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Interview with Lizbeth Garcia
Star of On the Ball Pilates

Lizbeth Garcia When you watch Lizbeth Garcia's On the Ball Pilates workout, it's hard to say which is more impressive - her impeccable form or her impeccable cueing. She's a joy to watch and the workout is surprisingly challenging. In addition to being a Pilates expert, Garcia is also teaches Nia and Ashtanga Yoga in and around her home base of San Diego, California. Like many West Coast inhabitants, Garcia loves to surf and she has taught Pilates and Yoga to professional surfers in Fiji. On the Ball Pilates is her latest video - she has also appeared in the popular Bottom Line and Crunch: Killer Legs, among others. You may have also caught her on the Crunch Fitness TV show and ESPN's Totalmente En Forma.

(Article continued below.)

A lifetime dancer with a degree in anthropology, Garcia's career really took off in the mid-1990s when she was an instructor at the Golden Door Spa in Escondido, California, and Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. At Rancho La Puerta she was discovered by fitness filmmaker Andrea Ambandos, who put Garcia in many of her productions. On the Ball Pilates was directed by Ambandos, and it will likely be the first of a series. All Spirit Fitness recently got the chance to chat with Garcia. While she may appear focused and serene on camera, in person, this young woman explodes with energy, passion and fun. As Garcia discussed Pilates, the ball, and the joy of teaching, her enthusiasm was infectious. It was easy to feel envious of her students, who benefit from her in-person instruction - we're lucky to have her on tape!

What inspired you to combine the ball with Pilates?

I was certified by On Center Conditioning Studio up in Costa Mesa. Rael [Isacowitz] is my master teacher. I teach a class every week, twice a week, and I've been doing that with the same students for five years. They're always looking for something fresh and fun, so I started introducing the ball. They were my teachers. They would tell me, "Oh, we don't like this - we like it like this," and then I would incorporate their comments in my class. They were very instrumental 'cause I was teaching the video to my students long before we shot it. So it was very good feedback for me. The work on the video is my own. I gave birth to the work in my class, with my students. When I got the call from Andrea, who's the director of the video, saying that Natural Journeys wants to shoot a video with the ball and do I do Pilates with the ball, I said, "Well, actually, yes!"

Before you integrated it into your class, had you been doing other ball work?

Oh yes. I used to teach a Fitball class at Rancho La Puerta. So I'd been working with the ball in a fitness setting before that, and then I reintroduced it to my personal training clients by using the abdominals and the ball, and other work on the ball - instead of using the bench to do, say, a chest fly, doing it on the ball creates more stability, more work. So it was nice to have the fitness background with the ball and now the Pilates background with the ball. Lizbeth Garcia

You make these really tough Pilates exercises look so easy on the video!

In Pilates the theory is we need to make it look easy. When you make it look easy you're doing it right. (Laughs) Pilates did teach me how to become a very good instructor, how to be very specific and very cueing oriented, and the breath is cued. It made me a much smarter instructor, and understand how difficult it is to connect into certain muscle groups. It taught me patience, it taught me integrity, to honor yourself. It taught me all of these regular principles that regular fitness did not.

They always say in any sort of traditional fitness milieu that form is really important, but saying that and actually putting it into practice are two different things. In Pilates, the whole focus is on form.

Or you're not doing Pilates - you're doing crunches. Yoga and Pilates, I think, are very complex. There are many layers of understanding. So you may be able to look like you're doing Pilates but there's a different, integrated, core-connected Pilates that takes time to feel, takes time to understand.

When it comes to Pilates and Yoga especially, I've always felt that a student should be taking classes in person and videos should supplement the practice. Like, "I can only afford to take classes once a week, but I want to practice every day." That's where a library of videos comes in.

I agree with you. My videotape, the way I designed it is Pilates on the ball for beginners. So I try to give as much information as possible. I wrote the program - the choreography, the script, the cueing - for the beginner. And clearly it takes more than one time in order to master the tape. That was one of the elements that Natural Journeys wanted, that it wasn't so easy that you mastered it in one time.

Yeah, you need to avoid getting bored.

Exactly. And it moves very quickly to give you enough information, enough variety to keep you interested as a viewer. So when I wrote the program, that was the intention, that I would have a brand-new Pilates student watching the video, and if you have the financial means and the time to go to a Pilates studio or Pilates class, that would enhance the experience of the video. The video would prepare you so that these concepts of drawing your abdominals in and up, and the breath and movement become familiar in the privacy and comfort of your own home, so when you get to the health club or the Pilates studio, it will be a familiar language, familiar patterns. Then your experience will be more successful. This would be the ideal.

The video's still very new, but I was wondering if you've had any feedback on it yet.

My students love it! (Laughs)

Yeah, they helped make your video, in a way.

They did and I have to give them credit, 'cause they really took such pride in knowing that they were contributing. They wanted to give me so much, like I've given them so much. They wanted to give back.

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