Many clients are looking for weight loss,
but not finding it, in traditional Pilates. Tangolates, on the other hand, burns calories.
NEW FORMATS, PROGRAMS, AND EQUPMENT KEEP THINGS EXCITING
For some fitness enthusiasts, Pilates is just one of many fitness regimens. For others, though,
it’s an art, a precise science, a transformational study of movement. But, regardless of the phrases
used to describe it, one thing is certain: Pilates, in a word, works—for clubs and members alike.
Thanks to its unquestioned effectiveness, demonstrated over a period of more than 90 years, and to
constant improvements, upgrades, and imaginative new variations on the original theme, Pilates remains
an ideal protocol for attracting, engaging, and retaining members.
Recently, the recession has, to be sure, left its mark.
Pilates-Pro.com, an online community for industry professionals, recently conducted a survey on
the financial performance of Pilates businesses. Some respondents acknowledged that sales had,
indeed, slipped as clients trimmed their training time; but, surprisingly, a large number reported
that their revenues had either remained stable or, better yet, increased significantly.
Those who continue to flourish despite the economy's failure have recognized a few fundamental facts.
They understand that, while they must remain focused on the basics—safe, efficient programming; excellent
customer service; sound business practices—they must be ever alert to fresh opportunities to improvise,
innovate, and otherwise reinvent what they do.
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to reinvigorate a club’s Pilates menu is to leverage its
current offerings. An increasingly popular and profitable approach capitalizes on group equipment classes.
Such sessions, in which an instructor works with two to as many as six clients at a time, deliver a number
of advantages. They make Pilates more dynamic, are socially rewarding for members, and are kind to their
wallets, increasing utilization—all of which translates to greater revenues for the club.
PJ O’Clair, a STOTT PILATES Master Instructor Trainer and the 2008 IDEA Program Director of the
Year, can attest to their value. The owner of Club Xcel/Northeast, a small boutique-style club with some
480 members in Hamilton, Massachusetts, she’s compensated for a slight dip in private lessons with an uptick
in group sessions.
Individual sessions cost $55-$85, depending on the leader's level of training, but group classes are just
$30 per person, and a 10-pack can be purchased for $195.
Group equipment options, O’Clair points out, obviously require more equipment, but, she contends,
more than pay their own way in the long run.
“Our numbers are up this year,” she enthuses. “We logged a 5% increase in revenues
during the first quarter.”
Another way to pump up Pilates proceeds is to make use of equipment that may already be in the club, for
which manufacturers have devised routines based on Pilates movements. Reformers, chairs, and other traditional
Pilates pieces may remain pivotal, but devices originally designed with other exercises in mind can add a unique,
fresh twist to workouts, and do double, even triple, duty—serving, as well, in personal training and
group-exercise situations. Among the categories of equipment that can be utilized for Pilates are glide boards,
cable and pulley systems, whole-body vibration devices, and, even, rebounders (mini-trampolines).
Grafting Pilates concepts to nontraditional equipment or combining it with other exercise modalities
are two great ways to get creative. Yogalates, which pairs yoga and Pilates, has already become something
of a standard at many clubs, and now, new couplings are occurring.
Viveca Jensen, a native of Sweden, former World Gym instructor, and the owner of V Pilates in Toluca Lake,
California, a part of Los Angeles, has moved Pilates into the boxing ring. “When I studied Pilates,
I discovered that its originator, Joseph Pilates, was a boxer,” she explains. “And I was like,
'Oh, there it is!” Jensen’s inspired creation, Piloxing, is an hour-long routine that flows seamlessly
from uppercuts to mat work. Classes, priced at $15, generally attract 15-35 people, and, Jensen notes,
attendance is increasing.
“Clients say that Piloxing makes them feel good not just physically, but mentally, as well,”
The program, which has generated a fair amount of buzz, also serves as a feeder into V Pilates' traditional
training services, which has brightened Jensen’s bottom line. “It sparks an interest,” she says.
A hemisphere away, another innovator, Tamara Di Tella, has married Pilates and Argentina’s national
dance, the tango, to create Tangolates. Pilates first made a name for itself when it was embraced by professional
dancers, and Di Tella seems to be resurrecting history. Tangolates is offered at her five Pilates studios in
Buenos Aires and elsewhere in Argentina, and is licensed for use at some 50 clubs in 12 other countries worldwide.
Tangolates makes use of a special piece of equipment, the T-DiTella apparatus, a platform with four upright
bars that accommodates two users at a time, which introduces a formerly missing exercise element. “Pilates
is excellent for flexibility and strength, but Tangolates adds cardio to the equation,” Di Tella explains.
“Many clients are looking for weight loss, but not finding it, in traditional Pilates. Tangolates, on the
other hand, burns calories.”
Each of Di Tella’s studios caters to approximately 200 clients, and her Tangolates classes average about 10
people in size.
Another clever individual, Joan Breibart, the president and cofounder of the PhysicalMind Institute (PMI), based
in New York City, which certifies instructors in the Pilates Method, has also developed some promising
permutations: Standing Pilates and Circular Pilates. “We’ve done what we think Joe (Pilates) would
have done if he were still alive,” says Breibart.
As the name implies, Standing Pilates is performed in a standing position. One of the primary goals of
the class is to teach clients how to apply the neutral spine of Pilates to everyday tasks, such as bending
and walking. Circular Pilates, a 20-minute routine, was developed in association with Kristin Hapke, an
instructor for the Institute, and Marika Molnar, a clinical advisor to the PMI. This class includes
standing, sitting, kneeling, supine, and prone movements, all of which are designed to build strength during
Interestingly, injury-prevention and rehabilitation is now one of the fastestgrowing segments of the
Pilates industry — a natural development, perhaps, given the fact that Pilates was originally devised
for wounded, bed-bound soldiers during World War I. “People came to Joe with an injury, and he found
a way to help them,” explains Ken Endelman, the founder, owner, and CEO of Balanced Body, a Pilates
equipment manufacturer based in Sacramento, California. “He was essentially one of the first physical
Attuned to the trend, STOTT PILATES intends to introduce a continuing-education series focused on post-rehab
training, as well as on different medical disorders. “Specialty tracks will give instructors the expertise
to specialize a little more and help them hone their skills,” explains Moira Merrithew, the cofounder
and executive director of education for STOTT PILATES, the Toronto-based subsidiary of the Merrithew Corporation,
a leading provider of Pilates products and services.
“Post-rehabilitation is a huge new trend,” attests O’Clair, of Club Xcel, who
specializes in post-rehab and athletic performance. “I'm getting a lot of referrals from doctors—more
than I've ever had.” Approximately 50% of her clients are postrehab, she says, and athletes constitute
20% of her private-training business.
“Many pro athletes are incorporating Pilates into their training regimens, and the majority of them
are men,” points out Lindsay Merrithew, the cofounder, president, and CEO of STOTT PILATES.
“Perhaps they're introduced to it while on the mend from injury, but most are sticking with it.
I think that, in the future, we're going to see a lot more men taking advantage of the benefits of Pilates.”
Of special note, and indicative of a new direction that Pilates seems to be taking, is O’Clair's
Pilat-ease offering, developed to provide cancer patients with “a gentler approach” to Pilates
exercise; 10 people are currently enrolled in the pilot program.
Bettina Blank, a Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Gold Certified Pilates teacher at the Circle Studio in
Portland, Oregon, has also done some groundbreaking work, helping individuals suffering with Parkinson's
disease. The author of Pilates for Parkinson's Disease: An Instructional Handbook, Blank is
convinced that Pilates can alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's — e.g., tremors and a
shuffling gait — and has witnessed such improvements firsthand. The participants in her classes,
she reports, “feel better, feel more energized, and their posture improves.”
For more information, visit www.stottpilates.com.