We am proud to feature Connie Borho (54), owner of Balance Pilates & Yoga Center in Bradenton, Florida, United States. Connie started her career as a competitive swimmer and is now a Peak Pilates Teacher Trainer and a Yoga Teacher Trainer. We are also very glad and honoured that Connie is going to write on a regular base for Pilatesglossy!
Connie, can you tell the readers something about your background?
I grew up, was educated, and raised my family in Westchester County, New York, a suburb of Manhattan. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart, with whom I have 3 (grown up) children. After our two older children graduated from high school, my husband and I moved our family and businesses to Florida. In 2005 I opened a Pilates Studio in Bradenton, FL, and am lucky enough to have my daughter, a teacher since she was 17 years old, and also a Peak Pilates Teacher Trainer, now in business with me!
I have been in the fitness my entire life. I began my career in the pool as a competitive swimmer, taught and coached both competitive and synchronized swimming and managed aquatic programs for health clubs and rec departments. I migrated to aerobics and weight training in the 1980s, teaching and managing group exercise, personal training, and special population exercise programs in New York area health clubs. Through a series of fortunate (in hindsight) events, I found my way to a yoga teacher training and have spent the last 30 years cultivating my passion in mind/body fitness.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
I started practicing Pilates in the early 1990’s. I had been managing a women’s fitness center..over-worked, stressed out, and over-exercising. I had a nagging lower back issue that was getting worse and worse, to the point where I thought I would have to give up my career in fitness in order to get out of pain. Because of the over-worked, stressed out, over-exercising I had adrenal fatigue and was over-weight, exhausted, and completely unhealthy despite the fact that I was in the health/wellness field.
One of my instructors talked me into trying Pilates as she had had great results in rehabbing her lower back issues. I was totally skeptical…but after one lesson I was completely hooked. I walked into that studio in pain and completely depressed, and walked out temporarily pain-free and hopeful! I have been doing Pilates every day since then.
Where did you receive your Pilates education?
My first education was through The PhysicalMind Institute. Liz Gillies and Julie Sorrentino were my first teachers. After I moved the Florida in 2004, I took further training through Peak Pilates in order to become a Teacher Trainer for them. Colleen Glenn, Clare Dunphy, Cherry Herzog and Ana Caban were my mentors in the Teacher Training process.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis?
I think it is crucial to be a continual learner, and to experience different teachers’ points of view, in order to grow your understanding of Pilates. Pilates is something that can’t be “graduated” from…mastery of Pilates is figuring out that there is ALWAYS more to learn, deeper connections to found, and different ways to reach your students.
I approach each lesson, whether I am giving it or taking it, as an opportunity to hone my personal practice as well as my teaching of Pilates. I take as many workshops as I can with as many different voices as I can. There are some voices that I resonate with, and there are some that I don’t, but there is always something to learn from each. I’ve taken workshops with Ton & Michael, Rebecca Leone, Kathy Corey, Katherine & Kimberly Corp, to name a few. I completed Lolita San Miguel’s 2-year Pilates Mentor Program a couple of years ago. Lolita inspired me to find a playfulness in Pilates that I hadn’t experienced before. She inspires me to keep working out (she’s 80 and can still Teaser with the best) and to cultivate sincere and generous relationships in our Pilates community. Lolita is one of the most genuinely caring people I know. This year I am going to be studying with Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle in her mentor program…I am so excited!
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
I made Pilates my profession when I saw that I got better results in my own body (and mind) by doing Pilates than I did with any other form of fitness (even Yoga). I began to train my clients exclusively in Pilates when I proved to myself that if it could work for me, it could work for anyone.
Can you describe your studio?
I own a studio on the West Coast of Florida that is approximately 1500 square feet. I have 5 reformer/tower units, 1 Cadillac, a high/low chair, an MVe Chair, Ladder Barrel, multiple baby barrels, spine corrects, and miscellaneous equipment.
This studio is the product of my evolution as a teacher (and teacher trainer). For a while I had 3 studios, had many teachers working for me, had a large group class schedule, and had huge overhead and stress levels. One of my studios was over 4,000 square feet, and was a teacher training facility, with a dedicated education center space, within a working studio. Downsizing has been a great joy in the last 2 years!
What did you have to invest (people, time, money) to get your studio running?
When I first opened my studio in Florida in 2005, I was the only Pilates teacher in the county, and no one had ever heard of Pilates. I maxed out credit cards (way too many) in order to build out and equip my studio. I bought all my first equipment on eBay. That initial investment was approximately $15,000. Then I had to invest time and energy to training teachers to help staff my studio so that I didn’t have to work 12 hours a day (or more). I spent approximately 2 years in training with Peak Pilates to be a Teacher Trainer for them, and have staffed my studio with teachers I trained since then. Now, 10 years later, there are 6 other studios in the area, all owned by teachers I trained. There’s room for all of us.
What is your favorite brand of apparatus?
My favorite equipment is Peak Pilates. And not just because I work for the company.
Which Pilates apparatus is your favorite and which exercise?
My favorite apparatus is the WundaChair because I think it is the most versatile and the most fundamentally applicable to my clients. I can train anyone using the chair, from an elite athlete to a very fragile senior. It puts people in their powerhouse like nothing else, teaches people how to sit correctly, and works on balance and control in a vertical position, which is so needed.
My favorite Pilates exercise is the Side Kick Series. Why? Because I don’t think I will ever master it! Since it is unilateral, the series really works my asymmetries in a challenging way. Trying to stay lengthened and yet connected from head to heel while balanced on one side is hard for me because my left oblique is so much weaker than my right from an old lumbar injury. I work on this everyday…
Do you experience difficulties keeping your clients because of the current economic crisis?
No. My business grew tremendously during the economic crisis. I had to be creative in programming at times, with more group classes and packages of privates and groups, but Pilates was the last thing that my clients would give up.
Did you start your own educational program and what is your purpose in teaching workshops?
I am a Teacher Trainer for Peak Pilates, but do run continuing education workshops under my own name. I teach workshops so that other teachers keep the spark of inspiration in their teaching, and in the long-run I effect a greater amount of people for the good through the teachers that I train.
Did you solve your own body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
If I didn’t do Pilates I wouldn’t be walking. I have had a number of very bad back injuries because of my active lifestyle. I have had Orthopedists and Chiropractors tell me that I “shouldn’t” run, do inversions, press anything over my head. I have just smiled and gone on to recover fully by practicing Pilates…it wasn’t always the ideal version (and still isn’t for some exercises), but through modifications or building blocks, I get my body back and keep my body moving.
How many lessons do you teach each week and is your focus more on privates or groupclasses?
I teach approximately 30 lessons per week when I’m not doing a teacher training. My focus is primarily privates.
Who is your favorite person that you would love to teach a Pilatesclass?
My favorite client is the one who suddenly realizes that they can do more than they thought they could do. I love being a witness to self-discovery and self-empowerment.
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates?
I have high hopes that Pilates will continue to grow at an intelligent rate. By intelligent I mean that I hope the growth is through education with integrity and value, with teachers that study and continue to learn from others with more experience and knowledge. I am very concerned about “over-night” Pilates trainings and on-line education with no personal contact with an actual teacher.
What is your own vision of Pilates?
My personal vision of Pilates is a method of exercise that people use regularly in order to participate in a healthy way with whatever else they want to do. A tennis player does Pilates in order to stay injury-free and strong for their sport. A runner does Pilates to stay flexible and build endurance, a mother does Pilates to keep up with her children…people do Pilates in order to age with strength, grace, and stamina.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
The biggest insight Pilates gave me is that continual exploration is crucial to mastery of anything. You can’t be good at Pilates unless you work at it. I can’t be a good wife unless I work at it. You can’t be a great human unless you work at it. And that’s what makes it so interesting.
Do you cooperate with other Pilatesinstructors?
Yes, I cooperate with many other instructors. I still give lessons to teachers that opened studios down the street from mine. Every teacher that I’ve trained has access to me through texting for any questions, issues, etc they may have. I was lucky enough (in hindsight) to be able to apprentice with a seasoned teacher, most people aren’t these days. Through texting, email, Facetime, etc, I can stay a mentor to all of my graduates.
Which Pilatesword will you never use?
“Pilates V” makes my skin crawl. It’s Pilates STANCE!!!
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
OF COURSE! My teaching has changed dramatically through the years. My focus has changed dramatically. I used to be all about PUSH PUSH PUSH with 110% effort at all times. Now I’m more about ease of movement and moderation. I try to individualize my teaching much more…for every student there is a different approach that will resonate with them more effectively in order to get the most out of their own session. I think I take a much more “whole-istic” approach to my teaching now. I try to think about the entire person…the whole person…body/mind and spirit as well. I’m much more into empowerment these days than I am into anything.
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
This is such an issue these days…whose work is the best, the most correct, the most authentic. Yuck. Classical vs Contemporary is such crap in my opinion.
- Do I think that all Pilates should be based on the historical work? yes
- Do I believe that having a strong foundation in the Classical Method when you first start teaching is imperative to building a stronger teaching skill as time goes on? yes
- Do I believe that there is ONE WAY to do Pilates, and one way only? NO
Mr. Pilates evolved his teaching. All good teachers evolve their teaching. As long as we stay true to the foundation and connected to the history, and take into account new research findings in biomechanics and kinesiology, and teach from the heart, that is good Pilates.
Who is your biggest example and who would you love to meet (again) in the Pilates field?
My greatest example in the Pilates field is definitely Lolita San Miguel. She is the epitome of aging gracefully and powerfully. She really embodies what I believe the Pilates Method is all about: balance of strength, flexibility, and endurance in body and mind and equal parts of work and play…not to mention her tremendous ability to stay present and focused in her career while remaining completely approachable and genuinely interested in the people around her.
Who would I love to spend more time with in the Pilates field? Probably Brent Anderson…I took a workshop from him on breath once that made a tremendous impact on me, and I would love the chance to learn more from him about the mind/body/spirit connection.
Are you familiar with Pilates throughout the world?
Yes, I am familiar with Pilates throughout the world, and try to keep up on all the happenings through social media, email, etc. We recently had a World-wide Reunion at Peak Pilates for our Global MI team…many didn’t speak each other’s languages, but we all spoke Pilates. We all did Pilates together without the need for spoken language because Pilates has it’s own language.
Did you ever meet an “Elder” and if so, how was that for you?
Aside from Lolita, I’ve met Mary Bowen, Romana, Kathy Grant, and Ron Fletcher. I did not get a chance to study with any of the Elders that have passed on, but I do hope to study with Mary Bowen one day. The one thing that comes to mind for all of the times I’ve met an Elder was their down-to-earth approaches to life, their respect for what was passed on to them, and their genuine desire to continue this work. Regardless of the personalities involved, that is the most important thing as far as I’m concerned.
What is the funniest thing you have ever experienced with Pilates?
I tell this story all the time…but I still think it’s funny—15 years later! I had a small studio in New York and had a thriving clientele of both women and men. A good client of mine was “making” her husband take lessons with me twice a week after work because he had a lower back issue “from sitting on his butt all day and not ever stretching” (her words not mine). After about 3 months of gamely showing up for lessons and showing much improvement in his flexibility and lower back, I was slowly starting to add more challenging abdominal work in order to “progress” him. One night I was teaching him Teaser on the Cadillac, and I could see that he was just not into it at all. During the third Teaser, while cueing him to lower/lift his legs and bend/stretch his arms, he completely stopped (while up in Teaser), looked at me and said, “Can Hilary (his wife) actually do this?” I replied, “Yes, why?” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “No offense, but this sucks. I don’t mind the stretching, but this abs stuff is killing me. Is it Barrel time yet?”
Do you expect to keep on practicing Pilates and keep on teaching classes?
I will keep doing Pilates and teaching Pilates until the day I die.
What is your Pilatesdream?
I am living my dream right now…I have a successful studio with great clients and get to work with my daughter. I also am fortunate enough to work for Peak Pilates as a Teacher Trainer, and as a Mentor for other Teacher Trainers. I work with and for amazing people…some of whom are my best friends. I have taught for Pilates Anytime, which was amazing…and I am scheduled to teach more for them in 2015. I present advanced workshops at fitness and Pilates conferences and I get to meet people from all over the world and form relationships based on our common love of Pilates…really, I’m living my dream!
Do you travel abroad for Pilates?
I hope to do more travel for Pilates in the near future. My goal for that would be to meet new people, to spread my passion for Pilates, and to educate a new generation of teachers so that they can continue the evolution of Pilates into the future.
Are you available for bookings in the Netherlands?
I would love to come to the Netherlands to teach! I have a list of workshop ideas, if you are at all interested in talking about that. Just let me know!
Did you write a (Pilates)book?
I have just finished writing a book entitled “Creating a Healthy Foundation: Foot Fitness”. It is in the production/editing stage, and hopefully will be available this year!
You can reach Connie in any of the following ways: