How to Make Personal Training Sessions More Effective

If you’ve taken the time and money to schedule a personal pilates training session, both you and your instructor want to ensure the goals of the session are achieved. Not only will that give you a sense of empowerment and a stronger, more fit body but both you and your instructor will feel a sense of accomplishment and ready for the next session.

The reasons people use personal sessions are wide and varied from rehabilitation, to overcoming muscle imbalance, or simply to have more focused time and attention on your unique abilities. Too often though, once a student leaves a session that’s where the session ends and so does the learning. Neither you nor your instructor wants this. Improvement involves consistency. So unless you have at least a couple of personal training sessions a week, consistency is lost. So how do you overcome this? Well, it will take a unique collaboration between you and your instructor. What am I referring to? Homework.  Yes, that thing that – if you have children – they (and we!) complain about, don’t make enough time for, and have a long list of excuses why it wasn’t done, at least to the best of our ability. The goal of “pilates homework” is not to do it every day but rather to get you, valued client, to move just a little bit more outside of your sessions. Below are few ways to do this:

  1. Take a notebook with you. Ask questions and make notes on what is said either during or right after the session so you can review when you are away from the studio. Ask your instructor for recommendations on videos to watch from home, how often to do the exercises, and other resources and tools that may help you achieve your goals. If that seems too overwhelming, then just take notes. As with all good communication, listening is key and that not only goes for you but for your instructor as well. Remember, this is a partnership and both of you want a successful session where both you and she leave feeling good.
  2. If there are two or three moves that will benefit you more than others that you’ve had during your session, be sure to ask to go over those again at the end of the session. This will ensure you have a solid understanding of what you aim to achieve. Minor corrections and additional information may also be gathered during this time as well.
  3. Set a goal for how often and what specifically you will work on between sessions with a way to track. This doesn’t have to be complicated. You can create a weekly spreadsheet with a pencil and blank sheet of paper or download one for free on the internet. Also, this doesn’t have to involve a lot of time. Are you waiting to add softner to the laundry? A phone call? Pizza delivery? Each of us has unique schedules but the fact is, no matter how busy you are, there is still a lot of opportunities for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week to work on your practice. I guarantee you that in your next session you will feel more confident and see your pilates abilities grow faster than expected.
  4. Reward yourself. We all need a little bit of incentive so create one that is meaningful to you. The reward doesn’t even have to be pilates related. It could be buying a magazine, a new coffee mug, or a small sample of chocolate. Whatever it is, make sure it’s motivating enough for you to take the time to do the work.

If the above just seems too much to ask and a bit overwhelming, then start with awareness, e.g. how you hold your body both inside and outside the studio. This will still result with improvement. Sometimes, stopping for a moment and checking in with your posture is enough. Whatever you decide to do, always acknowledge yourself for the effort.

As always, feel free to email me with feedback, questions, or suggestions for topics that interest you. I can be reached at or contact Bria directly. Thank you for reading!


Water: Your Fountain of Health

The human body is made up of 66% water. Most find this hard to believe, including me, but consider that water is in every single cell of your body. When the subject of drinking water comes up, most have three, basic questions: how does it benefit my health (especially weight loss), much do I need, and can I drink too much? Let’s address each separately.

How does drinking more water benefit my health, especially weight loss?

Water is involved in nearly every cellular process including your metabolism. Not getting enough water in your diet means a slower metabolism. The body also has a hard time telling the difference between hunger and thirst. Drinking more water resolves that question pretty quickly. In fact, one study showed that drinking a glass of water before a meal resulted in 27,000 less calories consumed over the course of a year. That’s almost eight pounds without increasing physical activity. Other health benefits include skin regeneration – to get that healthy glow even in Seattle’s dreary winter months – digestion, and memory. There are countless ways water benefits a human body. Try it for a week and see if you can see a difference. I’d love to hear about it if you do.

How much water do I need to consume daily?

Water leaves the body in many ways including breathing. Yes, that’s right. So all those deep inhales and exhales in your pilates practice are actually dehydrating even if you aren’t sweating. The general rule of thumb is ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water for every pound. Why the range? There are multiple reasons. Physical activity, climate, altitude, even the type of food or beverage consumed such as dense energy bars, caffeinated drinks, or alcohol will all determine how much you need. Thirst is a good indicator but most are not aware if they’re thirty or if they are, a quick dehydrating beverage is usually the first choice such as coffee, a diet soda, or tea. Try the following few tricks to increase your daily water consumption:

*keep a class of water by your bedside

*drink small glass of water before and after exercise

*drink small glass of water before meals

*add your favorite flavoring including lime, lemon, or even ginger

Can I drink too much water?

The short answer is yes, even to the point of death. The medical term is hyponatremia or dilution of the blood caused by drinking too much water. The kidneys regulate water in the body and if water is consumed too quickly, “water intoxication” occurs. In other words, the blood is too saturated with water. The symptoms are headache, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and death.  In 2007, a 28 year old woman in California died of hyponatremia when she consumed six liters of water in three hours for a radio contest called “Hold Your Wee for Wii”. Marathoners and professional athletes are particularly prone.

So what does a person do between these seemingly mixed messages of “water is good for you” and “water can kill you”? Balance.  Like all things in life, balance is key.  Span water consumption over the course of a day and slowly after a heavy workout. If you do this, not only will you remain safe but feel better and perform better in all your daily activities, including physical exercise.

As always, feel free to email me with feedback, questions, or suggestions for topics that interest you. I can be reached at or contact Bria directly. Thank you for reading!

The Detox




I’ll admit, I don’t really buy into the concept of flushing toxins from one’s body by way of crazy diets. I think that’s why we have organs, right? So when people talk about detoxing I kind of go into wah, wah, wah mode.

Enter Stephanie and Katalin. I met Stephanie over 10 years ago when she owned Maya Whole Health. Katalin was the first teacher with whom I worked when I joined Bria. They serendipitously began working together when Katalin moved to Bainbridge Island last summer. Stephanie was in need of a recipe writer/chef and Katalin was getting her catering business off the ground. If any force of nature was going to get me on a path to a better diet it would be these two working together. I like Stephanie’s approach to health because there are no gimmicks or all-out juice cleanses, and if you have ever tried Katalin’s cooking then you know this woman knows food. 

So after a summer (year) of way too much sugar, caffeine, and food-on-the-go I decided I would treat myself to Stephanie’s 7-day detox. That’s right, I’m looking at this as a treat to myself. If you know me you know that I have two all-consuming kids, I run a business, I’m pursuing yet another Master’s degree and I have a never-ending list of projects. Taking the time to address my health needs is a treat. Here we go.


New Season, New Goals?

As the summer comes to a close, kids head back to school, there seems to be a lot of pressure to re-evaluate and set our fitness goals but is this the best idea?  Much like New Year’s, there can be a lot of pressure to make changes when the season changes but we also know how successful we are at New Year’s Resolutions. So let’s first evaluate if now IS the right time to set new goals, ie do we have the time, do we have the dedication, and do we really have defined outcomes to what we want to achieve? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three, then I’d suggest holding off. But wait! That doesn’t mean you still can’t do something because after all, improved health and wellness is not about achieving a goal, kicking your heels up, and saying “ahhh…now I can relax”. No. Sorry to deliver that piece of bad news. Whatever got you to a place of achievement will always have to be done. Let me say that again. Whatever got you to a place of achievement, will always have to be done.  Change is only permanent if you can make it a consistent, life-long commitment. If not, save yourself the guilt, shame, blame, etc because you don’t deserve it! What you do deserve is a fair chance and the right tools – including attitude! – to achieve whatever your heart’s desire may be.  Below are a few suggestions to get you on the right path to feeling your best. Do all or better, choose one or two to incorporate into your life for several months to see how you do and never hesitate to change the game plan if something isn’t working. Failure doesn’t mean you failed. Failure may mean that the plan failed because it wasn’t right for you. Tweaking a plan is just a part of life.


  1. Get more rest.

Yeah. I get it. We all have more “to do” things on our list than time but believe it or not, adding a nap in on the weekends, turning off the TV an hour before bedtime to decompress, or just getting an extra 15 minutes of rest a few times a week, will affect how effective you are in other areas of your life, including your fitness goals. You’ll feel better and achieve more than you think if you make this a priority. 

  1. Drink more water.

I have to admit, I was not a water drinker until recently. In fact, one could say I had a moratorium on drinking water. However, I had to recently add a lot of water for other reasons and now find I actually crave it. Crave it! I’m no longer a “diet crack” addict and you know what? I feel better. I think better. I no longer feel limited or a slave to my soda addiction. Water is easily accessible and a great way to feel fuller too! If for some reason you can’t seem to get yourself to drink more water, try adding an incentive such as a flavor infused water drink with zero calories or start small and I mean really small, ie 6 oz a day for 3 months. Then, increase it to 12 ozs a day for 3 months. Success is not made in big, grandiose steps. Success is made in consistency with tiny steps towards the vision you have for your life. 

  1. Make small changes to diet.

When I say small, I mean small. If you normally have an ice cream habit once a week, get a smaller size the next time you indulge. Go from a large, waffle cone with nuts and chocolate drizzle to a medium  waffle cone with nuts and drizzle. Again, do this for at least 3 months before you try to take it down another notch. Whatever your indulgence, pair it down just a little. When that feels normal – and consistently normal – pair it down again until you meet your goal which, in all honesty, may be in a year.  I know that doesn’t sit well with many but change takes time and if you rush, you will only fail and have to start all over, often further behind with a lot less enthusiasm and faith in yourself than you did initially. 

  1. Try a different form of physical activity.

I recently tried Barre Fusion with Faith and Alicia and love it! The class challenges my muscles in ways that bring true satisfaction and it’s also fun! Find something new and unexpected such as ice skating, rock climbing, TRX, or swimming. You may only do it once but even so, it will increase your awareness of just how amazing your body is when it comes to movement. We are all more capable of what we can do if we just give ourselves a chance. Life is about experience so go out and experience!

 5. Have more fun.

This may seem like a strange item on a list of health and wellness tips but truly, having more fun will give you the energy to do so much more in your life, including facing those challenges which we all have in our personal and professional lives. Not only will you have more energy, but after having more fun,  your positive attitude will overflow into those challenges making them seem less well…challenging and may even inspire new insights on how to resolve those situations. So allow yourself to be a kid again…and have some play time!


I hope these few tips have helped you set reasonable goals and expectations for yourself. Remember: no one is motivated by criticism, guilt, blame, or worse, shame. You WILL fail but guess what? That’s how you know you are on your way to success. Walt Disney failed at securing funding for his theme park over 42 times. Formula 409 failed 408 times before the right formula was discovered, hence the name Formula 409.  Don’t ever let a temporary setback be permanent. Re-evaluate. We are all different and need different support systems to make ourselves successful. Determine what that is for you and then go for it! You can and will succeed at any goal, big or small. One final note, the turtle won the race, not the rabbit. Slow and easy is the name of the game and to a successful outcome.

 I hope you’ve found this helpful if not inspirational. Please feel free to email me directly at with feedback or to let me know if there are topics you want posted in future blogs. Thank you for reading!

The Importance of Breathing in Pilates

We’ve all heard it: exhale on exertion. But why?  The explanation can be quiet scientific and I’d lose most of you if I delved into the science of breathing. That is not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to give you a general idea of proper breathing in pilates and to share the most important point: learn to do the movement correctly first before you get too concerned about proper breathing. 

 Though breathing is important, it does not determine if you are doing pilates correctly. Persistent focus on breath can lead to more harm than good because focus is lost on correct alignment and movement. The result is an ineffective and inefficient workout. No one has time for that, especially in today’s fast paced world. We all want the most from our workout and breathing correctly only helps if a person knows and is aware of proper alignment. If this is not performed first, a student will feel tension in the neck, lower back, or other areas. If you are new to pilates or just want to re-familiarize yourself with the fundamentals, then focus on technique first. When you know what it feels like to move your body correctly and have proper muscle engagement, correct breathing will help you advance your practice by activating your muscles more effectively. One thing that is definitely not wanted is holding your breath. This leads to excessive muscle tension. Exhaling during greatest muscle exertion will prevent holding your breath which is why this is generally the method instructors use. 

Please check the Bria pilates schedule to see which class might be most useful to you including the fundamentals course and level 1 for learning proper technique. I also encourage you to ask questions or if needed, set up a private session to work on particular areas or to get individual guidance.

 I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please feel free to email me directly at with feedback or to let me know if there are topics you want posted in future blogs.



Hello, Everyone. Welcome to the new Bria blog!

My name is Shelley Meredith and I recently moved to Seattle from Nashville, Tennessee where I lived for 17 years. I worked for a large medical center as an Administrative Officer managing all financial, operational, and human resource objectives for a department. After several life changing events last year, I made the decision to pursue a life-long dream of living in the Northwest. So with great hope and expectation, I’m starting a new life and a new career.


My current passions are pilates – of course! – travel, wine, writing, and interior design.  I’ve been doing pilates for almost 7 years, mainly on Balanced Body equipment though my personal trainer in Nashville is STOTT certified. My current goals are to be certified in pilates as well as Yamuna body work. I’m also pursuing other business endeavors such as small business strategic development, marketing, and life coaching which includes smart, personal financial management. I believe in people and their ability to achieve their dreams – whatever those might be – if they have a strong desire and the right support system.  If you think I have a lot of varied interests, you’re right! But, that’s what makes life fun!


I’m excited to join the Bria community and look forward to meeting you all in the studio. Please feel free to email me with topics, ideas, or suggestions.  This blog is for YOU and our desire is that it helps you live happier, healthier lives, both inside and outside the studio.



Shelley Meredith

An Instructor’s Journey

We all come to Pilates for different and personal reasons.  For some people, it’s to recover from an injury, some are looking for a life with less pain, some simply want flatter abs.  There are so many valid reasons to embark on this journey.  I thought for my post, I would share my own.

Back in the olden days, I was a touring drummer, a bartender and a part time server.  My arms, in particular, were in constant  use.  One night I was playing a concert where we had a special guest returning from France.  He wanted to make a grand appearance, so he had the band play as he waited outside for his triumphant return.  It was a difficult, fast beat, and we played…and played…and played.  By the time he entered and the song was in full swing, my arm was swelling.  My shoulder seized up, my neck was killing me and I was practically in tears.  Years of poor technique were rushing in around me like a torrent and threatening to drown me in excruciating pain.  A nightmare!  

After that night I could no longer comfortably close the car door, let alone use the stick shift.  I was out of commission.  To make matters worse, I knew I had a tour coming up in the not too distant future and more on the horizon.  Would this be the end of my musical career?  I was desperate to try anything, so upon some friends’ advice, I went and saw a Rolfer.  This woman turned me to taffy in only 6 sessions and reset everything.  She worked with me on the ergonomics of drumming and I set out immediately to switch my set up:  lower the drums, raise my throne (we drummers call our chairs, our thrones…an attempt to feel more regal and important?), and move everything within easy arms’ reach.  I was ecstatic!  Forever grateful!  I was ready to pledge my first born! (ok, not really,  but you get the point).  

My ebullience was marginally tempered by her sobering warning:  if I don’t do some form of strengthening, I would end up in the exact same horrible, painful place.  She then gave me the number of a woman who would change my world forever:  my Pilates guru Dempsey Dybdahl.  Dempsey had her STOTT Pilates certification, and began immediately building me some shoulders.  After a first session where I felt better than when I had walked in, I committed to coming back later that week.  I began seeing her twice a week for the next several years.  Once a week, she explained, was just maintenance, twice would help me see actual progress.  And I did.  I fell in love with the way my body started to feel!  I went on tours and did the 100 in my hotel room.  I brought flex bands with me throughout Europe and did leg circles and half rollbacks.  My life changed!  I was suddenly so much stronger, and I could drum forever without pain.  And what were those lines starting to form on either side of my belly?  Obliques?!  I began spreading the word to all who would listen:  you can live a life of less pain!  You can feel stronger than ever!  The best is yet to come!  

When I decided that being a touring musician was no longer my path in life, I decided to go to law school.  I was taking the Kaplan LSAT course and began feeling neck and back pain within a few weeks.  I was studying like crazy and learning all of these exciting new things;  but I was feeling much worse in my body.  I began picturing the future:  late night snacking, dense books to slog through, all nighters…and my spirit began to deflate.  I was walking/running around Greenlake when it hit me:  I should get certified in Pilates!  I should truly spread this discipline I love so much to all those who want to feel better!  I had a new mission.  It took a few years to get through all of the schooling and practical hours, but I did it.  I then began teaching 32 hours a week for a few years.  Eventually I had a beautiful (and whacky) little girl and decided I wanted to work in an environment that was as healing and positive as Pilates itself.  And so I’ve landed here, at Bria.  I love it here.  I love Pilates.  I love our members.  I think it’s safe to say, Pilates truly made my life a better place to be!  I still drum without pain.  I still practice Pilates.  I hope over the course of time, some of you will share your stories with me.

Thanks for reading!  


Faith Stankevich 

Pilates Teacher Insider Secret!

If you are reading this post, you may be a Pilates enthusiast, but probably more of you consider yourself students than teachers. Becoming a Pilates teacher requires a special curiosity about the human body and how it works. And if you have taken classes at Bria, I am sure you have noticed how very “nerdy” we can be about alignment and efficient movement patterns.
One of the other major differences I see between Pilates teachers and students is that teachers are often a lot more comfortable touching their own body. I know that may seem weird, but it’s true. For example, if I need to check to see if my “gluts” (think muscles of the derriere) have turned on, you bet I will touch that area to see if my internal feeling matches with the external reality. 
So here is your Pilates Teacher Insider Secret, if you need to check on your alignment* or see if your Transversus Abdomis has fired…touch it. As a massage therapist I know that touch can improve your body awareness and body awareness is truly the “special sauce” that makes Pilates distinct from weight training. 
Don’t be afraid to “nerd out”, get interested and use your time practicing Pilates to not only get strong but get familiar with your body. How many times have you been surprised by an ache or pain in your body? And why is it that we only become better acquainted with the body when it hurts?  Getting curious now can help you fine tune and become more precise with your movements. I can’t tell you how many times I have micro-moved myself out of discomfort after a long car ride or difficult night sleep. 
For me, Pilates is not only the door through which I enter feeling stronger or more aligned, but more in tune with how my body works. And while I may never truly know why my left leg performs better than my right (even after extensive research and bodywork), I know that it is the curiosity I cultivate and my ability to get comfortable with the body that will keep me moving from my center for the rest of my life. 
LOVE Suzanne
*A good motivator for keeping good alignment is that studies have not only shown that it decreases incidences of pain, but also increases your bodies ability to burn calories during that particular movement. 

What is our Core?

I imagine that like many of you, for a long time I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by “core workouts.” I thought it must be something to do with abdominal and back muscles (true), but which ones? Let this be a spoiler for those of you leveling up. Core muscles are those closest to our center and the spine, in fact the deepest stabilizers of the spine and pelvis. 
There is the Diaphragm, the prime muscle for breathing shaped like two parachutes, one under each lung, and connected to the lower edges of the ribs along with central tendons that attach to the spine. Around the middle, the deepest of our four layers of abdominals are the Transverse Abdominis–several of the Bria teachers refer to as Ceran wrap–that literally wrap from the back body around the sides to our center fronts. Natures core-set (thanks Suzanne!) that connect back-to-front and top-to-bottom. In the back body, the Multifidi are tiny muscles that span like guy ropes at the back of the spine from one vertebra to the 3rd and 5th above. These are the reason we focus on maintaining the natural lumbar curve in most activities at Bria, to help strengthen these spinal stabilizers, especially the lower back. At the base of the body, the Pelvic Floor muscles are a finger length deep and are a hammock of layered muscles that maintain the stability of the pelvis front-to-back, side-to-side, and also control the genital and excretory organs. Whoa!
But wait, there’s more…in my search for understanding, I’ve come to believe we must also include the Iliopsoas (ill-e-o-so-az). Known as a prime flexor that spans from the lumbar spine, following the interior of the hip bones, and connecting to the inside of the thigh bone. Its action as it draws back in the body, brings the thighs towards the body, or the body towards the thighs. Its fibers interconnect with all of the above muscles as well as affecting the space between each lumbar vertebra and alignment of the hip bones. Double whoa! It really deserves its own blog as it raises the discussion of how all the muscles of the core must work synergistically and harmoniously for whole body health, vitality, and efficiency.
For those of you interested in exploring this inner space further, I recommend listening to the following podcast with Liz Koch author of the Psoas book and Core Awareness and Deric Stockton, champion power lifter.
Signing off, navel in and up! Sharon


Pilates is a form of exercise that is unique in multiple ways. Physically, it’s incredibly challenging and rewarding, and has so many applications to recovery and strength that aid our daily lives. In addition, Pilates can have a huge impact on our lives emotionally, mentally, and socially.  The Bria community is a perfect example of what a well-rounded Pilates environment can do for our lives.  I find that being a part of the Bria family is almost equally as rewarding for my mental and emotional health, as it is for my physical well-being.

Whether or not I have the chance to take a class when I’m at the studio, I leave Bria feeling inspired by the hard work and passion of the people that I had the opportunity to interact with while I was there. As a Customer Service Representative, I have the wonderful opportunity to witness the inspiring people who walk through our door on a daily basis. Their dedication, growth, and hard work, inspires me and the rest of our community. I love that Bria is a place where everyone is seeking knowledge and growth, and supporting each other in those journeys.

In light of my “musings” about our Bria Community, I wanted to share an interesting article from the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. This article spotlights two individuals: one who overcame incredible hardship with the help of Pilates and the community it provided for her, and another whose eyes were opened to a new world of transformation by embracing Pilates as a transformative type of exercise.  I believe that we all can learn a little bit from both of these stories, and can be proud to be a part of such a strong and well-rounded Pilates community here at Bria:


-Mackenzie Sipiora