The Secret of Our Success?:
Community and Communication
El Camino YMCA Pilates Program
Mountain View, CA

As seen in our 2010 catalog

Since its humble beginnings, the Pilates program at the El Camino YMCA of Silicon Valley has grown in surprising ways. Our program launched in December 2005 with the help of a generous donation and a revolutionary instructor determined to succeed. We started with four Balanced Body Allegro® Reformers, two instructors and 8 classes per week.

Our instructors worked tirelessly to bring this program to fruition. This work ethic is our foundation and we continue to operate in this fashion. We did a lot of legwork up front and insisted that all of our instructors be fully certified. We needed to guarantee that our members would receive quality instruction. Since most of our instructors also teach group exercise classes at the YMCA, we had existing commitment and rapport with our members and the Pilates program became a way to strengthen a community within the Y and provide a new challenge to many veteran exercisers.

The program has expanded to include Wunda chairs, springboards, and Arcs (all share a space with our cycling studio); we have increased our instructors to six. Last year we added Towers to our Allegro reformers, which allow us to continue to offer new exercises despite our space limitations.

Demos and introductory classes

When we first started we offered a free orientation class. This wasn’t exactly a full free class, but kind of a taste of what to expect in an on-going class. It really got members interested and classes began to fill.

We also offered what we called small-group classes. Our small-group classes were a sampler program where a member would sign up for five fairly different introductory classes on different pieces of equipment like the Arc or Chair. These classes helped to promote awareness that Pilates has limitless possibilities, is very adaptable, and satisfies the needs of a wide range of abilities.

Six heads are better than one

The cornerstone of our innovative group programming is communication. We keep things fresh by getting together and sharing new ideas.

A great example of this collaboration is when we get together and each of us shares two exercises we love and two we are struggling with. Between all of us someone inevitably says “oh here’s how I do that” or “you might want to try this.” Suddenly an exercise that was a liability in the program becomes something we – and our members – love to do. Our sharing platform enables us to help one another so that we are all strong contributors to our community. And our members do notice – they’ll say things like “did you just go to a training course or something?”

And speaking of training, continuing education is essential. It can be hard to plan, but it’s something you absolutely have to do if you want to continue to offer something different in your group program. In fact, in the next month we are having Balanced Body master instructors coming in to do an in-house workshop for our staff.

We are excited about the direction our program is taking and looking forward to finding new ways to keep our members coming back while, at the same time, giving new members their first taste of what we think is a wonderful exercise method.

The El Camino YMCA Pilates program owes its success to the hard work of all of its instructors: Doods Ballantyne-Smith, Aura DeMare, Amy Favaro, Sophie Giaretta, Karen Gottlieb, Celine Lazzarini, and Jaimi Thomander.