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Joe Greco - Proving that Pilates is for Men

Joe Greco is an interesting new addition to the Pilates Unlimited team. Greco – an American – is one of the most sought after Pilates instructors due to his classical training by Romana Kryzanowska, the only living protégé of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the exercise. He has over 20 years of experience in teaching Romana's Pilates and has recently joined Pilates Unlimited owner Carole Fraser and her team for an initial two year stint. He came for a visit to New Zealand last year, loved the place and the people, so decided he wanted to come back to live. Channel Magazine's Aidan Bennett – one of the regular Pilates Unlimited clients being trained by Joe – put him under the Channel Grill in mid-April.

AIDAN BENNETT: How did the New Zealand and Pilates Unlimited Takapuna link come about?
I met Carole (Pilates Unlimited owner) in Las Vegas at a Romana's Pilates Conference in 2007. She told me all about New Zealand and it sounded interesting. We have kept in touch and she invited me out to New Zealand on holiday to have a look to see if I would like to move to New Zealand. I also had the chance to present a 'Pilates for Men' workshop for Carole's clients and instructors.

AB: What do you love about what you do – Pilates?
Pilates makes sense to me. Without the hype that the Pilates Method has had over the years. It is one thing. Corrective exercise. The Pilates Method changes the body. That's all. Two to three times a week is all you need to improve the quality of your life!

AB: How did you get into Pilates?
My journey into Pilates started in 1988 while studying for the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) certification. As part of this process, I began an apprentice program with Kineosiotherapist Dr. Robert Gajda in Chicago. Dr Robert spoke of Joseph Pilates, how he had discovered Pilates in the 60's, and how he had adapted his athletic training to incorporate the Pilates Method. Once I discovered the Pilates Method I never turned back. After years of studying and practicing conventional strength training, I became the first, non-performing athletic male to step into a Pilate's studio.

AB: So you are here for two years? Or longer?
I have a work visa for two years, but can see myself growing "young" here in NZ.

AB: What is the strangest thing about New Zealand or Kiwi people?
Nothing strange other than some of the different slang and termonology – but it's so different to have petrol on an honour system at the pump. In the States there is just not that kind of trust.

AB: You had your own Pilates Studio in the States?
Yes, my business was called Pilates Studio San Diego (formerly Pilates Joe) in Solana Beach, North County San Diego. I had been living in North County for 15 years after moving out from Chicago.

AB: Anything you miss about the States?
My clients and friends Norv and Nancy Turner. He is the coach of the San Diego Chargers and his wife Nancy. (Who by the way makes it all happen). Great folks. Norv would come in at 5.30am, three to four times a week for a 90 minute session. Then go to Charger Park and coach the team. It was great fun working with them.

AB: Your past times include Surfing , Skiing and Music I understand?
Yes, I am looking forward to checking out the surf and the ski slopes. To date I have enjoyed the Auckland Jazz Scene. Great players and a real feel of San Francisco.

AB: You also did quite a bit of your early Pilates in Chicago. Is that also your home town?
Yes it is. In 1990 I was lucky to be able to learn from Juanita Lopez. Juanita’s tiny studio was located upstairs at the Ruth Page Foundation (a ballet school in Chicago). Suddenly, I went from working in a strength and rehabilitation environment to working with extremely flexible, but very weak dancers. After a year of private instruction with Juanita, I was prepped and ready for my first trip to New York to meet Romana Kryzanowska.

AB: He's obviously a bit of a Pilates legend?
Romana is one of the few remaining instructors who studied directly under Joseph and Clara Pilates. Walking into 'Drago's Gym' in the heart of New York City was an inspiration to me. One half of the building was Romana's studio, and the other half was Drago's gymnastic gym. As I worked on the reformer one day I glanced over to see an 80-year-old client somersaulting on rings. What an amazing experience, back when there were only a few trained instructors teaching and the unmistakable sense of community could be felt each time you walked into the gym. So when I set my studio up in Solana Beach I was keen that the sense of neighbourhood I had experienced at Drago's was recreated. Pilates Unlimited has a great atmopshere and the clients and the other instructors are all very cool and its great to be teaching here in Takapuna Beach.

AB: Do you like New York? Ever lived there for any length of time?
I did a ton of training in New York with Romana. I lived there off and on during my five years visiting Drago's gym. 50 W. 57th was home away from home during that period in my life.

AB: How good is the North Shore and Takapuna Beach?
The best. Takapuna is a little bit of heaven in paradise. The quality of the air, beautiful beaches. This city is so beautiful. I feel privileged to be able to share my Pilates experience in Takapuna. Thank you so much for having me.

AB: What advice would you give for men considering getting in to Pilates?
Remember Pilates was originally called 'Contrology'. It was a work out designed by a man for men only. Boxers, Gymnast and Circus performers were the norm in the beginning years. So stick with instructors trained the Authentic Pilates Method of Body Conditioning. There is a difference. They said Pilates was a 'Genius' of the body. He was 50 years ahead of his time. So true, considering he passed away in 1968 at 88. We are still going strong.

by Channel Editorial