Femke Donington, 37 years old, born in Oud-Beijerland, near Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Since 11 years living in South London with her husband Luke, one year old daughter Darcey and their dog Holly. Her business is called South London Pilates.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
I hadn’t really engaged in any sports or exercise since I had left home to go to college in The Hague (when I was 17 years old), the same year I was diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus is an auto-immune condition that can cause inflammation in any organ or part of the body. For me, this meant stiff, swollen and inflamed joints most of the time, which made movement and especially exercise extremely painful, sometimes even impossible. On top of that I was forever tired, often suffering from debilitating fatigue. Exercise was the last thing on my mind, which is usually the case for anyone in pain, but also a complete downward spiral, I learned later. So when I started to attend weekly Pilates mat classes I was just blown away by the fact that I din’t hurt more afterwards and, lo and behold, came home with energy. The more I went, the more I knew that this was actually good for me and the ultimate proof was (still is) that when I’d have a flare-up and still made it to my class, doing whatever I was able to manage, I was in a better place afterwards. I moved better and was in less pain.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s)?
Initially I completed a mat certification with Body Control Pilates. I started running a couple of classes alongside my full time work as a Studio Manager at an architectural firm, but it wasn’t until I quit that job and took a job as a receptionist at a London Pilates Studio, that I really got to know and understand the Pilates system and feel the work at a whole different level. The desk I sat at was inside the studio and from all the hours watching and listening to the very experienced teachers there, some of whom graduates from the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado, I learned a huge amount and my own teaching and practice transformed because of it. I went on to do a comprehensive training program with Peak Pilates and eventually started to work at Pepilates, a fantastic studio with amazing teachers and friends (some from the same studio where I’d worked previously) and where they also run the Advanced Teacher Training Program of The Pilates Center. Here I’ve had the privilige to attend some amazing workshops and classes with, for example, Amy Taylor Alpers and also Cara Reeser who are, needless to say, truly brilliant. Having said that, when you surround yourself with passionate teachers and can have discussions and work-outs together, then to me that’s completely priceless too.
Do you own a studio or multiple studio’s ?
I teach several group classes in the South London area, which I love. Many of my clients have been coming for years and are extremely committed, and a joy to teach. I’ve also recently joined the Danielle Kleber Pilates Studio at The Field Training Centre in Marylebone , which I’m very excited about
What Pilatesapparatus or exercise is your favorite and what is your favorite brand of apparatus?
I love the Cadillac, and especially the Gratz one, because the springs are just something else, in my opinion. I’m 5’11 and have long legs so the Cadillac makes me feel I have space to move, as does the mat. The Short Spine and Semi-Circle on the Reformer are favorites too and love working with the Spine Corrector and the Ladder Barrel because they support in all the right places. I have to add that generally favorites change by the day, depending on how I feel and what my body needs that day.
Which Pilatesword you rather not use?
Any word that you use a lot, loses its impact so economy of words with clear tactile cueing often works best. Knowing my clients helps me to get an understanding of how they operate and how I can help them to improve in their work-out. I love it when students ask questions: it means they think about the work and want to learn, plus that they feel at ease and aren’t worried about looking good or getting it right all the time.
Did you solve body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
I certainly do, but it’s an ongoing process with high and lows. I have the body that I have, and some days it’s just not happy. Doing Pilates has taught me to be ok with that and to look after my body and to be kind to it, rather than being frustrated with whatever it’s not able to do. When I just started teaching I felt rather intimidated by teachers who are/were dancers and moving incredibly well and beautifully. I’ve given up comparing myself and seeing the qualities that I myself bring to the table. I strive to inspire the people that I teach to enjoy moving with grace, with ease, feeling strong, and feeling that they achieve something in their work-out. It’s incredible how many people daily suffer pains and aches, some of it from wear and tear/ poor posture, other from injuries or illnesses. It gives me a tremedous amount of fulfilment when my clients tell me that their classes bring them relief or even resolve those issues completely, just like Pilates helps me.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
That it is a system with an integrity that goes beyond movement. It’s about well-being in every aspect.
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
I always find this a tricky discussion. For me, the Classical method gives me a clearer framework and it feels better in my body than most \modified variations or even ‘new’ Pilates exercises. A teacher I respect very much described it perfectly the other day: The recipe (i.e. How the exercise is supposed to be executed) is already there. We as teachers make the recipe in our own personal way, but with the same outcome.
What is the funniest thing you have ever experienced with Pilates?
Working out with a fellow teacher on the Reformer and at the (presumably rather enthusiastic) transition from Backstroke to the teaser, she fell off the box. One moment she was there, the next she’d dissapeared behind the Reformer.
Do you have a favorite story about Joe or Clara or somebody else?
I hope the story about how the Magic Circle came about is true: That he took the ring of a beer keg (which he had delivered to his studio) and put two blocks on it. Rock ‘n Roll.
What is your Pilatesdream?
My husband and I are planning to move to Spain at some point , which is why I’ve started taking Spanish classes that I really enjoy and help making the dream real and alive. We love the mediterranean climate and life-style. It would be such a wonderful place for Darcey to grow up and for us to enjoy a different quality of life. London is great, but very full-on and I’m up for a new adventure. My dream and goal is to own a beautiful small studio (equipped with Gratz), filled with Pilates love & passion. I hope I can continue to develop and grow as a teacher and as a student and do this work for a very long time.
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