For Karolina Hiller, COVID-19 was a catalyst for change. The longtime STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor had always wanted to open her own studio, but it had never been the right time.
Living in three North American cities over the last nine years, supporting her husband in his demanding job, and raising two kids had delayed her plan, but now that they were finally settled in her home country of Switzerland and her husband’s job was winding down, nothing was going to stop her— not even a pandemic.
The only minor dilemma was where to set-up her studio.
“Due to COVID-19, I was reluctant to rent a space, so I decided to try working from my home after all. When we built our house, we planned a big room with its own bathroom and shower and separate entrance, but we’d since been using it as our in-house gym. I sold the workout machines and filled the space with Merrithew™ Reformers and equipment,” she says.
She named her studio Casa Pilates.
Not having to pay rent on a studio during these uncertain times has been a huge bonus and weight off her shoulders.
“Clients are still a bit reluctant to train indoors, especially seniors, so I’m grateful for every new client who comes through my door and that I’m able to accommodate them in this private space.”
Her studio’s outdoor advantage – with lakeside views
Boutique studios like hers have reopened in Switzerland with limited capacity. Karolina only teaches up to four participants at a time indoors.
But her studio’s biggest advantage, especially during COVID-19 times, is its location on a peaceful Swiss lake, allowing her to run outdoor Pilates mat classes, circuit and group training for up to 12 clients.
“Over the past few months, everybody has spent so much time indoors and on screens that people are antsy to get out. While online classes are wonderful, people need and want to get out of their homes.
It’s so beneficial just to get up and out, to breathe in the fresh air, feel the grass underfoot and exercise in this calming atmosphere by the lake; just being in-tune with nature as you move.
“A few Fridays ago, it started raining a little bit and everyone was smiling. Nobody wanted to stop or go inside, nobody complained, so we finished the whole class in the rain and it was so much fun.”
Tips on making your outdoor classes a success
“People are used to seeing or hearing about outdoor yoga sessions, but outdoor Pilates classes are still rare, at least here. My clients have really enjoyed the experience, saying how calming and refreshing it’s been to be outdoors,” she says.
- Location: Scout out a flat, shady and quiet spot beforehand. Make sure there’s enough room to space everyone apart and it’s far away from traffic, noise and construction. Consider parking and public transit options. Describe the spot clearly to clients, providing a picture or map so they know exactly where to go, and get the necessary permission if it’s in a public place.
- Equipment: Ask your clients to bring their own mats, towels and water bottles, but bring extra in case they forget. If you’re incorporating props, make sure your clients know what they need to bring or if you’re providing them. Karolina reminds her clients to bring their bikinis—for a dip in the lake afterwards, of course!
Check out our favorite portable props >
- Reminders: Send email or text reminders before the session to confirm location, equipment and any other info. Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes and signs or cards to let passersby learn about your offering.
- Shine and/or rain: Be flexible. If the weather is bad, what’s your plan? Will you cancel or reimburse clients, or are you pushing through it? Make sure your clients know your policy before they sign up.
- New environment, same you: As an instructor, your job is to be positive and welcoming. Make your clients feel seen, make the session fun and leave them feeling energized and proud of their accomplishment.
- Building focus: When Karolina notices her clients’ attention straying, she alternates between balance and coordination exercises. This trick immediately gets them to come back to the present and focus on their bodies instead of their to-do lists.
Trying to get your studio up-and-running in the wake of COVID-19? Check out our Reopening Resources and find out what other studios around the world are doing >