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Instructor Spotlight: Norm Spence

Norm Spence headshotNorm Spence
Merrithew STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor

Certification
STOTT PILATES Matwork, STOTT PILATES Reformer, STOTT PILATES Injuries & Special Populations, ZEN•GA® Matwork

Additional training
CanFitPro Personal Training Specialist and Older Adult Specialist, Chito-Ryu Karate Association Internationally Certified Instructor and 2nd degree black belt


Norm Spence has always been athletic. An avid golfer, cyclist, swimmer, canoeist, tennis player, squash player and karate instructor, Norm’s love of physical movement is at the heart of his personal training practice. Knee and hip injuries led him to Pilates, which in turn led him to a new profession.

This is his story.

Norm Spence has always been athletic. An avid golfer, cyclist, swimmer, canoeist, tennis player, squash player and karate instructor, Norm’s love of physical movement is at the heart of his personal training practice. Norm sees a direct relationship between the muscle movements needed for sports and those that support activities of daily living. He finds it fun to guide his clients through tailored programs, providing cues about how the muscles that give a better back swing in tennis or rotation in golf also help with grocery shopping, opening doors, mowing the lawn or packing a car. “I absolutely appreciate the sheer joy of confident and comfortable physical movement,” he says. “I like to bring a mix of good humor and laughter to my sessions.”

A lifetime of being as active as Norm can often take a toll on the joints. He was first introduced to Pilates by his wife, a Pilates enthusiast, to help him address the emerging problems he was experiencing with his left knee and right hip.

Pilates client using the BOSU balance ball

Although joint replacements were inevitable, Norm’s Pilates Instructor taught him to focus on strengthening and stabilizing his core and supporting muscles for his knee, hip and pelvis. Building this strength helped him defer the timing for surgical intervention until he was physically ready, he says. “Pilates helped me prepare for both surgeries by strengthening the muscles that would be called upon to support and stabilize the replaced joints, thus speeding up my recovery and improving my surgical outcome.”

Norm’s hip was replaced 14 months after the knee replacement. After completing the prescribed rehabilitation, Norm returned to his sessions with his Pilates Instructor. Within a year of the hip replacement, he successfully returned to cycling and playing tennis and squash, and walking was no longer an ordeal but an enjoyable experience.

“Pilates allowed me to return to an active lifestyle that was so important to me,” he says. “I was so impressed with my overall outcomes that I pursued STOTT PILATES Certification.”

Based in Toronto, Canada, Norm runs a successful personal training and Pilates business from his home, and he also trains clients in their own homes. It’s a calling that he loves. “I receive great satisfaction from working with my clients and seeing their delight as they progress,” he says. He blends his STOTT PILATES training with other disciplines, focusing on helping clients gain balance, strength and stability. “I focus on the little muscles first – the muscles that are ‘invisible,’ yet so powerful that they slow us down and make us wince when they aren’t in good shape,” he says. “These same muscles tend to weaken with joint pain which in turn stresses the larger muscle groups. Combined, they are among the most important to joint replacement recovery.”

Norm teaching a STOTT PILATES client Norm’s personal experience with joint replacements gives him a firsthand understanding of what his clients may be going through as they train with him to prepare for, or recover from, a joint replacement surgery. “I have been at both ends of the spectrum,” he says. “I know what it’s like to be in great shape, and I also know what it is like to struggle with activities of daily living, when moving is painful.” He is well aware of how painful movement initiates compensatory muscle imbalances, which in turn tend to escalate the pain even more. This personal experience helps shape his programming and the empathetic approach he takes with his clients.

Norm also successfully supports a growing client base with neuromuscular disorders including Parkinson’s, stroke deficit and multiple sclerosis, and sometimes joins them at appointments with medical professionals to discuss their progress with other members of their health care team. ZEN•GA has proven to be a very valuable addition to the Pilates training for this client base, he says. When working with these special populations, he shifts the focus of his programs to restoring and/or maintaining balanced muscle strength, and building security in movement related to daily activities. “The props used in ZEN•GA, such as the Mini Stability Balls, are great proprioceptive tools to improve breathing patterns, core stability and strengthen weak hamstrings,” he says.

Reformer Pilates with Norm Spence

For Norm, learning is a lifelong pursuit. Not only does he continue to study new movement modalities and fitness programs, he also reads up on Parkinson’s and neuroplasticity in order to better understand the challenges his clients face. “In this way I can better serve my clients’ needs and goals,” he says.