Kathy Huang does the modified Mermaid side stretch on the Wunda Chair, a box with a pedal and resistance straps. The Mermaid opens Huang’s side body, lengthening the muscles between the ribs and pelvis. —Nelson Matawaran
Her social media account dominated by poses of her doing high-impact sports, fitness buff Kathy Yap Huang—wife of Rustan’s vice president for planning and expansion Michael Tantoco Huang—has toned her brawny body. After bulging from intense workouts like Muay Thai, boxing and cycling, Huang returned to her longtime workout: Stott Pilates.
This exercise junkie was one of the pioneering students of the 20-year-old B+B Studio, which specializes in Stott Pilates. “I’ve been doing Pilates since I was in my teens,” recalls Huang. “My mom loved Pilates so she brought my sister and me along.”
Pilates is a conditioning workout, using various machines created to build strength, and improve flexibility, posture, coordination and balance. The Stott method underscores maintaining the natural curvature of the spine and the stability of the pelvis in order to avoid unnecessary strain on the back or overusing the core muscles.
It also emphasizes the correct position of the rib cage, shoulders and neck, and coordinated breathing.
The exercises developed by the founder, German trainer Joseph Pilates, incorporates movements from gymnastics, yoga, weight resistance and modern dance. The Stott method has refined or modified some of the movements, with guidance from sports medicine and physical therapy experts.
Asked what drew her to Stott Pilates, Huang replies: “It’s so graceful but it takes so much strength to do the exercises. They look deceptively simple, but the beauty of Pilates is that you’re not supposed to see the effort. Like ballet dancers, people who do Pilates should show the correct form and move seamlessly. Yet the controlled movements require power. It helped tone my abs.”
Even after giving birth to her two children via caesarean deliveries, Huang had no problem and easily bounced back.
Fixing bad posture
Huang admits that there was a time she quit Stott Pilates to explore other fitness activities. Although cardiovascular and combat sports pumped up her adrenaline and made her stronger, she felt something was missing.
“I realized that Pilates is a fundamental workout,” she says. “It improves the posture and strengthens the core, which consists of abdominals and the muscles around the back and the pelvis. A powerful core enables one to have wider range of movement and do more challenging activities. Huang adds that she uses only her right fist to throw punches in combat sports. Favoring one side of the body tends to create muscular imbalance.
Sitting for an hour of cycling powers up her legs, but also tightens the muscles around her lower back and pelvis.
Then again, she felt the strain on her shoulders as she humped over the bicycle or frequently thrust out her left shoulder for defense in boxing.
Huang returned to B+B Studio under the tutelage of Armando Mendoza Jr., a seasoned trainer and a physical therapy graduate from De La Salle University.
“Kathy was already fit but she wasn’t satisfied with what was happening to her body. She was bulked up, and her posture had a boxer’s hump. I recommended exercises for fixing her bad posture, lengthening and loosening up the muscles and opening up the tight hips and chest,” says Mendoza.
Most of Huang’s exercises are done on the Reformer, a movable platform with adjustable springs and straps that vary the resistance. The challenge is to push and pull the legs and arms while holding up the core against the resistance of the springs.
To build flexibility, Mendoza also gives her exercises on the Cadillac, a bed with a steel frame, affixed with a trapeze, springs and bars for suspension. These attachments allow the client to perform balletic stretches.
Her exercises are the reverse of her other workouts. The movements are about expanding and elongating, unlike the compressed positions in her other sports.
“We are trying to rebalance her body,” explains Mendoza. “Pilates builds up the strength without the bulk.”
People have noticed Huang’s sleeker body. “I’ve lost a few pounds. The workouts made my muscles leaner,” she says.
In daily activities, her two children, ages eight and five, jump on her to get her attention.
“I can carry one kid with each arm,” she says.
Mendoza adds, “Pilates develops the strength needed to perform day-to-day activities.”
After a stressful day at work, Huang comes to the studio for a group Reformer class, and leaves the session feeling exhilarated. Her body has been tuned up through breathing, lengthening muscles and aligning the bones. —CONTRIBUTED
B+B Studio, 9/F, Menarco
Tower, 32nd St., Fort
Bonifacio; tel. 0917-8992639