It all started with a discussion about pain. Two women discussing what hurt in their bodies and what seemed to be working to alleviate it. For both of them, the answer was Pilates.
That is, in a nutshell, how Betsy Johnson, a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor, came to work as the Pilates Manager at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH), part of the Intermountain Healthcare system, in Murray, Utah.
“When the TOSH administrator who took my Pilates classes approached me with the idea, she asked, ‘Can Pilates work in a health care setting and can we make it affordable?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
With 11 years of experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer at the Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf Orthopedic Clinic in Park City, Utah, a master’s degree in Exercise Science and her own personal experience rehabilitating her back pain with Pilates, Betsy was the perfect person to oversee the program at Intermountain TOSH.
“Pilates helped me so much and I wanted to share that with others,” she says.
Building a Pilates program at the hospital
Intermountain Healthcare’s mission is helping people lead the healthiest lives possible® by providing a holistic approach to care.
“At TOSH, we take someone from time of injury through to full recovery. Sometimes that includes surgery, sometimes it doesn’t, but it almost always includes physical therapy,” Betsy says.
Unfortunately, because of the high cost of physical therapy and medical insurance limits in the U.S., people often have to find ways of “bridging the gap” once their insurance cap has been reached.
To assist in the transition to full recovery, Intermountain TOSH offers alternative rehab treatment programs, including pool therapy, arthritis care and Pilates.
When Betsy launched the cash-based Pilates program in 2015, she offered just 10 classes a week.
“I knew that if I wanted to grow the program, pay my instructors well and keep costs low for clients, I had to run the program very efficiently. Our group studio has nine Merrithew™ V2 Max™ Reformers, and our classes have to be at 90% capacity to go ahead.
“In order to structure our group classes so they can safely accommodate clients with diverse health needs, we sell classes in packages of 25, keeping the cost of each class to $13. It requires people to commit, which allows us to modify our programming so it works for a diverse group and allows them to experience the benefits of Pilates.”
In the last four years, the Intermountain TOSH Pilates program has exploded, with 46 classes a week and 10 instructors.
“Registration is open 4 weeks prior to classes starting and the first 6 hours are kind of like buying concert tickets— there’s a rush to secure a spot,” Betsy says.
That’s mostly because of word-of-mouth referrals.
The studio’s clients include referrals from the hospital, employees and community members, ranging in age from 16-81, some with multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, scoliosis, hearing impairments, physical disabilities, sports injuries, post-surgery and more.
“People come to us because they’re frustrated. They’re tired of being in pain, they’re tired of not being able to move. Pilates teaches them proprioception, coordination and full body control. It helps them build balance, flexibility and strength in a really accessible way. Once you can get them moving again and firing the right muscles, they get stronger and more mobile, and those things really do wonders for people’s confidence and quality of life,” Betsy says.
“Hearing people say, ‘I never thought I’d be able to try Pilates because it was so expensive, but now I can and I love it so much,’ that’s really gratifying.”
The client testimonials on the Intermountain TOSH website speak to the program’s incredible success:
“Since starting Pilates, my back symptoms have improved significantly!”
“Pilates has been amazingly successful for me.”
“I have greater flexibility and endurance.”
“I am addicted!”
“Pilates has truly changed my life!”
All of this has only reinforced Betsy’s belief that “Pilates is for everyone.”
“And it certainly belongs in a health care setting. It’s been extremely well received and it’s exploding. We just want to show people how successful it’s been and how much people enjoy it, so it can hopefully help others open doors to introducing more Pilates programs to the health care sector.”
Providing Pilates and rehab care during a pandemic
Like studios across the U.S. and the world, TOSH’s Pilates studio had to close its doors on March 13 to prepare for the possible surge in virus patients at the hospital.
The studio quickly adapted to the new challenges, offering an unlimited online class pass to clients for $60. Instructors began teaching live sessions from home, offering 22 online classes a week in April and May.
At the same time, they started building up their free library of TOSH Pilates At-Home Workouts on YouTube. “We wanted to make sure that the cost of our online program would never leave our clients without support during social distancing,” Betsy says.
This month, they’ll begin offering in-studio classes to a maximum of six clients all wearing masks and abiding by social distancing.
“Due to our excellent instructors and loyal clientele, we have been blessed to continue working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Betsy says. “Although we all miss how it was, hopefully the online classes will always be part of our program. We have been able to allow individuals from around the country join us in mindful movement at TOSH.”
About the studio
Most of the TOSH studio team, pictured before COVID-19.
Intermountain TOSH has two private treatment studios with the Rehab V2 Max™ Reformer Bundles.
And one group studio with nine V2 Max Reformers with Vertical Frames. It also has Spring Walls, Stability Chairs™ and all the Barrels and accessories.
It offers specialized group classes geared towards specific populations, such as cyclists, dancers and osteoarthritis participants.
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