Pilates Style: Where did you grow up? Colleen Glenn: I was born in Texas, but when I was six, my family moved to a farm in Ashtabula, OH. I had four brothers, a sister and was a very active tomboy—we were always outside, climbing trees, riding horses. When I was eight, I got a dance scholarship to the Cleveland Ballet. I loved it—my dance passion really started there. Four years later, we moved to Akron, where I studied with the Ohio Ballet, then called Akron Chamber Ballet.
A Co-Founder of The Pma and Creator of Peak Pilates’ Education Program Colleen Glenn continues on Her Quest to Bring Pilates and Healthy Living to Everyone Photo Gallery
PS: What did you do after high school? Colleen: I moved back to Texas with my parents my senior year. I auditioned for the Houston Ballet, but they put me in the school instead of accepting me into the company. At the same time, I went to the University of Houston for two years and then to Lamar University, while also choreographing and dancing with some local companies.
Around this time is when I was introduced to Pilates at the Houston Ballet. The Pilates there was based on Alan Herdman’s more therapeutic work—today I incorporate that work regularly, but when I was first introduced to it when I was 20, I thought it was very slow and wasn’t really interested.
Fast-forward a few years, Elizabeth Jones Boswell, a dancer who had a studio in her duplex, asked me if I’d be interested in learning Pilates so I could help her teach. And she paid 10 bucks an hour! I was a starving artist, and that was a lot of money in 1983.
I observed for two or three weeks, she gave me an anatomy coloring book to study, and then I started assisting her. Because I was a dancer, I could memorize and retain movement.
PS: How did you first meet Romana? Colleen: I would go to New York periodically to audition. Someone said, have you been to see Romana [Kryzanowska]? So I went. At her studio, people were really moving—not the slow work I’d seen up until then. Romana came up to me and said, so are you the girl from Texas? What do you do? And I said, I teach Pilates. I can’t believe I even said that! She took me through a super-advanced workout and kicked my ass.
PS: What was your revelation? Colleen: That you could sweat buckets doing Pilates, it was about precision and flow, total concentrated discipline. I felt thoroughly worked out but invigorated
FIVE MINUTES WITH
Favorite apparatus: The Chair because you can get the most efficient workout in the shortest amount of time. And it’s fun.
Hardest move to master: Super-advanced moves that require a lot of upper-body strength. For instance, High Bridge on the Reformer. That’s why I did strength training.
Favorite mat move: This is sort of a tricky question. To me, the mat is one flowing exercise. On the other hand, I do think the Side-Kick Series is my favorite. It takes 15 minutes, and it works pretty much everything.
Most inspiring Client: This woman I taught in Dallas. She was 50, her husband had died, and she had lost her confidence. Over time, though, she blossomed both physically and emotionally; she came alive again. People can accomplish the movements and that’s really great, but when it starts to change their lives, that’s why I teach.
FavoRitE brand: I wear everything. Lululemon, Lucy, any brand that looks good.
Most inspiring teacher: For Pilates, Romana, of course! For movement and dance in general, Bob Fosse and Peter Martins. And all my students inspire me daily, truly.
Teaching phoTo courTesy of The pMa; headshoT by Wendi schneider afterward. I was like, this is what I want to teach! So whenever I was in New York, I took sessions with her. I also took sessions with Kathy Grant at the Tisch School of Arts.
When I went back to Houston, they were hiring Pilates instructors at the Houston Ballet. But within two months of my arrival, there was a coup, and all the teachers left to open another studio. I suggested they get Romana in to train new staff members. So Romana would come once a month for six or seven months, and we started building the business back. I began taking notes on what she said and writing my first manual.
PS: How did you like the transition from dancer to teacher?
Colleen: I’m just a natural teacher. I was teaching ballet to the kids in the neighborhood in my basement when I was 15.
PS: Why did you move to Dallas? Colleen: I wanted to go to physical therapy school; on the side, I had a bunch of jobs. I did corporate fitness for a health club, until I came to work one day and there were chains on the door—the company’s accountant had embezzled the payroll taxes.
I ended up leaving physical therapy school and working with Alice Ann Dailey, who had a small studio in Dallas and pretty quickly, business was booming. That’s also when I first started doing certifications through the Pilates Institute, later PhysicalMind Institute. I brought down Romana regularly to train the staff. Ron Fletcher was hosted as well.
Romana came up to me and said, so are you the girl from Texas? What do you do? And I said, I teach Pilates. I can’t believe I even said that!
After three years with Alice Ann, I accepted a position at the Rosewood Crescent Spa and Hotel, a very exclusive ($25,000 to join!), five-star spa, gym and hotel. I ran the Pilates program there and also did integrated training.
In 1995, I decided to open my own facility in Highland Park, TX, called Glenn Studio Inc. To raise money, I asked eight clients to purchase three private sessions a week for a year; that gave me $25,000 to capitalize my business.
I had developed my own training program soon after opening my studio; however, I decided I was going to partner with Sean Gallagher and Romana to develop their teacher-training program in Texas. Romana had visited many times, she had even tested a group of my students for certification. Sean had also come out and watched me teach my program. I was very excited, but when it came time to sign the legal documents for the deal, I was advised against it and didn’t do it. It was a very difficult decision for me. Then when I turned down the deal, I was disenfranchised from the organization, which was really hard for me because Romana was my inspiration.
PS: How did you get involved with the founding of the Pilates Method Alliance? Colleen: Around this time, the late ’90s, a lot of people would say they were Pilates teachers, but then when they came to the studio, they’d point at a Refomer and say, “What’s that?”
The truth is I believed in what Sean and Romana were promoting, trying to have some standardization of education, unadulterated. But the methods were really the downfall from my perspective. It was divisive it didn’t come from a place of community and heart.
It the first meeting of the PMA brought people together for the first time, people from all different schools, people who otherwise never would have met. It was the first time that Ron Fletcher and Mary Bowen had ever met.
So I wanted to build an organization that would map out an education pathway. At that time, I was bringing in high-level pros to certify my teacher-training students. One of them was Michele Larsson. She didn’t teach all the exercises I did, but we had certain commonalities as teachers: how we looked at an exercise, how we looked at movement and how we would correct, what the ultimate goal was. It started my brain working. By looking at commonalities, I saw there was a way to create parameters for evaluating an education program.
Michele mentioned our discussion to Kevin Bowen, He had the same idea, so Michele told Kevin, you should call Colleen. In early 2000, Kevin, who was in Miami at the time, came to Dallas, and we had a meeting at my house to talk about our vision. We both believed that the organization had to be nonprofit, because we didn’t want anyone to think that we were going for money or power, or that we wanted to dictate the rules—we wanted it to be governed by the people who would participate. Initially, our idea wasn’t to create a certification program, but to have what I called accreditation—we would accredit certification programs that followed certain guidelines. We wanted to make teacher training more professional and bring the community together.
The ruling on the lawsuit [that declared the Pilates trademark invalid] happened in October 2001. That November, Howard Sichel had a party in New York. There were almost 100 people there, and he invited Kevin and me to present our idea for the Pilates Method Alliance.
It wasn’t very well received.
People thought we wanted to make a power grab. Because of the whole lawsuit thing and the years of fighting and acrimony, the whole community had what I called the “fear ear,” meaning that everyone was listening to what we were saying from a place of fear.
Still, we organized the first conference the next May in Miami. Eighty people came, including the manufacturers, Kenny [Edelman, of Balanced Body], Moira [Merrithew, of STOTT PILATES®] and Julie [Lobdell, of Peak Pilates]. It brought people together for the first time, people from all different schools, people who otherwise never would have met. It was the first time that Ron Fletcher and Mary Bowen had ever met. (Romana was always invited, but never came.) There were so many benefits that have come about because of what we started, though I was personally disappointed when members of the organization voted to create a PMA certification, because that was not the original intent.
PS: How did you end up in Boulder? Colleen: I wanted my son to go to a Waldorf School. There wasn’t one in Dallas, so in 2002, when he was five, we moved to Boulder so he could attend the Waldorf School there. When Julie Lobdell discovered I was coming to Boulder, she said, let’s start an education division with Peak—I want you to head it up. She wanted to get Pilates into health clubs, and my vision had always been to get classical Pilates to a large audience, and I thought I could do that through Peak.
People wanted training they could afford, that they could do in modules, as opposed to how I did it, where you pay $5,000, $8,000, $10,000, and you have to move to a different city. I went all over the world training teachers and the Life Fitness sales staff about the philosophy of Pilates and how to sell the equipment. I also worked with the engineers on how to help design the equipment.
PS: So you left Peak in 2010?
Colleen: Yes, I was with Peak for around eight years, until it was bought out by Mad Dogg. Behind the scenes, I had a challenging personal life: I had a sick husband, who passed away soon after. Besides, I really wanted to get back into the studio. I had been mainly teaching instructors, and I felt like I really wasn’t working with bodies anymore, I wasn’t authentic. I was hired at Pura vida Fitness and Spa in Cherry Creek to run its Pilates program. When I came on board, they had revenues of $4,000 month. Five years later, when I left, the revenue had climbed to over $30,000 a month.
PS: What are you doing today? Colleen: So today, I work at RallySport Health and Fitness Club and at Body Dynamics, both in Boulder. I use Pilates as one of my main modalities, but I work people holistically and functionally. I am also a Purium Health Coach. Purium is an organic, non-GMO superfood system. Clients are getting results with their health and bodies unimaginable with exercise alone. Whole health is what I am offering, and that’s really, really cool.
PS: What are your favorite workshops? Colleen: The workshop I teach most often these days is the Legacy Workshop and Master Class, in which I present historical information about Joseph Pilates. I call it debunking the myths. I’ve always been interested in what happened to the missing piece of Joe’s work—the strength training, the Callanetics¬like moves, the boxing—Joe was greatly influenced by the physical culturists of his time. Mary Bowen was bequeathed these black-and- white films where you see Joe doing these kinds of moves, and you see barbells in the background in his studio; I personally have always done some form of strength training even when I was dancing. I also do a master class with the more aerobic, Callanetics-like moves; half the Pilates people can’t do them!
PS: Tell us about your personal life: Colleen: I married my husband, Robert Paul Wilson, five years ago. My son, Landon Taliaferro, is 18. He grew up in the Pilates studio—I would nurse him and lecture in my seminars. When people see him now, they’re like, “Oh my God, you’re 6’3”! I remember when you were nursing!” He gets so embarrassed!
These moves are tailored to help acrobats build a good balance of internal stabilization and strength, along with efficient global muscle strength, resulting in greater control, power and precision in every movement. Pilates is brilliant for finding the smaller muscles to support powerful moves and offers a unique environment for training acrobat-specific skills. I find that acrobats tend to be very compliant clients—they know their bodies and welcome anything that will help their physical performance and offer risk reduction.
But even if you’re nowhere near being able to do a backflip or contort your body into a pretzel, these exercises are fantastic for challenging your strength and control. Try to do this routine two to three times per week for a boost in your overall strength and core power.
ROLL-DOWN RIGHT AGAINST THE WALL
PURPOSE: increases abdominal control in full forward flexion, a movement that is integrated extensively by acrobats; forces you to work the deep abdominals SETUP: Stand tall against a wall, making sure that your heels and body are pressing into it, and your legs are straight.
1. Inhale, lengthening your spine and engaging all your muscles to grow taller up the wall.
2. Exhale, rolling down from the crown of your head to full forward flexion, peeling sequentially away from the wall.
3. Hold the forward position, deepening your abdominals as you inhale, relaxing your head and allowing your shoulders to hang.
4. Exhale, articulating back to standing, heels anchoring into the floor as you progressively stack your body against the wall to return to standing. Do 4-6 reps.
MOdiFicaTiON: This is harder than it looks—build up to this move over time by starting with your heels a little away from the wall where you can manage the Roll-Down, and then over time, progressively bring them back to completely against it.
Lorry, the model here, named this exercise Hollow Rock, since it feels like you need to create a hollow “as strong as a rock” to do it. It is a “pick up” from an extended supine position into a lengthened, scooped one that activates every fiber of the body.
PURPOSE: develops abdominal strength and whole¬body engagement
SETUP: Lie on your back, contracting your abdominal wall and spinal muscles toward each other, while reaching your arms and legs in opposite directions.
1. Exhale, reaching your arms and legs away, so far in either direction that you lift up into a long, scooped position.
2. Inhale, lengthening back down. Start with 4-6 reps and build up to 10.
VaRiaTiON: From the Single-Leg Stretch starting position, extend out to Hollow Rock.
MAGIC CIRCLE HULA
Prop: Magic Circle
Purpose: trains the anterior oblique muscular sling (binds the abdominals and pelvis); works the essential combination of the obliques with the adductors (inner thighs) to increase pelvic stability and control
SETUP: Lie on your back, with your knees bent hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor. Place the Magic Circle in between your knees, and your hands behind your head. Lift your head, neck and tips of your shoulder blades.
1.Exhale, squeezing both legs into the Circle as you rotate your torso to the right, bringing your left shoulder toward your right knee.
TiPS: Make sure to maintain a neutral pelvis, so your hips disassociate effectively and allow for correct muscle patterning. Aim for a smaller, more precise movement, rather than a forceful abdominal lift.
Modification: Start with Chest Lifts as you squeeze the Circle.
2. Inhale, returning to the starting position, releasing the squeeze on the Circle.
3. Repeat the sequence on your other side. Do 4-6 sets.
Advanced: Do the same movement with your legs in tabletop and the Circle between your knees, or with extended legs and the Circle between your ankles.
Sally anderSon bio photo by alan Cox
GLIDING SUPPORT SERIES
Props: push-up handles; small towels (or gliding discs) PurPOSE: facilitates integrated whole-body control and strengthening.
SETUP: Holding the push-up handles, place your feet on the towels, and get into a Plank position, with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
1. Exhale, pulling up into a Pike position, bringing your straight legs underneath you and in line with your hips; inhale, returning to Plank.
2. Exhale, pulling up into a Straddle Pike position, widening your legs; inhale, returning to Plank.
3. Exhale, scooping your abdominals and bending your knees under your torso, between your arms and then forward into a Back Support position.
4. Do 3-6 sets of the entire sequence.
MOdiFicaTiONS: Do one step at a time. Decrease the range of motion.
VariaTiON: Add Leg-Pulls to the Front Support and Back Support positions, and Oblique Pull-Ups after the Straddle Pike.
Sally anderSon has trained performers on two tours of Cirque du Soleil, as well as ongoing training for theater acrobatic dancers. She has also taught Australian Olympic Swim team members, dancers and elite-level athletes. She is the director of PilatesITC, a government-registered training organization, and PilatesInt Studios in Australia.
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