Like many aspects of recreation at Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Health & Fitness fosters community through its different programs. One program in particular making waves is the quirky, movement-based exercise system known as Pilates.
Kim Buhler-Waldron, Pilates instructor at the Turner Fitness Center, has been involved in fitness since the late ’80s. Beginning her career as an aerobics instructor, Buhler-Waldron said she was at a yoga class when she discovered Pilates.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, I think this is something I could move into,’ ” Buhler-Waldron said.
From there, Buhler-Waldron looked at the fitness community of Lynchburg, Virginia, and saw an opportunity.
“Nobody was doing Pilates there,” Buhler-Waldron said. “I told myself, ‘If I’m going to do this, I better jump in with both feet.’ ”
Since then, Buhler-Waldron has continued to spread her enthusiasm of Pilates, retiring from her studio in Virginia and coming to work at Chautauqua in 2012.
Originally from Randolph, New York, Buhler-Waldron knew about Chautauqua Institution from when she studied flute at the School of Music during her high school years.
“I figured someone must be doing Pilates there,” Buhler-Waldron said.
With Buhler-Waldron on board, each year the Pilates community at Chautauqua expanded. From setting up year-round mat classes to implementing more ladder barrels, balance chairs and reformers, Pilates continues to grow at the Institution in all age groups.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Buhler-Waldron said. “I have clients from their teens to their 80s.”
This year, the Pilates program added a new ladder barrel and balance chair. Buhler-Waldron said the Pilates community took it as a sign of expansion.
“It gives the Pilates community a sense of how committed Chautauqua is to serving them,” Buhler-Waldron said.
The program covers everything from dual-reformer sessions to group mat classes.
Buhler-Waldron said what keeps people coming back is the communion between participants.
“We have dinners and celebrate birthdays together,” Buhler-Waldron said. “There’s that common bond that human beings appreciate.”
A Pilates mat class resembles a group exercise among friends, rather than a rigorous fitness course. Buhler-Waldron takes special care of her clients, taking interest in their minds as well as their bodies. She said this comes from wanting people to get the full benefit of the exercise method.
“All of a sudden their lower back feels better, their neck is less stiff and they really feel the benefits,” Buhler-Waldron said. “Pilates is restorative, rehabilitative and meditative. It has that mind-body connection.”
Buhler-Waldron said she knows the program isn’t embraced by everybody, but has no doubt that after one session people will have a new understanding of the Pilates movement.
“Lots of times people come to Pilates kicking and screaming,” Buhler-Waldron said. “But most times they walk away with a sense of ‘Wow, there’s more to this than I possibly could have imagined.’ ”