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Building Together, Growing Together: A Journey with Merrithew in China

An insight into the unique team-building experience organized by Anita Tang and Patricia Liao— the co-founders of Merrithew® Host Training Center(HTC), The Orange Room and the duo that introduced Merrithew training in China.

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Discover the inspiring journey of Merrithew in China, where two visionary leaders—Anita Tang and Patricia Liao—orchestrated a unique team-building experience for the Merrithew Instructor Trainer community in China. Join us as the team shares their insight on standing strong through the pandemic and talks about the unique bond they all share.

Standing strong during COVID times

Pat (Patricia) and Anita were the first Merrithew ITs in Mainland China. They have been like mentors to the younger ITs. When the pandemic hit, just like rest of the world, the Chinese IT community was uncertain about what the future holds. This is when Pat and Anita stepped up as leaders and helped the team navigate through the tough times.

From covering each other's training sessions when needed to isolating themselves for days just to keep the training going, the team did everything they could to keep the spirit of teaching and learning alive.

“During the pandemic, we created a chat group so even the ITs who lived far away could also connect, ask questions, and feel a sense of belonging. We wanted to make sure everyone felt part of a team during those challenging times. We wanted Merrithew's training in China to be the best it can be, despite the challenges of the pandemic,” Anita says.

“Lead Instructor Trainer Vichael Mak was the hero during the pandemic, who went above and beyond to keep training new ITs. In the first 20 months of the pandemic restriction, he endured 100+ days of quarantine to teach 45 courses and workshops all over China. He had also taught and mentored the majority of new ITs,” Patricia says.

Support from Nate Teng — Lead Instructor Trainer and owner of Merrithew Licensed Training Center Alignment Fitness Studio — is one of the highlights of these tough times. Nate was the first IT to travel to Mainland China during COVID times back in April 2020.

Despite the high risk, he did not give up on teaching. He endured long quarantines just to be able to travel and teach within China.

A memorable time post-pandemic

After the pandemic, the team gathered for a much needed getaway after the chaotic times. The goal of this trip was to get together, reconnect and take a break from the busy schedules. This proved to be a great team-building experience for everyone.

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“It was one of the most memorable trips. We tried new sports, went hiking, and even had online workshops in the evenings. It was a great time to learn, bond, and have fun together,” Anita says.

“In the short 3 days, we did a lot. In Club Med Guilin the energetic ITs, a bunch of people teaching movement for work, tried all sorts of sports that were new or familiar to them: indoor bouldering, trapeze, archery, basketball, billiards, etc.

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We also enjoyed the outdoors by hiking up the famous paddy field terraces and rafting on the Yulong River in Yangshuo,” Patricia says.

“Our trip had a few goals: to take a break from our busy schedules, get to know each other better, build a strong team, and make sure we have uniformity in the way we teach.

“In the evening, we gathered for learning after dinner. Thanks to Wendy Shen from the Merrithew team, we were able to have online workshops with Leslie Wall (Q&A to iron out queries on teaching and exam administration) and Adriana Rotella who taught the STOTT PILATES Functional Towel Workout, “Anita says.

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Yulong Chen: Team spirit and learning excellence

Merrithew Instructor Trainer Yulong Chen emphasizes the importance of fulfilling teaching responsibilities during the pandemic. “Our unwavering enthusiasm for learning kept the joy of teaching alive for our mentors, making the experience even more valuable in the context of the societal slowdown.

“The team-building event was crucial for all of us as it created a profound sense of team belonging among mainland China ITs,” Yulong says.

“Their guidance showcases exemplary commitment to teaching. It was a unique learning experience as we delved into the intricacies of STOTT PILATES® principles. The trip with the team was the cherry on top,” Yulong says.

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Jibo Zhang: Overcoming challenges and fostering connections

Despite the challenges, Merrithew Instructor Trainer Jibo Zhang had a remarkable learning experience. Most of his training took place at the Orange Room and the support of instructors like Anita and Eric Wei left a tremendous impact on him.

Talking about the team building experience, Jibo feels it could not have been any better. “The team-building event brought together instructors from across the country, fostering not only social connections but also providing a platform to clarify doubts and uncertainties. Our honest and open discussions facilitated valuable experiences and learnings for all,” Jibo says.

“The group became more closely connected by the end of the team-building event. We were like a little family of Instructor Trainers,” Jibo reflects.

Peter Liu: Navigating new beginnings with guiding expertise

As a new IT post-pandemic, Peter did not experience the challenges during that time. However, he emphasizes the significance of Merrithew Lead Instructor Trainers Leslie Wall’s guidance and Adriana Rotella’s workshops in clarifying teaching approaches.

“Leslie's insightful responses and guidance, combined with Adriana leading a STOTT PILATES Functional Towel Workout, proved invaluable to me as a new IT.

“This experience not only helped me clarify nuances in my teaching approach but also allowed me to address specific unclear points with detailed expertise. The best part about the experience was that I had the opportunity to forge meaningful connections with my peers in a short period,” Peter says.

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Stella Xu: Balancing challenges with supportive connections

Stella faced pressures during continuous teaching but allocated spare time to family and pursued hobbies to decompress. Exploring mind-body exercises became a way to cope with challenges especially with the support of Pat and Anita.

“Both Pat and Anita have offered countless support and care from both work and life perspectives. One profound impact was in early 2022. Due to the pandemic, several Mat, Reformer ITs needed to attend the STOTT PILATES® Cadillac, Chair & Barrels IT Course.

“However, travel restrictions prevented us from attending the offline courses in Toronto. Hence, they organized online CCB IT course taught by Leslie Wall and Adriana Rotella. Pat and Antia provided translations for us, how thoughtful!

Considering the 13-hour time difference between Canada and China, the classes would be from 8:00 PM to 12:30 AM. After which, the team would have doubt-clearing sessions, often ending our days around 2-3 AM.

“Pat and Anita stayed up with us for all the time, and I'm deeply grateful for their support and dedication,” Stella says.

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Wenqi Hao: Unity amidst challenges and inspiring support

During the pandemic, Wenqi would teach a session, go into quarantine, and then teach the next. Despite the sense of unity among the trainers in China, this time was challenging for the team.

“The spirit of senior Instructor Trainers like Nate Teng and Vichael Mak— who braved the pressures, leaving their families and studios behind to support Merrithew’s community in China despite lengthy quarantines; the best of efforts and constant support from Pat, Anita and the Orange Room team to keep courses going during that challenging time —was truly inspiring,” Wenqi says. “Also, the eagerness to learn that I found from all the students in my classes kept me going.”

Growth over the years

Back in 2015, there were only two ITs in Mainland China –Pat and Anita and now there are 12, most of which were certified during the pandemic. This shows the unwavering commitment of the Chinese community.

“The demand for Pilates training has grown a lot, especially during the pandemic. However, it was not easy. ITs had to travel a ton and teach a lot of courses. We made sure everyone had the training they needed, even when ITs from other countries couldn't come to China,” Patricia says.

“The number of Merrithew host centers in China grew from 1 (the Orange Room) in 2012 to more than 30 in 2023 and that shows the significance and popularity of STOTT PILATES here in China.” globally,” Anita says.

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Since 2016, new Merrithew HTCs entered the scene one after another, most of which owners had either taken Merrithew training at the Orange Room.

“Pat and I are honored that host centers and ITs respect us as the forerunners of Merrithew hosting and educators in China. In such a position, we strive to upkeep the highest quality and set the best practices for host centers and ITs to follow,” Anita says.

“We struggled at first, but now we're proud of what we've built. We want to keep doing our best and are glad to be the inspiration of many studios in China,” Patricia says.

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