Deannine Graves and Stacie Fisher have been friends since they were 10, walking to school every day in Springhill, Nova Scotia. But as they grew up and time passed, they moved away and only kept in touch via Facebook and the occasional phone call.
It wasn’t until a chance meeting eight years ago while Deannine was in Toronto for the STOTT PILATES® instructor training program at the Merrithew™ Corporate Training Center (CTC), that the two childhood pals rekindled their friendship— thanks to Pilates.
Now both 52, living more than 1,000 miles apart— Stacie in Toronto, and Deannine splitting her time between Nova Scotia and Florida— they continue to regularly practice Pilates with one another virtually and are as committed as ever to their fitness and their friendship.
And during the pandemic, they’ve been on a mission to introduce more of their friends to the transformative power of Pilates too.
A friendship rekindled in the Pilates studio
As a teenager, Deannine was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis.
“By the time I was a wife and mother of two boys, it had really progressed. I had trouble with mobility and chronic pain. I was looking for an exercise program that would give me relief. Everyone was doing step aerobics at the time and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that with my bad hips, knees, and joints, so I was looking for something that would be gentler on my body,” she says.
She learned about Pilates online and decided to give it a try. “I knew nothing about Pilates at the time, but I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ I needed to be able to get down on the floor to play with my kids.”
When she started practicing Pilates 10 years ago, she was using a cane for support.
“I couldn’t believe the difference Pilates made in my mobility and movement patterns. I started making the connection that with greater core strength, other improvements will follow.
“Within a month of working with my trainer, I was able to sit on the floor, get in and out of my car and go up and down stairs with greater ease. I saw a really dramatic difference very quickly,” Deannine says.
She was so enthusiastic about deepening her understanding of the method that she decided to become an instructor.
She did her research and settled on the STOTT PILATES Comprehensive Program through Merrithew because of how in-depth and thorough the education seemed.
“I realized that if I was ever going to work as an instructor, it was going to be as a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor,” she says.
So in 2012, she left her high school-aged son and her husband in Florida, and flew to Toronto to immerse herself in a year of Pilates practice and study.
Her childhood friend Stacie, whom she hadn’t seen since 1995, was at a very different point in her life.
“I had been very challenged by depression for a long period of time. I was very heavy, everything seemed like a lot of work for me. I was the absolute opposite of being strong and well,” Stacie says.
When Deannine spotted Stacie’s daughter Carmen at a nail salon near the CTC, she immediately recognized her from Stacie’s Facebook photos. That chance meeting led Deannine to Stacie and the two reconnected over lunch.
“I told Deannine that I wanted to make a change in my life,” Stacie says. “Deannine said, ‘I’m doing this course. I need a body to practice on, you can come and be my client. I think this would be really good for you,’” Stacie recalls of their reunion.
So that’s what Stacie did, not realizing that Deannine was paying for Stacie’s sessions with her as an apprentice.
“Just to invite me to Pilates would have been a huge gift, but she took away every possible barrier for me to be able to do it and my daughter came as well and she fell in love with Pilates too. We both did,” Stacie says, through tears of gratitude.
“I was in a very dark place before starting Pilates where I took a series of antidepressants and mood stabilizers, never quite finding a combination that made me feel better. It has been almost four years since I have taken any medications and I credit my practice of Pilates with the transformation,” Stacie says.
Through a pandemic, carry on and practice Pilates
Last May, bored and isolated during the pandemic, they decided to return to their old days as instructor and client— Deannine training Stacie virtually from Nova Scotia.
After years of teaching clients while between the U.S. and Canada, Deannine was able to quickly pivot her Orchid Bay Pilates business online without too much fuss.
Leveraging this new virtual reality, Deannine and Stacie decided that they should invite their other friends to join them in their Pilates practice. To boost morale after their annual girls’ trip was cancelled, they started a Pilates class for their best friends to stay connected and keep fit.
“One of our friends, she is starting where I was physically when I began practicing with Deannine at the CTC,” Stacie says. “To watch her transformation, to watch how she’s progressing is absolute magic to my eyes. The things that she’s been able to achieve in the time that we’ve been working together is absolutely amazing to me.”
Pilates is so important at many different stages of life. I feel like it’s so vital for people who are older, and also for people our age, who want to get older and be as fit as possible so we can enjoy our lives to the fullest.
Following in her friend’s footsteps
After all these years of practicing Pilates and sharing it with others, Stacie is planning to become an instructor herself. She’s enrolled in the STOTT PILATES Intensive Mat-Plus™ course at the Merrithew Corporate Training Center and is looking forward to gaining a whole new appreciation for the method like Deannine did.
“Merrithew Instructor Trainers turn you into a teacher,” Deannine says. “You start as a novice with a deep appreciation for the practice, but not really understanding, and you leave feeling like you’ve really accomplished something incredible. You will gain a professional understanding and awareness of Pilates, taking you to a whole new level.”
Through Pilates, Deannine and Stacie have enhanced their lifelong friendship, improved their quality of life, and have inspired and shared their passion for mindful movement with so many around them.
“The motivation for me to take the Mat-Plus course and to open a studio comes from my desire to help people who are struggling with things like depression, abuse, lack of confidence and anxiety. While Pilates has made me physically strong and given me rock hard abs, the real gain is in what I have achieved mentally and emotionally, and that is what I hope to share with others,” Stacie says.
“I forever thank Deannine for introducing me to Pilates and helping me improve my life.”
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