Lives in: Portland
Tunde Schwartz didn’t really take to Pilates at first.
But after surviving a rare cancer of the joint in her left knee, the former model and longtime fitness devotee rediscovered the body conditioning practice, which builds strength, flexibility, coordination, and boosts endurance.
In the years since, Pilates has changed her life in many ways, she says, and now she finds empowerment in bringing it to others.
How did you get involved with – and how long have you been involved with – Pilates?
I was a fitness instructor and personal trainer in New York City for more than 10 years and have been a certified Power Pilates teacher in the Classical Pilates Method here in Maine for more than seven years. I was introduced to Pilates in the mid 1990s when Pilates studios were just starting to become more the fitness buzz. I took a class at the encouragement of a student of mine. Honestly, it didn’t click with me the first time. It wasn’t until I had recovered from a rare cancer in my left knee joint and went through surgery and radiation 15 years ago that I was reintroduced to it. For 10 years I had unknowingly had a slow-growing, malignant tumor causing pain and constant shifting of alignment. My first Pilates teacher saw the imbalances straight away. Pilates would help correct this. Little did I realize at the time that Pilates was going to change my life in many more ways.
What fuels your passion?
Being a cancer survivor, passing on my knowledge to others is what fuels my passion. The process of certification and learning the tools to properly and efficiently teach Classical Pilates is and can be empowering. I feel very grateful to be able to give to each student I meet the knowledge of how to move and control their body and mind through the Pilates method. It truly gives me pleasure.
Who has inspired you?
My two young daughters inspire me – that’s simple. Any woman athlete is inspiring, but especially one that has overcome an enormous physical condition and has pushed past expectations. One professional woman athlete that inspires me is Serena Burla, a 28-year-old elite marathon runner. She had the same rare cancer I had in her right hamstring. The same doctor who told me I had to have my leg amputated or I would die within nine months also operated on Serena. He told her she would probably never run competitively again. Serena ran the New York City Marathon in 2 hours, 37 minutes in 2011 – less than one year after surgery. Defying the odds -– that’s inspiring.
What are your goals for the future?
My personal goals are to be a strong role model for my daughters. I opened The Pilates Center of Maine at the beginning of 2010. That has been a dream of mine for many years. I hope to expand my business and blend in more movement-based exercise methods alongside Pilates. I want to continue inspiring new teachers, and build a strong and educated team of instructors to keep the Joseph Pilates classical method alive.
What advice do you have for a woman looking to take up Pilates?
Anyone looking to start taking a Pilates class, or anyone looking to become a Pilates teacher, needs to seek authentic Pilates programs, either classically or contemporary-based. As a student it is crucial to be with certified instructors who have completed many hundreds of hours of practical training and observation. And the only way to be an effective and empowering teacher is to practice your practice. Ultimately, it’s better to teach, rather than just instruct.