Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 23 : July/Aug 2008  > Columns  >  Fitness  >  Follow Your Heart... How I Discovered Pilates



By Kazuko Ikeda

Follow Your Heart... How I Discovered Pilates


I was born in the deep snow country of Niigata. My father, a ski instructor, had big dreams for me as a skier, and his passion helped me set my sights on the Winter Olympics. After graduating from high school in 1993, I went to the U.S. for training and spent the next seven years either practicing or skiing on the World Cup tour. I was on the road 10 months of the year.

The day came when I finally qualified for the 1998 Nagano Olympics and, though I placed a respectable 17th in the slalom, I realized an insurmountable wall existed between me and the top 10 finishers. Accepting my own limitations, I decided to retire from alpine skiing the next year.

After leaving competitive skiing, I took a job at a ski resort which, oddly enough, was where a chance meeting with a new friend during a ski lesson led me to Pilates. Later, I went with this new friend to Kanda to help her find some ski boots.

“Of all the ski equipment, the boots are the most important,” I rattled on to her. Out of nowhere she replied, “You know, I think you’d really like Pilates, you want to give it a try?” The following day I found myself atop a piece of Pilates equipment called a “reformer.”

I was off to Hawaii the next day on a self-discovery trip (at age 30), and my friend suggested, “There’s a magazine on sale with a special section on yoga and Pilates in Hawaii. You should pick up a copy on your way home.” And so I did.

As soon as I arrived in Hawaii, I contacted a local Pilates instructor and went for my first lesson. Although I had undergone power and weight training throughout my ski career, the burn from Pilates was new and different.

“In 10 lessons, you’ll feel better. In 20 lessons, you’ll look better. And in 30 lessons you’ll have a whole new body.” These were the words of the founder of the Pilates method of training, Joseph Pilates.

When I asked, “Is this true?” the trainer replied with a smile, “You’ll never know until you try.” I left with a packet of 10 lesson coupons in my pocket.

Throughout each lesson my body was discovering new sensations; my heart racing with excitement. I also experienced a sense of hope and possibility. Considering my options after competitive skiing, my thoughts drifted back to the words of an old friend who said, “If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll soon find something to pour your heart into.”

With that in mind, I made went to Seattle in the fall of 2005 to get my Pilates teaching license.