What if we could maintain our ability to move freely, easily and with strength and balance THROUGHOUT our lives? What if we could reverse the physical and emotional impacts of trauma that lead to freedom of movement being impaired? What if moving your body was a critical key to authentic and deep happiness? And what if you could learn simple, chosen-for-you exercises that took 30 minutes a day, to reclaim the movement you once enjoyed, get rid of pain and limitation or bring your fitness to a new level?
Kimberly Avelyn Era’s MOVEMENT WORKS, formerly Ashland Pilates Center, provides functional fitness instruction and support to anyone, of any age. Over the past 7 years in Ashland, Kim and her staff have changed countless lives by helping people to re-establish and maintain active and pain-free lives. Her clients include professional athletes, serious amateur athletes, casual exercisers, post-rehab clients and young athletes needing guidance. Kim’s work is highly personalized to deliver just what is needed to support whatever you want to accomplish. Functional fitness training focuses on supporting you to become YOUR physical best and establishing routines to support overall fitness throughout life. As a result of that focus, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being elevates as well. At Movement Works, we work within your real limitations and assess where to go and what to do for improvement. No matter your current fitness level, we believe each person can improve and enjoy the process at the same time.
Kim, thanks for speaking with us today. All your life you have been committed to movement in some form or another. Tell us about this.
Yes, I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I was a competitive swimmer as a young kid and competitive at the state level in track and field through my high school years. In my twenties, I became a touring team member for a professional footbag (hacky-sack) manufacturer and performed all over the world. Footbag also has a competitive arena, and in the mid-80’s my partner and I placed second in the world in two events. I’ve been an enthusiast of rock climbing, mountain biking, Ultimate Frisbee, horse and dog training, dancing, kayaking and rafting, fly-fishing, hiking… and lots of other activities as well! I’ve had a blessed life of movement. In the 1980’s I learned Pilates from one of the leading instructors of the time, a man named Stephan Friese. I had always been fit but what I learned sent me to a totally new level of fitness. I’ve now been practicing Pilates for over 32 years.
As you can imagine, all this activity led to some injury a time or two. I’ve broken a number of bones including spinal vertebra, had many sprains and sustained deep soft tissue damage on numerous occasions. I have spinal stenosis, cervical disc degeneration, and currently an injured shoulder complex. I tell my clients that without doing this work myself, ON myself, I would be in a wheelchair!
Helping clients to achieve their own dreams of healing is what you do best. What are some of the dreams you get to hear?
You know, movement is magical in its ability to transform our state of being in an instant. I have had more than one client come with the image in their mind of being able to hop across rocks in a stream again. I’m touched every time I hear this. What it really says to me is that moving freely and joyfully is a heartfelt common desire. Most people are not looking for a seriously high level of athletic fitness. They want freedom from pain and a return to a general “lightness of being” they remember from somewhere in their past. I’m passionate about and committed to helping them find it.
I have clients that want to be able to walk up and down stairs without fear they will fall. I have a young client recovering from a car accident that wants to be free of pain and free from the WORRY of future pain, and move on with her life. I’ve had victims of sexual and physical abuse that want to recover vulnerability in movement because the trauma changed how they acted and moved and now they have ongoing physical pain. I am reminded and moved on a daily basis by how fundamental and vital moving our bodies is to everything else in our lives. Our minds can help our bodies’ recovery AND moving our bodies can help our minds recover.
Many people want to solve movement patterns with fitness, but this is not exactly the best starting place. Please explain.
I liken it to building a structure on an unstable or faulty foundation. If you have movement patterns that cause you pain or limitation and they are not addressed, going to the gym can certainly build strength but it would be on a faulty foundation. My job is to find and “unwind” the faulty movement patterns and create a strong stable foundation so that real strength, coordination and balance naturally occur as you exercise. This results in radical strength, coordination and balance gains, and simultaneously, pain often disappears with this approach.
Many people come to me after physical therapy for an injury or a surgery. Once a person has moved through the funds allowed by insurance to have physical therapy, their choice is usually to go back to the “gym” and start working out. Often they are not ready and they do not have a full understanding of what’s needed to get them ready for full-on exercise. They often have never had a good understanding about how to lift weights or do impact exercise in a way that it won’t create problems. I have the highest regard for the physical therapists in our area and they do all they can within their constraints. What I do is follow their work and take it to the next level of detail… then the client is really ready to take our classes, go back to the gym of their choice or use their home program. It pays off in spades for my clients to not miss this step.
Going to the Y or hiring a personal trainer can be options for gaining more motion but you can offer more. Please tell us about this.
I don’t want to downplay any of the other fitness professionals in the valley. There are great people working in many areas. I will say that I think our offerings are unique in this valley. We offer step-by-step, highly individualized movement evaluation, re-training and exercise, all in a single session or more. We offer support for continuing physical therapy protocols. We work hand in hand with physical therapists, manual therapists, and doctors to support their clients in ways they are limited to offer or that work in concert with what they are doing. We also offer in-home evaluation and the design of home programs.
For example, I had a client that was cleared to exercise at the gym after physical therapy was over. In a few weeks he was in significant pain and had acquired a new limp along with new neck pain. We found out that the leg that did not have the knee replacement had compensated and created another imbalance which led to a limp and imbalances “up the chain” into the neck. He was exercising hard while all this was happening. We corrected the imbalances with precise exercises and the system returned to balance.
I have another long-time client who had been a teacher for many years and before that was a warehouse hand at a family business. He had one arm above his head for many decades in both jobs. He came to me in his 70’s with a forward head posture, leaning to one side, and one shoulder both frozen in place and about three inches higher than the other from raising that arm up for so many years. He was very seriously misaligned from the chest to the top of his head and could barely move his neck. If he had gone to the gym without unwinding these imbalances, I imagine he would have created quite a lot of pain for himself. Instead he came to regular Pilates-based sessions, worked on his specific issues, and today stands upright with level shoulders and a straight back. He has trimmed his waistline and looks about 10 years younger than when I met him. I’ve included his testimonial at the end of this article.
It’s still amazes me sometimes how far a person can go with this work. I credit a foundation in authentic Pilates and 30 years of personal practice plus years of education with great teachers as fundamental to my work now.
Please tell us a bit about your education and training.
My history as an athlete working with professional trainers was really the beginning. I had always had an aptitude and a passion for physical fitness and I absorbed the training I was given. I have two comprehensive certifications in the field of Pilates from two separate schools and am currently a faculty member and teacher trainer for Balanced Body Education, the foremost educator and manufacturer of Pilates apparatus in the world. I conduct teacher trainings from my studio a few times each year.
I have studied with Thomas Meyers, considered one of the leading minds in Myofascial understanding and training today. I completed a week-long cadaver course with him in Phoenix last year. On my website there is a list of the other teachers I have worked with over the years. Premier teachers in specific areas like scoliosis, gait, Myofascial, cardiovascular fitness, functional fitness, breathwork and many others. Most of the names will be familiar only to those in my field but I would say that I’ve had the unique opportunity to travel and learn from a number of the accomplished teachers.
I would also say that my life experience brought me to this work. Both the formal education and informal studies of nutrition, massage, personal self-improvement, etc., it’s all come together in the work I do now. I’m a lucky person.
Kim, please define “functional fitness” for us.
Functional fitness is fitness that supports and allows all the activities of your life. It’s a level of fitness where you are free of pain, strong and flexible and have adequate balance and coordination to perform any activities of your choice. It is not tailored around any given cultural image of fitness, instead a level of fitness that is associated with cardiovascular health, muscle strength, mental alertness, physical mobility and agility appropriate for every age of life.
Often times your clients are facing barriers that might prevent them from working with you. Can you please talk about a few?
I think there are a number of common reasons that people don’t come into the studio. For some people the whole idea of exercising in a studio setting doesn’t sound fun, for others, it’s more a belief that they are just not athletic. Others have lost hope in being physical, even though they were once very much so. Finally, I don’t think people know that what I do is available or, if they do, that it is as effective as it is.
The belief that some people are not physical or athletic is an interesting one for me, and sad, really. This to me is akin to saying that others need to breathe but they don’t really require air. I want to offer the idea that movement is as important as breathing, for EVERYONE. It’s about well-being and it’s universal.
Hopelessness about lost fitness is very common. As we age, the physical losses from injury or a sedentary lifestyle can come about very quickly, surprising people. They just don’t expect the loss of balance, strength and mobility when it comes. It’s a mission of mine to let people know that this is how it goes for many of us… aging related physical changes happen faster than you think! However, they can be reversed or slowed down in most cases
I have a lovely client who discovered that getting in and out of her motor home was challenging. She was in her mid-50’s and was someone who was very fit at different points in her life. It was very sad and disheartening for her. She came in depressed and somewhat resigned. In a few weeks we sorted her areas of weakness and poor movement patterns, strengthened the right places, gave her a simple and focused exercise regime for the road and she was off traveling! She had no more problem getting in and out of the RV, as well as a new ease in her daily living. As you can well guess, her spirits improved in a big way. This is no small success for her and I was grateful to be a part of it.
Finally, I think that it is not understood that you can get more precise results much faster with the work that we do here. I think people view it as equal to going to a gym, hour for hour, until they experience it. Results are more significant and much faster.
What are some of the roles you play for working with your clients?
I believe that first and foremost, I am a listener and an observer. I focus my full attention on both the physical and the energetic levels to see what I can see. I also provide guidance and instruction so the client can learn and understand what I see and why I think it’s important. I am a coach and a therapeutic support partner and a confidante of sorts. I take all of the potential roles very seriously and try to find just the right mix for each client.
A person’s ability to move also directly relates to their cognitive abilities. Please say more.
The research is in and it’s available online in many places now. Voices from all over are saying that if you stop moving, your cognitive function declines almost immediately. The degrees vary and are related to a person’s emotional and mental health as well. On the flip side, it doesn’t take that much movement to signal cognitive function to maintain or elevate. It’s less than one might think and it’s easily attainable for almost everyone. I suggest to clients that they look up the data online, and I provide websites that are easy to read and make the points well.
Kim, the relationship you and your staff have been able to form with your clients has been transformational. Can you share a favorite testimonial with us?
I love what I do and I feel grateful and blessed to be able to witness miracles on an almost daily basis. I have so many stories to share but I think I’ll share a testimonial instead. I have a client who came in last year whose story is very inspiring.
“I first met Kim Era in the spring of 2014 in my 71st year after having endured three operations to my right hip. I had undergone a hip replacement, hip revision, and a third operation in the same hip due to a complication, all in the previous 18 months. After my surgeries, I worked at aqua therapy and physical therapy hoping to get strength and flexibility back.
When I started Pilates with Kim early in 2014, I was in pain, had weak muscles, little flexibility, and I used a lift in my left shoe because my right leg was 5/8th inches longer than my left. The physical therapy was useful, but never got me back to where I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to move with ease, and get back into playing tennis.
After six months work with Kim at Ashland Pilates, I no longer needed a lift in my shoe, as my legs had become equal in length; my body balanced. I was able to begin to play doubles tennis again, and I am amazed that I can now play with the same strength, speed and movement as I did before my three hip operations. The change in my body feels miraculous.
Kim is a very high level, professional Pilates instructor, has an unparalleled knowledge of the body, and is able to tailor her classes to one’s individual condition and needs. For me she has been head and shoulders above all of the physical therapists and other Pilates teachers I have known. She not only has a scientific understanding of the body, but also possesses an acute intuition about what a person needs. In short, she excels at rehabilitation, and zeroes in with great care on how to strengthen your body. She is the one person who saved me from immobility, and has created my present condition of strength and balance. I now have been a student of hers for a little over a year, and I intend to continue my Pilates practice with Movement Works for many years to come.” R.D.
The services you provide are available to all ages and conditions of people.
Yes, again, movement is for everyone. That’s why I renamed the business Movement Works… a double entendre. It really does work, for everyone, at every age, at any level of fitness. We can help you get better, no matter where you start, period. Our classes have sometimes had an age range from 20’s to 80’s. They are small group with individualized attention to each person. And, we offer the private session packages, home program design and in-home sessions as well.
Kim, what are you doing when you are working with athletes?
I’ve worked with professional athletes that have suffered injury as well as those that just want to have a more well-rounded and deeper strength. Oftentimes these athletes are very strong in certain movement patterns or certain muscle groups but are weak in others. Or, their strengths are not connected in the body. They have “weak links” in certain areas. For example, they may have very strong arms and shoulders but weak lower legs due to imbalances in the knees or hips. This presents them with challenges in life and in training, limiting superior overall strength and conditioning. When we find the weak links these athletes find strength gains they didn’t even know were possible. It’s exciting.
What is your process for first starting to work with a new client?
Most clients come in for an evaluation to see if private sessions are appropriate or if they can move right into classes. Some people come right into classes. Both the private and the class settings have the same focus. Get the body back into alignment and strengthen from there. We have online signups for classes on the website.
If we proceed with an evaluation, I do a full body structural assessment and offer what I see to the client. We talk about their current issues and their dreams, and we make a plan from there. For some people who want to exercise outside at home, we arrange a few sessions and then they go practice for a month or so. Then they come back in to re-design and go to the next level. Some people go with ongoing private sessions or do a combination of privates and classes, or classes only. I’ve designed many routines for people who travel for a living so they can maintain fitness on the go. I love working with people in all the different ways.
Please explain what you mean by retraining people how to move.
We develop ways of walking, sitting, standing, and sleeping that contribute to our overall fitness… often to our detriment. We look at what’s happening in your body and then look at the life patterns to see where things might need to change. Then we assist you to make the changes. Often, they’re not hard adaptations for you to make. For example, the woman who wanted to get in and out of the RV without fear of falling was given an exercise called “chair-sits.” Every day she was to do 50 repetitions of sitting down and getting up out of a fairly low chair, with her legs properly aligned to strengthen the right muscles for climbing stairs and for balance. This one exercise alone gave her the needed strength to go about her daily life with confidence. It also INFORMED her as to what to look for when she sits and walks and climbs. She is educated now in a way she wasn’t. That’s useful to her! She has a small routine with specific postures to do each day and she does them. She had no idea that relatively small movement changes could make such a big difference in her life.
Would you like to share any last thoughts or comments with our readers?
Yes, I would say to the readers that it’s never too late to feel better. It’s easier than you think, and all you need to do is set a small amount of time aside by coming in and “show up” for yourself by doing the precise work. You’ll be amazed at what’s possible.
Do you have any other testimonials you would like to share?
Thank you, yes, I do! Here’s two…
“Kim is a true healing presence and master instructor of Pilates. I’m 64 with a history of scoliosis and many back and neck alignment issues. With keen insight and intelligence, Kim ably assessed my patterns of muscle weakness and corresponding over-compensation, and devised an exercise program that helped my body realign itself. She offers the right combination of challenge and support and works at a pace and with a variety of equipment that always makes class interesting and fun. I learned a lot about my body and developed strength as well as flexibility because of Kim’s Pilates program, and I really valued and enjoyed the time I spent in her studio.” M.R.
“I have been doing Pilates at the Ashland Pilates Center for over three years and have taken private lessons and have attended class with Kim during that period. Kim has extraordinary skill and knowledge of both Pilates, and the human body and its capabilities. As a retired former university professor and administrator, I can certainly recognize an outstanding teacher when I see and work with one.
I came to her Pilates Center at the age of 72 with a stiff body, and a whole host of muscular-skeleton issues. Kim charted a personal plan for me, worked with me through the plan, made adjustments as needed, and then prepared me for various classes, both with her and one of her junior teachers. My posture and balance has improved dramatically, my muscle tone has been mostly restored and, as an added bonus, my cholesterol level has dropped significantly. All because of Kim’s special attention as well as bringing her knowledge and experience to my special needs.”
University of California
Kimberly Avelyn Era’s MOVEMENT WORKS
1908 Ashland Street, Suite B