Lara Hudson: Pilates Diva

Lara Hudson, star of Prevention's new workout DVD "Prevention Fitness System; Slim, Strong and Firm" (Rodale; $14.98; 48 min; 2007) has always been fit. "When I was a young kid, my parents saw me doing somersaults and headstands on the living room floor and decided to immediately enroll me in gymnastics." For 8 years, she ate, breathed and slept gymnastics. But her lanky legs and tall body was more of a hindrance to the stocky body needed for the sport and she switched into dance instead. "For me though, gymnastics set the stage for really loving fitness and exercise and being a disciplinarian and being the best person I can be," she says. 

     With the very successful releases of her "Ten Minute Solution: Pilates"(#1 seller in 2004) and the award-winning "Ten Minute Solutions: Rapid Results Pilates" DVD series from Anchor Bay, Hudson's popularity in the Pilates instructional DVD market has soared. "Rapid Results Pilates" is more challenging because it's more aerobic, links more complex movements and is more mentally challenging.

     Pilates is her first love, but, she didn't discover Pilates until she was in college taking an aerobatics dance class. "Despite my long, big legs, I couldn't run fast; I couldn't jump high enough; I couldn't get any power from my body. It wasn't until I tried Pilates that I realized that there were so many muscles in the body. Pilates allowed me to discover them and empower my body. That's what I teach," she says.

     Hudson's Prevention DVD comes with a resistance band which comes close to mimicking the way the Reformer springs act. The Reformer is a specific piece of Pilates equipment that has a sophisticated system of springs, straps and pulleys that enable users to do more than 100 exercises. "The longer the body band gets, the more resistance you get.  The first 15 minutes, "The Pilates Core Workout" is a true Pilates work out focusing on abs, hips and shoulders. If you have a strong center, you'll be good at everything. The next 15 minutes, "Ballet Core Workout" is a more dance-inspired workout. You'll be more aware of your center of gravity and balance because you'll be more connected to your center. The band is compact and you can travel with it, which makes is great!" The DVD also comes with bonus segments "Break it Down Pilates Core," Break it Down Ballet Core" and "6 Tips for Standing Taller."

     When she's not busy making fitness videos, Hudson is teaching classes at the studio she co-owns with her husband in San Francisco - Mercury Fitness Pilates Center, a 1,2000 sq. ft. facility that offers mat, one-on-one training and equipment-based Pilates classes. Hudson's facility is one of a kind in San Francisco - she also offers affordable group classes. Hudson has help from her husband, an ex-chef who prepares healthy, low carb, high protein meals every day. He's been a "Pilates convert" for the past 11 years and is very health-conscious.

     "I don't think I'd be as fit as him if it weren't for him. He keeps me honest," she laughs. Hudson recently expanded her business and the couple has been working hard to make it successful. While she has no children presently, Hudson says, "Our business was our baby, but now that we've got it up and running, we've been talking about it."

Hudson and her husband also work out and take Pilates classes together. "It's really nice to have a teammate, a partner in crime," she says. "He's really helped me be more confident in my skills and has always been the man-behind-the-woman. We probably spend too much time together, but at least we get along."

     "We try to pepper our teaching with a little 'me' time. It's so important to actually stop teaching and be a student to just learn. We feel we have a lot to learn from other instructors." At least two times a year, she shoots a fitness DVD in LA, but before she does, she tests the choreography out on her staff. "It's really like a family affair. It's why I opened the studio - I wanted to have more inspiration from my peers.

     One word of advice for those who've fallen off the exercise wagon and who are discouraged by the thought of even beginning: "Trainers are here to you. It's so human to into fall into that mode of self-criticism that says, 'I'm not doing this exercise right, I'm so weak, I'm so de-conditioned, it's too hard' - we're here to build you up and remind you that you can really do it. When you're exercising, just be with the experience, feel what you're feeling and go through what you're going through without that self-judging eye on you. That's only going to cause you to stop. We're not judging you. We really believe in you and we're really happy that you started. Be comfortable with where you are and know that every step you take is in the step in the right direction and try not to be so self-critical cause it pulls you out of your exercise.

     For more info about Lara Hudson, visit: www.mercuryfitnesspilatescenter.com. Front cover photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment; Inside photo courtesy of Prevention/Rodale Press.