The Pilates Journey – by John Garey

By John Garey, The Pilates Intel

I believe there is a reason we all discover Pilates. Pilates is not something most of us just happened to start to practice. In my experience, people start a Pilates program because of a very specific goal or challenge that forms the basis for our own Pilates story. That story shapes how we view Pilates and how we come to understand Pilates. I’d like to share my story of how I came to Pilates and what it has meant to me. I hope that this inspires you to continue your education, keep an open mind, and discover the story of your own Pilates Journey.

I have always loved working out and working in the world of fitness. It’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I played on every type of sports team I could find growing up and was a lifeguard during the summer when I attended college. I graduated from New York University with a Masters Degree in Physical Education in 1988 and immediately started teaching in the Fitness Industry..
Twenty-two years ago, I was a national Sport Aerobics competitor. Sport Aerobics was really popular in the 80s and 90s; it looks like gymnastics to high-speed music on a hard wood floor, and it requires a LOT of flexibility. One of my personal training clients suggested that I try Pilates as a way to improve my flexibility.

pilates equipmentMy first Pilates session was in Chicago, Illinois, in a small private studio. That one-on-one session changed my life – I fell in love this this strange and magical movement. I had never seen Pilates equipment before or even anything similar. I had no idea what I was doing or even if I was doing anything close to what was being asked of me by my trainer, Patrick. But I instantly felt a connection to the work. In a very short amount of time, everything I did improved. My flexibility improved, of course, but so much more as well. I was stronger. I could jump higher. I understood my movement better.

My next step was to learn to teach Pilates. But the system seemed so elusive to me. No one could explain to me why it worked, or how, which I desperately needed to know if I was to teach it. Although I understood the cues, they didn’t make anatomical sense to me. Most of the terms came from the world of dance , which was not my area of expertise. By the time I took my first Pilates Education Program, I was living in San Diego, CA. It was 1998 and I finished the Balanced Body Pilates Fitness Intensive through Polestar Education with Elizabeth Larkam. Elizabeth is brilliant and the course was packed with content – I was completely overwhelmed.. I started teaching, but knew that I was not good enough. I was teaching choreography, not the movement and the beauty that is truly Pilates.

In 1999, I studied the BASI (Body Arts and Sciences) Method with Rael Isacowitz in Costa Mesa, California. Rael is an amazing teacher and I really enjoyed working with him, but because I was teaching fitness and Pilates full time and directing the Group Fitness Program at the Sporting Club in San Diego, I couldn’t complete the required observation hours for the BASI Program. I also found it challenging to rely upon my own notes, which is how the BASI courses were structured; because I couldn’t decipher my notes I lost a good portion of what I had learned. I wish I had better handwriting!

In the summer of 2000, I was presenting fitness programming for Schwinn at the IDEA World Fitness Conference when I met Moira and Lindsay Merrithew, the founders of STOTT PILATES. I spent a lot of time at their booth in the expo hall and completely fell in love with the Merrithew team. Moira put me through the paces on the equipment — it was really fun and challenging and we immediately clicked. At the time, STOTT PILATES was the only company I could find that offered course manuals and videos as part of their Pilates teacher training program. Their system was very organized and was similar to how I had learned other methods of fitness. I was sold!

In August of 2000, I quit my job, moved to Toronto to immerse myself in the world of Pilates. Over the course of six months I completed every STOTT PILATES course. I practically lived at the studio and when I wasn’t there, I was studying in my small apartment. In December of 2000, Moira Merrithew administered my full examination and I passed. I went on to take the Instructor Training courses and then I moved back to Long Beach, CA and opened a small Pilates Studio. I started teaching clients and became the first and only Licensed Training Center in Los Angeles offering STOTT PILATES.

Over the next 15 years, I’ve expanded the business and traveled the world teaching Pilates and fitness. My passion for both traditional fitness and Pilates and a somewhat unique combination of the two continues to grow. My motto has always been that fitness and Pilates should be fun! When there is joy in movement, there is a much more likely chance that the individual will succeed and continue. So this year, I created an on-line instructor resource for fitness and Pilates Programming called John Garey TV ( We offer fun, inspiring training for instructors. I want to share my passion for movement and with the advancement of technology, it’s become a perfect way to reach people all over the world and share my love of Pilates and fitness. I hope that my story brings inspiration to those new instructors out there. Pilates education is a continuing journey and I’d love to be a part of your Pilates journey.



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