The Missing Link in Fitness

The Missing Link in Fitness

People are pretty picky about their workouts. Whether it’s the location, the music, the studio vibe, or the teacher (it’s always about the teacher), we want to make sure we’re getting results and not wasting time or money. But do we really know what makes a workout worthwhile? What method will give us the biggest bang for our buck and in the least amount of time?

As an instructor, I am ultra-selective on how I condition this body. I want to amplify my results in as little time possible while simultaneously learning something new. This carries over into my classes, too — I am overly picky about how I teach group HAWT classes. If people show up, I want them to get results. Yes, the music and the levity hopefully make it fun, but it’s that extra attention to detail— from the the muscles we use, to how your brain activates those muscles, to how you apply what you’ve learned in class to other activities that combine to make HAWT the new cool.*


Here are five reasons HAWT is the missing link in fitness:


1. True core muscles are recruited.

Just about every method out there claims to target the core. But what does “core” actually mean? HAWT Pilates, through cueing and precise movements, targets deep core. Think of an apple core, it is the deepest center of the fruit right? It’s the same in anatomy — the core is the group of muscles closest to the spine. They are key in spinal stability, which prevents and heals back pain. If that doesn’t excite you, but flat/strong abs do, this method will harden and flatten the abdominal wall by targeting the deeper layers. Try this “core” move to target lower abs:

Missing Link in Fitness

Rest your head in your hands and curl your chest up to your knees. Twist from your ribs toward your left knee, but keep your elbows wide. Curl high back to center. Keep pulling your abdominals down. Twist to the other side. Repeat 6 to 10 times, never pulling on your neck. Tips: keep the opposite leg long and continue to breathe throughout the movement.


2. Motor control tightens without bulk.

This is a concept you don’t hear about in the fitness world. Motor control is the process of using our minds to activate our muscles. Any initial gain in strength comes from your brain recruiting the muscle fibers to contract. It is the ultimate in mind-body connections. Why is this important? When your brain tells your muscles to fire harder, your muscles will fatigue faster and you’ll get strong, tight, and lean faster. Try this:

Missing Link in Fitness

On all fours, reach your right leg in the air as high as you can get it. Keep your abdominals pulled up toward the ceiling. “Mentally squeeze” your right glue muscle…more, I mean big time. Once your leg is as high as you can get it and your knee is locked out, start to lift and lift your leg higher.  Repeat those lifts 20-30 times, then switch sides. Your bum should be burning by the end.


3. Alignment is key to living longer.

We sit at our desks, in the car, or on the couch all day. Or we text, type, or scroll on Facebook all day. We are creatures of habit so as a result, our bodies are out of alignment. We are then at risk for injury including disc degeneration or worse, herniation, on top of a multitude of other health issues. After all, sitting is the new smoking! The HAWT Pilates method counters the effects of sedentary activities and faulty alignment so that we are on track for long, healthy lives.


4. You’ll use muscles you never knew you had.

For example, the gluteus maximus is called “maximus” because it is a large muscle with many fiber angles and striations. Some of those fibers rarely ever get to work because of they way we hold our bodies. In HAWT Pilates, we work those angles into the ground…well, I should say, into the mat! The other group I like to call the “Jennifer Aniston Muscles” are the upper back and the area on the back of your arms (you may call them “bat wings”). Oh, we get those too. We target and tone every little inch of the body. The extra benefit? The heat and humidity help the skin adapt to your shrinking body. Try this:

Missing Link in Fitness

In tall kneeling, tuck your bum underneath you and pull your abs back. Reach your arms out in a high “T” with palms facing back behind you. Your pinky finger is the lead as you slowly “slice” your arms up and back behind you. Small slices, please. If you feel this in your neck, your hands are not high enough; they should start slightly higher than your shoulders then you slice up and back at a diagonal.


5. Functional transfer into other workouts and activities.

After each HAWT class we encourage people to take one snippet from class: one cue, one move, one feeling, and integrate that “aha” moment into other daily activities. “If you are a cyclist, draw your lower belly toward your spine to protect your back…” “If you like to lift heavy weights, stabilize your shoulder blades like this…”


Scared of class? Don’t be, here’s a look inside:

What HAWT Pilates is all about from Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga.


Interested in learning how to teach this method? Our second HAWT Teacher Training is coming in November! Join us for a  Q&A this weekend at Mind the Mat Del Ray at 12pm. (It’s also Art on the Avenue!)

*“HAWT is the new cool” tagline courtesy Gina White’s daughter Verveine, 9.


Missing Link in Fitness


  • The latest from Megan

Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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