As winter well and truly settles in we are brought to a crossroad of ways to come out the other side unscathed.
Beyond practicing as a Pilates and Barre instructor, our friend Holly Gibellini-Davis is an expert in living a balanced, wholesome lifestyle. We caught up with Holly on her 20 years of teaching in the fitness industry, encouraging movement in a whole new way since Covid, as well as how she
approaches all areas of life with kindness. We hope you enjoy the read!
Where did your love for health and fitness begin and how did you channel your passion into Pilates and Barre?
I was born moving and dancing, it was organic for me to express myself through movement even before I went to classes for it. As I grew up I always innately understood the positive effect of movement on the body and mind, so experientially I learned that health and fitness were key to enable my body to feel good and do everything I wanted it to do.
Teaching Pilates and Barre came into play after I danced and pushed my body to extremes for so many years. I thought it was normal to live with pain around the clock in my early 20’s (what was I thinking?). It wasn't until my initial Pilates teacher training where I started to understand how movement could be used to heal the body and help it be faster, stronger, fitter, and more mobile than it ever had been before. Healing my own body eventually evolved into a passion to share that with others while having a really good time doing it. The detail, refinement, and mindful understanding of movement in Pilates is what has always appealed to me and Barre is a way to translate this in a more functional and really fun way.
With an incredible and decorated career in professional dance, what did all those years of travel and dedication teach you about yourself?
Sometimes dancing feels like a past life, but it shaped who I am today. The traveling and dedication involved taught me immeasurable things about myself, like how self-sufficient and independent I am and how I can set a goal and reach it when I put my mind and heart into it! It taught me what it’s like living in other people's shoes around the world too, this deepened my compassion and understanding of others, which is so important as a teacher. Over time I learned it wasn't enough for just me to move anymore, but how much I find purpose and fulfilment in my life by bringing others into their bodies, moving them, and making them walk out of a class with me feeling damn good (my fave part of the job!).
The most important thing it helped me realise about myself though, is that life is to be lived! Too much dedication in one area without balance with the rest of my life doesn't hold long term fulfilment for me. Balance is essential and play should be a priority too!
How do you approach wellness across other disciplines in your life such as nutrition, mental well-being, and self-care?
I do my best to approach all of these areas from a place of kindness towards myself and again with balance. I try to listen to myself and how things make me feel in all of these areas. When it comes to nutrition, food for me is love and nourishment and also fuel to help my body do all the great things I want it to do. I’m guided by what makes my body and mind feel good! For example as an empath not eating most animals makes me feel mentally lighter and physically great too! Taking care of my mental wellbeing for me looks like prioritising regular moments with the small things that feed my soul. I also try to make a daily practice out of self-awareness, reflection, growth, and gratitude. Balance and listening to what I feel I need come into play for self-care too.
Sometimes self-care for me looks like staying in when I was meant to be out doing something and enjoying relaxing with a face mask because I feel like I need it instead. And other it looks like a big blow out with friends or dancing all night long, these things are a massive release for me and life wouldn’t be quite as magic without either.
While we are starting to return to normality after isolation - how did you cope during this period and what were your daily non-negotiables?
It's been a crazy time, hasn't it? Without devaluing my challenges throughout this, it has honestly all been a blessing in disguise. With moving online I’ve had the opportunity to push myself to grow and hone my craft from another angle. I always shied away from being in front of a camera because I was so hard on myself. Plus teaching to me was always about the student, but the student was gone. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to look at things from another angle though has made me realise on camera my best is better than perfection and why can't online classes still be about the student? Thoughtful, corrected movement needs to be online more now than ever now there are no watchful eyes of a teacher on the student. Working with Elise from The MVMT Society on creating the Virtual MVMT online platform has given me purpose and meaning that has made all of the challenges worthwhile. I've not only enjoyed delivering the workouts online but interacting with every single one of the members too as we ask them what they want to see and then we deliver new workouts daily. The response from people has blown my mind. I've had messages from people about how it's helped their mental health and made them feel fitter and stronger than pre iso times have warmed my heart. I couldn't be any more grateful to be a part of something that brings intelligent, feel-good movement to people inside of iso and will long outlast Covid times.
My daily non-negotiable’s throughout it all have been a dip in the ocean, my body and mind feel so cleansed by even the shortest dip. Coastal walks - sun + music + moving my body = my heaven, it's the little things! Also making time to talk to friends - one of the most refuelling things I do, food for the soul!
It can always be a bit confronting to step into a pilates and fitness studio for the first time, what would your advice be for anyone at the beginning of their journey?
Oh, I'm so excited for anyone who hasn't tried Pilates or Barre before! (And for the people who have tried it already but haven't tried it with MVMT) You're all in for a treat! My good friend who has never tried Pilates before but is a super fit surfer, just messaged me yesterday about how much she “now loves Pilates" and “didn’t know these muscles existed” because of signing up to Virtual MVMT not long ago. Virtual MVMT is pretty cool because you can try it all out in the privacy of your own home anytime. You don't have to worry about anyone else being in the room, perfect for anyone new to it, and feeling a little shy!
When it comes to in-studio classes, I would definitely recommend coming early and introducing yourself to the instructor, we've got your back. Let them know it's your first time straight away so they can set you up in the best spot to see during class, walk you through the equipment and get a good understanding of any injuries so they can help you tailor your workout. If you don't like a class, just try something else, find something you love doing! Someone once told me that the best kind of exercise is the one you enjoy because you're more likely to do it for your whole life, and I couldn't agree more!
What does a week in the life of Holly look like? What is your personal health and fitness regime?
I've gone through lots of different phases in my life, from a full-time dancer, a HITT daily 'workout-aholic', to traveling for six months at a time and barely lifting a muscle, apart from the dance floor. None of these had any longevity and all left my body feeling “blerrrgh” in the end, even if they felt good at the start. It all changed for me once I realised that if I worked smart while working hard in moderation I felt awesome in my body and it's maintainable for a lifetime.
So at the moment, my regime starts with a daily swim (ok let's be honest it's more like a play in the waves/ float around), a 1-2 hr walk most days, then filming a range of different Pilates and Barre 3+ times a week. Plus an essential regular go on the dance floor.
What can people expect during your workout video? What areas will you targeting and with consistency and hard work how will we notice a difference in our body’s capabilities and strength?
You can expect a thoughtfully put together, balanced blend of all the best Pilates, Barre, and functional fitness exercises for any experience or fitness level. The workout is layered so you can progress and regress as you please. Your body should feel supported where you need it and challenged where you want it.
A better question than what areas will you be targeting is what areas WON’T we be targeting. I usually use something called the MVMT Society’s toning toolkit that holds all the best at home sculpting tools that help you hit every small muscle group you didn't even know existed. I've specifically curated this workout so you won't need a thing to make sure no muscle group escapes the heat or what we call “spice” at MVMT HQ. The workout is low impact, so really safe and kind to your body if you need it but you can also expect to sweat as much or as little as you please with optional cardio and high impact options intertwined throughout. This is intelligent movement, so with consistency and hard work over time your body will feel awesome, move freely and easily in any way you want it too, and be stronger in all the essential places.
One of our London Virtual MVMT members messaged me the other day telling me how she and her friends got involved in an Olympic challenge over zoom and she won! Even though it involved endurance and strength exercises she doesn't necessarily do, all the Pilates and Barre hits every spot needed to do it all. From power to endurance she nailed it all and even beat the guys! Essentially, just think goodbye sore back, dodgy knees, lazy glutes and an inactive core - and say hello powerful peach, connected core, and better posture!
Thank you so much for talking with us today! Finally, what are your ambitions and goals for the rest of 2020, and where can we keep up with your guided workouts?
It's been my pleasure! For the rest of 2020 my goals are to continue to embrace any challenges that come my way and grow from them both professionally and personally. Be grateful for the small things. To give more and more people from around the world safe, intelligent and feel good movement with Virtual MVMT, and help them feel damn amazing because they are so worth it! Oh, and never taking for granted hugging my friends and family.