Prior to the video shoot, Women's Health asked me to fill out a questionnaire to get to know me a little better. And what better way for everyone else to get the full/unedited version of me and what I stand for than by sharing my answers to these questions. Take a look!
1) What is your fitness background?
My interest in fitness started when I was a kid. I was always involved in some sort of physical activity from soccer to martial arts. While in college, I pursued my interest in exercise and the human body by majoring in physiology and neuroscience and by working at an exercise physiology laboratory studying metabolism. After college, I had a brief stint in the biotechnology industry, but realized it wasn’t for me and decided to devote myself to my Pilates training.
2) What would you consider your “training philosophy” or your approach to fitness?
My training philosophy focuses on mastering basic fitness before diving into skill intensive sports. When I say “basic fitness” I’m referring to quality movement patterns which require core stability, full range of motion in the joints, motor control, balance, posture, coordination, and movement without pain. The modern day sedentary lifestyle is ubiquitous, and in an attempt to counteract it, we engage in highly technical activities such as CrossFit or marathons without a fundamental foundation of movement and general fitness. Low quality movement can’t be solved with aggressive physical training, and building a set of intricate skills on dysfunction compromises performance and increases risk of injury. I have found that Pilates is one of the best platforms that creates a solid foundation with which other modalities of exercise can be built upon.
3) What is your motivation for exercising?
I initially began doing Pilates for purely aesthetic reasons — mostly because I read that celebrities and models were incorporating Pilates into their workout routines and getting exceptional results in only a few weeks. However, the more I worked out, the more I started to like the length I felt from the spring resistance and the victories of performing exercises to near perfection. I started to view working out not as part of my daily grind, but more as a game I enjoyed playing.
Nowadays, my motivation to continue Pilates is primarily achievement oriented. Every time I do a workout I test myself to see if I was better than I was the previous workout: “Did I perform the “teaser” without moving my legs?” “Did I do an advanced reformer workout in under 50 minutes?”. My motivation to continue working out has shifted towards one that is more task driven. My ultimate goal is to become the best version of myself in all facets of life, and to be better and stronger than I was the day before. It’s difficult gauge progress on all aspects of life, but Pilates is the most tangible way for me to hold myself accountable for my own physical progress.
4) Why are you doing this?
I think this is a unique opportunity to brand myself and to showcase the original Pilates method. Pilates is often misunderstood by the general public and the scientific community because it’s been misrepresented by the media and because it hasn’t really been scientifically studied. For example, the assumption that Pilates is just stretching and ballet is completely inaccurate. Pilates workouts will vary depending on the individual - it can be slow because it’s a workout driven by precision and technique, but the goal is to be able to perform the exercises dynamically while maintaining that technique. Additionally, people within the scientific community have made false claims about the method simply because they don’t understand it. I hope to be able to dispel those claims and show people the original Pilates method developed by Joseph Pilates.
5) People should vote for me for the following reasons:
Academic education: I earned by BS in Physiology & Neuroscience at UC-San Diego, a university known for its academic rigor in the sciences. I also am currently a MA candidate in Kinesiology & Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. Because of my academic background, I employ evidence-based practice and give my clients results backed by science.
Pilates education: My Pilates training transpired in a very organic way. My first “unofficial” apprenticeship with my teacher Chris Robinson didn’t consist of a strict curriculum or text book reading, but rather one that required me to take initiative of my own learning. Chris would provide me with the knowledge and guidance, but I had to show him that I was genuinely interested in learning the method and becoming a Pilates teacher. In exchange for a nominal fee, he gave me keys to his gym and I was allowed to come in at all hours to use the equipment, observe him teach, and ask questions. One of the most important concepts Chris instilled in me is understanding how the work feels in your body — and you have to workout. Pilates is very technical but it's also very experiential, and to be able to teach someone a set of skills, a good teacher must understand how it works and feels in his or her own body.
My second apprenticeship with Brooke Siler was also one that aimed to develop a teacher naturally. She avoided creating cookie-cutter teachers because she fostered a learning environment conducive to the individual becoming a good teacher. You couldn’t pass the certification just by reading the manual or reiterating cues word-for-word. She made sure you understood the method, knew how to read the body you were teaching, knew how to explain it to someone, and most importantly, connect with a client and earn their trust. You wouldn’t pass unless you had her stamp of approval. My training is unique and unconventional. I didn’t go through a certification program and just pass the requirements, I had to go above and beyond, and commit to my training to earn the respect and approval of my teachers.
I never stop learning: I work out 2-3 hours a day 5x/week from Pilates to strength training to make sure that I understand how it feels in my own body. I stay up to date with the current literature in the field of Pilates and exercise by reading books and studies. And importantly, I understand the context of papers I read and how to interpret and apply research into clinical application.
I genuinely want to improve the quality of living of people: Pilates is more than just exercise, it empowers people through physical independence by teaching people to take responsibility for themselves. It gives people a sense of control over their own lives. To be able to tell your body what to do and have it listen to you is a powerful feeling. It has given me the confidence to achieve whatever I set out to accomplish because I am no longer confined by my body’s limitations.
6) What is your view on nutrition?
Nutrition is very important in my daily regimen and my friends refer to me as a relentless self-experimenter when it comes to diet. I’ve always been interested in how my body reacts to diet so I’ve experimented with various diets such as the conventional American diet of high carbohydrate and low fat, Paleo, ketogenic, dairy-free, gluten-free etc. Nutritional sciences is not binary, it's complex and will vary from person to person - so my advice is to figure out what works best for you and your own lifestyle.
I set aside time on Sundays to prepare meals for the rest of the week. And if I run out of time preparing food or am hungry, I'll go to the grocery store and buy whole/unprocessed foods that I can eat such as a can of sardines, an avocado, nuts, etc. My second passion is manipulating conventionally unhealthy foods into healthier foods that use whole ingredients. My instagram is filled with recipes that I have created such as 3 ingredient healthy waffles, french toast, etc.
When it comes to weight loss, consistency is essential. If you’re only exercising once a week because you hate your training routine, you’re not going to lose weight. In my opinion, I feel that it’s important to find an activity you love and do it often, and then let your nutrition navigate the weight loss.