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Pilates: An exercise for everyone

05 July 2021

Donna Porteymour Cobham Pilates

Cobham is an affluent Surrey village, soon to be home to our Cobham Bowers community, the village has plenty of amenities for the community to enjoy and for those looking to get into Pilates or to get back into an exercise they love then Donna and the team at Cobham Pilates have the answer! 

We recently caught up with Donna to find out more about Pilates and her company.  

Hi Donna, can you tell us a little about your background?  

I came to Pilates as a client, my background was working in the technology industry and business development. I was travelling 5-6 days a week across the world, but still managing to keep up running and taking part in triathlons. In 2000 I had a neck and shoulder issue which I just couldn’t get fixed and someone suggested I try Pilates. Pilates was the most bizarre thing for me, I’d grown up as a competitive athlete so it was very different and I wasn’t good at it!  

I persevered and started private lessons and all my body aches went away! I didn’t know how or why but it was great, I’d just had two children and was on maternity leave and Pilates became an obsession for me.  

I carried on practicing Pilates for 5 years and it was my Husband who suggested I should open up my own Pilates business instead of returning to my previous line of work. The timings worked out well as my family and I had recently relocated to Surrey so I decided to train to become a Pilates instructor.   

I planned to do 4 or 5 classes in a village hall in Cobham, I put some flyers in the post office, 8 or 10 people came to the first session, then they came again and brought their friends and after about 2 months we had 80 people attending classes!  

How has Cobham Pilates grown?  

After our initial success we moved to a new premises which is a 2,000 sq ft purpose built studio on the high street. There’s a whole team of instructors, several people were originally clients in our studio and progressed to train to teach.  

We only offer Pilates in either private or group lessons and our team has a variety of personalities and styles. We don’t believe one particular style of Pilates is the right way. We have old school, we have contemporary, and a gentle approach from a therapeutic standpoint. The team is so diverse, there’s sixteen of us in total with different approaches and angles, the common denominator is that we are the best of the best in the UK. There’s never a client that comes to us with something that we can’t handle, from older people with osteoporosis to a sportsman with injuries, we have comprehensive solutions for everyone.  

We’re looking for more space at the moment and in discussion with the Pegasus team about using The Studio at Cobham Bowers to provide classes to our existing clients, the wider community, and the Cobham Bowers community. It will be a fantastic venue to work in so watch this space!  

What kind of clients do you tend to see? 

Our average age of our clientele is around 55, because we’ve been in Cobham for 15 years we have those same clients who have stayed with us. When I first started the studio I was a mum with young children and so were many of our clients and they’ve stuck with us. We also have many clients in their 80s, the exercises they are doing are unbelievable!  

Is Pilates suitable for everyone and how’s best to get started? 

With us, there are two options and we operate on a term basis. If you have no experience and want to start we have a beginner mat and beginner reformer class. We believe in our product enough to give people a first free session so they can see what we’re about and what our studio space is like.  

A lot of people like to start with private lessons, its preferred as they perhaps aren’t that confident. We also have a lot of men making up around 20% of our total client base with most being in their 70s. We also get a lot of couples in their 60s who come 2 or 3 times a week for a duet private lesson. They tell us Pilates aids them in getting on with the rest of their lives and doing things they love like tennis and travelling.  

There is an image that Pilates is really gentle, which it can be if a client needs it to be for a hip replacement for example. However, true Pilates will increase your heart rate as it’s very energetic and you’ll finish in a sweat. 

Doctors send people to do Pilates as they think it just involved breathing and stretching but it’s a fully comprehensive movement methodology which is customisable if you take any of the original 36 exercises they can be dialled down or up.  

How are you welcoming clients as restrictions continue to ease? 

During the pandemic we were seeing 250-300 clients a week on zoom. So we are introducing a permanent online solution in the Autumn but the best way to experience Pilates is in real life! 

We’re fully covid compliant and welcoming people back to the studio which is great. At the moment we have fewer numbers in the classes due to social distancing but hope to get back up to full capacity again by the summer, if not September. 

It’s coming up to your 15th Birthday, do you have any plans to celebrate?  

We tend to celebrate our birthday in September, even though it’s actually in June because the summer is such a busy time. The pandemic has taught us not to have plans set in stone but we do have some ideas and light plans which will be announced in August so watch this space!

To find out more about Cobham Pilates or book a class then visit: https://www.cobhampilates.com/ 

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To find out more about our new Cobham Bowers community, just a stones throw from the bustling high street and Cobham Pilates studio then get in touch with the team: 01932 321042/ [email protected]