Moves That Go the Distance

Athlete Studio helps Pilates students train for endurance events (and everyday life)

September 3, 2013

Michele Landry, left, guides Lauren Gabler through a hip flexor stretch. Gabler is adding lateral flexion to deepen the move.

After putting in 22 miles on a recent run, and then completing 7 the next day, Lauren Gabler knew exactly what she needed to do the day after that: another workout.

But this time, the 29-year-old left her running shoes at home. Socks are the only footwear required for Pilates classes at Dupont’s Athlete Studio, which is the newest addition to Gabler’s training schedule for the Marine Corps Marathon.

“I had gone to the gym for strength before, but I could never commit to it,” says Gabler, who has no problem finding time to make it to Pilates. Just a few months of classes have cured her nagging hamstring issues. “I’ve felt no pain running since starting this.”

Rewind a few years back, and that’s the same discovery Athlete Studio owner Michele Landry made when she began incorporating Pilates into her own marathon and triathlon preparation.

“I could see the changes in my body,” Landry says. She saw changes in her times, too — Landry has qualified for the Boston Marathon the past three years.

So when Landry opened her studio in May, she chose the name “Athlete” to emphasize what a powerful effect Pilates can have on performance. And there’s no need to be in the running for an endurance event to reap those benefits, adds Landry, who likes to repeat Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman’s line, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Through Landry’s triathlon connections — she’s also co-founder of Smashfest Queen, a line of athletic apparel — many of her clients are Ironman competitors. But there are just as many like Keisha Stanford, 32, who views a 5K as a challenge. The Columbia Heights resident says the diverse group of students makes for a comfortable environment.

“There are a wide range of sizes in here, but we can all be in the same class and do the same thing,” Stanford says. It also helps that classes are capped at four students, which allows for more personal attention.

Although each class has a name indicating a certain focus, such as Jump & Tone (which incorporates cardio intervals using a trampoline attached to the Reformer, the traditional piece of Pilates equipment) and Circuit (which bounces between moves on the Reformer and Stability Chair), Landry is happy to tailor workouts for her students.

The day Gabler showed up for an Active Recovery class after all that running, Landry chose a Reformer routine with extra emphasis on hamstring stretches. Beginning with footwork to get the body warmed up, Landry had Gabler lie on her back, place her feet on the bar in various positions, and push the sliding carriage by straightening and bending her legs.

Landry kept offering pointers on breathing and alignment, two aspects that are critical to successful running. When she had Gabler slip her feet into the straps to do leg circles, she explained that the move would help open her hips and make it easier to dash up hills.

Next up came moves targeting the calves, thighs and shoulders. The rounded posture people develop from sitting at desks can make runners susceptible to injuries, Landry said. Every minute required keeping the core tight, which Landry warned Gabler she might notice in her midsection the next day.

After a few more deep stretches, class was dismissed.

“This is why I don’t feel sore anymore,” said Gabler, who looked ready for a marathon.


Cool (Down) Ideas

Just because the 50-minute session is over doesn’t mean you have to rush out of Athlete Studio, says owner Michele Landry, who’s happy to linger over questions and show clients how to play with her other toys. The foam rollers she uses to massage tight muscles have made such frequent appearances, she’s considering adding a class with her pointers to the schedule. (They’re also great for working your abs, Landry says.)

For folks who have been pounding the pavement, Landry’s secret weapon is her pair of RecoveryPump Boots (at left), which look like a prop from a sci-fi flick. Don’t be afraid, says Landry, who wears hers for at least 30 minutes a day — especially when she’s ramping up her mileage and on her feet teaching for hours at a time.

The waist-high boots gradually inflate, before releasing the air and repeating the compression process, which is designed to stimulate blood flow.

“It feels like you’re getting your blood pressure checked,” Landry says. And after taking them off, she adds, it feels awesome.

Details: Athlete Studio (1730 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-506-5780, athletestudio.com). Group classes are $40. Multiclass packages are 20 percent off through Sept. 10.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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