How far back do you want to go? Back in 1979 I started my first business, teaching “Disco Fit” in church halls in the South of England. In 1982 I opened my first studio teaching Aerobics a la Jane Fonda – all leg warmers and sweat bands! It wasn’t long before I needed to move to bigger premises, that was when I added weight training equipment. When I experienced Step classes in Los Angeles I was the first person in the UK to offer those classes. Back then The Step didn’t exist so I asked a local boat builder to make me hollow boxes out of fibreglass – they were great and an improvement on the wooden boxes with carpet on the top I had used at the Karen Voight studios in LA!
I don’t remember exactly when I took my first Pilates class – probably around 1985 or so. I would travel up to London one day a week to attend Aerobics at Pineapple West, then onto Lotte Berk’s studio in Dover Street then finally to Alan Herman’s Pilates studio in Homer Row. At that time I was not interested in teaching – I was just enjoying my day off!
Fast forward to 1999 when I teamed up with Michael King and Malcolm Muirhead to develop the Pilates Institute, London. By then I had trained with Michael and sold my gym in Hampshire. During the years the Pilates Institute, London was growing we developed the first National qualification in Pilates the World had seen – a level 2 RSA Certificate. It was a first – we were proud.
Very soon the fitness industry discovered Pilates and the rest is History as they say. As the technique became mainstream I sat on the committee that set the criteria for the current level 3 qualification in the UK. The school in North London went from strength to strength with licences for the teacher training programme being taken worldwide. It was a wonderful learning experience – remember there were no national Pilates qualifications when we started – teachers trained with the apprentice system which was great but there was no evidenced proof of learning until we collaborated with the Royal Society of Arts to create that first level 2 course.
In 2008 I relocated to the South of France to return to my roots – teaching clients on a daily basis as well as helping teachers with their career choices. I opened my studio in the village La Garde Freinet, where I live, life is good. I’ve returned to what I love; working with clients to help them improve their daily lives, as well as helping hungry teachers who want practical, realistic advice about how to build a Pilates business.
One thing I’ve learned over the years – start before you’re ready – when the passion for the work hits you – there are always more experiences to have or qualifications to get, but nothing works better than just doing it……..
Funny story – when I was a week away from opening my first studio – I bumped into the daughter of the owner of the local body building gym who told me that aerobics was a fad, she asked me what I would do if nobody came…… I just hadn’t given that a thought – until then – but the optimistic Sagittarian kicked in – and yes it was a great success. Lesson – go with your gut!