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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

Studio: Pilates for all

Although Pilates is starting to attract more diverse audiences, many operators find their core demographic is still young women. How can we broaden the reach? Experts share their advice

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 7
Growing your male Pilates membership may start with attracting them to train with their partners / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
Growing your male Pilates membership may start with attracting them to train with their partners / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
Jessie Blum
Heartcore
Jessie Blum / photo: Heartcore

Often it’s the fear of not fitting in that keeps men and older people away from Pilates studios. Offering curated classes that cater for these audiences and their needs can be a great icebreaker and door opener.

These can include men-only classes or a sport-specific classes, a beginner or slower-paced session or a series to learn the ropes and help people achieve their goals (however big or small they may be).

As a business, I think it’s important to communicate clearly what you can offer and be available for questions and/or conversations to instil a sense of trust, safety and confidence in these audiences.

Talk to these audiences in their natural habitats. For example, hold an introductory ‘men only’ Pilates session at your local sports club, or offer a gentler paced session at a local senior home or in a church hall to help raise awareness of the benefits of Pilates and start building a community.

Our work as operators is to create welcoming, supportive and inspiring environments and options for everybody to thrive in. I also think that teachers need to feel empowered with knowledge and sensibility to welcome and guide these audiences with an individual approach so everybody feels understood, included, encouraged and accomplished. It all comes down to creating meaningful, personalised experiences.

Tell us about trends and changes to Pilates audiences

What we’re noticing at Heartcore is an increased age gap – in a good way! We’re seeing an equal rise of younger and more mature members moving side by side, each working to their own potential and all looking to feel and be stronger from the inside out. It’s very powerful to witness and reaffirms how incredibly adaptable, inclusive and beneficial Pilates can be.

We’re seeing an equal rise of younger and more mature members, each working to their own potential
Beyond the core female market, Pilates can be adapted to appeal to men, sportspeople and seniors / photo: Heartcore
Howard Braband
GymKit UK/Peak Pilates
Howard Braband / photo: Howard Braband

Peak Pilates ran a very positive campaign in 2022 titled ‘Men + Pilates’ where imagery and key messages were used to highlight the physical benefits of Pilates for men. More exposure of these key messages will certainly help to continue to develop the attraction for men.

My advice is to be subtle when marketing to your male audience. Stay smart and sophisticated in your message, imagery and offer and consider the specific benefits that may be attractive to them.

From what we’ve seen, the studios that have been most successful in growing their male membership are those that have attracted men to train with their partners, encouraged by their wives, female friends and girlfriends. Spending quality time together and sharing healthy lifestyle activities such as Pilates has been a growing trend.

Peak Pilates has also seen an increase in interest from sportspeople such as professional footballers, cyclists, runners and triathletes who now recognise that Pilates is a valid part of their training routine.

Pilates is recognised by many healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists and chiropractors. Studios should work in partnership with physiotherapy and chiropractic practices to encourage both men and older people to try this form of exercise.

Ultimately, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is key. By tailoring marketing efforts, diversifying class offerings and providing targeted incentives, operators can successfully attract men and older individuals, helping them discover the immense benefits and joys of Pilates.

How are audiences changing?

We’ve noticed that audiences are gradually changing. Many men have discovered the numerous benefits of Pilates, including improved strength, flexibility and overall fitness. As the understanding and awareness of Pilates continues to grow, more men are realising its value and incorporating it into their fitness routines.

Studios should work in partnership with physiotherapy and chiropractic practices
Creating a warm and inclusive environment is key / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
James Anderson
Physical/Merrithew
James Anderson / photo: Physical / NELSON PHOTOS

It’s about building awareness of what Pilates actually is and what it can help with. Some people’s perceptions may be that it involves a relaxed lie-down in a church hall, but Pilates can be a challenging full-body workout that builds strength, endurance and agility. It’s why athletes and sports people across a wide range of sports use it to develop conditioning and injury resistance. It’s also an important message for men: elite male sports stars are turning to Pilates in their droves these days. It definitely isn’t just for women.

For those not interested in improving sports performance, operators can promote the postural benefits of Pilates: if you’re sitting at a desk most of the day, Pilates can help you de-stress, improve posture and build a stronger core. For older people, Pilates is great for mobility, functional movement and rehabilitation. Customisable to individual needs, it’s a form of exercise for life.

What kit would you recommend?
To attract more men, Pilates reformers and stability chairs should be top of the equipment wish-list. Here, the tension can be adjusted to make the resistance more challenging. Range of motion can also be increased to progress training. Male participants will quickly realise it’s a much tougher workout than they expected, plus they’ll soon reap the rewards of enhanced performance across all their athletic pursuits.

Mat-based Pilates can also be surprisingly challenging; operators can migrate men into these classes in addition, once they’re hooked on the benefits of Pilates.

What trends are you seeing?
Significant growth in demand for Pilates – and particularly reformer Pilates – among elite male sports teams and athletes, who are incorporating it as a regular part of their training regimes.

I’d go so far as to say Pilates is fast becoming a must-have for professional athletes – a valuable way to improve performance across a wide range of sports by developing strength and conditioning and helping to prevent injuries.

We’ve recently supplied Pilates reformers to Premier League football teams and footballers, as well as Premiership rugby teams and players, for on-site and at-home training sessions.

Reformers can be adjusted to give a more challenging workout to men
Male participants will quickly realise it’s a much tougher workout than they expected / photo: Physical / Merrithew
Joy Puleo
Balanced Body
Joy Puleo / photo: Balanced Body

There are two key benefits of Pilates; performance and longevity. Pilates keeps men and seniors doing what they want, longer. Whether it is playing golf, running marathons or cycling, Pilates helps individuals maximise their performance by making them more flexible, stronger and with greater balance and coordination. It’s also a proven injury-prevention activity. This is why Pilates is used by professional athletes across all sports.

Similarly – and yet for very different reasons – Pilates is a perfect activity as we age. It has a distinct neuromotor component and is ideal for training and maintaining balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. Pilates is low-impact and adaptable to all bodies, regardless of age and ability. The highly focused nature of Pilates heightens self-awareness and enhances physical ability in men, women and seniors.

In the past Pilates was limited to a specific and fortunate few, it was hard to find, highly individualised and studios were particular and fussy. Now, the value-add of pilates is recognised, appreciated and sought after. Pilates has become accessible and available, and equipment classes are popular.

Some may still hold the notion that because Pilates is low-impact, it is not a ‘true’ workout and doesn’t provide real benefits. Targeted and tailored group classes, taught for the specific needs of the male client or the older client, are helping to break down these barriers.

What kit would you recommend?

In the near future, we see group chair classes coming. The Pilates chair is versatile, space-saving, economical and gives a satisfying, full-body workout. It’s less well-known than the reformer and as it grows in awareness, I expect we’ll see greater demand and see it emerging as a new way for clubs to differentiate themselves.

We expect to see group chair classes coming in the near future
Pilates can help seniors pursue their favourite activities for longer / photo: Balanced Body
Pilates is adaptable to all, regardless of age and ability / photo: Balanced Body
Ed Botha
BASI Pilates
Ed Botha / photo: Basi Pilates

Traditionally Pilates has been portrayed as an exercise form for women and dancers. This is partially due to the way that it has been advertised. Pilates publications and studios have had mostly females on their covers or posters. I think having male-focused and older-focused advertising would be great for the industry.

Men and the older population need to be educated on the functional benefits of Pilates, not only the aesthetic results. This could be done using images or articles on how Pilates can improve flexibility, or even your golf swing.

I would love to see more classes that are specifically designed to cater for males. Men and women move very differently. Usually that which is easy for a female in a Pilates class can be really challenging for a man.

This is as a result of male and female centres of gravity being very different. This needs to be accounted for when programming a Pilates session. Some men and older people don’t really know what Pilates is.

The most common question we get asked is: “is it like yoga?” Again, this comes down to educating the public through informative articles and advertising. Going to your first Pilates class can be very intimidating, especially if you’re the oldest or the only male.

I’ve been teaching Pilates for over 20 years and some of my closest friends think that what I do is only for females. I advise any Pilates operator to hire at least one male instructor.

What kit would you recommend?

You would want to use Pilates equipment that’s adjustable to fit the modern body. People have become much larger and also taller over the last few decades. Some traditionally-manufactured Pilates equipment might not be suitable for clients who are well over six feet tall. This would really restrict the ability to teach and perform many of the wonderful Pilates exercises purely for the sake of tradition.

I advise any Pilates operator to hire at least one male instructor
Men need to be educated on Pilates’ functional benefits / photo: Basi Pilates
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/295361_373590.jpg
How can operators tap into growing and more diverse Pilates market segments by changing the way they connect with people?
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features

Studio: Pilates for all

Although Pilates is starting to attract more diverse audiences, many operators find their core demographic is still young women. How can we broaden the reach? Experts share their advice

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 7
Growing your male Pilates membership may start with attracting them to train with their partners / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
Growing your male Pilates membership may start with attracting them to train with their partners / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
Jessie Blum
Heartcore
Jessie Blum / photo: Heartcore

Often it’s the fear of not fitting in that keeps men and older people away from Pilates studios. Offering curated classes that cater for these audiences and their needs can be a great icebreaker and door opener.

These can include men-only classes or a sport-specific classes, a beginner or slower-paced session or a series to learn the ropes and help people achieve their goals (however big or small they may be).

As a business, I think it’s important to communicate clearly what you can offer and be available for questions and/or conversations to instil a sense of trust, safety and confidence in these audiences.

Talk to these audiences in their natural habitats. For example, hold an introductory ‘men only’ Pilates session at your local sports club, or offer a gentler paced session at a local senior home or in a church hall to help raise awareness of the benefits of Pilates and start building a community.

Our work as operators is to create welcoming, supportive and inspiring environments and options for everybody to thrive in. I also think that teachers need to feel empowered with knowledge and sensibility to welcome and guide these audiences with an individual approach so everybody feels understood, included, encouraged and accomplished. It all comes down to creating meaningful, personalised experiences.

Tell us about trends and changes to Pilates audiences

What we’re noticing at Heartcore is an increased age gap – in a good way! We’re seeing an equal rise of younger and more mature members moving side by side, each working to their own potential and all looking to feel and be stronger from the inside out. It’s very powerful to witness and reaffirms how incredibly adaptable, inclusive and beneficial Pilates can be.

We’re seeing an equal rise of younger and more mature members, each working to their own potential
Beyond the core female market, Pilates can be adapted to appeal to men, sportspeople and seniors / photo: Heartcore
Howard Braband
GymKit UK/Peak Pilates
Howard Braband / photo: Howard Braband

Peak Pilates ran a very positive campaign in 2022 titled ‘Men + Pilates’ where imagery and key messages were used to highlight the physical benefits of Pilates for men. More exposure of these key messages will certainly help to continue to develop the attraction for men.

My advice is to be subtle when marketing to your male audience. Stay smart and sophisticated in your message, imagery and offer and consider the specific benefits that may be attractive to them.

From what we’ve seen, the studios that have been most successful in growing their male membership are those that have attracted men to train with their partners, encouraged by their wives, female friends and girlfriends. Spending quality time together and sharing healthy lifestyle activities such as Pilates has been a growing trend.

Peak Pilates has also seen an increase in interest from sportspeople such as professional footballers, cyclists, runners and triathletes who now recognise that Pilates is a valid part of their training routine.

Pilates is recognised by many healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists and chiropractors. Studios should work in partnership with physiotherapy and chiropractic practices to encourage both men and older people to try this form of exercise.

Ultimately, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is key. By tailoring marketing efforts, diversifying class offerings and providing targeted incentives, operators can successfully attract men and older individuals, helping them discover the immense benefits and joys of Pilates.

How are audiences changing?

We’ve noticed that audiences are gradually changing. Many men have discovered the numerous benefits of Pilates, including improved strength, flexibility and overall fitness. As the understanding and awareness of Pilates continues to grow, more men are realising its value and incorporating it into their fitness routines.

Studios should work in partnership with physiotherapy and chiropractic practices
Creating a warm and inclusive environment is key / photo: Tim Steele Photography / Gymkit uk / Peak Pilates
James Anderson
Physical/Merrithew
James Anderson / photo: Physical / NELSON PHOTOS

It’s about building awareness of what Pilates actually is and what it can help with. Some people’s perceptions may be that it involves a relaxed lie-down in a church hall, but Pilates can be a challenging full-body workout that builds strength, endurance and agility. It’s why athletes and sports people across a wide range of sports use it to develop conditioning and injury resistance. It’s also an important message for men: elite male sports stars are turning to Pilates in their droves these days. It definitely isn’t just for women.

For those not interested in improving sports performance, operators can promote the postural benefits of Pilates: if you’re sitting at a desk most of the day, Pilates can help you de-stress, improve posture and build a stronger core. For older people, Pilates is great for mobility, functional movement and rehabilitation. Customisable to individual needs, it’s a form of exercise for life.

What kit would you recommend?
To attract more men, Pilates reformers and stability chairs should be top of the equipment wish-list. Here, the tension can be adjusted to make the resistance more challenging. Range of motion can also be increased to progress training. Male participants will quickly realise it’s a much tougher workout than they expected, plus they’ll soon reap the rewards of enhanced performance across all their athletic pursuits.

Mat-based Pilates can also be surprisingly challenging; operators can migrate men into these classes in addition, once they’re hooked on the benefits of Pilates.

What trends are you seeing?
Significant growth in demand for Pilates – and particularly reformer Pilates – among elite male sports teams and athletes, who are incorporating it as a regular part of their training regimes.

I’d go so far as to say Pilates is fast becoming a must-have for professional athletes – a valuable way to improve performance across a wide range of sports by developing strength and conditioning and helping to prevent injuries.

We’ve recently supplied Pilates reformers to Premier League football teams and footballers, as well as Premiership rugby teams and players, for on-site and at-home training sessions.

Reformers can be adjusted to give a more challenging workout to men
Male participants will quickly realise it’s a much tougher workout than they expected / photo: Physical / Merrithew
Joy Puleo
Balanced Body
Joy Puleo / photo: Balanced Body

There are two key benefits of Pilates; performance and longevity. Pilates keeps men and seniors doing what they want, longer. Whether it is playing golf, running marathons or cycling, Pilates helps individuals maximise their performance by making them more flexible, stronger and with greater balance and coordination. It’s also a proven injury-prevention activity. This is why Pilates is used by professional athletes across all sports.

Similarly – and yet for very different reasons – Pilates is a perfect activity as we age. It has a distinct neuromotor component and is ideal for training and maintaining balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. Pilates is low-impact and adaptable to all bodies, regardless of age and ability. The highly focused nature of Pilates heightens self-awareness and enhances physical ability in men, women and seniors.

In the past Pilates was limited to a specific and fortunate few, it was hard to find, highly individualised and studios were particular and fussy. Now, the value-add of pilates is recognised, appreciated and sought after. Pilates has become accessible and available, and equipment classes are popular.

Some may still hold the notion that because Pilates is low-impact, it is not a ‘true’ workout and doesn’t provide real benefits. Targeted and tailored group classes, taught for the specific needs of the male client or the older client, are helping to break down these barriers.

What kit would you recommend?

In the near future, we see group chair classes coming. The Pilates chair is versatile, space-saving, economical and gives a satisfying, full-body workout. It’s less well-known than the reformer and as it grows in awareness, I expect we’ll see greater demand and see it emerging as a new way for clubs to differentiate themselves.

We expect to see group chair classes coming in the near future
Pilates can help seniors pursue their favourite activities for longer / photo: Balanced Body
Pilates is adaptable to all, regardless of age and ability / photo: Balanced Body
Ed Botha
BASI Pilates
Ed Botha / photo: Basi Pilates

Traditionally Pilates has been portrayed as an exercise form for women and dancers. This is partially due to the way that it has been advertised. Pilates publications and studios have had mostly females on their covers or posters. I think having male-focused and older-focused advertising would be great for the industry.

Men and the older population need to be educated on the functional benefits of Pilates, not only the aesthetic results. This could be done using images or articles on how Pilates can improve flexibility, or even your golf swing.

I would love to see more classes that are specifically designed to cater for males. Men and women move very differently. Usually that which is easy for a female in a Pilates class can be really challenging for a man.

This is as a result of male and female centres of gravity being very different. This needs to be accounted for when programming a Pilates session. Some men and older people don’t really know what Pilates is.

The most common question we get asked is: “is it like yoga?” Again, this comes down to educating the public through informative articles and advertising. Going to your first Pilates class can be very intimidating, especially if you’re the oldest or the only male.

I’ve been teaching Pilates for over 20 years and some of my closest friends think that what I do is only for females. I advise any Pilates operator to hire at least one male instructor.

What kit would you recommend?

You would want to use Pilates equipment that’s adjustable to fit the modern body. People have become much larger and also taller over the last few decades. Some traditionally-manufactured Pilates equipment might not be suitable for clients who are well over six feet tall. This would really restrict the ability to teach and perform many of the wonderful Pilates exercises purely for the sake of tradition.

I advise any Pilates operator to hire at least one male instructor
Men need to be educated on Pilates’ functional benefits / photo: Basi Pilates
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/295361_373590.jpg
How can operators tap into growing and more diverse Pilates market segments by changing the way they connect with people?
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