Respect Mag: Jessica Schatz: The Core Expert™
Jessica Schatz is known in the fitness, health and wellness communities as The Core Expert™. Jessica lectures and writes on fitness and wellness topics, and she works with professional athletes, dancers, and other individual clients. Notable clients include fashion icon Ashley Olsen, current Dallas Mavericks Shooting-Guard Wesley Matthews, former NFL linebacker Shaun Phillips, the companies of Hamilton and Wicked, dancers with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, film and television actors, and others. Schatz calls upon a broad base of skills: She trained in Classical East Coast Pilates and received certification directly from protégés of Romana Kryzanowska, who was Joseph Pilates’ protégé. She is also certified as a JOGA® Coach (“Yoga for Jocks”) and Personal Trainer and is a trained Yoga Instructor with an emphasis on Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Core Power practices.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with The Core Expert™ and discussed some of the techniques she would utilize with regard to a stress-fracture injury – the injury that ended her client Wesley Matthews’ last season with the Dallas Mavericks. In addition, she shared why every athlete should consider adding Pilates to their workout regime to enable them to perform at the highest level, and how it can prolong their careers.
You have worked with Dallas Mavericks’ guard Wesley Matthews and retired NFL linebacker Shaun Phillips in the past. Can talk about some of the techniques used to help get them prepared for training camp and the upcoming season?
Wesley and I met while he was a free agent recovering from an Achilles injury after his time with the Portland Trailblazers. He was in Los Angeles rehabbing after surgery, and he found me. Our goal was to get him ready for that next season. I assessed his condition and devised specific techniques and exercises which helped him regain his strength, balance, flexibility, and the full range of motion. We worked together steadfastly for just over three months about four to five days a week. His excellent recovery and level of fitness and performance led to his signing with the Dallas Mavericks.
Wesley is currently recovering with stress-fracture injury, which he suffered back in March. What is the workout regime you would suggest for that type of injury?
Wesley has fully recovered and is doing great. He wisely adds physical therapy and Pilates to his fitness regimen. Regular and early physical therapy with an experienced and skilled therapist and an instructor is an essential component to reduce the chance of re-injury while performing. Any recovery process should focus specifically on the injury itself, maintaining the strength of the surrounding muscles, as well as range of motion, balance, and fine tuning the specific motions used during regular activities. He comes to Los Angeles often and we continue to work on maintaining his fitness level, building strength, balance, and flexibility, and avoiding injury.
Do you believe that Pilates is one of the best forms of conditioning for a top-tier athlete?
Absolutely. Pilates integrates the trunk, pelvis, and shoulder girdle and emphasizes proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment and smooth flowing movement. A trained athlete can learn to recognize, sense, and access each part of the body individually and become easily familiar with the functional mechanics. Pilates reinforces the bond between mind and muscles and allows one to engage the right muscles of and from the core. This work leads to better posture and control over the body’s movements, critical when engaging in a fast-action, high-endurance sport. With Pilates training, athletes run faster, hit a ball further, jump higher – all without pain or injury.
Do you feel Pilates can help extend an athlete’s career? When would advise athletes start adding those techniques into their work out regime?
I advise that every athlete add Pilates to his or her workout regime to ensure peak performance and enhance the opportunity for a prolonged career. Shaun Phillips always said that he wished he would have added Pilates to his workout regime at the beginning of his career. Athletes and dancers often have had years of training in one particular method, and some find that one side of the body dominates or is misaligned. This means there is a weakness in the spine. Critical to a healthy, well-structured, high performing body is a strong, neutrally aligned spine. In my work we target and strengthen the deep postural muscles that neutralize and support the spine, allowing one to push harder (and more safely) in training, practice, and performance.
Can you discuss what you call “prehab” process?
My prehab approach was created to help elite athletes, dancers, and others decrease if not eliminate the chance of injury and the need for rehabilitation. I was a professional dancer for a number of years and recognize first-hand that injury and time spent in rehabilitation can be catastrophic to the career of a professional athlete or dancer. With Pilates as a basis, I design exercises and activities that build on mindfulness and attentiveness – to reinforce the bond between mind and muscles. I combine Pilates, physiology, and kinesiology to strengthen the individual’s core and center and build proper resistance. With proper guidance and practice, the client focuses on proper balance, mobility, alignment, and stability, joint function is boosted and reinforced, and the individual avoids muscle fatigue and injury.
Do have any other business ambitions that you would like to pursue in the future?
People contact me all the time requesting my help, asking me questions, or wondering if they can attend a session or class with me. In order to reach out and help as many interested people as I can and bring them hope with my instruction, I am currently developing an instructional web video series to be available early next year. I hope to encourage an understanding of and appreciation for easy activities and exercises which strengthens a person’s mind-body connection and lead to better functioning and a better life.
I continue to do guest lectures, conduct sessions at retreats, spas, and at corporate offices, and write instructional and hopefully inspirational blogs and articles. I plan to explore a range of media as ways to reach out to more people. Everyone – athlete, dancer, or occasional fitness participant – can benefit from learning about the interconnection of core strength and stability, mobility, balance, strength, coordination, and a strong mind-body connection.
At any time in your career have thought about being a physical trainer for a professional team?
That is a direction I have considered. Opportunities may be on the horizon, but currently, I am working on my instructional video series to make my work more accessible to the public. I still work with athletes and also love working with a variety of different people at all levels of athleticism and fitness and health.
You graduated cum laude from San Jose State University. What field of study was your focus?
I was a dance major focusing on performance, and I also immersed myself in the study of anatomy, biology, and kinesiology, and more, and all the sciences behind my artistic pursuit. The dance performance and scientific study helped me enormously prepare for what I’m doing now. During these years and for a few years following graduation, I performed and toured as a professional dancer with Tandy Beal and Limon West, danced with Opera San Jose, (among other repertory and theatre companies) and taught Pilates and yoga classes.
How old were you when you knew that you wanted to pursue a career in dance?
I studied dance from an early age. One of my first and most favorite classes was called “Creative Movement.” It’s no surprise to me that later my interest and emphasis would be contemporary dance. I also studied ballet a number of years with the San Francisco Ballet school, performing in The Nutcracker at the San Francisco Opera House. A life-changing experience occurred when I was six years of age – my parents took me and my sister to a professional production of A Chorus Line. I remember being on the edge of my seat during the whole performance. After the show, my parents took us to the stage door to see the dancers come out and to get their autographs. The entire experience was not only a thrill, but it also inspired me and set me on the path to dance and move and get to where I am.
With your father being a world-renowned photographer, was modeling ever on your radar? (Schatz is the daughter of award-winning photographer Howard Schatz, whose work has been featured in such publications as Time, Sports Illustrated, Vogue, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine)
No, not really. I am very proud of my father’s work and that he is always reinventing himself. He too works with athletes, actors, and dancers. Regarding modeling, I actually did art modeling for artists and art classes while I was in school. Traditional fashion modeling does not interest me because of the emphasis on one’s looks and outer appearance. Naturally, we all want to look great, but my mission and work focus on moving and expressing from the inside out. With society embracing entrepreneurship and in our age of social media, in a sense, we are all “models” or representatives of our work or passion. I endeavor to be a “model” to inspire people to live happier, healthier lives. You can transform more than your surface. I received immense satisfaction in seeing an elderly Parkinson’s client I worked with feel and function better.
With dedication and proper technique and exercises, any athlete, dancer, or casual fitness person can gain the power to shape his or her life from the inside-out, starting at the core, and connecting the mind, body, and spirit. My mission is to help each person harness and leverage this power to feel better, function better, and live better. I am delighted when I am identified as The Core Expert™. It affirms my belief that the core is the center of one’s health, spirit, and hopes.