming an instructor.

I joined the training program and I have to say, it is not only the knowledge of the teacher that is important (and surely is what the instructors with the FFC Pilates teacher training program have) but also the good energy they put into it, the beautiful facility, flexibility to allow students to train and practice and the work opportunities! Kristin pushed me to my current level of confidence and without her I would not be where I am today, loving what I do, and seeing my clients progress. – Joanna

Take a Pilates Class or Sign Up for the Program!

Want to learn more about this part of the Pilates Chicago community, the program, or simply try out a Pilates class at FFC? Email!

When I first joined FFC as a new Chicagoan in 2004, my kids were two and four. I remember watching people do Pilates through the studio window and thinking, they look so graceful and… healthy. Not to mention lean and strong. I said to myself, I’ll never be those things. No way can I do all that stuff on those machines. No way will I ever lose this baby weight I’ve been carrying for five years now. Fast forward to 2016, when my kids convinced me to join again. I convinced my best friends Alan and Emily to join, and Emily happened to be a devotee of Pilates and tuned into all the Pilates benefits. So I sucked it up and agreed to try it, psyching myself up to have a positive attitude and a beginner’s mind.

Do what with my what?

I went home and cried roughly the first four times I took Pilates mat class with Carl Corry. It was humiliating and hard and upsetting. He was patient but firm, as were Cameron and Charles, who also teach there. There was so much I couldn’t do.

I kept coming back, though, because I committed to my friends that I’d try it for 6 months, twice a week, at least, to take advantage of all those Pilates benefits. And I worked on my attitude by thinking about what I’d say to my kids if they came home feeling like I did. I’d say this: “You can’t expect to be good at things right away. But if you like what this is, keep going. Get better. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

It is SO HARD to take your own advice.

But I kept going.

But… there was other stuff in the way.

There were two more things holding me back: a bunch of extra weight and some health problems that left me unable to use most of my abdominal muscles. I went to PT to address the problem which was a huge first step. (I also cried the first time I felt those muscles fire.)

And the weight was literally in my way in class. I’ve been struggling with it since I had children almost twenty years ago, and I lived with severe endometriosis my whole adult life, until five years ago. I also had some disordered eating and body image issues holding me back.

So while I sorted through my ego issues about Pilates and went to PT, I also did things like buy a full length mirror and a scale for the first time. I started to tease apart how I felt about my body from what I ate every day. Not because anyone told me to — it just seemed like they were different things.

About the weight.

After almost a year of working on something as simple as walking by a mirror without grimacing or feeling guilty about what I had for lunch, I decided to talk to FFC’s registered dietitian, Amy Silver. I have a friend who was working with a nutritionist and her success made me think, maybe this is be worth trying. After all, my insurance covers it. What did I have to lose?

My friend Alan joined me. We both knew it was good to have a buddy; that whole accountability thing. We could help each other.

At our first appointment I cried (are you seeing a pattern?). As she passed me the box of Kleenex I’m certain is always ready for this moment I said, “I’m just so tired of having this relationship with food.”

So. Much. Chewing.

At first, food felt like a part time job. I had to think about it all the time. I had to learn how to plan a whole new way of eating, I had to figure out how to get the right food to my office. I had to learn how to cook vegetables — all kinds, so I wouldn’t get bored.

And the chewing. I have to eat SO MANY vegetables. I didn’t have the chance to be hungry because of all the vegetables I was constantly shoving in my face.

Related: check out this member story about how a trip to Turkey changed FFC South Loop member Oscar’s perspective and how chewing more slowly changed his life.

Within days I noticed that my blood sugar was always… fine. I was never hungry. I never felt woozy or shaky or so hungry I could eat everything in sight. My digestive system was… happy. And then… the pounds started coming off.

But… not 100% happy.

Contrary to current wisdom around feeling confident and able to “see” yourself as healthy, I didn’t believe I could lose this weight at first. I also didn’t believe all of life’s problems would be solved if I succeeded.

Mostly I just thought, I’ll try this. Maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe it will work. Maybe not. “Don’t get too excited. These pounds have been part of you for 20 years,” I said to myself.

After seven months of mostly good behavior and making the changes more and more permanent, I currently weigh only 7 pounds more than I did 20 years ago – right before I got pregnant when I was 26. (My highest recorded weight was 193 and as I type this, I’m at 163 lbs. I’m 5’2″.)

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

And I feel conflicted about all the success I’m having because I can’t seem to believe it. But Amy keeps showing me my sheet, and it keeps showing that the weight is coming off. I can’t argue with the data, as much as something in me wants to take success away from myself.

So now I have more attitude adjustment to make. Better late than never. And I know I can conquer my own attitude because I still go to Pilates, sometimes four times a week.

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

Putting it all together.

FFC Oak Park Pilates benefitsI’ve been taking advantage of Pilates benefits for over a year now. It’s the only exercise thing I’ve ever done that gets both harder and more fun as I get better at it – roughly every six months. It gives me more energy and focus than even yoga, swimming and running used to. My Friday 7 AM group reformer class with Carl is one of the best hours of my whole week, and I have a pretty great life. I might even get licensed to teach, if only to learn something totally different and understand how my body works.

And the weight? Well, I’m working on my attitude even as I have to replace clothes almost constantly. 30 pounds is what a huge bag of dog food weighs, after all. And when I look in the mirror now, I see someone who looks the way I believe I am “supposed to,” which sounds odd, but it’s the most accurate thing I can think of. I mean, it also feels good to appreciate my own body, don’t get me wrong. REALLY good.

I also have noticed that in life overall, since I started working on myself consistently, I’ve started to take a longer view of virtually all things. My dad tells me it’s old age. I prefer maturity.

In the end, it’s only sort of about the weight. It’s more about feeling like myself, and feeling like my body can do anything I want – including whatever Carl, Cameron and Charles can come up with in Pilates mat class. Bring it on. I’ll be able to do it really well in a decade or so.

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Shelby Bower.

My journey to becoming a Pilates instructor started a little over four years ago. I was working as a personal trainer and found I really loved training runners. As a marathoner myself, I was familiar with the drive, determination, and injuries that stem from endurance sports.

My first marathon left me unable to walk for weeks with what I thought was a knee injury. I had throbbing pain that I’ve never experienced before, and I finally went and saw a sports physician. He told me I had lordosis in my lower back and that I wasn’t experiencing a knee injury, but actually sciatica from a bulged disc. He expressed how I needed to focus on my core, posture, and balance if I wanted to continue running. If I really wanted to make endurance athletes my “niche” as a personal trainer, I not only needed to help them get stronger, better and faster at their sport, but also make sure I did everything I could to help them avoid injury.

You Might Have to Touch Feet

Enter Kristin Strom. She was the fitness director at the club I was at at the time and suggested I look in to Pilates. I’ll be honest, I avoided it at first…I hate feet. I don’t want people touching my feet, and I don’t want to touch anyone else’s. She promised no one would touch my feet and invited me to try a class. I gave in, and I’m so glad I did because that class showed me a completely different way to work out. It showed me that it’s not always about heavy weights and reps and burning a billion calories. Pilates actually slowed things down and demanded focus. I couldn’t believe how sore I was afterwards. I was hooked.

I decided to enroll in the FFC Pilates Teacher Training program to work toward becoming a Pilates instructor. It changed everything for me. I not only obviously learned Pilates, but also how to be a better trainer to my clients. I had a much more comprehensive understanding of how the body worked. I could cue moves better. Speak better. I learned how a simple touch can help a client create a mind-body connection they’ve never been able to achieve before.

Related: Pilates makes your brain stronger too – really! Check out all the ways how in this post.

Incorporating Pilates Instructor Training into Personal Training & Group Fitness

I eventually incorporated what I learned in my Pilates instructor training into my sessions with my clients. Soon enough they were hooked as well, and that year I was ranked 4th in the company for session count and sales. I’m still very proud of that!

Eventually, I ended up leaving Chicago and moved West to San Diego, where I currently reside. I work at a gorgeous Pilates studio where not only do I teach private Pilates sessions, but also about 10 group classes a week of various levels. It’s so satisfying to see beginner students finally gain the confidence to try a harder class. Or to see your advance students finally nail a teaser on the long box!

I also do private personal training and teach boot camp classes at a different gym. The gym focuses on “going hard” and “going heavy”. I love this gym, but at first I struggled with this. People’s back’s hurt. Their knees hurt. Their rotator cuffs. Why was no one stretching? Where were the foam rollers?

Since then, I have started a weekly class that includes mobility, stretching, and Pilates. It’s been a huge hit. The members really appreciate my Pilates instructor background and it allows me to have a unique skill set that the other trainers don’t have. I have invited members of this gym to visit me at the Pilates studio and vise versa. Seeing burly guys who can deadlift 400 lbs struggle on the Pilates reformer is now a hobby of mine. But it’s good for them, and I’ll even touch their feet… if I have to.

You can follow along with Jamie on Facebook here and Instagram here!

It’s no secret that Pilates and dance have a long history together. Although Joseph Pilates worked with and developed cross-training exercises specifically for many different types of athletes, including boxers, soldiers and circus performers, it was his relationship to ballet and his protégée Romana Kryzanowska that solidified Pilates into the method that we know today.

Romana, who was a ballet dancer herself, worked extensively with Joseph Pilates. At one point in her career she suffered an ankle injury; this first meeting turned into years of work and development with Mr. Pilates on his method of “contrology”.

Related: here to sign up for a complimentary Pilates session!

Pilates in Practice

Although Pilates rightfully believed his method to be fitting for every body, dancers seemed to benefit especially from his “contrology” method. From years of stretching, external rotation of the legs from the hips, knees, and ankles, and dynamic ranges of motion, dancers are left with highly flexible muscles and joints.

While these physical attributes may be aesthetically pleasing, they leave the dancers’ body compromised – much like many sports. Joseph Pilates’ method is built on 4 principles that start with s: stretch, strength (muscular), stamina and stability. While most dancers have “stretch” nailed down, it’s the other three “s’s” that dancers need and get through cross-training: strength, stamina and stability.

Related: read the account of this instructor’s life-changing transformation through Pilates, pre and post-hip surgery.

Aiding with Injury

Because of the work that dancers do, they are at risk for many injuries. Injury is a part of the life of the dancer. Women who dance en pointe struggle often with foot and ankle issues, and any dancer who jumps frequently may struggle with Achilles tendonitis. Many male dancers have to lift other dancers, sometimes fully lifting another dancer’s body weight over their head, in a move called “Le Grande Pressage”. These dancers often struggle with lower back issues after years of lifting in rehearsals and during performances.

Pilates can help these performing professionals overcome and safeguard themselves from these injuries. The Pilates workout is a core-distal workout, which means the exercises work from the core muscles out to the extremities. Dancers (and any person, really) benefit from this workout by strengthening the core muscles which help to align the skeleton properly, which in turn makes everything else in the “system” (the body) work as it should.

Cross-Training Claim to Fame

As athletes strengthen themselves from the center out, all of their movements become more economical, thus creating a way of moving that reduces the stress incurred on the body and reducing injury. It is this cross training that not only dancers, but athletes (especially professional athletes like baseball and hockey players), runners, golfers and many others have come to depend on for minimum physical risk and maximum reward.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Pilates Instructor Wade Schaaf.

About Wade

Wade Schaff FFC Lincoln Park Pilates instructorWade Schaaf is a certified Pilates instructor, a certified RedCord instructor and is also a Pilates teacher trainer in the Classical Pilates Formula FFC program.

He specializes in all types of work, with a focus on Pilates for athletes and dancers, and Pilates for injury, recovery, and especially back injury. Want to set up a complimentary Pilates session at FFC? Email him at!



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You’ve read articles and seen the news – Pilates is one of the best workouts you can do. With benefits ranging from increased mental strength and improved attention and motivation to a better golf swing, a stronger core for running and more, it’s easy to see why Pilates is one of the fastest growing trends in the fitness industry. Pilates is beneficial for everyone – even Jake Arrieta, of the Chicago Cubs, and Jonathan Toews, of the Chicago Blackhawks, practice the ways of Joseph Pilates. But it doesn’t stop there! Here are benefits to practicing Pilates after (or before) pregnancy.

Pilates After Pregnancy

Pilates is perfect for helping new moms through the process after pregnancy and strengthen important muscles necessary for recovery. Benefits include:

1) Draws your abdominals (specifically your transverse abdominis) back together after being stretched for 9 months during pregnancy – also great for strengthening.

2) Strengthens your upper back and opens your chest, which can get tired from carrying and/or nursing your little one.

3) Strengthens your inner and outer hips to help support your pelvis after it was stretched and relaxed from all the hormones running through your body.

Related: sign up to try a free Pilates session on us at FFC!

4) Encourages proper, slow, yet precise, strengthening of your abdominals, hips and back, which helps relieve lower back and pelvic floor discomfort from pregnancy.

5) Stretches tight muscles that haven’t been used in a long time.

6) Can help repair diastasis recti, which is a split down the center of your abs (a common mistake is doing sit ups and planks right after you have a baby).

7) Gives you some well-deserved ME time.

Related: 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger.

Post written by FFC Boystown Pilates Coordinator & Instructor Jamie Loger.

About Jamie

Jamie is the Pilates coordinator and senior instructor at FFC Boystown and specializes in pre and postnatal work,in addition to core training and post-rehabilitation. Want to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jamie? Email her at


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Joseph Pilates believed that we are only as young as our spine. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Joe Pilates created a complete system of exercises that, along with your Pilates trainer’s eyes and years of experience, can transform your body into an efficient well oiled machine – just as it was intended to be. Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.

Pilates Can Help With Muscular Imbalance

After working with many individuals, one common issue of muscular imbalance occurs in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Actually, when I ask my students if there are any special exercises they would like to do, neck and shoulders are always on the list.

In our current lifestyle, we find ourselves using our bodies in less than optimal arrangements (i.e. looking down at our handheld devices, sitting at computers and driving for extended periods of time.) All of these daily, almost unavoidable activities cause an imbalance of the upper back, shoulders and neck, and ultimately, a forward tilt of the head.

With the constant gravitational pull on the head leading forward, our shoulders begin to roll inward (internally rotated), creating a collapse of the chest and a rounding of the upper back. If this posture goes unchecked, it can lead to a condition known as kyphosis (illustrated in the image below.)

“Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.”

The shoulder joint has multiple functions and the muscles of the shoulder joint all work in concert to perform routine movements, so when one or more muscles are weakened from poor posture or when we develop imbalances in the core, some muscles become hyper-active to compensate for muscles that are weak due to being inactive or dormant.

This inefficient alignment can lead to pain in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Chronic neck and shoulder pain often cause many people to discontinue doing their favorite sport or activity.

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to redeem!

Are You Rounding Your Shoulders?

Want to know if you are involuntarily rounding your shoulders forward? Here is a simple exercise to check:

While standing in front of a mirror with the heels together, toes slightly apart and your hands at your side, glance down at your hands.

  • Ideally, your thumbs would aim forward indicating correct postural alignment.
  • If your thumbs are turning inward toward your leg, then you may weak muscles in your upper and mid-back, leading to having too much internal rotation in your shoulders and a rounding of the upper back.

To see an example of this test and learn more about the anatomy of the shoulder joint, watch this video.

Notice an imbalance? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can try to help restore proper alignment.

  1. Visit the this website for some exercises you can perform to help restore balance.
  2. Contact your Pilates coordinator to schedule a complimentary session.

Related: believe it or not, Pilates is also great for your brain! Here’s how it makes you mentally stronger. 

Now that you know that Pilates can provide some great ways to restore your body’s alignment, what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to share your Pilates practice with us using #FFCChicago!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Pilates Trainer Charles Little. 

About Charles

Charles Little is a Pilates trainer at FFC Oak Park. He is certified in Balance Body and the Pilates Teacher Training Program. His specialties include flexibility/stretching, weight loss, and toning and shaping. Contact Charles to set up a consultation by emailing him at!

Photo credit: image 1,; image 2,


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If you have heard anything about Pilates, you have probably heard it makes your core stronger, gets you toned and increases your flexibility. Something you may not have heard is that Pilates makes you smarter – as in more intelligent, improved cognitive function! Pilates can make you smarter by increasing your attention, motivation and your ability to achieve more. It may also improve your overall mood and reduce your stress, anxiety and fatigue. Who knew you could be physically and mentally stronger just by practicing Pilates?! Check out these 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

The 6 Principles of Pilates & Why They Matter

Many of the six principles that serve as the foundation of Pilates relate back to the elements of human cognitive function and can aid in the improvement of these functions. The principles are as follows:

  • Concentration – focus on the mind-body connection to establish more mental and physical benefits from the workout
  • Centering – use your core (Pilates Powerhouse) muscles to help your body’s muscles function and develop more efficiently
  • Control – make precise, controlled, correct movements for maximum benefits
  • Breathing – control your breathing to include full exhalations as each exercise is performed helps with muscle activation and helps with mental focus
  • Precision – work toward the ideal execution of the exercise
  • Flow – ensure that each motion is smooth

Related: not only can Pilates help increase cognitive function, but it can help with muscle imbalances and chronic pain! Check out this post.

Pilates Can Reduce Anxiety & Increase Attention, Motivation & Achievement

So how does regularly practicing Pilates and the principles of Pilates help decrease anxiety and stress and improve your attention, motivation and overall cognitive function – making you “mentally stronger”?

Pilates helps reduce your anxiety by:

  • Increasing your body energy
  • Increasing sleep quality
  • Making your body more comfortable
  • Encouraging proper breathing
  • Improving blood and oxygen circulation flow to the brain
  • Relaxing your muscles

Pilates helps increase your attention by:

  • Increasing the principles of concentration and precision
  • Perfecting the controlling of body movement by the brain
  • Increasing memory-processing speed

Pilates helps increase your motivation by:

  • Improving total mood by performing positive habits and encouraging breathing that helps control emotions
  • Increasing vitality and body energy
  • Offering satisfaction for the basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness)
  • Improving psychological well-being
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Encouraging the release of a certain neurotransmitter which helps to alleviate physical and mental pain

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to sign up.

Pilates improves achievement by:

  • Generating new neurons (the foundation of the nervous system)
  • Increasing neurotransmitters
  • Aiding in the better survival of the neurons responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking

If you would like to be increase your cognitive function, become mentally stronger, and more productive, you should consider incorporating Pilates into your regular exercise routine. Your brain and body will thank you!

Post written by FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer Tsedal Ashby.

About Tsedal

Tsedal is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer at FFC West Loop. She enjoys teaching people who are new to exercise as well as challenging more experienced athletes. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her directly at!


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Well, my little baby girl recently turned five months old and I cannot stress enough that exercise and sleep are what will get you through those first few months. I know it sounds crazy… new moms, you’re probably thinking something like, “when would I find the time to exercise, much less sleep?!” It’s not easy, but the payoff is exponential. Here’s how you get your pre-baby body back faster!

Getting Active & Staying Active

During my pregnancy, I kept up with light cardio on an elliptical, strength training, and incorporated prenatal Pilates as well. Exercise was a huge part of my preparation for delivering my first baby. It made all the difference in my recovery and helped me lose the baby weight quickly.

By the time my two-week checkup came after Rita was born, I was already back to my pre-pregnancy weight! So to all other expectant mothers, here are my tips to achieve the best possible recovery:

  1. Keep up with diet and exercise while pregnant

Find what works for you. Some mothers can run while pregnant; I could not. I kept up with my cardio workouts by hopping on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day or by taking a spinning class. Strength training and prenatal Pilates were incorporated in my workouts until I was in my 39th week.

Related: try out a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here.

  1. Rest when you can

This is very important! I felt zero guilt when I would take my afternoon naps during that last week of pregnancy. Your body needs rest for the weeks ahead. Those long nights, whether you are breastfeeding or not, are exhausting. Sleep!

  1. Sleep when they sleep

After the baby arrives, maintain a similar schedule to your newborn. The more rested you are, the better you will feel and the more likely it will be for you to exercise.

  1. Early morning workouts are key

I found that if I woke up and fed Rita early in the morning, put her back to sleep and stayed up to work out, I was able to get it done and out of the way. If I waited to work out until the afternoon, it wouldn’t happen. Something else would always come up! So get up, get it done, and congratulate yourself. You’re doing an amazing job!

  1. Fight the cravings

Remember, you’re no longer eating for two. Breastfeeding does burn calories and you’ll feel hungry, but feed yourself with GOOD calories. What you eat is transferred to your little one, so make sure to stick with lean proteins, lots of veggies and limit your sugar intake (try some of these lower sugar recipes out!).

Whether it’s walking around the neighborhood with baby in tow or doing tricep dips in your living room with the little one in your lap, get yourself in motion. Your body wants to be strong and get back into shape. So keep modifying your workouts until you’re back at your previous fitness level.

From one strong mama to another, you’ve got this!

Post written by FFC contributor.


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Recovering from surgery, or even a minor injury, can be frustrating and discouraging. In the time it takes to recover, the body can change drastically. In 2014 I sustained a hip labral tear and ended up getting surgery to repair it. After surgery, I was in a hip brace for two whole months and, as a result, my body became uneven – I had extreme muscle imbalance, severe tightness and my body was just completely out of alignment. I seriously questioned if I was going to face these issues for the rest of my life. After I graduated from physical therapy at FFC’s East Lakeview NovaCare, my therapist recommended a Pilates transformation.

I knew nothing about Pilates, except that all the apparatuses looked like a bunch of torture devices. Needless to say I was skeptical that these weird machines could actually help me. To be honest, I thought some of the stuff was odd during my first few sessions, but then I started to fall in love with it as I began to see my body transform. All those issues I had after surgery were completely fixed with continuous Pilates sessions.

Related: Pilates makes you mentally stronger. Here are 4 ways.

I was in awe that this method of exercise literally healed me. Pilates ignited a passion in me – it helped me so much that it made me want to be a teacher to help others like myself. Since that turning point post-surgery, I have graduated from the FFC Pilates Teacher Training Program and am a Pilates trainer at FFC South Loop.

Due to pre-existing conditions, I tore the labrum of my other hip and got surgery in 2015. Having practiced Pilates both pre and post-surgery this second time around, I can definitively say Pilates helped me recover faster by reducing the muscle imbalances, alignment issues and overall tightness I experienced during the first surgery.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute Pilates consultation at FFC!

So, if you are hoping to get stronger before a surgery, recovering from a hip (or other type of) injury or just want to improve your overall balance and alignment, here are a few specific ways a Pilates transformation can help you. Pilates:

  • Restores alignment of the body and corrects muscle imbalances
  • Helps correct the body’s natural tendency for overcompensation when trying to cope with alignment or imbalance issues
  • Strengthens and lengthens muscles around the hip area
  • Helps speed up recovery time with pre-surgery preparation and with scar tissue issues post-surgery
  • Enhances overall core strength to assist with balance and confidence in falling
  • Reduces muscle tightness and increases flexibility and range of motion

Both before and after surgery, I experienced tightness in my hip flexors, quads and lower back; my Pilates transformation helped relieve this tightness and brought length back into my compressed spine.

Whether you have hip issues or not, Pilates will challenge your body in a new way and educate you about your own body. If you are apprehensive like I was, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone and try it! If you are interested in scheduling a free introductory session please email me, Jenna Greenfield, at

Post written by FFC South Loop Pilates Instructor Jenna Greenfield.


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