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Baby Boomers Keep Fit On the Flying Trapeze

By Mathew Katz | December 6, 2011 12:53pm

MIDTOWN — They fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

They're a group of daring women, each older than 60, and they're keeping fit and toned by practicing circus arts in a Midtown office building.

True Pilates New York, at 50 W. 57th St., offers pilates, gymnastics, and — yes — swinging trapeze classes to clients from ages 9 to 95. The studio's "adult gymnastics" programs gets seniors into handstands, swinging on rings and doing upside-down situps while hanging from a bar.

"I think people have a misconception about it," said Eva-Marie Lassiter, 64, who has spent two years working on a swinging routine on a set of rings. "It tones you throughout your whole body. Even in other sports, I don't feel like it's working every muscle in your body like gymnastics does."

On Monday, Lassiter was joined by Michaela Hamilton, 63, and Rita Sue Seigel, 72, in an hour-long training session with swinging flips, handstands, and tumbles, all guided by their coach, Cornel Morina.

"We are doing it now for a long time," Morina said after the class. "We are here like a family."

That friendly atmosphere is what the studio's owners are trying to create, according to Tom Gesimondo, who said True Pilates' offerings for older students set it apart from other fitness programs in the city.

"You can't help but walk off the elevator and smile when you see what's happening here," he said. "You don't have to be an Olympic champion, but it's safe, it's fun, and you can progress at your own level."

The studio's adult gymnastics program has become nearly as popular as their trendy pilates offerings, Gesimondo said, as several younger athletes were also at True Pilates on Monday to tone their core on the various pilates machines. 

"I personally am not that interested in exercise programs that involve very complicated machinery, that's sort of scary to me," Hamilton said doing her own swinging routine on the trapeze. "In gymnastics, you're really working with the strength and agility of your own body."

Lassiter enjoys the fitness element, but she also loves the rush of flying through the air, even if she is just a few feet off the ground.

"You get very comfortable, actually, being in the air," she said. "I'm more comfortable in the air than I am on the floor — which makes no sense. It's just that the air can't hurt you."