Janet Soriano Toole June 2018
‘Rebirth and Renewal Thanks to Pilates”
How befitting that the town of Phoenixville — with its annual Firebird Festival depicting the mythological Phoenix that represents rebirth and renewal — is the home of Bodies by Pilates And More, a studio that has renewed the physical health of so many, including me!
Perhaps, like me, you participated in some sports growing up and then life happened: career, kids, and adult responsibilities soaked up time leaving little for physical fitness.
Add to that scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and severe neck and muscle aches (dubbed fibromyalgia) that only prescriptions and warm weather could tame, I knew it was time to do something different.
Dabbling in Pilates at another studio, I found relief, but something was missing. On 6/2/2013, I found Bodies by Pilates And More (then called ‘Bodies by Pilates’), and have never looked back. Since my first simple stretches on the Reformer that provided immediate tension release in my neck and back, I’ve been hooked. And, over time, it was empowering to start to feel toned, again!
Then, a new setback: A torn disc due to a car accident made it excruciatingly painful to walk. Months of physical therapy (PT) – and no Pilates 😢 – was now on the agenda. But thanks to my prior Pilates work, I knew my strength and flexibility potential. When PT winded down, I supplemented it with private Pilates sessions with Claudia Brochinsky Tramell, who is an Occupational Therapist in addition to a certified Pilates instructor (what a combo!!). My recovery was complete, and my second transformation was underway.
Fast forward to now after 5 years of Pilates, plus a diet change…I feel as good as I did 25 years ago and am prescription-free. At Bodies by Pilates and More, owner Janelle Mohry Vannoy and her team create a welcoming space for all fitness levels and ages. I take 20 classes per month, including:
•” Reformer”, “Whole Body Chair” and “Tower and More” with Carol Weiss;
• “TRX and Pilates Stick” with Tracy Brand, and;
•” Weight Loss and Weight Training” and “Stability Ball and Sculpt” with Jay Kevin Repko.
I cannot thank this amazing team enough for all they do. After a 20-year hiatus, I even started running, again, and began weight lifting on my own.
As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.” The first step on my renewal journey was Pilates, and I’m now looking forward to the miles yet to come.
I’m a track and field coach. I love practice. For me, nothing is better than holding practice at an outdoor track in early May at 4:00pm or coaching cross-country on an Indian summer afternoon in September.
It’s not only about the physical aspect of the sport. It is also about the appreciation of the whole, the interface between purposeful movement and repose. Essentially, practice is the core of understanding this duality.
I’ve been competing in athletics since I was in elementary school. It started with travel soccer, little league baseball, peewee football, and youth basketball. In Junior High football continued through 8th grade. Baseball stayed a constant. In high school wrestling took over my interest, and baseball went away (after 10th grade), replaced by golf (10th and 11th grade). Ultimately, wrestling won out as I chose to wrestle in college. With wrestling came running and strength training (Olympic lifts in college). When I transferred from an NCAA Division I school to a Division III school, I switched sports to cross-country in the fall, swimming in the winter, cycling (with a group if Cat. II and III cyclists) in the spring, and triathlons in the summer. My natural athletic ability and willingness to train diligently led to success in triathlons. I won a dozen races and was sponsored, as an amateur, by a local business.
At 28 I switched to running seriously and posted some solid PR’s after two years of training. Unfortunately, all my activity was linear. I went straight at my training. Literally, straight-ahead. As a coach, and author of two books on strength training for runners, Running Anatomy (Human Kinetics 2010 and 2018), I know about muscle imbalances caused by repetitive movement patters. After two knee surgeries, and the realization that I would never run super fast again I realized something had to change. The change was embracing Pilates.
I joined a small group of runners from the local running store in Phoenixville, and we endured a 30 minute ‘Intro to Pilates” after our weekly Wednesday night five mile run. I was tired when I began the Pilates session, but I wasn’t more tired after the session. How does that make sense? I didn’t love Pilates, but I immediately respected the activity, and was fascinated that one man created all the exercises, and engineered the equipment to perform the exercises. Also, I connected to Pilates because I wasn’t talented at it, but I didn’t feel defeated by my failures. Oddly, I felt empowered for trying to harness my body’s physical potential in a way I hadn’t even considered. Pilates isn’t linear, and the practice of Pilates is not just physical, but it is challenging.
Fast-forward three years. I now practice once a week with a personal instructor, Carol Weiss. Carol is fantastic at teasing out the minute details of a movement by focusing on verbal cues that lead me, seamlessly, through the movements. I just listen to her and allow my body to follow her soft-spoken commands.
Ultimately, my Pilates story is resoundingly positive. The practice of Pilates dovetails with my life-view of diligent consistent effort over time leading to a successful and healthy life. Thank you to Janelle Vannoy for continuing to add to the wonderful studio that is Bodies by Pilates and More, and for allowing me a place to practice my craft.
I have dealt with chronic back pain for as long as I can remember. In my early 20’s and through my 30’s I was in numerous car accidents (and none of them were my fault, I swear…) – and I was hit by a car walking across the street (after I looked left, then right, and left again – what you are supposed to do!). All the accidents left me a legacy of trying to find my way out of the pain.
I tried many different kinds of exercise to help including things that kept me moving like dance, Zumba and step aerobics-things to build my muscles like weight lifting and weight machines in the gym, walking around an inside track, and attending yoga classes. I joined gym after gym, only to stop and start over and over again, as nothing seemed to help. I can’t recount the number of chiropractors and different methodologies they practiced, acupuncturists, Reiki Masters, energy workers and massage therapists I visited through the years, and the number of doctors and physical therapists I visited over time.
Then, about 10 years ago, I was I was introduced to the Pilates Reformer and Tower at a gym – I could start to feel the results, but the classes were expensive on top of the gym membership. I searched for different studios over the next years, and finally, 2 years ago, found Bodies by Pilates in Phoenixville. What a find! Bodies by Pilates is a special place – it is affordable and quality Pilates (I am able to go 5 times a week!) that has all the classical classes and equipment including Reformer, Tower, Chair and Mat, with fitness classes and contemporary Pilates. The trainers are SO great – and the owner, Janelle Vannoy is warm and welcoming and has built a special place, a community where everyone at every fitness level is welcomed and cared for.
So, my journey continues. I have found great results – my pain is under control (although there is still more to go) but I feel stronger, leaner and my spine is more aligned. Pilates stretches my muscles and I have a way to practice at home. I am walking straighter with much more confidence and I look taller. I can tell you that when I miss a week, or even a couple of days, my body feels it! At my age, it takes a lot of work to stay in shape! I sure wish I had found this gem years ago, but I continue to go religiously – it’s the first time I have been able to stick with an exercise program and I would not be doing so well without it!
My Pilates journey started just over a year ago. In that year, I have lost 60+ pounds, and too many inches to count but what I am most proud of is what I have gained! Friends, strength, mobility and a true sense of happiness to just name a few. I have also begun to realize how important it is to take care of me, I cannot truly love others if I don’t love myself first!! I am a 44-year daughter, sister, friend, realtor, aunt, cousin, wife and Mom of two amazing young girls.
As I tipped the scales to my heaviest, seeing a chiropractor three times a week to try to ease the back and hip pain that was crippling me and not living life, just surviving. I knew if I truly wanted to be around to see my grandchildren and be a role model for my daughter’s I need to make some fundamental changes. I also realized, if I truly was going to be happy and good at all those hats I wore, I needed to start putting myself first. I have done it all, Zumba, water aerobics, weights, elliptical and the list can go on and on. I have always enjoyed working out, dare I say I LOVE the feeling after a good sweaty workout. But I have always been self-conscious, that others are judging me or watching the big girl. None of which I have experienced at Bodies by Pilates and More, in fact quite the opposite, the sense of community, caring and celebrating everyone’s successes is unreal.
I started out at Bodies by Pilates and More because Janelle’s son and my daughter went to preschool together, and I had chatted with her about my back issues and my desire to get healthy. We talked about how I needed to strengthen my core to help get rid of the nagging back pain. So, after four months of hemming and hawing I took the plunge and started out with private lessons. There were so many exercises and positions I couldn’t get in to at first BUT there are building blocks for everything and everyone. There are so many building blocks that I no longer need but there are some that I still need, and you know what it doesn’t matter, what matters is I am showing up, improving, getting stronger and doing it for me!
I started taking group classes after about 8 weeks and have never looked back. What I love most is that I am never bored, there are so many different types and levels of classes. My favorites are those that mix Pilates and some version of a HITT workout whether it’s Jumpboard, TRX or weights, Bodies by Pilates and More offers it all.
ALL the instructors are professionally trained and certified but best of all is that every single one of them truly LOVE what they do, and you can feel the amazing energy in each session!
They have classes first thing in the morning, during the day, evenings and weekends. You need to make time in your schedule for you, I am so glad I finally faced my fears of failure and embarrassment to take the plunge into Pilates! Hope to see you in class someday soon!