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First Pilates Story – Lucinda Pepper from Pepilates London

The first Pilates Story featuring Lucinda Pepper from Pepilates London (http://www.pepilates.co.uk).

A very inspiring story about how she started her business by taking a loan and starting out in the spare room in her own home! If you can dream it, you can do it!

How did you first come across Pilates?
At dance school age 17. We did floor barre and Pilates mat work to get us balanced and strong. When I came down to London in 2002 to study for my degree at the Royal Academy of Dance I was introduced to the equipment. We had an on site physiotherapist who would give us exercises to do for specific issues and injuries we were working with. We had free time to use the equipment but were not guided on it. It was towards in my final year at RAD that I enrolled on a comprehensive training program with the person who had since taken over the studio at the school.

What is your favorite Pilates exercise?
The full hang on the Cadillac, it opens me up and renews me due to the upside down nature.  A reversal of gravity is just what I need when feeling tired.

How long have you been practicing Pilates? How long have you been teaching?
I have been practicing for approx 15 years and teaching for 10 years.

What were your doing before your started teaching Pilates?
Teaching Ballet to all ages (I temporarily opened up a dance school at one point) and doing the odd modelling job here and there too.

What was your first paid Pilates teaching job? How did you land yourself in that position?
I took on someones mat classes up in Highgate to cover them whilst they were on maternity leave. I found out about this through a friend who was a TA for this lady at her dance school.

How did you feel when you taught your first class?
A little terrified but also quite excited to be teaching something that was going to make people feel good.

What is the funniest moment that you’ve had with Pilates?
Now this is a tricky one as there’s been a few. I once got a little carried away with a mat class who I taught regularly at the time and they all knew the exercises, when it came to going into Spine stretch I said ‘Open wide and grow up’ which they all found highly amusing.

I’ve also made the mistake of saying things like ‘Airy arm pits’ which when said quickly sounds just like hairy armpits and ladies tend to get a little paranoid when you start saying these things.

What was the first mistake you made teaching Pilates?
I would say in the earlier days of teaching Pilates I didn’t quite realize just how much one really needs to know the exercise very well within your own body to be able to teach this to someone else properly. I launched into teaching with very little practice myself. Due to being a dancer I was pretty able to move and had no clue really how to get others to achieve these movements. I learnt pretty quickly as I continued to teach and further my education.

Who did you train and attain your certification with? What is the point of differentiation of this school of training?
I originally trained with BASI on there comprehensive program which was a more contemporary approach.

I re trained with The Pilates Center completing both their Advanced program and the master’s program. TPC’s program is a more classical approach in which you are required to study the work within your own body to a fully advanced level plus learn how to teach the whole system.

How long have you had your Pilates business? Tell us a but about the journey starting your own business eg how many people did you start with? And how did you grow your business over the years?What do you enjoy most about the business? What is the biggest challenge?
I opened my own studio on 19th January 2009, this was at home in Clapham in our newly spare room.

I had been working across London for a few years teaching both dance and Pilates and when the couple we house shared with moved out, my partner suggested I try building a client base from home.

I took a loan and bought one piece of each equipment and printed off some of my own flyers (didn’t even have a webpage at this stage). After days and days of posting flyers locally with the help of my partner Charlie who at the time was working 16 hour days in banking.

After a few months I was teaching from 7 am to 9 pm and both Saturday and Sunday, so at that point I reached out to some old colleagues to see if they would come and do the hours I couldn’t due to my dance teaching work.

Once these hours were full up I took another loan to buy some more equipment and then opened up the living room as a second studio room. I interview a teacher from Israel who had sent over her CV and got on the phone to a few more old colleagues.

I was then able to stop working every waking hour and start doing more admin work as it was really getting on top of me at this point.

This was a tough stage as I had gone from working from home to it now being more like living at work. Classes went till 9 pm everyday in the week and on both weekend days till after lunch and unfortunately you couldn’t access our kitchen without walking through the classes not to mention not having a living room!

Charlie and I noticed the large studio space across the way was sitting empty so we did some investigating and finally managed to buy someone out of their lease. We moved in to our now Clapham studio space in Feb 2010 and Charlie gave up his City job and came to work with me full time in May 2010.

The space was so much bigger, we rattled around in it for a bit until we took yet another loan and bought some more equipment and also altered the space putting in a separate mat room and a changing area.

Due to the increased space we were able to now have group equipment classes and mat classes alongside the privates and duets, this meant that instead of just 2 teachers working at the same time we could now have up to 5 teachers teaching at the same time. The vibe and energy really shifted, we also needed help on the admin front so we started to employ reception staff who dealt with bookings, payments etc.

I started to host continuing education workshops with Amy Alpers, Deborah Kolwey, Rachel Taylor Segal and Cara Reeser. In 2012 I took on the UK license for The Pilates Center and started to run teacher training programs.

I had my daughter in 2013, quite a bit too early and by mistake in America so one of the biggest challenges for me was getting through this period of time without having too many things go down hill. I had to go into work whilst my daughter was still in high dependency in hospital plus I was expressing breast milk with a pump every 3 hours, which all in all was very hard at the time.

We have now opened a second studio in Wimbledon which is gradually building so the challenge now is to manage my time between both studios and my family life too. We have grown quite gradually but its taken a lot of hard work and learning along the way.

I love moving forwards and being challenged by situations as it makes me have to figure things out which provides a great sense of achievement.

So it started with me in a room with help from Charlie and then grew over the years to 2 commercial studios, 17 teachers and 2 receptionists.

I love Pilates and providing the platform for so much of it to get taught to as high a standard as possible is such a motivation for me.

Where do you see yourself in two years’ time?
In a lighthouse on a cliff top. Only kidding that’s my end goal, more like 20 years time, haha.I’ll be teaching, training teachers and doing my best to look after the studios and everyone working in them.

What reading or resources do you use to further your own Pilates learning?
All sorts. I re read Return to Life every 6 months or so. At the mo I’m reading The Hidden You by Mabel Todd.

What do you do to maintain your own fitness? 
Trick question right. Pilates! I do sometimes try the odd yoga class, go for a run or a walk in the woods or just go in the garden and do handstands and cartwheels but my regular exercise is Pilates.
What advice would you give a newly qualified Pilates instructor?
Keep learning, there’s so much more and it only gets more fun and interesting the more you realize this. Keep up your own practice of the entire work as much as possible and take classes. Above all, look after yourself!

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