Penny Eckert

I have a passion for helping people to age strong. That goal can only go so far if there isn’t follow through by the participant during the hours and days that occur outside of class. Penny (Penelope) Eckert is a distinguished linguistics professor at Stanford where she first took a class with me over a decade ago, then later with private lessons at my Mountain View studio.

What impresses me most about Penny is her commitment to her health and her drive and determination to apply the principles and exercises we work on in class, into her daily routine. She’s one of the clients who I design home programs for who actually follows through and does them. Because of her tenacity, she’s overcome various physical obstacles and I’m proud to say she is a great example of someone who is aging strong.

The following is an interview with Penny.

What’s your line of work?
I’m a professor of Linguistics at Stanford University.

What inspired you to try Pilates? 
I was having back pain and I’d been reading about Pilates. Then I sat next to a woman on a plane who did Pilates and raved about it, so …. I signed up for a Pilates class at Stanford. My back pain was gone by the end of the quarter. Then I signed up for a class with Teresa and it was a revelation. Her classes were an amazing workout and her eagle eye made sure every move was precise. I swear she can see under my clothes. I’ve been addicted to Pilates with Teresa now for fourteen years.

What was an AHA moment you had in Pilates?
I think the biggest AHA moment was when I realized I was in charge of my body, and that I knew what to do at every moment to keep it strong. 

What are the most potent movement principles that you apply to your daily life?
The key to well-being is making sure my core feels strong before I leave the house in the morning, reminding myself to sit and stand tall and relaxed (the key to keeping my shoulders down and released) throughout the day, and striding rather than walking in little steps. 

Which is your most challenging exercise and why?
At the moment my most challenging exercise is your Standing Clocking exercise.  It’s challenging because I seem to have pretty lousy balance but I love it. But then … the Iliotibial band stretch is challenging because It hurts and I HATE it!

Which is your favorite exercise and why?
Since the classic hundreds is not safe for me to do anymore, I enjoy the modified standing hundreds because it warms me up and gets my core firing.  I also love just about anything on the reformer and TRX. 

What is your greatest physical challenge and how have you addressed it?
My back pain came from a messy spine, and I’ve had two spinal fusions since I began Pilates. My surgeon told me that the success of such surgeries depends on the patient’s preceding physical condition, and there’s no question that having a strong core has made all the difference for me. My recovery was fast and once the fusion was complete, I went back to Pilates rather than doing regular physical therapy. I’m six months out from my second surgery and my back feels amazingly strong. 

What improvements and benefits have you noticed during your life outside of class?
I feel much stronger, balanced, and centered. I stand and walk taller. I’m pain free.