Online classes help celebrity pilates studio thrive during lockdown

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A Pilates studio that counts Harry Styles, Sadie Frost and Harry Kane’s wife Kate among its clients has thrived during the lockdown by switching to online classes.

Exhale Pilates London, based in Chalk Farm, was facing an uncertain future when founder Gaby Noble closed the studio on March 18.

Ms Noble, a former corporate marketing executive, put “the safety and wellbeing” of her clients and staff first by closing its doors before the Government told fitness centres to shut. But, determined to keep the business she has run for more than five years afloat, she quickly began offering online classes.

To encourage people to try them out she launched a £95 “21 Day Lockdown Challenge”, where clients were challenged to do 12 classes in three weeks.

If they complete all 12 they receive a full credit to be used for a one-on-one session, either online or when the studio reopens to visitors.

Ms Noble, who lives in Belsize Park, said the business was now busier than ever. She said: “January and February are big months for the wellness industry and things were going really well. But then all this happened and it was a challenge to pivot and adjust to online.

“I mean, I almost fell apart, basically starting a whole new business within a matter of weeks, but we got there. And now we are busier than ever. Some of my teachers are earning more now than they were before. I was worried about them as a lot of them are freelance and can’t be furloughed.

“We already had things like online payment set up, so we just reconfigured that for online classes. The main challenge was working out how to do the classes on Zoom, which we all know how to use now but at the start it was a minefield, training our staff and making sure our clients were comfortable.” Ms Noble said she will maintain her online offering after lockdown because it “opens our studio out to a wider audience”.

She added: “We have people logging on from around the world. It has given people more confidence in their pilates skills. There are no distractions of a group class in the studio, and instructors can focus on their clients in a different way. Of course, there is no replacement for the atmosphere and feel of being in a group class, but online classes have worked.”

She admitted the future of the industry was still looking uncertain, saying: “I don’t think the fitness industry will be back to normal for some time and there will be some studios who cannot carry on with reduced numbers of clients due to rent costs. But I am hoping to be able to offer one-on-one sessions in the studio from as early as next month. But we will have to see what happens.”

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