“Mad Abs, Yo!” How Pilates Complements CrossFit, and Getting to Know Kristin H.
By Kate Reece
Kristin H. (a.k.a. Cage) hopped on the CFSBK train in the middle of 2010 and in her words, she now “cannot imagine her daily life without it.” We can’t imagine CFSBK without our favorite theatre major either, especially now that she teaches a Pilates class every Tuesday night in the upstairs annex at 7:30pm. Kristin is a classically trained Pilates instructor and has been teaching for more than eight years, after beginning her practice in 1999. She received her certification in April of 2006 from Core Pilates NYC, where she still works as a senior trainer. She is also a longtime member of the small team at Rinaldi Pilates, a top-notch boutique studio in Manhattan.
Through her class at CFSBK, she’s enabled many of us to become far more intimate with our pelvic floors and abdominal muscles. The Hundred, Open Leg Rocker, and Single Leg Circles are only a few examples of the pain she’s thrown our way—pain that has sculpted us into better, more svelte ninjas. But when it’s all said and done and our washboard abs help us stay tight as we descend deep into our squats or pick up heavy things, some of us might step back and muse: who is this Goddess of the Core? And maybe: I can do some of these Pill-at-eez exercises, but… what the heck is Pilates? And if I already do CrossFit, why should I care?
Wonder no more. We’re coming to your rescue once again via a splendid interview with the Goddess herself, in which you’ll learn about her mute phase at CFSBK, where the phrase “Mad abs, yo!” came from, and how taking her class might help you kick some more CrossFit ass. For all of this and more, you’re welcome.
CFSBK: Hi KH! Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, what’s your favorite color, how’d you find CrossFit and CFSBK, etc. etc.?
KH: Well, I am a lifelong New Yorker (holla!): I was born and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island, I went to college upstate at Syracuse University, and right after college I moved to NYC. I spent a year on the Upper East Side before moving to south Brooklyn, where I’ve now been for almost a decade. My favorite colors are deep purple (I spent a few years with a purple streak in my hair) and Syracuse Orange (yes, that’s an official color). And finally, I had heard some intriguing mythical tales of Crossfit from a few friends who had tried it, but what really happened is that I used to walk by the gym on my way to Brooklyn Boulders with an ex-boyfriend, who was a pretty avid climber. I always saw these big scary people flipping tires and stuff, and my workout routine was pretty stale at that point and I was looking for something new, so I decided to give it a try. That was in June 2010, and I never looked back!
CFSBK: We’re so glad you didn’t! I heard a cool story once (okay, you told me) about how you spent your whole first year at CFSBK talking to no one. That’s hard to imagine now. What helped you make the leap into opening your mouth and sharing your hilarious-ness with our community?
KH: Yeah, even though I am pretty social I am not always comfortable in new situations, especially when I don’t know what I am doing or if I feel intimidated. For my first year at CFSBK, I was on a punch card membership, and I wasn’t coming super consistently. When we used to do the “name game” at the start of class, no one ever knew my name because I was pretty quiet (imagine that). I think I started becoming friendly with people when I decided to up my Crossfit game and switch to a 5x week membership. At that time I was going through some personal changes, and changes with my work schedule, and I started regularly coming to the 7am class. That’s when I first started making friends, talking to people, saying things like “See you in class tomorrow!” And from there it just snowballed. The Paleo challenge happened*, I went to some rest day dinners, joined the softball team, started doing Sunday night trivia…the more I got involved with the community the more I felt like, “Yes. These are my people.”
*Editor’s note: The Paleo challenge didn’t just “happen”; she won it in 2012.
CFSBK: How did you start practicing Pilates? What even is Pilates? (Besides one of those words that if you say it over and over, it starts to look absurd.)
KH: I started practicing mat Pilates with a dance professor of mine back in 1999, and always really enjoyed it. I then got into Pilates as a career when I was trying to find a way out of the restaurant business. At the time (2005), I was bartending to pay the bills while pursuing a career in the theatre. Pilates, in a few sentences, is a system of exercises focused on strengthening the “core,” which generally refers to the abdominal, back, and hip muscles. It can be done with just a mat or on machines, and it was invented and developed by Joseph Pilates, who was born in 1883 in Germany, immigrated to NYC in the 1920s, and died in 1967. He opened his first studio in midtown Manhattan, and invented and built all of the Pilates equipment, which basically look like S&M torture machines and have names like “The Reformer” and “The Chair.” Joe’s teachings have been passed on through the generations by some of his original students, which I think is so freaking rad and old school and legit. He was pretty much the bomb diggity. Google him.
CFSBK: We’re on it. So how does practicing Pilates complement training at CFSBK? Besides looking hot in a bikini, why do I need a strong core?
KH: Well obviously, Kate, one’s first priority should always be looking hot in a bikini/speedo. But I think Pilates is such an awesome complement to training at CFSBK because it not only feels great, but it can be directly applied to your lifting technique. One of the things that the Pilates method does really, really well, in addition to strengthening your core, is teach you HOW to brace your core against the movement of your limbs, which is not always as simple as it seems. This helps to keep you safe from injury and also helps you become stronger, because you’ll learn how to move from your hips and shoulders and not let the work go into your back, for example. You will be focusing on engaging muscles that you might be more unfamiliar with. The goal is to learn how to move your limbs from a strong, stable, and supple core.
CFSBK: What can I expect if I come to one of your classes? Will I get a six-pack that night?
KH: Well, historically I’ve had some students who have been disappointed that they didn’t leave class with an immediate six-pack. I don’t want to call anyone out on this, but his name starts with an “L” and rhymes with “Bookah.” However, if you come to class you can expect to spend a lot of time lying down (awesome!), and mostly focusing on stabilizing the pelvis and ribcage against the movement of the limbs. It’s a LOT of abdominal work. Also, especially in my class here at CFSBK, I try to get people to “soften” their movements, and get in touch with deeper muscles that they may find harder to connect to. As CrossFitters, we spend so much time muscling through stuff with dynamic athleticism, that I think it’s helpful to encourage your muscles to work in a different way—maybe with more ease, and a different approach to precision. You can expect to feel taller, stretched out, and you’ll hopefully walk out of class with a newfound connection to your center. Sooooo Zen.
CFSBK: Tell us about this “Mad abs, yo,” business. Where did that phrase come from?
KH: That was all Chris Fox’s doing. He just said it to me once and I freaking loved it. It became a thing. He also refers to me as “K-Dawg,” which I am so down with. I sometimes call him “Funk Master Fox,” and so should everyone. He also thinks I’m trouble but that’s totally not true.
CFSBK: Right. No trouble at all. So if I’m already sold on Tuesday nights at 7:30pm, how can I get more of you? Where else do you teach?
KH: I am always available for one-on-one sessions or small group sessions, either here at the gym or at one of my studios in the city. If you visit my website (www.khpilates.com), there are links to the two studios that I work at, and you can visit their websites to see when I am teaching group classes. I mostly teach private sessions, but I do have a lunchtime mat class from 1-1:45 at Core Pilates NYC in Union Square on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It’s more of an intermediate-level class, so if you have some Pilates experience and time for a lunch break you should come on down! Mad abs, yo!
CFSBK: Okay, last question: where did the nickname Cage come from?
KH: At the last Tough Titsday meet, when I went up to lift, everyone was calling out “C’mon, KH!” Lauren Howe, who was one of our spotters, turned to someone and said, “Why is everyone calling her Cage?” When I heard that story, I immediately pictured myself squatting 350# while wearing a Hannibal Lector mask, screaming, and making super angry eyes. Decided to make it stick. David is responsible for my original nickname of KH, got K-Dawg from Fox, Cage from Lauren Howe, Wonder Twin from Stella, K-Hizzle from Laura… and that’s not including all of the nicknames I’ve been given earlier in life (Juice, Hessyballs, K-Spano…). Sooo… yeah. I have a thing for nicknames. But I’ll make you a deal: come to my class and you can call me whatever you want (I may instantly regret that)!
- Happy birthday, Nigel S.!
- CFSBK’s softball team, the Calaveras, have another game tonight at the Red Hook softball field. The game starts at 6:15! Head over there to enjoy the sunset and cheer them on!
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