Interview With Brighton Pilates Founder and Teacher, Ellie Priest

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Hi Ellie, firstly can I thank you so much for this! You’re a successful Pilates tutor running Brighton Pilates!

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When did you decide that Pilates was what you wanted to do as a career?

I had my first taster of Pilates when I was 14. I was a body for my dance teacher at the time’s Pilates teacher training exam. I loved it as I instantly could feel the benefits and new it would compliment my dance training. I continued to do Pilates; I went weekly with my mum to studio sessions. When I went to university to study dance I had to stop because I couldn’t afford to do it anymore. When it came to the 3rd year, I decided to do my dissertation on the effects of Pilates on Dance training. Luckily my course tutor was a Pilates instructor and agreed to let me come to her classes with a group of Dance students who were willing bodies for my study. The results were amazing, I was staggered at how much stronger the group became from doing Pilates twice a week. Once I left University, the first thing I did was beg my Dad to lend me money to do my Pilates teacher training. Luckily, he did!

What is it about Pilates that you love, rather than say Yoga?

Oh wow, where to start! Well, I was introduced to Pilates before Yoga and so always just did Pilates. I felt the benefits straight away and so it really hooked me in. I am a great believer in getting all sorts of movement into your body so don’t just stick to one form of exercise I do Yoga, swimming, circuits and running as well as Pilates! I love Pilates though because it acts as a perfect cross trainer. I find that whatever sport/exercise I do, Pilates is a perfect partner and so it is an essential part of my exercise regime. Joseph Pilates created his method by taking, what he believed to be the most effective features from other disciplines that he had enjoyed himself such as: yoga, circus skills, gymnastics, skiing, self defence, dance and weight training to form his own system that reflected a perfect balance of strength and flexibility. Its success has meant that now Pilates is recognised and recommended by health professionals such as Doctors, Osteopaths and Physiotherapists.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Pilates of course strengthens your core muscles and is so powerful, when taught properly it makes your entire body feel stronger and more flexible so quickly. Pilates works your entire body strengthening the weaker muscles and giving the stronger muscles a break by making sure that you work in good alignment. Pilates makes you more body aware leading the way for improvements in coordination, precision, power and posture. Combined with improved breathing, an increase in efficiency of movement and stronger core muscles you are well on your way to improving your sport, work life, health and over all wellbeing.

How many times a week would you recommend the average person to set aside for Pilates?

Time and money are an issue for a lot of people and so if one hour a week is all that is manageable, then this is better than nothing and you will definitely feel the benefits. However, of course if you can do more that would be great. I would say 3 times a week is optimum.

Could you do it at home? Are there any books or DVDs you recommend we could follow?

Yes you can definitely practice at home, that is the beauty of the Pilates mat-work, it is accessible to everyone and can be done wherever. With DVDs do be careful that you don’t spend the whole time looking at the television screen because then your head is not in the right alignment and good alignment is important during your practice. I would recommend you watch the DVD first so you know what you’re doing. I do podcasts for my clients and would definitely recommend these! They are great because you haven’t got the temptation of watching it on the screen, it is like being in one of my classes. My clients have workouts of all lengths on their media players and so they can practice their Pilates wherever they are in the world by listening to my cues!

Who can partake in Pilates? I, for example, am in a wheelchair, are there still things I could do?

Everyone can benefit from Pilates and so yes, of course! During the war years Joseph Pilates was interned along with other German nationals into a “camp”. His clear interest in health, and his reputation from teaching the other internees self defence and wrestling led him to help out in the camps sick bay, he boasted that his students would leave stronger than they were before their internment. He was a caring person and wanted to help those less able and he requested that he help the patients in the infirmary with exercise. Bed rest was the norm in those days, so he was told, “you can do anything you like with them, as long as they stay in bed”. So Joseph took the springs from the beds and rigged them up to the bedposts as exercise apparatus for the bedridden! The Cadillac was born! Joseph was both inventive and resourceful in solving the health and exercise needs of his friends and neighbours!

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Being inventive, and resourceful, in Morocco!

What is it like having your own company, it has been rather successful lately… tell us more!

It is really hard work but I knew that if I was going to do this I wanted to set up my own classes, and so I set up ‘Brighton Pilates’. It has been amazing and I absolutely love doing what I do but it is not easy. When I first set up my classes they were very small and often I would run sessions and make no money. I had to work two other jobs at the same time as teach Pilates. Now I am 4 years in and I run 10 sessions a week plus I have private clients on the side and also have a contract with Brighton and Hove Albion Football club. I have also set up another business with a fantastic Yoga teacher. We run ‘My Escape’ – a Pilates and Yoga retreat company.

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My Escape!

You do regular retreats to places like Morocco! What benefits do those trips offer and do you have to go to your class in Brighton to go?

Yes we do! We have clients come from around the world and so you don’t have to attend the classes in Brighton to go. The Morocco trips are very successful on our last trip we had people from all over: UK, Spain, Sweden, Holland, Italy and even Canada. We now run trips to Ibiza and Formentera, the UK and South Africa and we are looking to expand further for 2015.

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Ibiza, Morocco and South Africa retreats.

Do many people come to you just to lose weight etc, rather than trying to achieve physical and mental well-being?

If a client comes to me and their main goal is to lose weight I tell them honestly, Pilates is not going to help to shed pounds. Pilates will help to supplement a cardio workout and help to keep you strong, injury free and help tone you up. Remember though, exercise must be in addition to a good healthy clean diet, especially if weight loss is your goal. Most clients come to me because they have an injury and will benefit hugely from gaining stronger core muscles. They all end up achieving physical, and mental wellbeing. That is the beauty of a Pilates class – an hour to concentrate on nothing but what’s going on in your body. There is really no room for stressing about day-to-day life in a Pilates class. I like to think if my clients arrive stressed they always leave feeling more relaxed and clear headed. I hope they are reading this and agreeing with me 😉 – I’m sure they’ll tell me next week!

How important is exercise to maintain health?

Exercise is of upmost importance for your health. Exercise has so many health benefits for your body and mind. These include: improved heart and lung efficiency, increased metabolic function. You tend to feel better and so you are more likely to make healthy food choices. It helps to improve bone density, muscle and joint function. It helps to maintain good posture and flexibility. Exercise also increases endorphins in your brain leading to improved brain function, concentration and a greater sense of well-being.

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Achieving a greater sense of well-being in South Africa.

On your Facebook page for Brighton Pilates, you often post about different healthy meals. How crucial is what we eat, to achieving ultimate health?

Diet is incredibly important to your health! It is best to eat a clean healthy diet and when I say ‘clean’ I mean organic where possibly so that you are digesting as few toxins as possible. If you are wanting a specific goal, i.e. for say, weight loss, muscle bulk then it’s definitely best to do your research or seek nutritional advice. You will never get that ‘ideal’ body eating junk food, treat your body with respect fuel it with what it needs – and in return you will be healthy and glowing!

What foods would you suggest we avoid or ration?

Sugar is such a no no – if you want to cut anything out make it sugary snacks! Get your sugar the natural way from fresh fruits – try to avoid too much though. TIP: If you are going to snack on fruit make sure you eat it alongside a healthy fat. Healthy fat is SO good for you. Snack on a handful of blueberries and a handful of almonds for example. The healthy fat in the almonds will help slow down the speed at which the sugar from the blueberries hits your system – avoiding that ‘sugar high’.

Could you give us a few Pilates moves that could introduce a novice to the world of Pilates? 

Yes sure the Pilates classic is the Hundreds. It is ultimately a breathing exercise but also gets your blood pumping around your body and works your abdominal muscles too.

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Start – relaxation position or legs extended

Inhale – prepare, lengthen the back of your neck and nod your chin to your chest. Bring your legs into a ‘double knee fold’ – your knees should be above your hips and knees at 90 degrees

Exhale – curl your head and shoulders up off the mat simultaneously extending your legs away if you want to make this more challenging

Breathe in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 5 whilst pumping your arms. Do this 10x (100 in total).

If you type in ‘the Pilates hundreds’ on You Tube there will be tonnes of people showing you how to do this. Myself and my business partner Holly have filmed a short Yoga and Pilates fusion perhaps you might want to check this out. It is a fantastic morning practice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHAaf-0rV6w

Could you also give us a healthy day meal -plan, so we see what kinds of foods you eat to maintain a healthy body.

Yes sure…

Always start the day with freshly squeezed lemon in hot water.

Breakfast: mango and avocado whip smoothie – simply blend: frozen mango, banana, ½ avocado, hemp powder and apple juice. The hemp protein makes it a great post workout smoothie too

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Lunch: Toasted rye bread rubbed with fresh garlic topped with griddled asparagus and broccoli and toasted seeds

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Dinner: Chicken breast seasoned with fresh garlic and herbs, roasted or steamed vegetables and brown rice

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For a mid day snack try snacking on a handful of nuts, fresh blueberries or my absolute fav – ryveta with nut butter and chopped banana.

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If you were to describe yourself after you have done your Pilates in three words what would they be?

Lengthened, strong, peaceful

What does the future hold for you?

Well we have our retreat to plan to South Africa next year in November, that is a big trip and we are super excited. Also our other new retreat to Ibiza is going to be happening in May so organising those will keep me busy. I am also looking into offering Pilates for kids – watch this space ;)!

Lastly, I ask these questions to everyone, what is your definition of beauty in today’s world?

To me, someone who is beautiful is considerate, kind and caring and has a positive outlook on life. I think it is important to invest time in you to make yourself feel beautiful and happy. This is one of my favourite quotes by Roald Dahl, ‘if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’ I try to stick to that!

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Ellie on the left, investing time into looking and feeling beautiful.

Thanks Ellie for an incredible interview! Your answers have been really inspiring, and I will definitely be trying out your hints and tips for better health and well-being. Hopefully one day I can blog from one of your retreats! Good luck with all your future projects and keep us up-to-date with the latest Brighton Pilates news!

love beauty

However, if you want more Brighton Pilates news right away; why not ‘like’ them on facebook and twitter?

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Brighton Pilates Facebook                    @PilatesBrighton

Or go to their website www.brightonpilates.co.uk

To look at the My Escape retreats available click here.

Or you can ‘like’ or follow My Escape on Facebook and Twitter.

My Escape Facebook        @MyEscapeUK

Don’t forget Secrets of A Beauty Addict on Facebook and Twitter!

Secrets Of A Beauty Addict Facebook   @ScrtBeautyAdict 

All images are copyright of Ellie Priest