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Pilates Spaces & Stories

We are pleased to share more extraordinary Success Stories from the Pilates Community – previous finalists and winners of our Share Your Story contest.

Be inspired!

See more inspiring Spaces.

Grand Prize Winner: Community Service

Community Service through Pilates
On June 16, 2007, the Pilates community of Montreal rallied together to raise money for a spunky 5 year old named Stephanie or ‘Stephie’ as she likes to be called. In her five short years, Stephie has lived through countless surgeries and doctors are still unable to explain her pain or medical complications. She is no longer able to eat or drink anything. I realized how much she and her family needed help and began to think of fundraising ideas. I’d been a volunteer at many such events, but never the organizer, and did not want to get in over my head. Osteopathy and Pilates are my business and my passion so I decided to use what I know in order to have a hope at success. Plans to host a Pilates Mat-A-Thon began.

I approached 9 colleagues from different Montreal studios to donate time to teach at the event; they generously and enthusiastically agreed. Instructors represented their studios well, with a wide variety of personalities and teaching styles The day promoted health, wellness and camaraderie, with a true sense of sharing, community, professionalism and coming together for a common goal. For $50 per ticket, over 200 participants tried one or several 30-minute mat classes. 45 volunteers helped provide food, drink, door prizes and chair massage plus a silent auction. Every item needed for the event was donated and 100% of the proceeds went straight to Stephie’s Fund. We were proud to present Stephie’s family with a cheque for $43,761.18.

The event was such a huge success that we’ve decided to make it the first annual Montreal Pilates Mat-A-Thon. Whether we continue to raise money for Stephanie, or choose a different charity each time, the Pilates community will band together to host this amazing event on a yearly basis. I encourage other studios to do the same.

Core Basics, Centre d’osteopathie et de Pilates
Kirkland, Quebec, Canada

Grand Prize Winner: Marketing Success

Successful, creative marketing to keep a studio going through thick or thin
We opened in the summer of 2003 in a 10x20 room with six reformers. Our very small studio grew with great equipment, great teachers and great marketing. In subsequent years we survived a fire, evacuation due to Hurricane Rita, and embezzlement from an office manager, all of which made us the strong vibrant studio we are today.

Not only did we have to rebuild clientele following these setbacks, we had to do it during our slow summer months! To begin, we advertised on a billboard – expensive, but it worked! We also mailed $20 coupons and gift cards to all our former clients to entice them back. That was the last slow summer we had. This past summer was very busy with no low times but rather an explosion of growth. We hold 60 classes a week and have a waiting list!

To bring in new students, we sell t-shirts with our studio name printed on them, at a very low cost, as an additional type of “billboard” advertising. To make the studio a visible presence in the community, we use Pilates to promote breast cancer awareness, donate to local schools, Toys for Tots, etc.

We also work hard to retain our clients. This fall we began a reward program for those who stayed committed in the slow summer months, and it was a big success. We also have specials where we provide complimentary water, fruit, and classes.

Fantastic students, instructors and staff make the studio what it is. No fire, wind, or rain could keep us down! Having faith in what we do for the people we serve is what keeps us going…and going…and going.

The Pilates Studio of Friendswood
Friendswood, Texas

Finalist: Community Service

Community Service through Pilates
The Power of Pilates: Helping Women Get Through Cancer Treatment
After my mother Lois passed away from pancreatic cancer on Thanksgiving Day, 2003, my business partner Michelle Guenther and I created Trinity. In honor of my mom, we also started a special “Lois Membership” for women undergoing cancer treatment. This membership offers free use of the club, plus discounts on spa treatments in the Trinity Spa. The core of Trinity's mission is to inspire women to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.

When seventeen-year-old Megan joined Trinity with the Lois Membership, little did we know who would do the inspiring.

Megan loved sports and being active. However, during her cancer treatment, a leg was amputated. She needed a new way to move and keep her core strong...here enters Pilates. I was daunted by the responsibility facing our team; we had never trained an amputee in either the Pilates studio or fitness portion of our facility. Director of Pilates Linda Phillips stepped right in.

Megan did privates for many weeks. Pilates principles became a daily part of her life as she adapted to being an amputee. Linda learned new ways to train her and was always prepared with an interesting workout. Both ladies inspired each other, our staff, and our members.

Ultimately Megan passed away at the end of 2007. Her mom called the club within hours of her death to let us know the impact Trinity had on their lives. I am so honored to have met Megan, and am honored that our Lois Membership played a role in her brave fight. I am filled with gratitude to Megan and her mom for inspiring us at Trinity.

Megan will always be an example of what a gift a healthy body is. Use it, take care of it, and enjoy it! Keep it in top condition. Joseph Pilates understood that, and we work to share the passion he had for helping people live their best lives.

So, in summary, at Trinity, "We're not just lifting weights, we're lifting spirits!"

This story is dedicated to all the people battling cancer. I hope it inspires you ALL!

Trinity Fitness
Potomac Falls, VA

Finalist: Launch or Expansion Success

From the CIA to Pilates!
During the last 10 years of my 34-year career at CIA headquarters in Virginia, they began offering lunchtime exercise classes to encourage employee fitness. The instructor was wonderful, and I began taking mat Pilates twice a week. I immediately noticed a difference in the way I looked and felt, and vowed that I would teach Pilates as a second career.

After retiring in 2001, I attended a beginning mat certification course and began teaching at a local health club. It was extremely rewarding. I saw first-hand how Pilates can help people when, on the morning of 9/11, members still wanted to take their classes to help center themselves.

That fall, I began a full mat and equipment certification program in Washington, D.C., and one thing led to another. My first Balanced Body® purchase was an Allegro® reformer, then a Wunda Chair, and eventually a Cadillac.

In 2002 I opened my own studio, The Pilates Spot. It was such a success that I had to turn away new students. I recently moved to Delaware and built a 700 square foot, sprung wood floor studio in the lower level of my house. It’s not open quite yet, but there’s been plenty of buzz and I anticipate teaching small mat classes of 4-6 students in addition to private lessons. I have finally found my passion, not to mention the reward of seeing others grow stronger and flexible, with improved breath, control and balance!

The Pilates Spot
Milton, Delaware

Finalist: Launch or Expansion Success

I Opened a Studio and Made my Teaching Dreams Come True
My dream has always been to devise the perfect Pilates program for anyone, regardless of their fitness level. After teaching small group Pilates at the local gym and concluding that the corporate curriculum did not allow me to improvise and individualize, I realized the only way to have freedom as a teacher was to become a businesswoman and run my own studio.

I didn’t know what I was getting into but charged ahead, using savings and a home equity line of credit to rent the upstairs of an old house. The master bedroom had cathedral ceilings, a ceiling fan and mirrored wall – beautiful, but a tight fit. I managed to put in two reformers with towers, and a springboard. The living room was used for yoga and Pilates mat classes. I hired my first employees: another instructor and a receptionist.

I opened May 1, 2006, and two months later was overbooked and waitlisted for all classes. Clients told me they felt comfortable and cared for, and could apply the techniques they learned to other workouts and their movements in daily life. I really felt I was helping people, but quickly outgrew the space.

Later that year I moved to a 1,000-square-foot space. What it lacked in character, it made up for in space. We renovated with new flooring, plumbing, electricity, walls and paint. More than once, I asked myself what this had to do with Pilates. Then I looked around and imagined a yoga class in one section and eventually, group or individual reformer classes – and maybe even an expansion next door. I said to myself, “This has everything to do with my life’s dreams and goals.” As completion neared, I put a sign in the window: “Yoga and Pilates coming soon.”

We opened in November 2006 with 75 students. Currently I have 200 students from all walks of life – professionals, stay-at-home moms, an FBI agent, a baker, even a teenaged hockey defenseman. We began with 22 classes and now offer 39, plus three full days’ worth of private sessions. Although our strip mall storefront is not as pretty as that old house, I have come to like it so much better because it offers more visibility, professionalism and credibility. People know where we are and who we are.

I didn’t really know where I was headed when I first rented that upstairs space. But I was – and still am – driven by a desire to teach my own students my own way, and see the results. For a teacher there is no greater gratification or reward.

Pilates for EVERY Body
Island Park, New York

(continued above)

Finalist: Launch/Expansion

Pilates literally saved my life many times.
My first exposure to Pilates was 12 years ago, when my employer asked me to get certified in Pilates mat. I agreed, knowing nothing about Pilates. That one weekend changed my life. Soon after, Pilates helped me physically and mentally as I dealt with my mother's battle with and passing from liver cancer. To stay focused I took two more mat certifications.

During my additional training, I discovered I was pregnant with my fourth child and quit my job at a dental office to be a stay-at-home mom. After one year, I was going crazy and decided to get training on the Reformer, Wunda Chair and Cadillac, as well as a personal trainer certification. This allowed me to train and teach classes at the fitness club, and take care of my children. I loved every moment of teaching Pilates, and remained at the club for 10 more years until it was sold. The new owners wanted to take the club in a different direction, so after putting so much time and energy into developing the Pilates program, we parted ways.

But more personal challenges ensued. After bankruptcy, my marriage ended in a divorce, and I was diagnosed with Melonoma. Fortunately, it was found early and I am now more diligent than ever about keeping myself healthy in many ways.

A newly single mother of four boys, I had no job and an ex-husband who refused to pay child support. All the mind body education I had received gave me strength enough to quickly move forward. Within six weeks I fixed up my basement, took out a loan, and purchased a Reformer/Cadillac combination unit. My clients who left the fitness club along with me were no longer paying a membership fee, so I was able to charge more.

I have been training out of my home for eighteen months, gaining additional clients through word of mouth. I also teach classes at our local Government Center. The response has been overwhelming and I have added more classes.

So, Pilates has truly saved me more than once. I hope and dream of opening a full-fledged studio someday. Pilates has always given me a sense of control and confidence. I don’t know what I would have done with out it.

Full Circle Fitness
Stillwater, MN

Finalist: Launch or Expansion Success, 20+ Year Legacy

A 20+ year commitment to Joe’s legacy
I have been practicing Pilates for over half my life and teaching for 24 years; I guess I’m an “old timer” or a second-generation teacher. While a member of the Frankfurt Ballet in the mid-1970’s, I enjoyed the wonderful challenges of the Balanchine repertoire, but began to have knee “issues.” Only after moving to California to join the Los Angeles Ballet in 1978, did I discover Pilates at the Ron Fletcher Studio for Body Contrology. The work was a revelation to me; I learned to breathe, found my “center” and began to rehabilitate my knees. I am forever indebted to my teachers, Ron Fletcher, Diane Severino and Michael Podwal. By 1984, they asked me to teach! There were no certification programs at that time, rather I had absorbed the work by being in the studio daily, practicing and observing my teachers at work.

Twenty years ago, August 1987, I opened Studio du Corps/The Pilates Center of Orange County with one Reformer in a tiny room within a local dance studio. The work was unknown south of Los Angeles and I began with only 2-4 clients per week. Gradually, through word of mouth, I developed a base clientele who became devoted to the work. I bought more equipment, enlarging my little space and eventually moving to my present location.

Studio du Corps currently sees 100+ clients per week in both private and small group format, employs 6 instructors and offers a teacher training/certification program. Not only do we have a waiting list for new students, but many original clients have remained with me since 1987!

I can’t quite believe how Pilates has grown! Joe knew what he was doing!

Studio du Corps/The Pilates Center of Orange County
Orange County, CA

Finalist: 20+ Year Legacy

33 Years as a Pilates Instructor – Getting Personal
Our learning process never stops. Even as a life long advocate of Pilates, I am still learning the power of Pilates. Recent personal experience has brought home to me the difference between good teachers and great teachers. Good teachers know their stuff. Great teachers care about the well-being of their clients, and bring love and compassion to their work.

In 1975, as a young woman of 22, I fell in love with Pilates at the Ron Fletcher School of Body Contrology in Beverly Hills. I knew immediately I had found my passion and my calling, and Fletcher personally encouraged my involvement from the start.

I worked with Fletcher until 1980, when I opened my first studio. In January 2008, I opened a second studio and have 12 instructors on my staff. During my nearly 33 years as a Pilates instructor and consultant, I developed my own Pilates system: The Sheppard Method. I have published many articles, and I conduct three to four teacher training classes each year.

But it wasn’t until 2006 that I learned a very personal lesson about Pilates. In June of that year I nearly died from complications following surgery to remove a benign tumor that had spread from my right ear into my brain cavity, putting pressure on my brain. The surgery took seven hours, after which a complication required a second operation. My scheduled five-day hospital stay stretched to three weeks.

Integral to my healing process were the constant vigils of my husband and my father, along with the hope and encouragement offered by an amazing number of my studio’s Pilates teachers who came by regularly to facilitate my stretching. I credit Pilates for my physical and mental recovery, knowing that it accelerated the healing process and allowed me to get back to work much faster than the doctors anticipated.

I returned to work at the studio after two and a half months and was welcomed with open arms and hearts. My teachers are the great ones.

The Sheppard Method Pilates Studio
Los Angeles and North Hollywood, California

Finalist: Affordable Pilates

Queens Community Gets Affordable Pilates
In 2006 I opened Spencer Pilates Arts™, a small and beautiful space in the middle of working-class Queens, New York. I knew the studio simply wouldn't be successful unless I offered both group and private sessions at affordable rates. I purchased six Allegro® Reformers with Towers, plus a Chair, Cadillac, and Ladder Barrel. That meant that I could teach the full Pilates repertoire on the studio equipment, and in small groups the Reformer, Tower and Mat. My intention was to bring Pilates into an area that had no other Pilates studios.

Previous to opening Spencer Pilates Arts, I worked in a physical therapist's office and also saw private clientele in a facility that had some Pilates equipment. I saw many people suffering from common ailments such as bursitis, rotator cuff injuries, and all kinds of back pain. Many found pain relief from the Pilates repertoire. While it was great that these people got a little exposure to Pilates in a pain clinic setting, I thought everybody should have access to this method.

I remember a hostess at a dinner party raising her arms to show me her not-quite-yet-healed frozen shoulder. She explained that her insurance coverage for physical therapy ran out before she was completely healed. I knew this was an example of how Pilates could be implemented to maintain and further improve on the gains made in physical therapy. But people often told me they had no studio nearby, or that their neighborhood studio had only private session rates and/or mat classes.

My dream was to make mat and equipment classes affordable to everyone. One year after opening, the studio offers over 20 open-level Reformer/Tower classes each week, many of which routinely sell out, as well as mat and private classes. My rates are more affordable than other New York area studios making the regular practice of Pilates a financially realistic goal.

We have become busy enough for three other trainers to join my staff. The studio sees on average more than 60 clients each week, and we specialize in clients who are recovering from injuries. Dozens of people here are feeling and looking great! Our recent addition of Pilates Arcs will let us expand our class offerings to include the Spine Corrector work. And naturally I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of Balanced Body.

Spencer Pilates Arts
Forest Hills, Queens, New York

Finalist: Marketing Success

Reaching Young Urban Professionals in a Highly Competitive Market
We began with a vision of a studio innovative in function and exquisite in form, a studio that would break the conventions of design, programming and culture in the world of Pilates. Pouring passion, time and attention into a 2100 square foot subterranean space in San Francisco’s Marina district, we created an environment as swanky as the finest spas, with a “best kept secret in town” feeling. Strong architectural choices, bold colors and intimate lighting flood the senses, coaxing you away from the worries of the outside world, allowing you to focus on one thing… the perfect Pilates workout.

I nstead of decorating the walls with traditional dance posters or photos, we adorned the space with iconic film images such as Ursula Andress stepping from the ocean in Dr. No and a bare-chested Gerard Butler leading the Spartans in 300. The environment is rounded out with warm ambient light, peach-glass mirrors, scented candles and 360 degrees of Outernational music.

In order to successfully access the young urban professional, we implemented an easy-to-use online scheduling software and focused our marketing endeavors toward the online community. We’ve received several online editorial awards, such as Audience and Editorial Favorite for Best Pilates Studio of 2007, from CitySearch.com.

We filled our spacious, open floor plan with 21 Balanced Body Pilates apparatus and developed a system of unprecedented small group training programs to attract our younger target market. Our popular “Circuit Breaker” class rotates the clients through each machine every 20 minutes. Mat classes are limited to 8 participants, allowing the instructor to provide a more personalized level of expertise and attention, which garners a deeper understanding of the Method as well as greater physical results. This small group training allowed us to make Pilates more affordable, therefore yielding a large amount of younger, athletic clients who love to work out but are not yet ready to pay the high cost of one-on-one training.

Our staff is not only versed in functional anatomy and rehabilitation, but excels at teaching a rigorous, athletic approach to the Method, which we proudly term “High Performance Pilates.” Seeing upwards of 80 clients per day, 7 days a week, the studio is definitely doing something right by challenging their clients toward excellence and celebrating their signature motto, “All Vanity, No Shame.”

Mercury Fitness San Francisco, California