Pilates for Teens

Pilates Collective instructors Melissa May and Gretchen Cross are teaming up to bring a new population of students into the studio: teens.

The two have a handful of teen clients between them, most of whom are athletes and dancers. Melissa, who is now a professional dancer, has taught dance for years in group and one-on-one settings. Gretchen also grew up dancing, has experience coaching high school athletes, and has a rich background of movement education including a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Personal Training Certification. The two integrate their varied movement experiences with Pilates to offer sessions that serve both as cross training as well as rehabilitation from injury and muscle overuse. They see how Pilates benefits their current teen clients, and want their peers to experience the rich rewards of a Pilates practice as well.

High school athletes train hard during their sport’s competitive season, and several also take lessons or participate in private leagues during the off-season. While it’s wonderful they’re staying active, the majority of sports focus disproportionately on a small group of muscles, which can lead to imbalances and injury. In tennis or lacrosse, for example, one arm is dominant. In golf and baseball, the body is repeatedly twisting in just one direction. Ice skaters typically land jumps on a preferred leg. It’s essential to balance out those asymmetries to prevent alignment issues and injuries, which is exactly what Gretchen and Melissa work on in the studio.

Although the teens currently in the studio are frequent movers, the instructors hope to engage students who aren’t regularly active as well. For many, the only movement they have all day is one period of gym class. If they spend all day sitting, then come home and sit on their phones or computers, they risk building habits that can be seriously detrimental to their health and mobility. In addition to building strength and working on flexibility, Pilates offers a much-needed antidote to “phone posture.”

Being a mom of a teenager herself, Gretchen is passionate about instilling the importance of movement on kids while they’re young.

“Many of our clients say, ‘I wish I’d started this 30 years ago,’” Gretchen says. “We’re giving teenagers the chance to get going early to avoid pain and injuries.”

At such a young age, the most important lessons Pilates can teach are around body awareness and the subsequent appreciation for all your body is capable of. As opposed to strict ballet classes or sports practices that push your physical limits, Pilates is meant to be something reparative and free of judgment, ideally from both the instructor and the student.

Melissa spoke about the emotional value of Pilates, saying, “It helps you build confidence in your body and value it rather than constantly placing judgment on it.” Especially for young girls, a movement practice that teaches the inherent beauty and worth of their bodies rather than focusing on its appearance can be life-changing.

Gretchen and Melissa plan to build their teen program with children and grandchildren of current Pilates Collective clients: since the adults already see the value in Pilates, they’ll be excited about spreading the benefits to their family members. If interest grows, they’d love to start teen classes in the evenings and on weekends. They’ve also discussed sport-specific workshops, such as Pilates for skiers, or a series of summer classes that delves into anatomy principles.

Know a teen who would love to get into the studio? Reach out! You can email Clara at clara@pilatescollectivedenver.com or call the studio at 720-459-8913.

Ali Weeks