Ron Fletcher Passes On: A Great Voice in Pilates

Ron Fletcher scared the crap out of me.  I was standing before him in a freezing cold dance room in Philadelphia.  He was stern; the people closest to him did everything he said to the letter and I was trying to hide in the back.  I had no chance.

I was attending a weekend seminar on the Spine Corrector, a piece of Pilates apparatus, and there were maybe 80 people in the room (I’m horrible with numbers, it might have been more).  We were given a unique set of instructions before we arrived which included: wearing only all black with absolutely no adornment, we had to wear black tights, and no bootleg yoga pants or anything crazy like that.  I literally didn’t own any tights and had to zip out to buy some before I left.

I had heard scary things about Mr. Fletcher.  I heard that he yelled at you if you screwed up.  I heard that he kicked you out of the room if you really screwed up … “Please, God, let me just hang out in the back and quietly absorb,” I whispered.  And why was I standing at a ballet barre?  Where are the Spine Correctors?

I proceeded to spend the rest of the day at the ballet barre.  Doing ballet work.  This was actually pretty great (if not what I signed up for), except that I was a gymnast as a kid.  I had literally never been to any dance class, never mind ballet.

Mr. Fletcher paced the room, roaming up and down the lines of ballet barres.  He came closer and I gripped the bar, praying silently, “Please walk past.  Please walk past.”

“Don’t you know first position?!?” he boomed at me.

“Actually, sir, no.  I just learned it 20 minutes ago,” I squeaked.  I don’t know what possessed me but I added, “How’m I doing?”

He paused.  He sized me up.  ”Actually, really well … for only 20 minutes.”

That was it.  He was a doll the rest of the weekend, helping me a bit here and there and giving me an encouraging smile now and then.  I was smitten.  Completely smitten.  We did ballet barre and reformer work and only for about two hours the entire weekend did I see a Spine Corrector but it didn’t matter.  Whatever Mr. Fletcher wanted to teach was fine by me.  I learned a ton of new choreography, LOVED how Ron took all I knew about Pilates and turned it on it’s head, and LOVED how he got me to think outside of the sometimes strident East Coast style.

At the end of the weekend, I went up to him and said, “Thank you so much.  May I ask for a hug?”  He gave me a huge smile and said, “Honey, I’ll give you a big ol’ Texas hug!” and grabbed me in his amazingly strong grasp, so tight I squeaked.  I staggered back, happy, and went home to my clients to share my new choreography.  They were eagerly waiting to eat it up.  Some of my favorite exercises were ones I learned that weekend over five years ago now.

I saw him at a couple of conferences after that and was always surprised he remembered me (or was really great at faking it).  His stories are legendary and I loved them all: working with Fred Astaire, becoming sober, the symbolism of the necklace he always wore, working with Joe Pilates, the kindness of Joe’s wife, Clara.

Kyria Sabin heads his organization and has for quite a while now.  She has done much to keep his voice and his work alive and I’m privileged that I got to meet her and work with her.  I know that she will carry on Mr. Fletcher’s work and continue to make us all think about his unique perspective on Pilates.

Ron Fletcher made me a more open-minded teacher.  He taught me that the work has a broad spectrum of “good,” and as long as the client is progressing, then you’re doing the right thing.  He also showed me a little kindness when I was off kilter and that will never be forgotten.

Thank you Ron Fletcher.  Rest in peace.

Money and Fitness: How Much Does it Cost to Stay Healthy?

I frequently hear people say one barrier to a healthy lifestyle is that it’s too expensive to commit to long term.  While it’s true you can spend a fortune on expensive gear, personal trainers, nutritionists, and various other tools to keep you healthy and fit, you can also spend next to nothing.

The Cost of Not Being Healthy

The cost of not being healthy is astronomical.  Obesity contributes to so many diseases that cause lost wages, productivity, and savings as one combats deteriorating health.  An array of studies have shown everything from overweight people earning lower salaries than their svelte counterparts to obese patients spending sometimes thousands a year in out of pocket expenses to gulp pills and visit doctors.  And if you’re balking at a paying a monthly gym membership, all I have to ask you is: What is your monthly cable bill?  Yeah, I thought so … (And that’s before you added in your Netflix subscription too, right?)

Bare Bones Fitness

Truthfully all that you need is your own body and a combination of weight training and plyometric work.  You can even get away without sneakers if you’re not doing a specific sport like running.  Walking briskly is better with good shoes, but you can manage with what you usually wear.   Simple exercises like squats, push-ups, and crunches will get your muscles responding, and combining them with cardio such as walking or just dancing in your living room is a great start.  You can also use that cable subscription to access free workouts at home (via the OnDemand feature).  Almost every cable company in the U.S. has something available, just search the listings.

A Basic Gym Membership

There are really crappy gyms that have super cheap $19.99 monthly membership fees and, you know what?  If you’re just going in to lift some weights or hop on a cardio machine, they’re fine.  It’s inexpensive, you can get done what you need to get done, and then be on your way.  Just don’t expect much guidance from staff and don’t use the showers.

A Fancy Gym Membership

Then there are luxury gyms that can cost as much as $150+ per month.  They have great facilities and you’ll want to hang out a while after your workout to hobnob with your friends.  Expect high-end personal training facilities, great group ex classes, and super-clean locker rooms.  You should be able to ask staff for help here and get sensible, effective advice.

Outdoor Workouts

Most people prefer not to belong to a gym though, so to the great outdoors we go.  There are a myriad of ways to do this.  A good pair of hiking boots and a map makes for a great workout in the woods.  A pair of running shoes and a lap around the neighborhood or local park works well too.   These types of activities will cost you less than $250 a year for 2 pairs of sneakers or one pair of boots.  You can’t really argue with that.

Studio Workouts

Yoga, Pilates, personal training, Tai-Chi, boxing, karate in all its forms, even dance classes.  There are all types of fitness studios and the prices range from $20 for group classes to $85 or so for one-on-one work.  You’ll find experts in their field to guide you.  There won’t be much diversity but it can be good for cross-training, or if you really love a particular type of movement, then why not go to the best you can find in your area.  They’ll keep you safe and you’ll train smart for maximum effectiveness.

Luxury Fitness

There’s really no limit to what you can spend.  You can have personal trainers five days a week, a home gym that rivals anything in Beverly Hills, and exercise pants that are more than $100 a pair.   Spending all that money can keep you motivated since if you’re dropping that amount of coin you’d better be sure and use it all.  Also, if the personal trainer is buzzing your doorbell every morning it would be rather rude to just ignore him and hope he goes away.   I have clients in my studio that spend over $7,500 a year and I’m only part of their fitness routine.  You can easily spend more than $15,000 a year just on training and fitness gear.

It’s About Priorities

Which brings me back to that cable bill.  I spend about $140 per month for my cable/internet connection and, yes, I’m addicted to the internet and couldn’t conceivably cut that cord.  But my pricey cable bill covers almost every option I’ve listed above.   I’m sure we all easily blow more than $150 each month on eating out, and not fancy dinners, just in those nights when you don’t feel like cooking and order take out or head to a family restaurant for dinner.  The point I’m trying to make is you need to prioritize what’s important to you and put your money there.  I plan on living in good health to 100 years old so that’s my priority.  What’s yours?