Recently I had the chance to chat with my friend and Pilates Guru, Dawn Gaylardo about her extensive and formidable career in both Pilates and Theatre. Dawn, who has trained with Master Trainers in both Pilates and GYROTONIC ® , has been teaching for over 16 years. Currently she teaches Pilates at Renaissance The Studio in Red Bank, NJ.
Dawn most recently appeared in Lovers and Other Strangers as Cathy and Nine: The Musical as Luisa. She is currently enrolled in acting classes and hoping to apply the techniques that she is learning in a show at some point in the near future.
Q. Please tell us about yourself and what people, influences, events or desires led you to your profession. How long have you been teaching Pilates?
Since I was always passionate about theatre and music, I enrolled in college immediately after high school as a musical theatre major. I ended up leaving school after my first year since I wasn't sure I could see myself pursuing a professional career in the performing arts. This was largely due to the fear of rejection and financial uncertainty in that line of work. I went back to my hometown, Danvers, Massachusetts and just started working. I had all kinds of jobs: waitress, bill collector, salon coordinator, admin, customer service.
I landed a pretty great 40 hour job working for the phone company around the same time (1999-2000) that I had found my passion for exercise. Back then I was doing a lot of weight training, group classes (my favorites were Pilates Mat, Boxing and Urban Rebounding). I was extremely lucky to attend a gym that had PJ O'Clair, a very talented, smart, accomplished instructor, trainer, and presenter who was already pretty well- known and respected in the fitness industry. As the Fitness Director, she had recently partnered with Stott (Merrithew) Pilates and was working for them as a teacher trainer and licensed training facility for New England. When the opportunity came for me to attend teacher training and apprentice there, I jumped on it. I had another amazing teacher and mentor there named Melissa LePage. She was so bright and sunny - an impeccable instructor. She had an amazing eye for detail and a fun, humorous approach but was serious about the work. She made you work and left no detail unattended. I will never forget how awesome she was and she definitely has influenced my approach as a Pilates instructor in many ways.
During my Stott Pilates Teacher Training program, I was introduced to Kathy van Patten. She was working as an instructor trainer for them at that time. Kathy, who had an extensive background in dance and in classical Pilates, brought her own magic to me. She was so warm and positive- she made you believe you could do things you didn't think you ever could, and then she got you to do them! I ended up having the great fortune of working for Kathy in Beacon Hill (Boston, MA) at Boston BodyWorks from 2002-2004. It was where I was introduced to GYROTONIC ® , a movement system which I am really passionate about. It was an incredible experience, which deeply affected me and opened my world to a different way of approaching movement. It was during that time I really started to blossom as a teacher. I have been influenced greatly by all of the master trainers that I have had the opportunity to work with, both in Pilates and GYROTONIC ®.
Q. How would you describe the job of a Pilates teacher?
We teach and tailor Pilates workouts on the mat and apparatus in private, semi- private and group settings. We program and modify the workouts based on our clients' needs and pay attention to modify and correct their form in order to protect them from injury while instilling good technique. That really only scratches the surface of what we do. Beyond this, we are problem solvers, inspirers, motivators, nurturers and entertainers.
Q. What are the most enjoyable and least enjoyable aspects of your work? Why?
The most enjoyable aspects of my work are facilitating a heightened level of body awareness. I love being there with clients when they have those "AHA!" moments, when they really GET something. I love helping people discover new ways to play to their bodies, and push them to connect intentions to sensations in movement. I also love introducing this work to new clients. I love when people feel the work and the reward in the workout. I believe that the workout should be challenging, but it should also be fun, pleasurable and joyful. It brings me joy when I see them feeling all that in a session.
It is also gratifying for me to watch the clients I work with progress, to hear them tell me that they are more consciously aware of their posture, their breathing, that they are feeling free from chronic pains that plagued them before coming. I love hearing their accounts of a better golf game, a faster running time, able to touch their toes for the first time in ten years, having more energy to play with their children or grandchildren, more confidence, friends commenting enviously on how great they look and such. Ultimately to hear that they are feeling better in their everyday lives really thrills me and reminds me of how purposeful this work is- beyond the sculpt and chisel aspects.
Some of the more challenging aspects of this work are that as rewarding as it is, it can be very draining, physically, mentally, emotionally. I put everything I have into every session physically, and mentally. I am very passionate about my workand as many years as I have been doing this, I have never learned how to give less than everything I have.
In addition to this, the schedule can be pretty crazy: 2 hours here, 3 hours there, mornings, evenings, weekends. Business can be pretty unsteady as clients come and go. Some clients move, some have situations change...as a result, this business can be stressful because of the financial unsteadiness. Many of us take the clients when they can come and sub and schedule ourselves like crazy. When things get busy, it is easy to put your own workouts and self -care last. It is essential to figure out a way to find balance.
Q. What are your words of advice to a someone new to Pilates?
Be present. Be patient. Don't expect to get everything right away, just do your best, take in what you can and trust the process. Pilates works, but there is absolutely a learning curve and it is a process that is more fully realized with regular practice.
Q. What is the most common misconception that people have about Pilates?
There are a few depending on who you talk to, but I think the most common one is that it's not a workout for men. It was invented by a man, and a pretty badass one at that!
(For more on that, readers, go here: http://www.Pilates.com/BBAPP/V/Pilates/origins-of-Pilates.html)
We do have a few men, they usually come to us older or after an injury, with the exception of elite athletes and dancers...but it is definitely a great workout for the men as much as it is for the women. Pilates is for everyone- people of all ages, sizes, shapes and fitness levels.
Q. How would a young person with aspirations to become a Pilates teacher best prepare himself/herself?
Take lots of classes and practice your mat work every day that you don't have class. The more you have the work in your body prior to attending teacher training, the better! Learn as much as you can about anatomy and kinesiology. Talk with some of your favorite instructors about what their experience is like as an instructor. Most of us love to talk about our work, love what we do and want to share and many would be happy to mentor a diligent, aspiring instructor.
Q. What is the most important or significant thing that you have accomplished in your work to date? What do you hope to accomplish?
I just feel happy in helping my clients feeling better, getting stronger, etc. I would love to help to make GYROTONIC® grow in this area. I'm really passionate about the work and it is really something people need, a really nice complement to Pilates.
Q: What’s the future of Pilates?
Pilates has grown so much; it is definitely here to stay. At this point, there are many different approaches, variations, use of props, a variety of class fusion concepts with all sorts of bells and whistles and other modalities injected. It is much more affordable with so many places offering group training. I do believe that Pilates is a mainstay in many people's lives at this point.
Q: What’s your advice for novice instructors?
Be patient with yourself and your clients. You come out of training with so much information, and there is so much more to learn. Teach what you know, and stay curious, open, and insatiable for more information to help you deepen your understanding of Pilates, anatomy, kinesiology, movement and pedagogy.
I cannot remember who said this but it stuck with me: "You teach what you are at that time." There are many instructors out there and nobody does what you do the way you do. You have certain reasons and passions and strengths that brought you to want to teach this. Think about what they are. Know your strengths and let them shine. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and work on those areas to turn them into your strengths. Always do your best and let that be enough. Some clients will love you, some will not. Try to accept that early on and try not to take it personally.
Q: What other exercise do you do to compliment your Pilates practice?
My #1 is GYROTONIC®. It is a whole body workout, that never disappoints me. There is nothing quite like it.
I also love doing yoga, bodyART®, walking/hiking/running, and sometimes Russian kettle bells.
Q: And now for some fun questions:
Q: What is your favorite food right now and where is it served?
Favorite food hard to narrow down but right now I say it's Taco Salad (and just about anything) at seed to sprout.
Q: What is your idea of a perfect day?
Perfect day sounds so cliché but I'm in such need of time alone right now. I t would consist of a yoga class, a long walk barefoot on the beach, a healthy and delicious lunch, a massage and a manicure pedicure...and I will make this or a variation of it happen in two weeks when my daughter goes back to school!