Finding ‘the one’ can be challenging. How to even begin the search? Trial and error, a hard-hitting moment of realisation, an interest that becomes an obsession. Finding a workout practise that suits your body and your mindset can take time. For Karen Lord it took a year. And then, a lightbulb moment. In the heart of Tribeca, New York City, you'll find the Karen Lord Pilates Movement studio, where focus lies in challenging clients while maintaining a mind and body connection.
To recharge from Fashion Week, RUSSH Fashion & Beauty Director Billie Iveson took a workshop at the Karen Lord Pilates Movement studio and spoke with its founder about how she got started in the industry, her inspirations and her unique style of Pilates.
Tell me about how you first got into Pilates ...
I tried it a billion years ago at a funny gym somewhere. Then my boyfriend at the time fell one day in the shower and it turns out that it was a disk problem that he had developed. So I suggested doing Pilates and he asked me to come with him. I am a very one-on-one person, so after resisting for a year I finally went with him. After my first class in forever, I fell in love. I got home and I looked in the mirror and it affected my body in one hour. I was a gymnast, had scoliosis and Pilates really grounded me and allowed me to come back into my centre.
What inspired you to start teaching?
After that first class I became an enthusiast for a number of years and then I would travel everywhere and do Pilates. So I started teacher training and one day I just said I want to feel like this all the time, this is what I want to do. I think it's been about two years now, and it's just this feeling you want to have all the time where you're in yourself, you're in your body and you're working with other people. In a crazy city like New York, it made my body look like I had always been thin. I felt so powerful and things started to fit differently. I was classically trained and went to non-classical classes but when I got into the training program I wanted to learn all the classical stuff so I could do my own method. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but it was an absolute passion.
How would you say your practise is different to classical? What little things did you change?
I have taken the best of the best in Pilates ... I don't have a lot of time for the classical transitions. I don't fuss around with lots of the terminology, I know every muscle but I'm not going to shoot you with a lot of terms that will make me feel like I'm super smart and distance us. I am an art person so I see the body as a sculpture. Breathing is really important, I think it's coming out of yourself.
What did you have in mind when you were creating your studio?
We made sure the studio always felt structured. Myself and the director of the company built everything. I had to create the space that I did not have, somewhere that I loved and somewhere I knew that other people would connect to. They often say, I didn't love [Pilates] but I fell in love with it here. I wanted a place that felt calm and serene. There is so much chaos in New York and I was finding that other studios were so colourful so I stuck to black and white. I want people to have an experience, I want them to be able to have a nice scent when they come in. I want our studio to be really approachable. Zen, calm and beautiful and we can talk for a second but then we'll kick your ass. We definitely will, but it's tough love as I always say.
What is the criteria for when you hire trainers?
When we hire trainers, they are the best trainers. We have a really long hiring process but ... I meet them and I say, empathy is the number one thing that I want you to show to clients. I need an amazing trainer with a good heart.
What's the environment like in your classes?
We do the best of the best and leave all the fussy stuff out, we're not scolding anyone ever and there is no body shaming; it's all totally positive. If something is wrong and you're hurting, we are not going to let you hurt yourself. It is not militant, it is a place of joy and that is why I come to Pilates, from a place of joy not a place of punishing my body in any way.
How do you want people to feel when they are training one-on-one?
I want to connect with someone when I'm training them. During one-on-one sessions I am a trainer, not an instructor, so I go in there and people's bodies change really quickly. Safely, I might add, because that is really important.
Do you think Pilates can be the one form of exercise that someone can do and get amazing results?
Absolutely. If you are going to do one thing, I think Pilates is the best thing anybody can do. There are so many facets of it : we do cardio, you can take a jump cord class. Pilates is sustained cardio, it makes your body move more efficiently so you're burning calories, you're not just limbering through your legs every day. With Pilates you are using absolutely every muscle. It's the way you look and the way you feel. So to me, 100,000 per cent, my kind of Pilates can be the one form of exercise, absolutely.