Our exercise series continues as we highlight the benefits of Pilates with PDX powerhouse, Abby Parker! Settle in as she shares her story of strength and resiliency, culminating into a love for fitness.
Before we jump into the show I want to make sure to remind those of you in the Portland area to come out and see me at Athleta in the Pearl District! I am doing an awesome workshop event there to help you embrace the power of your mind for fitness. It is February 17th at 8:30 AM and you can click this link to RSVP on Eventbrite.
Abby is here today helping us continue our exercise series to expose us to the amazing variety of options we all have for moving our bodies every day. It’s all about finding something we LOVE to do, something that feels good and feels right to our bodies. Abby is here to help us understand a little more about pilates and to help us see the true beauty in this exercise.
You HAVE TO head over to Abby’s Instagram and check out her photos. They are incredibly inspirational…you can’t help but feel motivated to get moving and find commitment to daily movement when you see her beauty!
Abby’s Road to Fitness
Abby’s fitness journey is truly amazing. She is a New Jersey girl and reflects back on her mother enrolling her in dance lessons at the age of 13. Ballet quickly became all consuming for her. She would stretch and practice daily, head in to New York every weekend to compete and be exposed to other dancers, and at 17, decided she wanted to pursue dance professionally. After many terribly critical dance auditions for professional companies, she was finally accepted to the American Repertory Ballet out of Princeton, New Jersey.
Though she loved dancing full time, she quickly learned the harsh realities of the profession when all the female dancers were lined up in front of the mirror and told to pick out everything that was wrong with themselves and to dedicate themselves to “slimming down.” Abby is 5 foot 8 inches tall and only weight 118 pounds but was told to lose 15 or 20. She went to extreme dieting and cut herself down to 108 pounds in 3 months. But her energy levels showed the damage and she ended up in the hospital after collapsing in a rehearsal.
She was told she had to begin eating again and as a result, ate excessive amounts of food but would feel extreme guilt and throw it all up. These two years with the company were full of big changes for Abby, but in 2015, at 20 years old, she discovered Moxie Contemporary Ballet whose tagline stated, “We support healthy bodies in dance.”
She packed up everything she could fit in a suitcase and flew to Portland, Oregon to practice with this company while staying in a dorm room on the campus of Portland State University for 4 weeks. At the end of that period, it was time for the director to select 7 out of the 100 dancers to stay with the company. Little did the dancers know, the funding fell through and the director chained up the doors to rehearsal and fled the state.
So Abby began frantically searching for a job, staying on the couch of a friend, and doing everything she could to make herself marketable. She finally got a job in a call center in downtown Portland and was less than thrilled about the work she was doing. But Abby didn’t give up on her passion. She still worked out every single day, did deep research into dance opportunities in the Northwest, and she wouldn’t let her dream die. She even joined PDX Contemporary Ballet part-time to continue dancing while working.
In March of 2016, her mentor and superior at her job was murdered and the call center was shut down and she was out of a job once again. She knew with her dancer mentality to be her best, that she had always loved fitness. So she was faced with a blank page on her computer and typed in, “What are the top 10 fitness gyms in Portland, Oregon.” And she clicked on one of the middle results…Firebrand Sports. She sent them a shot in the dark email letting them know she was great at answering phones, doing clerical duties, and that she really needed a job. She got a response that they didn’t need anyone answering phones…but they did need an instructor for Barre.
Abby was completely caught off guard. She wasn’t even sure exactly what Barre was. She met Sara, the owner of Firebrand Sports and they immediately connected. She auditioned, was hired, and became a certified Barre instructor. As she was doing that, she walked past another room at Firebrand, saw the Megaformers, and desperately wanted to know what that was and how she could do it. After trying a class, she immediately LOVED it and went down to California to become certified in Lagree.
Back in Portland, Abby started teaching more and more while supplementing with other jobs and finally, Sarah thought she should become more involved with the runnings of the business. Throughout this process, she met her best friend Katie, who encouraged her to push herself to her full potential. They began working out a 6 AM together and became fast friends. Abby is continuing her career in fitness and is proud to see a bright future ahead of her despite the setbacks in her past.
Abby’s story is a fantastic example of what it takes to make a true lifestyle change…support from the 4 cornerstones of fitness:
- Daily Movement
- Good Nutrition
- The Power of the Mind
- Community Connection
Abby’s story is a beautiful example of the amazing change that can happen when these 4 things come together. It shows us the importance of releasing our obsessions with body shape and embracing body appreciation, health, and wellness into our lives. Fitness helped Abby get through some of the most difficult part of her life in a positive light.
So what is Pilates exactly and what can a first-timer expect from giving it a try as a new way of moving their body?
Abby explains that the Lagree Fitness Method is what Firebrand specializes in, which is a form of Pilates. You are using a total body fitness machine, or Megaformer, to enhance your movements and exercises. Lagree is a high intensity workout with low intensity on the joints. You can move all parts of your body in just 45 minutes. The beautiful thing about using a Megaformer is that you can modify any workout for more or less intensity. So regardless of your ability or experience level, you are able to feel fantastic.
For those of us who have never experienced Pilates or Lagree before, Abby gives us a little insight into what the Megaformer machine is actually like. At the basics, it sort of looks like a bed with many springs and many different things to grab on to and adjust. You are always either pushing or pulling at all times and YOU control the springs of resistance on your machine.
There are over 500 different moves that you can do on a Megaformer which gives both the instructors and the students loads of creative expression and flexibility in their workouts.
“You have the ability to create a whole beautiful symphony of movements in your workout.”
The resistance and intensity of the workout helps to target all those tiny little muscles that are difficult or impossible to reach with other workout methods. Abby says it isn’t just fantastic for strengthening your physical body, but also for strengthening your mind. These workouts challenge you in new and innovative ways and leave you feeling fantastic at the end.
For both veteran and new Fitlandians, Christa focuses intensely on the power of the mind with Mind Zoning. You can work to create new neural pathways and thought patterns to change what we believe we can do and to build on our health and wellness simply with our subconscious mind. Pilates is great not only for your physical fitness but your mental fitness as well.
Still not sure if Pilates of Lagree Fitness is a good fit for you? Abby offers a complementary class called Lunge and Learn to help you learn modifications, get started slowly, and learn more about the exercises in general before you drop in on a full class…so be sure to check that out! Also, if you are in the Portland area, be sure to check out a Lagree Fitness class in person at Firebrand Sports!
Abby’s last minute tips for getting started:
- Just GO for it! (Starting is the hardest part!)
- Try a workshop to get started and feel comfortable
- Grab a friend for support and motivation
- Stay inspired and push your boundaries!
Thanks to Abby for sharing her incredibly inspiring story with us and for giving us some insight to the world of Pilates and Lagree Fitness. We are so grateful to you and look forward to seeing you in our Fitlandia community in the future!