In so many ways it’s been quite an experience to be part of this year’s National Fitness Awards. The awards, now in their 9th year, are “an opportunity to celebrate all that is amazing about our wonderful industry” and to “pay tribute to the hard work, the dedication and innovation that is taking place up and down the country”. I’m absolutely delighted that our tiny Yorkshire Dales Pilates studio achieved recognition and finished runners up in the Boutique Facility of the Year category!
Why did I enter our studio? I simply thought ‘why not?’ My colleagues, Kirsten and Cate, and I work very hard everyday in our studio to offer a first class schedule of pilates classes. We take a great deal of pride in what we do and I honestly believe that we change lives by teaching pilates. I thought it would be a real boost for our members and ourselves if we were to progress through the stages and reach the awards night. Also, I quite fancied a sparkly trophy in the studio but we didn’t quite get that far! I would wholeheartedly encourage studios and gyms, particularly those that offer pilates and yoga to keep an eye out for 2019 details and enter. I felt that pilates and yoga were under-represented in the nominations and certainly in the winners.
I’m not so naive as to believe that our studio is literally the second best in the UK. Although the number of entries was high there will be many, many studios and gyms who were not even aware of the existence of these awards. Having said that I was impressed by the judging process and I felt that I was involved in a thorough and fair procedure to find a worthy winner in each category. Firstly, we had to send a brief nomination with an outline of everything we have to offer. Further to this we had to send supporting evidence in the form of testimonials. On the strength of this evidence we were shortlisted to the top six. Simone Saunders, the event organiser from Script Media then visited the studio, met some of our members and we completed a lengthy questionnaire which she passed on to a panel of judges. This year they were Katie Bulmer-Cooke, Steve Johnson, Ben Coomber, Dean Hodgkin and Amelia Worrall, all of whom have impressive track records in the fitness industry.
I started my fitness career teaching group exercise at The University of Birmingham. We hosted fitness conventions on campus back in the early 2000s and it was then that I realised what a massive and vibrant industry it was. The ideas, energy and boundless enthusiasm that I experienced at these events were truly memorable. And on 30th November at the awards night I was transported back to that world. It’s been a long break…in 2006 I studied for my first pilates certification and immersed myself so completely in learning the pilates method of movement that I have to admit I turned my back on spinning, aerobics, circuit training, the gym, body conditioning and everything that had been my bread and butter for years. Once I’d completed my first mat course I was completely hooked on pilates and I couldn’t see beyond it as the perfect way for us all to exercise.
Last Saturday I realised that pilates is still so tiny in the bigger picture of the fitness world and of course there are a trillion other ways to keep fit and active and to reach your goals. Out of the 22 categories all with 6-7 shortlisted finalists, only 2 mentioned pilates. We are still niche, it’s time to keep spreading the word!
I was reminded of how much fun and what a privilege it is to work in the fitness sector. Do we, as pilates teachers, sometimes take ourselves and the work of pilates a little too seriously? Of course, it’s vital that we teach with confidence, knowledge and integrity but the fundamental aspect of exercise has to be enjoyment, it’s what keeps people returning for more.
So if you are a studio owner and you think it would be beneficial to your business, to staff morale and for yourself, enter next year’s Fitness Awards! Pilates is special and as enthusiasts and teachers we know that but it would be brilliant to see more pilates studios represented in this bigger fitness industry circle. I have definitely become quite isolated by only teaching pilates and teaching in a rural area. I will continue to dedicate my work and studies to pilates but I’ll be doing it now with a greater appreciation of everybody else out there working towards the same goal…improving the fitness and wellbeing of our nation.
And the best bit? The support of my family…Pete, mum, dad, James and Liz, all of whom joined me to dance the night away!