Frank Zito, 50 years old (but does look much younger!) is Pilates Director of Education at Elevation Fitness in West Hollywood.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
Pilates found me. I was working as a massage therapist in a chiropractor’s office and one of our patients was studying to become a Pilates instructor. He needed bodies to practice with. I gave it a try and realized that Pilates is exactly what I needed for my body. Doing massage therapy is brutal on the back of the practitioner. Pilates helped me access and strengthen the muscles that had been abused.
How did you get introduced to Pilates?
I was lucky enough to have a lot of choices for Pilates studios in Los Angeles. And there was a solid training program very close to my home. I started working out there as a client. Eventually, I enrolled in the certification program.
Did your background have anything to do with it?
I played competitive volleyball as a teenager. And I also played college tennis. Once out of school, I joined a gym and began to workout with weights. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and sustained a lot of injuries as a result. But I always enjoyed moving my body and testing my physical abilities.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was your teacher?
In 2004, there was a studio in West Hollywood called Absolution (clever name). I enrolled in their certification program. 8 months later, I was “certified.” More on that below.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis?
I absolutely attend workshops. I firmly believe that getting a certification is only the beginning of a journey. Every instructor should seek additional information from different teachers. It is very necessary to hear the different interpretations of the “work” in order to fully understand the value of what Joe invented.
My most recent workshop was at East Bay Pilates in March, 2014. Karen Frischman (a dear friend) taught us how to “connect to the back.” It was fabulous!
What workshop inspired you the most?
All workshops leave me with something new in my brain. Some are better than others. 2 years ago, I attended a Cadillac workshop with Brooke Siler. My mind was completely blown. I finally found a teacher that used her hands as much as I do. She also uses humor to connect to the client. I came away feeling validated with my own approach to Pilates. I must also mention my Wunda Chair workshop with Kathi Ross Nash last year. In my opinion, she is the best of the best.
What is your purpose in giving workshops?
The workshops that I currently teach are all based on learning variations that might have been missed the first time around. Most practitioners are guilty of teaching their same favorite exercises over and over. I also require that everyone who attends my workshops MOVE. “Put the pen and paper down, and let’s move.”
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
Once I saw that Pilates was the missing link in my fitness repertoire. I envisioned what it would be like for me to become a practitioner. It was an easy transition for me, as I was already a massage therapist and was comfortable with the one-on-one relationship to a client and their body.
Do you own a studio or multiple studio’s?
I work from a few locations. I manage the Pilates department at Elevation Fitness and I have my own home studio. Elevation Fitness is a complete workout facility in West Hollywood. It’s big, sweaty, noisy, very rock ‘n roll. We are a Gratz studio with some other equipment as well. The entire gym sees an average of 100 clients per day! My home gym is also equipped with Gratz equipment. It’s much more zen, charming, yet still quite badass.
What Pilates apparatus or exercise is your favorite and why?
My favorite apparatus changes as my mood changes. Personally, I enjoy working out on the Reformer. I do a super-advanced workout with my buddy Jeremy alongside, and we challenge each other to do it harder and better every time. We have also pieced together some routines on the Cadillac, Wunda Chair and Push Up device that I haven’t seen anyone else do. We remain classical in our approach.
What is your favorite brand of apparatus (Gratz, Peak Pilates,Balanced Body, Stott Pilates, Basi, Basil or other)?
I prefer Gratz equipment. But I can teach on anything.
Do you experience difficulties keeping your clients because of the current crisis?
A few years ago, the economy took a nose-dive. I worried that luxury things like Pilates sessions would suffer. I didn’t see much evidence of a decline, however. The people who were still employed, did continue with their workouts. In fact, it could be argued that they needed Pilates MORE because of the additional stress of a bad economy.
Did you start your own educational program?
In 2011, I launched my own certification program. I felt that I had a perspective and a voice that was unique. I have graduated 4 classes of students, and all of them are successfully working as Pilates instructors. The certification programs that were being taught in my area were led by some very talented women. And the students were mostly women. Nothing wrong with that. However, there was a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle. It took me years to find how Pilates should be taught to men. Women and men are very different. I wouldn’t teach a strong guy the same routine that I would teach to a flexible woman. Luckily, there were workshops, videos, online resources available to me, to fill in the blanks. In my program, I have an even number of men and women. I’m very proud that we address the gender issues consistently. Yes, we talk about boobs, and junk. It’s part of the learning.
Did you solve body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
I don’t have a negative view of my body. I’m 50 years old and I’m in the best shape of my life. I am lean and strong and when I workout, I love to hear people gasp when they see the old guy do the hard stuff! LOL!
Do you have a target audience?
The people who connect to me tend to be young people who love fitness, and older people who want to reclaim what they once had.
How many lessons do you give each week?
I work nearly every day. I sometimes take a Sunday off, but I generally see private clients or my students every day.
Is your focus on private, duets or triosessions or do you prefer to give matclasses?
Private sessions are my bread and butter. I never wanted to teach mat classes on a regular basis. However, I do LOVE to teach an occasional advanced mat class to my students or friends. I feel like I’m conducting an orchestra. So fun!
Who is your favorite person that you would love to teach Pilates?
I’ve taught movie stars, athletes, some famous people and I don’t particularly enjoy it. You will never hear me call myself a “celebrity trainer.” Having said that, I would love to train some of my idols. Mick Jagger, Stevie Nicks, Novak Djokovic, Kathi Ross Nash!
In Europe there are more female Pilates trainers than male. How is that in your country and more specific in your area?
Pilates in Los Angeles is similar to Europe. I would guess that 90% of the instructors are female. As I stated before, I’m very proud that my studio and training program is equally balanced between men and women.
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates?
I think Pilates is still being discovered by new groups of people. What was initially popular in the dance community has spread to the soccer moms. Now the athletes are using Pilates as a cross-training tool. I’m seeing more guys doing Pilates every year. Everybody and every body needs Pilates.
What is your own vision of Pilates?
I would like to see Pilates taught in the schools. I think high school is ideal. Mat classes would be an easy sell. Some accessories would work as well. Apparatus would prove to be difficult. But the seeds of Pilates should be planted early. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a middle-aged client say to me “I wish I had discovered this method years ago!”
I love to support and collaborate with many different instructors around the world. We are so lucky to have social media as a tool to keep us connected. Graduates of my program are now working in other cities because I was able to connect them to other practitioners. And clients of mine who travel, are able to continue their sessions in other cities because I have been able to cooperate with friends that I have met from workshops and Facebook.
Which Pilatesword you rather not use? (e.g. powerhouse, pilatesstance)
I don’t have any biases on specific words that are used in Pilates. Words are used as a means of communication. And I think it’s crucial to use whatever words get the message to the client. If someone dislikes a certain word, they should simply not use it
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
As a teacher, I’m always trying to improve. I am a little less quick to praise every little thing the client does correctly. Seems cruel, but I think people work harder without the instant praise.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
Pilates gave me the ability to have xray vision.
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
I’m classically trained. And I teach a classical program. Therefore, I am biased to the original method. However, I do enjoy learning some contemporary things. I’m open to anything that is beneficial and makes sense.
Who is your biggest example and who would you love to meet (again) in the Pilates field?
I have never had the pleasure of working with Romana. But I have worked with many of her disciples. I feel connected to her and her teaching. I’m fortunate to have Jay Grimes in Los Angeles. I have attended many of his workshops and he is a treasure.
What is the funniest thing you have ever experienced with Pilates?
Sometimes in Pilates, we bring clients into positions that are quite revealing. Depending on the wardrobe, body parts can and do get exposed. In 10 years, I’ve seen it all.
Did you ever meet an “Elder” and if so, how was that for you?
The one elder I’ve met and worked with is Jay Grimes. At first it was intimidating to be around him. Now, I enjoy every moment with one of the remaining first-generation teachers.
Do you have a favorite story about Joe or Clara or somebody else?
I have no idea if any of the stories about Joe are true. Many of the assumptions have been debunked. We have all heard about the hospital bed that was used to rehabilitate the patients and later evolved into a Cadillac. Who knows if that is true? Anyone??
Do you expect to keep on practicing Pilates and keep on giving classes?
I will be teaching Pilates for as long as I can. And I will be doing Pilates till my last day. You can quote me!
What is your Pilatesdream?
I would like to see Pilates be studied in a scientific way. The biomechanics should be broken down and we should all learn from modern technology exactly what we have known for generations. Namely, that Pilates works because it is good for the body.
8920 Sunset BLVD. Suite 200B
West Hollywood, CA 90069