When Viviana Velez Vaga was diagnosed with prediabeties in 2022, she was motivated to change her lifestyle. The Somerville resident began walking, altered her diet and worked out at home.
After six months, she decided to add something new and joined Club Pilates Bridgewater. “I wanted something that was low impact because I tend to be clumsy and can get hurt easily. I fell in love with the concept of Pilates and the sense of community and support,” she says. To date, Vaga has taken close to 200 classes. “If you’re going to do something consistently, it has to give you joy and be something you are passionate about. For me, that is Pilates. When I look at pictures from when I first joined compared to now, sometimes I do not believe that was me.”
Pilates is a form of strength training, which focuses more on improving muscle tone than building muscles, with movements that stabilize and strengthen your core. It’s a moderate activity that works for all ages and abilities. “It’s demanding, but it’s not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. It’s all about concentration and breathing, but you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise. The moves may look simple but they take a lot of precision and control with a strong emphasis on technique,” says Karen Spidare, who co-owns Club Pilates, Bridgewater, with her husband, Todd.
Club Pilates puts a contemporary twist on the methods founded by Joseph Pilates a century ago, with classes focused on a head-to-toe workout to move the spine in every direction, which is important as you age to keep joints fluid and working optimally. “During the day, we sit and are stuck in the same hunched-over posture without moving parts of our body,” she says. “Pilates classes target those areas, like the back of the legs, and work to correct your posture.”
Spidare fell in love with Pilates as a teenager and works to make classes affordable and accessible so others have the opportunity to experience the feelings she enjoys. “I loved mat Pilates classes because they made me feel strong. I liked that the exercise focuses on slower moves, not super-fast cardio, but I could feel myself getting stronger,” she says.
One of the things that she loves most about her work is demystifying Pilates. She particularly enjoys teaching the introduction classes. “People tend to be nervous, but I tell them that it is accessible to beginners and people of all ages—and if they are not comfortable in a group, they can do private training,” she says. “Since Pilates is gentle on the joints, we get a lot of people who have had injuries or are older. My dad is 77 and my aunt who is 83 and they regularly take classes. As we age, it’s important to work on your balance and core strength to keep mobile.”
She recommends taking three Pilates classes a week as part of your weekly movement practice. “We have a variety of classes that can help you reach your goals. Some classes focus specifically on strength training, which is important to keep bones strong as we age—especially for women,” she says. “Many of our class types at the studio incorporate free weights into your routine, upping the weight and spring resistance as you grow stronger.”
Breathwork and concentration are important parts of the practice. Classes focus on slow, deep breathing in harmony with the movements. “Getting all that oxygen in the body gives people a ‘Pilates high,’” she says. “And Pilates is a mental exercise. It forces you to be present and focused on what you are doing with your body. You cannot be thinking of your to-do list.”
Want to sample Pilates at home? Spidare offers two easy exercises to get your spine moving in all directions:
This pose works the back of your legs and stretches the front of the hips, both of which can become weak and tight if you sit a lot.
Lie flat on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat. Press your arms down onto the floor. Keep your spine straight while you lift your hips up to the ceiling so that the front of your body is like a sliding board from your knees, hips and shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades down on the mat. Imagine you’re trying to reach your knees away from your shoulders.
Repeat 10 times.
This pose is great for spinal mobility and posture.
From quadraped position on your hands and knees, round your spine like a cat stretching. Think about your belly button pulling up to the ceiling and your “tail” tucking between your legs. In this position, your spine is in flexion. With control, roll through your spine in the other direction to have a slight arch in your low back and lift your heart and head forward into “cow” pose. This is called a back extension and is great for your spine and posture.
Roll through these postures four to six times while breathing deeply.
Learn more about Pilates at ClubPilates.com/Location/Bridgewater.