A Minnesota Pilates Teacher Was a First Responder When Some Local Volunteer Firefighters Wanted to Get in Peak Shape

Late last year, Laura Landgren, owner of Studio L2 Pilates in Eden Prairie, MN, got a call from a firefighter neighbor, Captain David Gandrud. He had taken a couple of classes with Landgren and, realizing what a great addition Pilates would be to his unit’s training, wondered if she would be interested in teaching a class to the men and women in his volunteer company.

A Minnesota Pilates Teacher Was a First Responder When Some Local Volunteer Firefighters Wanted to Get in Peak Shape Photo Gallery

So in January, the captain and three other members of the company started taking a weekly class that Landgren developed to help them handle the physical demands of firefighting. Whether climbing a ladder to ventilate a burning roof, crawling to rescue someone or lifting a patient into an ambulance, firefighters are constantly putting their bodies in positions that require strength, balance and flexibility. “They have to be able to move in all directions at any given time,” notes Landgren.

Plus, the moment the call comes, their adrenaline starts pumping. “We can be awakened in the middle of the night and find ourselves putting our bodies through intense physical exertion,” says Gandrud.

In each class, Landgren leads the firefighters through the Kneeling Side Arm series on the Reformer, which targets the back, shoulder and arm muscles, to help them when they lug heavy equipment. Since firefighters tend to have tight shoulders, the routine often includes the Long Back Stretch with the Rollback Bar to strengthen their shoulder muscles and open up their chests.

Of course, strengthening the core is key just imagine trying to handle the enormous weight and pressure of the huge water hoses. “They have to lean back, which requires a lot of core strength, and be able to switch sides, which necessitates balance and endurance,” explains Landgren. To address the core, she includes the Hundred and Swan on the mat, exercises that are especially useful since the firefighters can also practice the moves at home or at the station.

“A volunteer firefighter is someone who likes a challenge,” says Landgren. So the class soon progressed to working on the Chair, doing Footwork, Mermaid, One-Leg Presses, Washer Woman and bilateral moves such as Standing Lunges.

The firefighters are already appreciating their enhanced fitness levels. “Having a stronger core helps me avoid injury on the job, both when I have to lift things and take things out of compartments in the fire truck,” says Kathrine Russell, a member of the volunteer unit. “I have had back issues, and strengthening my core has helped me become more balanced and stable.”

“It’s been very eye-opening to everyone to see how hard Pilates is—and how much better it makes them feel,” says Landgren. The class has been such a hit with the firefighters that Landgren just added a second weekly session. “They put their lives on the line for our community—it’s the least I can do in return!” she says.

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