Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

Michael Fritzke (right) and Ton Voogt (left) are longtime veterans of the Pilates Method. Originally trained by none other than Romana Kryzanowska, who referred to them simply as ‘the boys', Michael and Ton have been educating and training Pilates teachers around the globe since the 1990s.

I was first charmed by this pair way back in 2000. Dianne Garrett, one of my first Pilates teachers, told me a story about Ton. Dianne had weekly lessons with Ton during her apprenticeship at The Pilates Studio (Romana's program at the time).

When Dianne would get to the T-straps exercise on the Long Box, Ton would often question her:

“‘T' for…?”

Dianne admitted to being puzzled every time. Was he asking for the purpose of the exercise? No… What about the song, ‘T (tea) for two?' Was that it? What is he asking??

His response made me giggle: “‘T' for Ton, ‘T' for Ton.”

I think I love this guy already.

Dianne would also give me a specific spot/correction in the Shave exercise (Rowing Series on the Reformer). It was not until just this January that I got to feel the same spot from Michael. Ah! There it is again. I love when my Pilates world comes full circle. I had been experiencing moments of Michael and Ton's brilliance since my first Pilates lessons. How lovely.

Remember when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that by just using the ruby slippers and her intent she could have gone home to Kansas at any time? It kinda felt like that.

Shortly after my first training program at Excel Pilates, I got to meet Michael and Ton at an Education Seminar. Amazingly I would not see them again until nearly a decade later. But I remembered their fun banter and the warm learning environment they create.

It was a pleasure and a luxury to learn from them for 2 full days this past January at a fantastic event created by Michael, Ton and Elin Benson at Premier Pilates in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Now that their home base is in Arizona, I plan to see much more of them in the next decade.

For more information about Michael and Ton or to find out where they will be teaching next visit www.zenirgy.com.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Michael Fritzke and Ton Voogt

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Michael Fritzke: I don’t have a favorite exercise. It varies from day to day, depending on how my body feels and what it needs to realign and balance. So I guess you could say I have an exercise “du jour.” Today it was extension exercises. It was tax time and I spent too many hours rounded over my desk.

Ton Voogt: Ok to clarify I don’t believe in favorite exercises. Each exercise feels different each day you perform it so sometimes this exercise feels the best and sometimes another exercise feels the best. Having said that, today the Roll Up is one of my favorites. It engages and stretches your entire body. It centers you, you get a great stretch in the front and the back of the body, you feel your abs contracting, and you get a great articulation through the spine.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one

MF: I don’t have a least favorite exercise either. I learned early on in my teaching career, not to judge. I believe all exercises, variations and evolutions of the method have merit. The art of teaching is finding the right exercise or variation of the exercise for your client.

TV: Least favorite is a strong word, but the exercise that every time “sneaks” up on me and my mind goes “really….again?” would be Swimming.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

MF: The fact that the method and our bodies are constantly changing and evolving and we have to adapt and grow with these constant variables. My biggest insight is that the essence of the method is quite simple, but it is this simplicity that challenges you creatively, mentally and physically.

TV: The fact that there is always room for improvement and growth. You are never “done” with any exercise, you are never “perfect”, and the method will never stop evolving and growing. It is a fluent and ever moving and growing field. Can it get any more exciting?

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

MF: Love, I found it with Ton.

TV: With a good book, on a beautiful beach, together with Michael of course.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

MF: Not to have love in your life.

TV: Not to be able to follow your dreams.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

MF: Contrology. The art and science of body mind and spirit, development through disciplined movement. Joe’s one word describes the whole method.

TV: Contrology. It explains and defines the entire method.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

MF: I don’t use many of the “Pilates” words with clients. It is my experience that many clients have no idea what you are talking about and therefore it does not really give them the experience of the movement. I don’t think the use of the “Pilates” words is wrong, it is like using anatomical terms, it is about when and how you use them and with whom.

TV: Any word that does not help the client. I see so many instructors rattling off their cues, the set up of exercises etc., but they pay no attention to what the client is actually doing. Their words and the action of the client/group do not match. Such a waste. Your words matter….use your words!

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

MF: I can honestly say, I have pretty much done what I wanted to do. Teaching Pilates is my third career, but if I had to pick a fourth, I would be a philanthropist…. I just need the billions to spread around! To quote a line from Hello Dolly, “money is like manure, it needs to be spread around.”

TV: Philanthropist….is that a profession?

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you? 

MF: Interesting question. I guess he would say, “Hello!” I believe everything ever created has an energetic field and we all have the ability to tap into Joe’s energetic field of creativity, and most of us probably have. So I guess you could say we have already met….energetically that is.

TV: Based on the stories we heard from Romana Kryzanowska and other protégées about Joseph Pilates I would not be surprised if he said: “WE ARE FULL” (of course in his German accent). What I would like him to say is: Willkommen und viel Spaß! (Welcome and enjoy!)

10. What did you learn today? 

MF: When we were in St. Petersburg for a Pilates convention we took some extra days and went to the Hermitage museum. There we saw a painting called Portrait of a Man by Dominico Capriolo. I did not know this painter so I finally googled him to learn more about him. And what I learned today is that there is not a lot of information about him. So the search continues, because now I really want to know about him.

TV: I really should stop procrastinating. Yeah I should. I will start immediately….tomorrow.

Remember to visit zenirgy.com and see where M+T will be teaching near you!

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)The Pilates Method is full of surprises. 14 years into the method as a practitioner and teacher, I still love the giddy surprise of a new exercise. One I've never seen before. Even better is a familiar exercise done in a new-to-me-way.

For example, a few years ago I learned that in addition to the Breast Stroke on the Reformer and its reverse, there also exists a combination, a combo, of the two.

My first thought – There's a combo? – was quickly followed by my next – Oh, of course there is…

It's not like we don't do that in other exercises right?

Swan on the Cadillac

Swan with Push Thru Bar on the Cadillac is a challenging exercise.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Very. Challenging.

My body left to its own devices just wants to hang out all over the place in an unsupported arch.

*sigh*

The version with the arms straight has been a great help in connecting my arms into my back and (!) using my stomach.

A fine idea, won't you agree?

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

But let me back up.

Private Lives

Watching Jay Grimes teach private lessons at conferences and intensives is always educational. And frequently full of surprises.

Surprise #1: Swan with Push Thru Bar with no spring!

OMG, whaaaaat?

Surprise #2: Swan with Push Thru Bar with no spring with one arm!

Lordy, Lordy.

Well I have to try that…

Later I mentioned to Jay that it was my first time to see the Swan with no spring and/or with one arm. I loved his answer:

“You should try it. It would be good for you.”

Okay, let's get out my loooong list of exercises that are good for me and add it to the list…

But man, that guy is always right.

I don't know what I don't know

I took Jay's advice and began to include Swan with Push Thru Bar, the 2-arm and 1-arm versions after my daily mat workout. This exercise proved to be truly magical. Without that enabling spring, the exercise essentially incapacitated my arms and shoulders.

I had to find the right muscles (the stomach, back and lower body) to even complete the exercise at all. With 2 arms. The one-arm version was even more fantastic and provided so much feedback as to what was (or was not) going on on each side.

Several months pass…

Did I mention that I like a challenge?

What I didn't know as I continued to practice Swan with the Push Thru bar each day was that it was also helping my Swan Dive.

Surprise #3!

Mind you – it's not really a surprise, per se, that the Swan on the Cadillac helped me with my Swan Dive on the Mat.

I hear you. I know the apparatus provides assistance to better your Mat exercises. Yes. It's the whole premise behind the full studio system of the Pilates Method. I completely agree.

But sometimes you don't know it's happening to you until it does.

Way back last year in my post on the Rocking exercise I intimated that the Swan Dive, technically a rocking exercise, deserved its own special post.

Well friends, it's time.

Let's Dive in

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Swan Dive is the ultimate version of the Swan exercise done on the Mat. Once you understand that the rocking action must be generated from the stomach, it still may take years to create a long line of the body without a break in the middle.

A long line! Yes, our old friend length to the rescue – AGAIN.

And there's no time to micromanage in the Swan Dive, one must simply prepare and go for it…grrr….

Robbed of the ability to examine one can only reflect afterwards. Good news and bad news. Bad news for me, good news for the Pilates Method and moving. Gotta suck it up, I get it.

My standby method to execute the Swan Dive?

Hurl myself at the mat with a will of iron.

A hurl and a fling, actually…in succession. Hurl, fling…hurl, fling…hurl, fling…am I diving yet?

Oh you have to start somewhere.

I can dive with a little help from my friends

I am a visual learner. More often than not I've got an image in my head of what I believe is happening during the exercise.

However, sometimes my mind gets the wrong idea.

Uh-oh.

Picked up from an old correction that's no longer valid, or even the name of the exercise – Swan Dive – my mind is not quite on the right track. As I worked to refine my signature Swan Hurl, I happened to see my lovely colleague and classmate Samantha have her lesson on the Mat.

Samantha is a different body type than I am – she has more flexibility in places that I have stiffness, so it was wonderful to see what rhythms and shapes are possible during the Swan Dive, that I had not happened upon, shall we say…

My tactic was to hurl and use force to complete the exercise, while Samantha had such a light and delicate approach to the exercise that made it look effortless. And cute. And bouncy. And for God's sake it looks like a rocking exercise.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Oh, that's what I'm trying to do…

I should also mention that I'm a really good mimic.

So for a while I just pretended I was Samantha.

No. More. Hurling.

Another way I found to get me out of the hurling habit was to use the Spine Corrector. If you've not tried the Swan Dive perched on the crest of the Spine Corrector, hang on to your powerhouse. Nothing will tell you more quickly if you have control of your own destiny than an impending face-plant on the Mat.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

As you find the length (where have I heard that before?) atop the Spine Corrector you will rid yourself of any forceful habits. It simply won't work here. The Spine Corrector Swan will give you a more long and reaching rhythm for the exercise that you can then carry to the Mat.

The Shape of All Things Pilates

In a series of posts on Pilatesology I mention that the Barrels can be used to find the shape of the upper back that you'll need for the Swan on the Mat.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

While this is true, and helpful, I found out exactly how much Swan with Push Thru Bar was providing the same assistance in a different way.

One day it occurred to me mid-Swan on the Mat that I could replicate the shape that the angle of the Push Thru Bar was teaching me. Suddenly it was not as mysterious a position. My body remembered. Surprise!

You gotta love Pilates. So versatile. A place for everything and everything in its place.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

This is my favorite spectator Swan Dive, Pilates bestie extraordinaire, Amy Kellow.

If you've not been to her Classical Pilates Convention, you don't know what kind of fantastic Pilates geek-fest you are missing. Plus lots of opportunity to perfect your Swan Dive!

Thanks so much Amy, Samantha and of course the cameo appearance of Karen Frischmann for your help with this post (and with my Swan Dive).

Dive in! Share your strategies and successes in a comment below.

Special Edition: What Did You Learn This Year?

January 2014

Let's take Romana's famous question “What did you learn today?” to a whole new level, refection-style.

Inspired by a dear colleague's post I realized that 2013 was a big year of study, community and connection for me.

However I had not paused for a moment to consider the year as a whole.

What did I learn this year?

Special Edition: What Did You Learn this Year?

Ask questions. You never know what you don't know…

In 2013 I began Teaching the Work, the 2nd Vintage Pilates' program of study with Jay Grimes. My classmates were my best Pilates pals after our year of being together for the inaugural class of The Work in 2012.

And we were 6.

Small. Intimate. Nerdy.

My usual – now former – M.O. is to stay mostly silent in workshops.  While listening, taking notes, working out as much as possible and thinking over client scenarios that will surely benefit from my new knowledge, I am rarely the student that asks specific client-related questions. Perhaps deep down I fear my question will reveal my complete and utter ignorance of the Pilates method…

Well, time to get over that.

I suddenly heard myself asking pressing questions about Spine Corrector exercises with a specific type of client in mind. Oh, and that old favorite The Open Leg Rocker

I can't begin to tell you the amount of understanding that poured in from asking just one question. It opened up a whole new way of looking at my original concern.

See? You never know what you don't know.

Stay curious, 2014.

Make yourself uncomfortable

You just might like it. Perhaps it will be cozier than you had anticipated.

How will you grow in 2014? Share your ideas in a comment.

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

The premise:

Joe Pilates created all The Pilates apparatuses to help you to do the Mat better. Okay.

To help Client X – Let's call him Mr. X – better his mat exercises you take him to the Wunda Chair.

A bold move. Me likey.

The Wunda Chair is a choice for challenge. Very different than lying Mr. X on the Cadillac for an exercise, you have brought him to the Chair, where he'll receive nothing short of a kick in the pants, German-style.

No doubt you have chosen an exercise that will challenge Mr. X in a way that when he returns to the Mat again next time, his exercises will be ever more manageable after his encounter with Wunda.

3 Strategies for Success on the Wunda Chair

1.  Don’t lose your Sh*t, K? 

Remember it’s still Pilates – you’re just on the Chair. The exercises may feel different but you can stay calm and (1) apply the same work and tactics that serve you on the Reformer, Mat and Cadillac to those pesky Chair exercises, and (2) rise to the challenge of the Wunda and come away with new skills to serve you all around the studio.

Footwork: The Footwork on the Chair is a great boon for the Footwork on the Reformer. Challenge Mr. X to find a Tall Back sitting up and help him to work his bottom. He'll gain more control to close the pedal and ultimately to close the carriage on the Reformer.

The Push Down: The Roll Up just got even more brilliant!

Going Up Front: I find this exercise to be particularly helpful to find connection and strength for the Front Splits on the Reformer. Not to mention a host of other stuff…

2.  Your objective on the Chair: control your muscles to close the spring.

Hmmm…where have I heard that before?

On the Reformer your one over-arching goal is to close the spring with control. Almost without exception the carriage goes out only so you get to control it on the way in. Brilliant!

On the Wunda Chair this means the pedal does not push you around.

Closing the pedal is the work of the exercise.

Yup. It’s all about control. Freakish, gut-wrenching control.

3.  What exercise(s) on the Chair can you use for Mr. X’s whatever?

The Wunda Chair: How did we get here?

Moreover, now that we are here – what shall we do?

Does Mr. X need more Round for his Elephant? More Round and control for the Teaser? Does he need help to sit up straight and tall?

Lucky for him we have the Wunda Chair: wundaful exercises to help all of the above and more:

  • Some Pull Ups for his Elephant!
  • Hey, some Teasers he can do on the Chair! Nasty but happy to help.
  • And Backwards Arms exercise to help him sit up taller. He will be so happy…
Related Post: 4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair:

 

Must. Have. More. Wunda?

Join me on November 16 @ Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Click on the image for more details.

Thank you so much for reading!

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairIt's no secret that the very first exercises you learn on the Wunda Chair can be challenging. The small size of this apparatus can leave you and your clients mostly hanging out in space bereft of support.

Gone is the luxury of lying down on the Mat, Reformer or Cadillac.

The Wunda Chair is compact. Stylish, even.

You've still got a “mat” area, per se, but oh, it has gotten teenie tiny…and rarely do you perch on it…

Working on the Chair – and taking clients there as well – can definitely up your game.

The Wunda Chair has panache!

To the uninitiated, it looks so unlike the other larger apparatus. Your client is intrigued…

They can feel the excitement in the air…

What's going to happen here?

Wait until they find out they must lift up the pedal with their stomach. Whaaa?

The 4 Must-Have Exercises

  1. The Push Down
  2. The Pull Up
  3. Spine Stretch Forward
  4. Teaser on the Floor

2 great pairs that work oh-so-well together.

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairThe 1st dynamic duo: The Push Down and the Pull Up

Joe Pilates' genius has given you The Push Down where the lower body is fixed and the upper body moves, and exactly the opposite scenario in The Pull Up, where the upper body is fixed and the lower body is mobile. My gosh, they make a great pair.

Oh, and what are they good for?

Remember you are here at the Chair to get better at the Mat.

What fun. Happy to help!

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairGiven the shape of these two exercises what can they help your client achieve?

What other exercises do they remind you of?

I love The Push Down and The Pull Up to reinforce the Round shape. Use them to improve the Elephant and Knee Stretches on the Reformer as well as the lying-down-counterpart of The Push Down: the Roll Up on the Mat. Get help from the The Pull Up to work on the Snake/Twist on the Reformer.

It doesn't get any better than that.

 

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairPair Deux: The Spine Stretch Forward and the Teaser on the Floor

Deep within so many of the Pilates exercises there exists The Spine Stretch Forward. In the midst of the Roll Up and the Neck Pull on the Mat, in all of the exercises done on the Short Box and the Rowing Series on the Reformer you'll create your own tug-of-war within yourself. You will scoop the stomach in and up as you reach your back further up and over your aforementioned stomach.

 

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda ChairThe Teaser on the Floor can give your client a great assist to strengthen their Teasers – on the Mat and beyond. Using what you have just cultivated in the Spine Stretch Forward will help your stomach to make the Round back of the Teaser and pull up that pedal. You will use your stomach to close the spring with control to create and strengthen the Round shape of the Teaser.

 

You will use the springs in the same manner as you do on the Reformer.

What???!!!!

How did we get here? We're talking about the Wunda Chair!

Wait.

What is Mantra #1? 

4 Must-Have Pilates Exercises on the Wunda Chair

Yes! So on the Reformer the one over-arching goal is to close the spring with control. By learning to control the springs as they close you are learning to control your stomach, your powerhouse, your center, your body.

On the Wunda Chair this means the pedal does not push you around. The pedal pushing you around is the equivalent of the Reformer springs pulling the carriage in with a big BANG, reputedly the worst sin you could commit in Joe Pilates' studio.

Control. You reign supreme.

Don't let that pedal push you around.

Use your 4 Must-Haves to improve oh-so-many other exercises:

  • Elephant
  • Knee Stretches
  • Snake/Twist
  • Neck Pull
  • Teaser 1,2,3
  • Hip Circles
  • Spine Stretch Forward on the Mat
  • Open Leg Rocker
  • Push Thru on the Cadillac
  • Going Up Front on the Wunda Chair
  • The Short Box
  • Teaser on the Long Box
  • The Mountain Climb on the Wunda Chair
  • The Rowing Series on the Reformer

And the list goes on and on…

Join me on November 16 @ Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Must. Have. More. Wunda.

Click on the image for more details.

Thank you so much for reading!