In a city dotted with movie studios, film, television, and media production companies, getting into and staying in shape is big business. The Media City has an ample supply of various gyms, workout studios, and exercise venues. Over the years, I have taken exercise classes at a variety of places, from professional studios to the YMCA. By far one of the best workout classes in Burbank is at the Verdugo Park Recreation Center 3201 West Verdugo Avenue. It’s a Pilates class taught by veteran fitness instructor Michelle Wilson.
Fitness has been a huge part of Wilson’s life for a long time. At 18 she was hired as an instructor for the NCA, National Cheerleading Association. “I traveled up and down the West coast teaching at colleges. While I was in college myself, I was dancing and taking physical education classes. Went through certification and started working for the City of Lakewood. After working for them for 17 years, I started with (City of) Burbank,” Wilson explained.
Wilson is a tall attractive blonde with curves and muscles. No stranger to vigorous exercise, still there came a point when she felt she needed to do more: “I started teaching Pilates in January 2003. I had just had my 3rd child at 41 and knew even though I taught until the day she was born, I needed to step up my fitness to get things ‘back in place. ‘ ”
Pilates is a gentle efficient way to strengthen, stretch, tone, and shape the body. Most of the exercises are performed on a floor mat; sometimes with machines, resistance bands or weights. The program can be modified for all ages and skill levels. It’s popular with performers, actors, athletes and even seniors. Wilson’s class is described in the City of Burbank Recreation Guide as “… a unique blend of traditional Pilates core work and new innovative exercises to produce dramatic results.”
Wilson’s class works the entire body with emphasis on the core, arms, legs, and buttocks. Also, some of the exercises strengthen the spine, improve posture, and balance.”I teach all levels in my classes. Sometimes it feels like I’m spinning 10 plates at once but that’s what makes it fun and fulfilling, ” Wilson said.
Hand weights are used in the class. Wilson counts down the exercise series and shouts out instructions like “hold in the stomach,” “keep the natural curve of the head and neck,” “burn those buns,” and “breathe!” Wilson is a stickler for form and stresses its importance all the time. A mantra of hers: “Don’t sacrifice form for range of motion.”
Wilson’s class has a number of regulars (me included). The age range in the class is 20s and up: “I know we have people over 70 that are in amazing shape. Seriously, there are women in class that are in better shape than many teenagers.”
A series of stretching moves wrap up the one hour class. Wilson believes in light stretching at the beginning and during class. Deep stretching at the end. Frequently, Wilson offers healthy advice on food and other types of exercise, such as walking and running. Also, she encourages everyone to pursue their dreams and work endeavors: “I believe exercise can improve your professional life in many ways by helping reduce stress, increasing our physical strength and endurance, as well as building confidence,” she said.
Also, Wilson teaches Zumba, aerobics, cardio, and stretch classes. The fall season begin the week of September 8, 2014 at the recreational facilities in Burbank. For details on classes, prices, and registration go here.