I proudly present Pilates trainer Nina Narejko (36), originally from Poland and owner of Body Redefined Pilates.
There is no better feeling than working with someone who has had chronic health issues and having them come to the studio and be excited about how great they are feeling. There is so much joy in watching young athlete improve their game through Pilates, and young dancer improve their routine with what they learn in their Pilates lessons. It’s great to be involved in something that truly improves the quality of life and adds value to someone day.
When did you move to the US?
I was born in Poland and moved to the US with my family at the age of 8. We moved to Chicago IL and a little over 4 years ago I moved to Rancho Cucamonga CA. My family still lives in Chicago. I have one younger sister who lives in Paris France. I attended University of Illinois in Chicago, my degree is in Applied Psychology with a minor in Biology.
When did you start running your own Pilates studio?
I own my studio in Rancho Cucamonga CA, which I opened 2 years ago. I started teaching Pilates full time about a year ago. Prior to that I taught Pilates part time and work in Finance for a health care company. I chose to work both jobs until I got busy enough to transition out of my finance job and dedicate more time to teaching Pilates. It was not the easiest schedule to maintain as there were days where I would work 12-14 hour days between both jobs 6 days a week. Keeping my finance job while transitioning to teaching Pilates full time allowed me feel financially secure, and allow my clientele to build up over time.
I have a fully equipped studio and I teach on Gratz apparatus. I have every piece of equipment that Gratz manufactures. Reformer, Pedi Pole, Ladder Barrel, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, High Chair, Arm Chair, Spine Corrector, Small Barrel, Airplane Board, Bean Bag, Toe Exerciser, Breath A Cizer, and Foot Corrector.
Was it scary to make Pilates as your new career?
I always loved teaching Pilates but I was always hesitant to make it my full time job. Having my finance job for the health care compaby provided me with a steady pay check, predictable income, and great benefits, that security was hard to leave….when you become a sole proprietor things like steady income take time to build up, and of course there are the added costs of now having to be responsible for my own benefits like 401K and insurance. When I moved to Rancho Cucamonga CA I had no social or professional network, everyone I knew in Pilates was miles and miles away from me. I worked for a year at a small boutique studio and saved everything I made there. After I saved enough I ordered all my Gratz equipment set up a home studio and started teaching independently. I did not expect my schedule for Pilates to fill as quickly as it did. Within less than a year I had enough of a demand for Pilates where the decision to move to a bigger space and commit to Pilates full time was an easy one.
I decided to make Pilates my career because I loved what it was able to do for my clients. The finance job was nice and secure but it did not give me the same joy as being able to work with people and see their quality of life improve. There is no better feeling than working with someone who has had chronic health issues and having them come to the studio and be excited about how great they are feeling. There is so much joy in watching young athlete improve their game through Pilates, and young dancer improve their routine with what they learn in their Pilates lessons. It’s great to be involved in something that truly improves the quality of life and adds value to someone day.
I run my business on my own, with input from my boyfriend, financial advisor and CPA. I have no formal business training, but my boyfriend has a degree in business and runs a real estate company so I use his expertise and experience a lot as a resource for my business. Running a studio is not so much hard as it is time consuming, I don’t think many people think about the hours you have to put in into business development and relationship building on top of the hours that you teach. Since I have only been teaching Pilates full time for a year my business is still in the growing stage, there is always something that needs to be done. I teach 35-42 hours per week and spend about another 5-15 per week on business development and growth.
Can you earn a good living as a Pilates teacher?
Yes you can earn a good living as a Pilates teacher, but you do need to have some financial planning and budgeting skills. One thing to consider is cash flow, there are months when clients travel or get sick or have other things going on and need to put their sessions on hold, and there are months when you are teaching non stop, it’s not the same as getting a steady and consistent pay check every week. Great financial planning is key not only for business but personal security and success.
Do you think anyone can become a Pilates trainer?
Yes, I think anyone can become a Pilates instructor at any time. I have known some great instructors who did not start their careers till well into their 50s and they came from a business background. I was always involved in sports growing up and all through high school, I come from a very athletic and active family. My dad did track and played soccer, and coached skiing. My aunt what a phenomenal track athlete, my one grandpa was a volleyball coach. Sports, biomechanics, and movement has always been a topic of interest to me. I took kinesiology, human biology, and anatomy in college. My degree ended up being in Applied Psychology and most of my working career was in Finance, and I think I turned out pretty good as a Pilates Instructor.
I have seen many apprentices come through the doors when I worked in Chicago with no background in fitness and do wonderful, it’s all about the dedication, commitment and training that one receives. If someone is committed and open to learning and embraces the process their background and age will not matter when it comes to building a career as a Pilates Instructor. I’m sure it is helpful and easier to have a degree and a background in fitness and health related professions, but it’s not the only thing that is needed to be a great Pilates instructor.
When was your first introduction to Pilates?
I was first introduced to Pilates at the age of 15, completely by accident. My dad worked for a commercial real estate company. One of their tenants in one of their buildings was The Pilates Studio of the Midwest. The studio needed a evening receptionist to book appointments and take client payments, so my dad would drop me off and I would work as the receptionist part time. At first I thought that Pilates was strange and I really didn’t want much to do with it. I would sit at the desk and observe and listen, and over time my interest grew. I eventually started taking lessons and being a practice body for apprentices. I worked at the studio through high school and college. When the studio closed and Rhonda Celenza opened up Pilates Connection I worked for her as well. Looking back at it years later I think all the time I spent at the studio in that environment, and listening, watching, being a practice body for apprentices and taking lessons helped a lot during my apprenticeship. I learned a lot from being there and being exposed to the method, teachers, and the training program, it proved to be a very valuable job in many ways, a fellow instructor would always joke with me that I’ve basically had the longest Pilates apprenticeship ever.
Where did you get your education done?
My training was done at Pilates Connection in Evanston IL. My teachers were and still are Juanita Lopez, Rhonda Celenza, and Trish Garland. I take weekly lessons with Trish. I still keep in touch with Rhonda and Juanita and I go back to Chicago to visit my family and spend time at Pilates Connection as often as I can. I don’t do workshops. My practice consists of weekly lessons, my own Pilates workouts, attending one CPE (Continuing Professional Education) per year, and observing basic, intermediate, and advanced seminars for new apprentices as much as I can out here at Garland Pilates or back at Pilates Connection.
What are your thoughts about Classical versus Contemporary Pilates?
I try not to do much comparing between classical and contemporary Pilates. All my background, training and certification is in classical. I have been exposed to contemporary Pilates, for a year upon moving to California I worked at a local contemporary Pilates studio and I worked on contemporary equipment. For my personal practice and what I feel suits my clients best it’s classical practice/teaching and equipment all the way. I like to keep my explanation of why I chose classical simple: if it’s not broke why fit it? So far classical has given me and my clients everything that we need. When I worked at the contemporary studio other instructors would ask if I would consider a contemporary certification. I try to keep my answer to that question simple as well, I’m still trying to get better and deeper within my practice and teaching of the classical method, I don’t have the time or the need to focus on another certification as I’m still trying to perfect the certification that I hold.
Do you ever get bored by Pilates?
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten bored by Pilates. There have been times when I have been teaching too many hours, and doing my Pilates workouts too much, and then focusing on my Pilates business. All day every day everything was Pilates, Pilates and more Pilates is one way or another, which became exhausting. I have learned when to take breaks and when to give myself days off to recharge and reboot my energy and focus.
People call themselves a Pilates trainer after one weekend course or a Pilates workshop. What is your opinion about that?
I personally don’t think a weekend course or a workshop is a good qualifier for any discipline, whether it’s Pilates, personal training, massage therapy, yoga, etc. Whatever the discipline may be quick certifications are never the way to go. There is always so much to do and learn, I think it’s impossible to compact it all into a few hours or a few days.
What is your favorite piece of Pilates apparatus?
My favorite piece of Pilates apparatus is the ladder barrel, for me personally it helps me to focus on elements in my own practice that my body needs, my clients love the stretch and support that it provides for many of their Pilates exercises. I don’t have a least favorite piece of Pilates apparatus but I do find that working on the Pedi Pole is the most challenging for me, it really taps into the elements of my body that are the hardest for me to focus on and work on.
What is your favorite excercise?
I don’t have any favorite Pilates exercises, but I really do enjoy ballet stretch as it’s something my body really needs, I love many of the exercises on the Cadillac as they really get me in touch with elements I need to work on but allow me to feel strong and centered as well. I would have to say my least favorite exercises would be things like single leg tendon stretch, and most arching exercises like swan, pulling straps and backstroke, those are not movements that come naturally to me and I have to work extremely hard, I feel like with a lot of those exercises I have to put in maximum effort and focus and I don’t always get a maximum result, but I’ll keep working on it.
Are you a teacher trainer?
I am not a teacher trainer. I have a few clients who are Pilates teachers. I also have a client who is an apprentice of the Romana’s Pilates Certification program. That is the extent of my involvement with training other teachers.
Did you solve any body issues with Pilates?
I have used Pilates to solve my own body issue, and I still have some that I’m trying to solve. About a year and a half ago I did some damage to my knee. After trying traditional physical therapy without much success I decided that I was going to go with what I felt would work for me and I decided to work on my issue myself. I was able to resolve my own knee issue, it took a very long time, but I stuck with it and was patient and it has paid off. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with spondyloarthritis, the only guidance my rheumatologist gave me was to focus on my strength and mobility, especially in my spine, and I have that covered with Pilates. I have had a few arthritic flare ups in my knee, and have had some inflammation in my hips, wrist and shoulder, but nothing that I have not been able to figure out and resolve on my own.
Do you teach more females then men?
My male to female client ratio varies. Mostly I teach more females. I do also work with a high school mens basketball team, so when we are doing off seasons training then I definitely teach more males at that time since it’s a large team that I work with. I enjoy teaching all my clients from 11 year old dancers, to high school athletes, to other fitness professionals, to those with chronic ailments and conditions, female or male, they all love their Pilates, see and feel the benefits, and keep pushing me as a teacher to keep helping them meet their goals and exceed their own expectations of themselves.
How did Pilates change your life?
Pilates changed my life in a major way, first of all it gave me a sense of focus and discipline that I really needed in my younger age. It gave me a wonderful career that I am thankful for and proud of every day. It also gave me a better understanding and meaning of my own body, physical abilities, and it gave me a wonderful and deep body awareness. I am able to feel issues (like overuse of muscles, tightness, inflammation) coming on and being able to remedy them before they really become issue. Pilates has given me a deep hyper awareness of my own body and how it’s supposed to function, something that I feel will help to keep me healthy for years to come.
Who are your Pilates examples?
I have a few Pilates examples. First one is Romana, her personality, kind heart, love, and ease of what she did and passed on is hard to match. She had such grace and delicacy mixed with a no nonsense toughness. My other 2 Pilates examples would be Juanita Lopez and Rhonda Celenza. Both of these ladies have played a major role in my personal life and my professional life. I always consider Rhonda to be like my second mom, she was there for me since my teens, personally and professionally, she was always supportive and compassionate, even during my younger rebellious years. She supported me and believe in me and my journey to becoming a Pilates instructor long before I believed in it myself. I’m thankful for her presence in my life and I don’t think I would be where I am today if it was not for her. Juanita Lopez has always been someone I have admired and looked up to. From the way she carries herself on a day to day basis to the way she teaches is inspiring and motivating. She sets the bar so high but at the same time makes you believe and understand that even through that bar is set really high it is set there for a reason, and she would not set it that high if she did not feel that you could reach it. I have always worked hard because I want these 2 women to be proud of me, and to honor the years that they have invested into me in order to help me become who I am today, I owe it to them to show them what I am capable of, because what I am capable of is in many ways due to them.
Do you think that the perception of Pilates has changed to the people in the last 10 years?
Yes, I do believe that the perception of Pilates has changed throughout the last 10 years. Back in the day, probably more than 10 years ago Pilates was this unknown thing that only a few people ever knew about and were able to do, now it’s everywhere. The growth and popularity of Pilates has it’s pros and cons. The cons being that now there are so many different styles and versions of Pilates, some of them getting quite far from what Pilates was when I first experience it. The pro of Pilates growing in popularity is that now many more people are aware of it and exposed to it, it’s not so unknown and stranger any more.
What are your 5 tips for newbies?
My top 5 tips for Pilates students and newbies would be
- Be patient, this will not come easy
- Be open minded, this is very different than most forms of fitness, you may not think it’s working but it is
- It’s all in the details, meaning it’s in slight changes like placement of a pinky or where you shift your gaze etc
- Work your body as a whole, there is no muscle isolation, everything must work together, take all parts of the body into mind when doing Pilates exercises
- It’s all in the technique and form, it’s more important to do a exercise correctly 1 or 2 times, than 10 times incorrectly and with bad form.
What is your main advise to the future trainers who want to be Pilates instructors?
Much of Pilates is a specific type of connection to the body and a specific feeling, and that cannot be attained looking at a video or reading a manual. My main advise for those that want to be Pilates instructors is to practice what you preach. I’m finding that online, you tube, videos, and manuals are becoming more and more popular as learning tools for new and upcoming instructors. I find that the best way to really learn how to teach Pilates is to do Pilates. Instead of looking things up online take a lesson with a more experience teacher, or just jump or a mat or a piece of equipment and do it. I would also suggest to those that want to be instructors to pick a training program and stick with it. I come across many people who workshop hop. They take every workshop and seminar under the sun, sometimes too many of these present things in too many different ways, and as a new teacher how do you know which one would be best suited for your clients? I think for those that want to be Pilates instructors the path should be simple. Do you research on different programs and pick the one that suits you best, always continue to take lessons, practice, practice, practice, watch others that have more experience than you teach, have others that have more experience than you watch you teach and give you feed back, pick a few teachers to follow and take lessons from and stick to that path. Get off the computer, put down the manual and practice, teach, observe, and listen – those are the 4 keys to becoming a teacher and continuing to grow as a teacher.
What do you tell people if they ask you what Pilates is?
When people ask me what Pilates is I always use what I have heard for years. Strength, Stretch, Control. You need to have a balance between strength and mobility, you need to have a strong mind body connection. Get your body to function the way it was intended to, keep it aligned, keep it mobile, be strong, move with perfect alignment and posture, breath with your lungs full capacity, everything should work as it was intended to work, and Pilates will help you find it or maintain it.
Pilates transforms bodies (and minds). Can you explain how that works for you and your clients?
Pilates definitely helps to transform bodies and minds. Like I mentioned before, Pilates has helped me to become hyper aware of how my body functions and to know when things are not working at their optimal before they become a problem. For my clients Pilates has helped them to live day to day in a more comfortable and productive way. I have a few clients who have major ongoing and chronic issues and Pilates has helped them to work through those or manage them better. My first client when I opened up my studio was a neighbor who has almost her entire spine fused. She was not very mobile or active, she was always at some level of pain or discomfort due to her spinal fusion, and she was taking pain meds regularly. She no longer takes pain meds, she can go for long walks and hikes, she’s active, she’s mobile.
I have another client who has had more issues and surgeries than I have time to list, when she first started Pilates she was always uncomfortable, she was weak, she could barely push out the carriage of the reformer on 2 springs, now she’s doing almost a full advanced workout. The best part is you can see the change in her quality of life, she no longer comes in sad and down complaining about things that bother her, she’s happy, and excited for her sessions, and she’s out and about enjoying vacations and time with friends and her husband, things that she previously was not able to do because of her physical limitations and pain.
For my clients who do not have such major things going on their improvements are still there. I have a client who is older and has 3 grandkids, her excitement come from being able to pick her grandbaby up without discomfort in her shoulder or being able to sit on the floor with them to play without needing help to get up, another one of my clients is happy that he can bend down to tie his own shoes.
I have a few clients who are overall healthy and active, one is a competitive body builder, they all say that Pilates has helped them to lift weight better or go for a longer run, or they find that they sit with better posture at work making their work day more comfortable. Pilates has given my clients such a change in their minds and bodies on so many different levels.
What makes a Pilates teacher a better Pilates teacher?
What makes a Pilates teacher a better teacher is constantly being open to learning. There is always so much more depth and progress that can be made. For example, just last week I found a whole new connection to the exercise horseback, I had a much more detailed connection and understanding of it within my own lesson, and it’s something that I can learn from for my own Pilates practice as well as something that I can take back to my teaching. There is always so much more to learn and achieve and you have to constantly keep deepening and progressing in your own work as well as in your teaching. Every CPE that I attend or every new apprentice group that I audit I always take something away from.
I often hear that in gyms “Pilates” is taught without, for example, The Hundred or other original exercises. What do you think about that?
Gym Pilates. I try not to give that too much thought or time, but I am not much of a fan. I don’t like to hear when certain exercises are changed too much or omitted completely, they exist for a reason. I think that it’s important for teachers and those that practice Pilates to understand the purpose of each exercise, with that understanding comes the understanding or why it exist and why it should be a part of ones Pilates practice and teaching. Of course if a client has certain limitations that don’t allow for a certain exercise to exist within their practice then it needs to be omitted, but just as important as it is to understand why an exercises exists it’s just as important to know how to modify it or when to omit it completely. I try to have a explanation and reason for why something should or should not be done. The order, the reps, the movements, the spring load….they all exist for a reason, one first needs to understand the existence of all this before a decision can be made on changing or omitting something.
How many sessions do you teach per week?
I teach about 35-42 hours a week. Most of my clients do privates, I have some duets, and some group classes. I try to really read what a clients needs and goals are when setting up their schedules. For those who are budget conscious I always work on a at home mat routine that they can do to keep up their Pilates practice more consistently. I have a few clients who are not good at doing their homework at home, so they choose to come in more often, whether it’s privates, duets, or group classes, or a mixture of those.
What do you like the most about teaching Pilates? What do you dislike?
What I like most about teaching Pilates is being able to show people what they are capable of. I love it when a client says “I’ll never be able to even come close to doing that” and one day they do get to do that exercise, or some variation of it, it’s awesome to get to see my clients achieve things that they did not think they were capable of. What I dislike about it is that you always have to be “on”. It doesn’t matter if I am tired, crabby, frustrated or sad, I have to leave my thoughts and emotions at the door and give my clients all my energy and focus, and that can be tough to do some days. There are days where I wish I could just close an office door and pout at my computer, but I can’t I have a responsibility to my clients to keep them focused, engaged, and safe.
What about the future of Pilates?
I’ve never really given the future of Pilates as a whole much thought. I just want to continue to grow as a teacher and within my own practice. I just want to continue to give my clients what they need to the best of my ability, I’m not so much concerned about the future of Pilates as a whole, I think it will always have a place in health and fitness.
Do you workout a lot?
Ideally I would love do my Pilates workouts 3-4 times a week, but there are times when I am teaching too much or have too many other things on my schedule to have time for that. Right now it’s more like 2, maybe 3. I take 1 private lesson a week and then I try to schedule in my own workouts at my studio another 2 times a week. I also enjoy doing cardio and some strength training, so I try to throw that in during the week. Ideally I try to do cardio 5 times a week, Pilates 3 times a week, and strength training 2 times a week, and every now and then I like to go to a bikram yoga class. I also need a sports chiropractor, acupuncturist and massage therapist as my body needs it.
Is there still an exercise (or more than one) you didn’t “nailed” yet?
I think the exercise that I have not “nailed” yet is basically all of Pilates lol. I find that each time I get on the reformer I try to take something away from every exercises or try to get better at every exercise. I have never through about exercises that I have “nailed” I think I always have something to work on in one way or another. There are some exercises that come to me easier than others, and I have always been much stronger than I am flexible, so elements of strength are exercises that I feel most comfortable and accomplished doing.
Will you keep on practicing and teaching Pilates?
Yes, I will keep on practicing and teaching Pilates. I have been working quite a bit with youth and that is a dream and goal of mine, to continue to expand that part of my teaching. My goal in regards to my Pilates teaching is to keep doing it as long as I can and to keep helping my clients and to keep working with other teachers to help them become better at what they do or get them going on the path to become certified instructors.
What is your favorite Pilates quote?
My favorite Pilates quote is “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness”. I have experienced this personally and I have seen this in some of my clients. When you are not well, or dealing with pain or other ailments it’s so difficult to be present in life and enjoy your day. If your back it hurting, or your knee is swollen it’s hard to find the motivation or energy to go out to dinner with friends, or take the dog for a walk. When you feel good it’s easier to get up and go and be present and enjoy life. There is nothing worse than physical limitations and discomfort, it has such a powerful effect on our minds, our moods, what we can give to family and friends, and our day to day activities.
Are you on a certain diet?
My diet is either very clean and planned out or based on convenience and cravings. I try to eat clean as it helps with the inflammation that is connected to my spondyloarthritis and keeps me more energized. When I eat clean I tend to stay away from bad carbs, sugars, and greasy foods, and allow myself one meal per week to give into my cravings. When my schedule gets very busy I have a tendency to forget to eat and then when I have time to stop I get so hungry that I usually want to get something quick and easy, which is not usually the healthiest. I try to plan out and package up all my meals to keep me on track. The more planned out my routine and schedule and the more prepared I am the better my diet.
Studio:Body Redefined Pilates Location:Rancho Cucamonga CA Phone number:909-353-7450 Instagram Facebook Email