Share this article

print logo

Stretch Pilates owner talks fitness, open house next weekend


Larissa Mychaskiw, owner of Stretch Pilates & Fitness, works with Amy Pecoraro during a reformer class at the Williamsville studio. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Pilates is the cornerstone of Larissa Mychaskiw’s exercise life.

What else would you expect of the owner of Stretch Pilates & Fitness  in Williamsville?

Mychaskiw – a Ukrainian last name pronounced Mitch-as-Key – is subject of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh.

She put me through my first Pilates training session nearly two weeks ago, and this might sound wrong to some of you other novices out there, but my favorite part was the stretching she led me through on the trapeze table. Those familiar with Pilates likely are nodding right now in agreement.

I felt like I was at the chiropractor’s and massage therapist’s offices, at the same time.

You can find out more about Stretch on the gym’s website or stop by at the fitness center, 1127 Wehrle Drive, Suite 20, from 8 a.m. to noon next Saturday for a free open house.

Mychaskiw has invited several of her fitness friends, whose services she avails herself of for a more complete workout.

They include Barre Centric and Burgio Health Alliance – two businesses that already have been featured in Refresh – as well as Balanced Nutrition, Crunch Fitness, acupuncturist Toni Haugen and Squeeze Juicery.

“If you really want to lose weight, you shouldn’t just do Pilates,” Mychaskiw said. “You should do barre, you should do everything. You need to learn how to eat, so we have Balanced Nutrition here, also.” Dietitian Melinda Yoder owns the nutritional consulting business, the Pilates instructor said. “If they sit with her a few times, she gets people on the right track.”

Stretch also has its fans. Amy Pecoraro, 57, of Williamsville, is among them.

“I’ve worked out for years and years and years. This is the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Pecoraro, who works in the UB MD Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine office of Buffalo Bills trainer John Marzo: “Flexibility is so important and you don’t do that much in a gym. I don’t come in here doing the same thing ever.”

Here are excerpts from my recent interview with Mychaskiw:

What would a typical week of fitness be for you?

I love yoga. I do Pilates at least twice a week. I do yoga one to two times a week. Sometimes, when I get a chance, I go to a barre class at Barre Centric. If I can do a little walking, I walk. I’m not a hardcore cardio babe. If I want to get my heart rate going, I’ll do harder exercises with Pilates or yoga. I do workouts that have all to do with strengthening and stretching and mind-body type stuff. The only one missing on my list is Tai Chi. I would love to do that.

What would an hour-long session be like with you?

An introduction to the equipment. It’s based on your goals and your health. If you would have come in here and said, ‘My back is killing me, I have a degenerative disc problem,’ your workout would have been totally different.

I’ve had some Buffalo Bills players come in here and I’ve said, ‘Woa, they are insanely in shape,’ and I have to do something totally different for them.

Is doing Pilates with someone who is older and has balance problems different?

Everyone’s different. Everybody’s workout is different based on why they’re here and what their goals are. We have 80-year-olds in here and we work on balance and core strength; those are the two big ones for them. We do a lot of ball work. The stretching is important to them because they’re tighter, and have a harder time moving around. We keep it much more basic.

Everybody starts as a beginner. I want people to learn how to use their body. I don’t want them to use the wrong muscles.

All folks can benefit?

Everyone from the young kids to the athletes to anyone who wants to feel differently and feel stretched. It’s like an oil change for your body, oiling your joints, getting things loose.

I first did it out of curiosity, but I lost inches off my hips and my abs, which I could never do before with weight training. With weights, I could never lose the inches I wanted around my waist. With Pilates, all of a sudden, I was a different size. It’s the springs.

Does Pilates help mentally?

I feel like much more of a positive, energized person after a workout.

How has the fitness competition changed in the last 24 years and how difficult is this business right now in Western New York?

Before recently, there were only just a few of us. Now, you seem to be seeing a lot of Pilates studios opening up. I think everybody’s looking to be their own boss, the make more money. They don’t understand what it takes to run a business, so God bless them, let them try it out.

How did you learn the business side of things?

I went to CEL – the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership – at UB. That was awesome, one of the best things I ever did, in 2005.

How many clients do you have?

It fluctuates. We normally have over 200. In the summer, we’re booming, because we have a lot of people who live in Florida during the winter. We’re offering more time slots with more classes.

When it comes to some of these specialty fitness options, do you need to be in wealthier communities?

There’s two in Orchard Park, there’s a bunch out here in Williamsville. The customers understand what the $25 value (for most classes) really is. When you have an appointment, you are going to show up, because the last thing on the list sometimes is exercise. … The value is your health. You have to do something for yourself, and it’s a matter of what you really like and what you’re willing to spend the time and the money on, and make it a priority.

What would you say to people who don’t have the financial means? Is there any way those people could get into Pilates or do some of the exercises?

Here, people will come in and do a couple of sessions and they’ll ask for homework. We’ll give them assignments to do it at home and write it down for them. You can look this up on YouTube.

But when you have someone working with you one-on-one, looking at your body, at least we’ll get you started on the right path before you start doing things on your own and make mistakes and end up hurting yourself.

We can teach you five, 10 minutes of floor exercises or how to use bands. The most important part of any exercise program is form. It’s all about the form. If you don’t do it right, you’re not going to get the benefit. You’re going to get hurt.

The real big gyms, those are great, because they’re cheaper, but who there is going to get you (exercising properly)?

Can some people use insurance for your classes?

Flex Fit and BlueCross BlueShield will cover this. Those insurance plans give you a credit card that covers a certain amount of money per year.

How does Pilates benefit a woman who is pregnant?

When you’re pregnant, especially toward the end of your pregnancy, everything seems to hurt more, especially sciatica. This helps women ease that problem. They’re carrying a lot of extra weight, so their lower back hurts, their feet hurt, everything just hurts. This just helps them get through that process with a little bit less pain.

There almost seems to be a little bit of chiropractic training in here.

We work with two chiropractors from Naturally Chiropractic and we refer back and forth to each other. We’re the team. People who go there sign waivers so the doctors can communicate with me, so I can help them achieve their goals faster.


Twitter: @BNrefresh