Building a Powerhouse: Prolonging your body’s existence with Pilates
by Allison Kristen Sampité
Jon Belanger teaches Pilates in the Park at 9 a.m. every Sunday in Balboa Park, near the intersection of Upas and Louisiana streets. The studio is located at 3175 Maple St., San Diego 92104. For more information on his business, Jonny Pilates, please visit www.jonnypilates.com or call (619) 675-5916.
Six years ago, Jon Belanger ended a 20-year career serving in the United States military. Today, instead of working in defense acquisition with his buddies, you will find the 49-year-old retired Naval Flight Officer every Sunday morning at Morley Field in Balboa Park. And it’s not because he’s practicing disc golf. The combat veteran is teaching Pilates.
Belanger began his love affair with Pilates after a weekend-long workshop with a friend in Newport Beach, where his initial skepticism was transformed into a way of life. “I think people that have known me would say that I’ve found the perfect combination for myself in teaching and fitness,” he said.
German-born boxer and martial arts instructor Joseph Pilates created the technique during World War I to help rehabilitate returning veterans. Belanger closely identified with him because Pilates also studied yoga. He believed in the importance of building a strong core — or “powerhouse” — which includes the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks.
Belanger holds wellness workshops and gives private Pilates sessions through his company, JonnyPilates, LLC. As a certified Pilates instructor, he works to counter the effects of the workplace, such as lower back pain, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, by building leaner muscles and improving posture, balance and flexibility.
“You don’t find many Jons around San Diego,” said 33-year-old client Rita Love, who was initially doubtful that Pilates would make a difference in her body.
“I have always had strong legs from soccer, but I finally was able to see some improvement with my core strength,” she said.
Belanger’s clients range from teens to senior citizens, and come to him with a variety of needs. The requests include rehabilitation for former athletes, intense training for FBI agents, overall health and wellness for pre- and post-natal women and some simple needs. Belanger has two 90-year-old male clients and focuses primarily on helping improve their balance, posture and maintain their bone density.
“Jon is a very easy-going guy, but at the same time he works you hard,” said 29-year-old Scripps Ranch resident Lisa Whitman.
Whitman met Belanger about four years ago, while working out with friend Rita. “She [Rita] was getting married and I was planning to run a marathon so we needed to take our workouts to the next level.” “Pilates has reshaped my body. My muscles are longer and leaner and the fat is distributed so it’s not all lumped in one area.”
Geoff McCloud is a 63-year-old physical education teacher at an elementary school in Point Loma, and is new to Belanger’s class.
“As an educator, I am continually looking for activities that I believe will improve the overall fitness of my students,” he said. “Jon is an excellent teacher because he truly cares about his students and their well-being. And he empowers us with choice, offering a range of intensity and difficulty with the moves we are engaged in.”
Belanger hopes to eventually encourage the military to incorporate Pilates into active duty personnel routines. “It enhances performance and prevents injury in regard to strains and sprains. Many pro athletes use the Pilates method and find that it enhances their performance, he said.
“There’s a misconception that Pilates is for women and dancers,” Belanger said. “I’m going to be the guy that says OK, Pilates isn’t just for girls…it’s the way to go for anybody.” Belanger would like to dispel the myth that Pilates is easy.
Tommy Love, a 40-year-old ex-Navy submarine veteran, said Pilates would benefit active duty personnel because they would see better all around results when compared with current exercise programs.
“In the short weeks I have taken Jon’s class, both my flexibility and balance have improved noticeably.” Love added that because Pilates only requires a mat, military personnel who are restricted because of space could easily store it, staying in shape while they are underway.
For the Loves, it’s also about spending more quality time with each other. “Participating in this together gives us a way to support each other in our exercise goals, and encourage each other along the way,” he said.
For more information on Jonny Belanger, visit his Web site at: www.jonnypilates.com.
Jon Belanger is a competitive long-distance runner and tri-athlete, scuba diver, and surfer. During his 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, he trained with the Navy SEALS and U.S. Marine Corps. He also directed fitness programs at the U.S. Naval Academy and ROTC Units. He is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer and Re-Action Cycling Instructor, a Master instructor of BOSU Integrated Balance Training, a Certified, and a functional and cross-training expert.
Pilates in the park classes are taught at 2221 Morley Field Drive on the corner of Upas and Louisiana streets, each Sunday from 9-10 a.m. Anyone is welcome, age 18 and older. Water and snacks are provided. A towel or mat should be brought and comfortable fitness attire worn. Payment can be made with cash or check and is $10 per person or $8 if 8 classes are purchased in advance. Please note it is FREE for any active or retired San Diego firefighter or police officer. Child care is also available for $5 per child. Please call (619) 675-5916 prior to session for arrangements.