By Christina Garcia | Photos by Candor Pictures
As a high school dancer, she had quads like a linebacker. So said Elisa Pontone, the now owner of three Houston-area Club Pilates locations, of her early ballet days. Throughout her training in the early ’90s, Elisa could dance in pointe shoes but her knees would fill with fluid. That landed her in physical therapy. Insurance only briefly covered the $400 classes in a movement modality called Pilates, but Elisa found immense value in those sessions. “They told me I was building my muscles too strong, too fast,” she said. Her journey would lead her to a community of people leading parallel lives, but she didn’t know that yet.
Years later, the popularity of Pilates surged and group classes brought costs down. Elisa was back in the game and wanted to own a studio. “For me, it was always that dream. I leaped off the cliff and was hoping I had wings,” she said, over the phone. “I taught 40 classes a week in the beginning.” These days, Elisa leans on her team to help run the Katy, Memorial, and The Heights locations of Club Pilates.
As she learned, the dancer-to-Pilates pipeline is strong. Lexi Stinger, Club Pilates regional manager, saw her nascent career as a professional dancer in New York ground to a halt because of rheumatoid arthritis. Lexi connected to movement and found deeper purpose through Pilates. “ gave me a different sense of empathy in working with people who don’t feel good every day,” said the six-year Club Pilates veteran. “Motion is lotion. The joints need it.”
Small Quivers, Big Payoff
They’re transformers, in a way. Each apparatus used in Pilates circuit classes can be used in countless ways. “Aha moments” come with learning to recruit and feel the right muscles for
“It helps prevent injury for people who do heavy workouts. When you do it slower and lighter, you see when you start to quiver that you don’t need momentum ,” said Elisa.
Pilates student Melissa Peter said Pilates saved her from the aggressive circuit workouts that ran her ragged. “My body just hurt all the time. I thought, ‘There’s gotta be a better way to work out and not feel miserable.’ I had a friend who was doing Pilates, so I tried it and just loved it.” She said the workouts always vary and engage the mind and body in new ways, even from one day to the next. She’s been a member of Club Pilates since 2018.
Class options include trigger point myofascial release, TRX suspension training, cardio sculpt, restorative, and more. Private training rooms are also available.
“Everyone can be helped whether they have osteoporosis, a low back issue, or are a seasoned fitness enthusiast,” said manager Lexi. Club Pilates does not teach very young teens. As Elisa learned in high school, their bodies are still developing. However, their capable instructors will teach young professional athletes. For that group, Pilates may be the special sauce on the road to becoming an MVP.
Pilates is for everybody, said Lexi, from prenatal to postnatal bodies, senior bodies, and in between. In fact, at the Katy location, one octogenarian client routinely takes private lessons, advancing in her training with boundless determination. Owner Elisa puts it: “We don’t just teach a class to kick your a**. We want to make sure you connect and engage … You may say ‘I didn’t sweat,’ but that’s not necessarily what it’s about or where the benefit is.”
The Katy Community
Club Pilates members are what it’s about. They share the same fears, concerns, and goals, supporting each other through it all. Enthusiastic and welcoming, they play along with themed classes and plank contests. This year, students wore ’70s headbands, bell bottoms, and other retro gear for a week of workouts celebrating the seven-year anniversary of the Club Pilates Katy location. The members here like each other so much that they even meet up for happy hours outside of the studio. This kind of camaraderie touches Lexi most. It fortifies her passion for creating a culture that enriches the whole person, not just their body.
Club Pilates echoes the sense of community with a model of promotion from within. “I like to build from the inside up. This doesn’t have to just be your job until you get a better one. It can be the job that leads you higher and higher,” said Elisa. She gave up her teaching hours to make room for instructors to grow in their careers. Currently, no less than nine Katy Club Pilates instructors started out as students — evidence of the power of Pilates and the relationships it builds.
With 500 hours of training under their belt before they become certified instructors, Elisa said instructors deserve all the praise she can heap on them. They create an atmosphere people come back for, and some, like the dedicated instructor, Maylin, are certified to train other instructors too.
The two groups share more in common than Pilates. Both instructors, the owner, and class attendees have children. Thus, Club Pilates takes its cue to give back in ways their community may need it most.
Tribe Gives Back
Giving is a cause close to the heart at Club Pilates. This year, staff giving included bagging kids lunches to distribute in hungry Houston neighborhoods in partnership with Kids Meals, but Club Pilates community-wide endeavors pack a greater punch. Partnered with Be A Resource, the members and instructors generously gave to back-to-school drives. Annually, they also fill boxes up to overflow for Houston Food Bank and December toy drives for families and children in the community.
Kindness might just be infectious for this group of community-minded, determined
Club Pilates Katy
10705 Spring Green Boulevard, Suite 200
Katy, Texas 77494
Club Pilates Memorial
14129 Memorial Drive
Houston, Texas 77079
Club Pilates The Heights
2401 North Shepherd Drive, Suite 120
Houston, Texas 77008