Another week, another instructor feature! This week we caught up with Kara Duval, one of the realest people in the fitness studio game. Kara is a mainstay in the Boston fitness scene. She teaches at Equinox, North End Yoga, and C2 Body. Needless to say, but Kara is quite busy!
Between our hectic schedule and hers, it can be tough to get together! Luckily, we have a table at the Capital One cafe in South Boston that we try to rendezvous at once every few weeks! We always love our conversations, and Kara's experience and insights about the fitness studio industry are second to none. She isn't someone who just plays the game, she genuinely cares about each and everyone of her classes and clients, and oozes passion for the workouts that she teaches.
When we recently caught up with Kara, we wanted to ask her a bit about what inspires her and some things that she's seen throughout her years in the industry. Her insights on building trust and creating authentic communities are also definitely worth a read!
Let's start from the top and get into the types of workouts that you've become so entrenched in. There are so many different opportunities in the fitness space, how did you end up focusing on Pilates and Yoga?
As a young dancer at the Boston Ballet School, I was first introduced to Pilates as part of our crosstraining/curriculum.
I was instantly interested because my core became so much more supported and stable...something I didn’t even realize I was lacking, or found important at the age of 12.
As a ballet major in college, we were required to continue our Pilates education on all of the equipment which really made the decision for me.
If I wasn’t going to be a ballet dancer, I wanted to take the skills that I learned and this led to teaching Pilates and Yoga.
That's so cool! We love that you have that classical training and think that the athletic background is part of what makes you so unique. Before you were a full time instructor, what was your routine like? We can imagine the training was pretty intense!
Anywhere from 3-8 hours of ballet 6 days a week...and Pilates!
Wow, that's an intense regiment! What were the biggest changes you had to make as you transitioned to being an instructor?
Imagine a professional athlete. Imagine the years and hours of training and dedication put into their sport. Now imagine me. Same schedule as a professional athlete (for 16 years) and then one day I just quit. THAT is a big change.
What a huge change in lifestyle! We wanna talk a bit more about what you've seen once you began working in the field full time! What can someone expect to get out of a regimen that incorporates Pilates?
Other than the “long, lean muscle” the benefits of Pilates go so far beyond aesthetics. You can expect to feel taller, more connected within your entire core (not just sore abs), more mobile, more toned, and overall experience a life with much better posture.
Awesome! We want to dig a bit deeper on this because we think there are so many misconceptions around Pilates. Maybe you could speak a bit to how can incorporating Pilates into a workout routine enhance your overall abilities?
Pilates strengthens the small, intrinsic muscles of the body, not just the superficial, large muscles, so with that you can expect to feel more connected. Strength of the spine and surrounding muscles is crucial for feeling not only limber and young but also provides a tremendous amount of support for the heavy load of a lot of the high impact exercise our generation loves.
Those are really great insights! You're obviously working out just about every day - Are there any other kinds of workouts that you've found complement Pilates particularly well?
Everything. If you like to pick things up and put them down, you need Pilates. If you enjoy rotating your spine (golf,baseball,hockey,etc) you need Pilates. If you enjoy running, you need Pilates. A common misconception is that Pilates is just working on your “abs”. Trust me on this one. Your spine, back, core, glutes, hips, neck, arms, FEET...will thank you.
You're really selling everyone on Pilates right now! Those are definitely benefits that a lot of people would love to see! What else do you do personally to keep a balanced workout?
REFORMER GUYS, REFORMER.
In addition to pilates, I teach a wide variety of Barre and Pilates Fusion style classes. Everything follows the Pilates principles but I’ve learned to be really creative with it.
In addition to Barre and Pilates, I enjoy taking HIIT style classes, I’m LEARNING to lift free weights, and you can find me on the occasional run. I love group fitness classes so you can always see me in those.
Most importantly, I only work out about 4-5 times a week. I listen to my body, I rest when I want to, and I try to walk as much as I can. REST is so important if you want to see results within your fitness regime.
We also wanted to chat a bit about social media and online marketing - we love that you're one of the biggest skeptics out there and think that you have a lot of valuable advice to share! Let's start with this - How do you think someone who’s less familiar with health and wellness space can make informed decisions about what they read online/see on social media?
This is such a wonderful question. ALWAYS check credentials and certifications. Ask your friends, reach out to your personal networks, always gather as much information as you can before you make a decision.
We want to keep building off that a bit as this is really important for consumers now a-days. Is there anything you’re seeing a lot of online/on social media now that you think people should be weary of?
When you’ve dedicated your life and have spent an insane amount of money on learning your craft, it’s incredibly discouraging to see people without credentials getting famous online. Again, and I can't stress this enough, ALWAYS check certifications and credentials.
What about on the flip side of things, is there anything that you think people should know about (in a good way)?
Don’t be afraid of social media but proceed with caution! There are some brilliant people who I am so grateful to have discovered on Instagram, but again I always go to their websites and see what experience they have! Social Media is such a powerful tool if used correctly.
How do you think the fitness community can go about creating a more authentic, more valuable social media ecosystem?
Unfortunately, I’m not sure we will ever quite get there. Social media is almost always about presenting the best version of ourselves (even when said it’s not) which is incredibly frustrating. One thing that I find to be so amazing is when I see people within the fitness community TOGETHER.
Whether it’s at an event, spending time learning from each other, taking a class together...that is authentic to me. I can only speak for myself but I find social media to be discouraging. I look at people’s meal prep, abs, 3 a day workouts, and it makes me feel guilty! I could have just let out a big secret..but I find social media to be a slippery slope.
What do you do personally to make sure you’re promoting yourself in the most authentic way possible?
I’m myself 100 percent of the time. I have fat on my body, I get exhausted, sometimes I don’t want to show up to class and that realness is what I believe makes me relatable.
On days that I am EXTRA proud of my classes/clients, I’ll express that on social media. On days where I think I look GREAT, I’m not afraid to showcase that. When I’m bloated, so are probably a quarter of my followers (women, you know the struggle) I’ll express that openly.
My favorite accounts are those that I get a peek into the crappier aspects of a busy schedule/just being human.
Alright, I think we're ready for the grand finale! Between Instagram, blogs, influencers, and actual professionals, there seems to be a sea of health, wellness, and fitness information, making it difficult to see what’s a trend and what’s not. How do you go about navigating these often-overwhelming waters?
How I navigate : Credentials, word of mouth recommendations, curiosity. Trust your gut on social media, if something looks sketchy it probably is. If something guarantees quick results, RUN. If it makes you laugh, follow it. If it makes you feel bad about where you CURRENTLY are, unfollow. If it motivates you without putting on too much pressure, hell yes. One thing I always tell myself is to take everything with a grain of salt on social media.
Thank you so much to Kara Duval for joining us for our blog series! If you want to schedule a class with Kara (we seriously recommend it) you can find her schedule online (karaduvalpilates.com) or follow her on instagram @karaduvalpilates. You can also catch us at our Capital One Table most friday mornings!