Pilates for the People

From Footwear Exec to Pilates Instructor in One (Mis)step

Written By: Richard J. Davis

Photographed By: Dhrumil Desai

No pain, No Gain

Jogging on the sand at a favorite beach, Chris Suder suddenly felt a sharp pain in one of her legs. Being an avid runner and overall athlete her entire life, she had long ago decided that these little aches and pains were the price to be paid for her active lifestyle. However, this particular pain signaled something a little more serious than fatigue. In fact, her one misstep did two things. It ripped her Achilles tendon in two and would change her life forever.

Of course Suder, who admits to having a high tolerance for pain, was blissfully unaware of the damage done to her leg, and continued to run and exercise as she always did. But when the pain in her leg became unbearable, she finally made some time to visit her doctor. The news wasn’t good. He diagnosed her injury (which had been compounded by the late discovery), and immediately put her leg into a full cast that she would be wearing for the next 3 months.

But the cast wasn’t the last of it. She also learned that after the cast finally came off, she would need to meet with a physical therapist for a number of sessions so that she could get her strength and balance back. It was during one of these sessions that her physical therapist recommended she try Pilates, a method of physical training that focuses on strengthening, lengthening and toning the body.


Suder attended a few Pilates sessions and was impressed, ” I had lived with aches and pains all my life, ” she recalls, “Pilates did away with them.” Seeing what Pilates had done for her, Suder believed she had found her new calling: helping others with Pilates. After 20 years in the footwear and design industry. “It just felt right to me, ” says Suder. “I don’t usually take risks, so I was surprised at myself for making such a drastic change. But it’s turned out great, and I’m glad I did it.” However, as Suder would soon find out, becoming a certified Pilates instructor isn’t easy. In addition to hours and hours of learning how to teach a variety of exercises and how to use a variety of equipment, she was required to pass anatomy and other science courses so that she would better understand how the exercises facilitate physical improvement.

Suder became certified and began her teaching career. She worked hard and eventually opened her own studio in Manhattan Beach: Club Pilates Manhattan Beach, “I opened Club Pilates with the intention of bringing Pilates to everyone, ” says Suder. “Our vision is for the studio to be a comfortable and welcoming place for those who want to improve physically. Today we have clients who range in age from 14 to 76 years old. We also have professional athletes, students, homemakers and others who wish to strengthen, lengthen and tone. For example, runners come to us to improve their balance, and we’ve even been discovered by golfers who have found that Pilates can improve their game by increasing spinal rotation. Pilates is also a great way to improve posture, something a lot of people want as their posture may have slacked due to high-tech slouching – the tendency to hunch over while texting or using a computer.”


Something for Everyone

At Club Pilates, Suder, along with her staff of instructors, lead small classes. To better address the various skill levels of their clients, they assist students, sometimes individually, ensuring they perform the exercises correctly so that each student finds the right class for them. “We treat our clients as individuals. Not only do we have a variety of classes to match their skill levels, we also recommend modifications during the lesson for those who might be challenged by a particular exercise. What’s more, we make sure our classes never get dull. You’ll never experience the same course twice. We work hard to vary the exercises, and we use a number of exercise equipment to keep things interesting. We also work hard to make sure enough attention is given to our new students. I never want someone leaving the gym, thinking they can’t do Pilates.”

Along with the personalized attention and variety, Suder also thinks that a sense of community at her studio is important. “When I welcome clients into my studio, it’s like I’m welcoming them into my house. I want people to feel relaxed here, and they do. Barriers disappear, and strangers become friends. We try to make it an enjoyable place to come and physically improve.” Celebrating its first-year anniversary, Club Pilates in Manhattan Beach is just minutes from the beach and offers classes at a variety of skill levels. Classes start at just $10 a lesson. Free parking is available.


A Brief History of Pilates

Originally called “Contrology” by its creator, Joseph Pilates. The Pilates method is described as the art of controlled movements. Pilates had developed his program after studying anatomy books and Eastern disciplines, like yoga and martial arts. These were blended with more Western forms of physical activities, such as bodybuilding, gymnastics, boxing and recreational sports.

In 1975, the first Pilates studio in the U.S. opened in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Pilates method had always been popular with performing artists, such as dancers and stunt performers, but in the 1980s movies stars discovered it and began to tout its many benefits. And as far as fads are concerned, where movie stars go, the general public is soon to follow, which meant that Pilates enjoyed a sizable spike in popularity during the eighties, and it spread rapidly worldwide.

A good thing will always have a following. Performing artists, sports professionals, including NFL players and Olympians and others who want to “strengthen, tone and lengthen” continue to practice Pilates for the simple reason that they see positive results. The essence of Joseph Pilates’ work continues to change bodies and lives today through studios such as Suder’s Club Pilates in Manhattan Beach.


Club Pilates Manhattan Beach
903 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
310.921.8004 | www.clubpilatesstudio.com

About The Author

Richard Davis, a writer and editor, has covered Southern California for over a decade. His work appears in a number of local and international publications and on the Web. He specializes in celebrity news, film and music reviews, as well as his own sometimes rocky, but always entertaining life. He is currently working on his first novel.

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