Lynda Lippin may be one of the strongest and most coveted Pilates instructors around, but she was once a self-described “weak” ballerina, unaware of the power of her own body. Since learning about Pilates in college, she has helped herself through several abdominal surgeries, tendon repairs, car accidents and hormonal imbalances with this form of physical exercise.
She owned award-winning Pilates studios on Philadelphia’s Main Line, taught A-listers at the Parrot Cay Resort in Turks and Caicos and is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise. Now, with nearly 25 years of experience, the Master Pilates instructor works in New York City, specializing in classical Pilates training, bodyweight training, kettleballs and other high intensity training programs. She trains everyone from Donna Karan and Victoria’s Secret executives to people with multiple sclerosis and spinal injuries. Here, she explains her personal journey to fitness and what makes Pilates so powerful.
Q. You have helped many people with pilates practices, but what was your own personal journey into this form of fitness?
A. I started taking Pilates while in college. In the ’80s, student government had taken over the funding of the Pilates program at SUNY Purchase, and I was the VP of finance. I had been a dancer, was extremely hypermobile but weak, and went [to try] Pilates to see what they were doing with their money. It was everything I wanted and needed for my body – all core all the time and lots of flexibility work to balance the strengthening.
Q. Have you always been physically fit? Has pilates helped you achieve personal health and fitness goals?
A. I grew up with overweight parents and a mom who did not cook. At least they took me to ballet classes, which is where I got the body awareness. I have struggled with weight and body image constantly since then. In my 40s, I am in better shape than I have been ever! Pilates has been the constant in my workouts, keeping me balanced. Other things may come and go, but Pilates stays. I mean, I can do the matwork anywhere!
Q. Is pilates more beneficial than other forms of exercise? Why or why not?
A. I believe people should move every day in ways that they enjoy and that give them some good functional movement. Pilates has everything you need, and believe it or not, in Pilates we do plenty of jumping jacks, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, and other moves that will get the heart rate up.
Q. Who is pilates particularly good for?
A. Humans. Really! There is nobody who cannot do Pilates in some form. I have worked with 10-year-olds and 90-year-olds, with high powered celebrities and professional athletes and with grandparents with Parkinson’s who could barely walk. They all found new strength, control, and better body awareness and function through Pilates.
Q. How can pilates help with hormonal challenges in women?
A. Any exercise will help balance cortisol levels and thus help with stress. I have been in menopause since a hysterectomy 20 years ago, and while exercise has helped I really saw tremendous benefit with Bio-identical Hormone Replacement.
Q. What is your personal teaching style like? Why?
A. I am called “nurturing, yet demanding.” My clients move forward with a combination of my strict attention to form and detail in their programs. I hate trainers who yell at me as a client, as well as trainers who are way too cheerful. My clients tend to be the same way!
Q. What are your clients typically looking for when they come to you?
A. Some are looking for weight loss, but most come in to me with pre-existing injuries or issues that they trust I can work with and around to still give them great, intense workouts that will keep them active and functional, and as free of pain as possible, outside of the studio. I also train some high level movers – professional athletes and trainers, top yoga and pilates teachers – because they need my attention to detail.
Q. What are some of the best ways for women to set fitness goals?
A. Be realistic and start small. Don’t think about the 40 pounds you may have to lose; focus on five pounds. If you do not do anything now, even once a week will help. But I encourage people to move more, period. Walk whenever you can, take stairs instead of elevators or escalators, and if you cannot bring yourself to exercise, find a friend or hire a trainer to make you do it! Accountability is key.
Q. What are some good tips for reaching fitness goals?
A. Slow and steady wins the fitness race. There is no such thing as quick sustainable weight loss or fitness. In fact, if you push too fast you can make yourself sick and injure yourself. So if you need to lose weight, set small goals – five pounds at a time is good (if you don’t think that is significant, carry five pounds of something with you every day to see how heavy it can be). Start exercising maybe two or three days a week for 10-30 minutes. And go from there!
Q. What advice do you give to clients who are overcoming physical challenges to get or stay fit?
A. We are stuck with our bodies as they are; we cannot buy new ones! When we buy new machines of any sort we tend to maintain them. We take cars in for service, have contractors come to the house to service appliances, and watch that our homes are in good order. Taking care of our bodies should be that important. [Pilates Founder] Joseph Pilates said that people take better care of their cars than their own bodies, and that is still the case today. So find what you can do to keep yourself in good working order, and don’t be afraid to try new things.