RIDGWAY – When Carrie Cowan and her husband Mark were living in Hawaii, surfing, “living the laid-back surfing lifestyle,” people said to her, you live in paradise.
“I know!” Cowan replied. “I’m so bored!”
Cowan is the owner of Ridgway’s newest fitness center, CORE Solutions, and a part-time teacher with the children’s ski school in Telluride. She is not bored.
On teak chairs outside the sleek facility on Sherman Street, Cowan talked about her fitness journey from Laguna Beach, Calif., where she grew up and raised her two sons, to meeting Mark, a New Zealander who lived and surfed in San Clemente, to discovering pilates, to moving to the mountains and opening CORE Solutions.
The last part, moving to the mountains and specifically to Ridgway, was no accident; Cowan’s father is Gary Rawls, the athletic director for the Ridgway Schools.
Cowan met her future husband on a job. She was painting an ocean-themed mural for a Ronald MacDonald House facility at Mission Viejo Hospital just inland from Laguna Beach. Mark was painting the outside of the building.
“We both wanted to get out of Orange County,” she said. “His family lived in Hawaii. They are all, including my boys (who are 30 and 29), beach people, sailors, surfers.” The couple built a house on Kauai, and Carrie joined a competitive paddling team that raced outrigger canoes from island to island. “That got me into pilates,” she said with evangelical zeal. Paddling takes core strength, and Cowan adopted the methods of Joseph Pilates, a Greek-German who developed the exercises in the first half of the 20th century. “Pilates strengthens the deeper muscles that support your spine,” she said. “Most athletic men in Ridgway, climbers for example, have terrific upper body strength, but they can’t do the easiest pilates exercises because they have no core strength. Cyclists, too. Including some very good women bike riders. They have powerful leg muscles, but little core. This lack of core strength is what leads so many Americans to have lower back pain.”
She became a certified pilates trainer and, weary of the languid island lifestyle – and the “attitude” toward non-natives there – looked to move to the mountains.
“I was visiting my dad in Montrose one Christmas, and I stopped in at the Starbucks one day, and I suddenly realized: I’d forgotten how nice people can be!”
She thought Ridgway would be a good fit and bought a house in town in 2007. The fitness center in the Silver San Juan Building was not on her radar until she realized there were no pilates offerings of the sort she preferred.
“This was never intended to happen,” she said of the business, which opened last summer. But a yearlong mentorship with a pilates instructor in Southern California (“he trains Cirque de Soleil and the San Diego Padres”) convinced Cowan that there was a need for sophisticated pilates equipment in Ridgway. She bought a “Cadillac machine,” some “tower reformers,” and several “Wunda chairs.” She began teaching classes in the basement of her home.
She believes “the assist” you get from the machines is crucial to getting the most out of pilates. “Mat classes are too hard for most people,” she asserted. “Where these [machines] take you, a mat can’t take you. I recommend people start with the equipment classes then take mat classes.”
Cowan said that “the older women tend to stick with it. They really want it and are looking for it. The older ones are inspiring the younger ones, who tend to muscle it,” because their larger muscle groups are already strong.
“We might not be building big muscles,” said the wiry, youthful Cowan, “but we’re building strength.”
For more information on CORE Solutions pilates classes and other offerings, visit their website, www. ridgwaypilates.com.