Balanced Body makes it easy to replace your upholstery and foam

KaleenEquipment Care, StudioTips, upholsteryLeave a Comment

After many years of use, especially in a busy studio, your reformer vinyl can start to wear.  It might crack, the corners might get nicked, your client’s jewelry or zippers might cut the vinyl, or it could get scuffed.  Underneath the vinyl, you might have foam wearing thin where clients commonly kneel or put their butts or feet.

Any of these reasons might make you want to replace your upholstery, but it sounds like a tedious process that requires a local upholstery service.  However, Balanced Body makes it really easy to replace your vinyl and foam on the most frequently used equipment with no upholstery skills required.

Every Reformer, Chair and Cadillac is built with removable upholstery blocks.  That means in order to change the vinyl and foam on your Reformer carriage, you only need to unscrew and re-install a few bolts.  This works because each carriage pad consists of a plywood backer, foam, and upholstered cover that is already stapled to the plywood backer.  Shoulder rests, headrests, chair padding, and Cadillac upholstery are all built similarly.  They come pre-upholstered and require only an allen wrench or screwdriver to remove and install the new one.

If you’re looking to replace less often used sitting boxes, mat conversions, Allegro 2 shoulder rests, or moon boxes, the process is slightly different.  In many cases it may be less expensive to buy a whole new part.  In other cases I recommend contacting a local automotive upholsterer (many of them are mobile and can come to you) to help.  These professionals are generally more than capable of matching your vinyl and repairing it, even if new stitching is required.  After all, the upholstery in your car has much more complicated geometry.

For short-term fixes, I use one of two products to prevent the damage from getting any worse.  For corners that are worn or asymmetrical cracks, I use Tenacious Tape in black (I LOVE using this to protect your sitting box corners!)  This product comes in a small roll and has a wonderful cloth-like texture and great adhesive backing.  I use a pair of scissors to cut it to size.

For smooth, straight cuts I use a vinyl repair glue called Performix VLP.  This is a great option for fairly straight cuts and tears with edges that can be pressed back together.  You can watch a video on how repair a cut like this by clicking here.

If you aren’t sure how easy it is to replace or repair your specific piece of upholstery, contact Salestech@pilates.com for help.

Happy Reforming!

This post also appeared on the Balanced Body Blog.

How to store your springs when not in use

KaleenEquipment Care, Springs, StudioTipsLeave a Comment

Even if your studio is incredibly busy hosting 8 or 10 Reformer classes per day six days a week, the reality is that your springs aren’t in use more than they are.  Therefore, it makes sense to care about how they are stored just as much as how they are used.  Here are a few tips on how to store your springs during off-hours to prolong their life and stay safe.

Note: Check out this post if you want to learn when your springs are ready to be replaced, and this post to learn more about the science of springs.

Attach at least 1 regular Reformer spring to springbar

When your students finish class, have them store the Reformer in any gear position with at least one regular spring attached to the springbar.  For a Balanced Body machine, this means at least a red spring.  For Stott, this means a 100% or Red spring.  For Peak this means a Yellow spring.  For Gratz and Basil this means any one of your springs.

The reason for this is that your carriage should be anchored home for the safety of your staff and clients. The carriage should not be able to freely move if someone happens to come over and lean or sit on it.

When attaching a spring, do not pre-load the spring by attaching it to the top deck hooks or buttons, or using a block to move the carriage further from the springbar.  The coils of the spring should still be closed or almost closed.

Store Trapeze Springs in a Straight position

When storing your Trapeze springs, store them either hanging vertically, or laying flat on any flat surface.  Leaving your roll down bar or trapeze swing attached to the springs and hanging from the canopy is fine, as their own weight plus gravity is not going to weaken them over time.

Avoid storing trapeze springs by top-loading a Push-Through Bar, stuffing them in a basket or other container on the floor, or any other position that causes the springs to be held with their coils open.

If you happen to notice that a spring is hanging and some coils are opening (see spring on left in photo below), that is a sign that the strength of the material at that range is compromised and it should be replaced.  Hanging springs for storage purposes will not contribute to this deformation, instead, this spring was probably allowed to snap back uncontrolled multiple times throughout its life or stored with a bend in it.

Does leaving a spring hanging or attached to the springbar wear it out faster?

Nope!  When springs are wound from music wire, the coils have an initial tension, which is basically the amount of force it requires to separate the coils at the very beginning.  That value, plus the spring constant (how many pounds of resistance per inch of extension the spring provides), resists gravity.

Combine the initial tension and spring constant with the fatigue principles I discuss in this blog post, and you’ll see that tiny amounts of stretch of the spring are not going to weaken it to any point that makes a difference to your studio.

Here’s the TL;DR version:

  • Extension springs have a maximum stretch limit, say about 2-3 times their length, which is when they will start to permanently deform (meaning they lose resistance and may not close all the way).
  • Springs are designed to be able to cycle over a million cycles below that maximum stretch range.
  • Bigger extension (more travel) of the spring stress the spring more than smaller extensions (less travel).
  • If a spring is designed to stretch 2.5x its length a million times, it can likely handle a stretch 0.1 times (for example) its length significantly longer.

You might be thinking (and rightly so), so why shouldn’t I store my Reformer springs on the pre-loaded setting if that little deformation doesn’t matter?  That little deformation does matter over long, long periods of time.  So, leaving a Reformer under pre-load over night is definitely not something you should sweat.  But, leaving it pre-loaded when not in use for years?  Probably not great.  Even then, you don’t need to worry unless you see visible signs that the spring is deformed or weakened as outlined in this post and the hanging photo above.

Springs are a fascinating topic and can easily get dragged out into hours of conversation and lecture.  Your guiding principle today should be: don’t store your springs in any manner which causes the coils to stay separated.

Happy Reforming!

Which lubricant should you use, and when?

KaleenEquipment Care, StudioTipsLeave a Comment

 

3-in-1 Multipurpose Oil

This oil comes in a small bottle and is available at most hardware stores.  It is great for situations where you aren’t necessarily able to take pieces apart (these situations might be better suited to a grease) and need the oil to penetrate a small space.  Because it is an oil, putting it on exposed surfaces may not be ideal, because it will attract dirt and dust and possibly gum up and cause more friction.  In general, think about this oil for metal-on-metal articulating surfaces.

I use 3-in-1 oil on the following parts of my Pilates equipment:

  • Chair hinges
  • Push-through bar T-pins

I only apply the oil when noise appears, which tends to be once or twice a year.  Always have a rag handy to wipe up any drips.  No need to apply as a preventative measure.

Dry Lubricant

Unlike WD40, a dry lubricant such as PTFE (Teflon) does not attract dirt or dust so it is great for exposed surfaces.  It has the versatility of a spray to penetrate hard-to-reach areas, and protects against moisture that can cause rust.  In general, think about this lubricant for plastic surfaces.

Now, you may be wondering, “What about Silicone spray?”  Silicone spray will likely work for most of these applications, EXCEPT when under load, like the pulley axles, because it will wear off.  So, if you only have one dry lubricant, get the PTFE spray.

I use dry PTFE spray on the following parts of my Pilates equipment:

  • Springs (the plastic balls attached to the spring hooks between the coned coils)
  • Noisy chair knobs (apply on the threads)
  • Cadillac Rails (where slider bars slide, apply with rag)
  • Pulley Axles

As with the 3-in-1 oil, have a rag handy to catch the overspray and wipe up any drips.  Again, I only apply the spray when a noise presents itself.  When on an easily accessible surface such as Cadillac rails, I’ll spray the rag first, and then wipe the surface with the dampened rag.

Next time you head over to a hardware store, grab these items and upgrade your Pilates studio toolkit.

This post also appears on the Balanced Body Blog.

How to care for leather straps

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Classical leather straps like Joseph Pilates used on his Reformers are a staple in many studios around the world. For these studios, special care should be taken to ensure the leather remains safe throughout the life of the Reformer.  If you have leather straps on your Reformers, here’s how to avoid the trauma of broken straps and the lost revenue due to a Reformer being out of service.

Monthly inspections

Every month you need to look for cracks and tears in your leather straps.  These are most likely to develop around the holes under the carriage or along the seams where the material has a thinner cross section and can dry out more easily.  Check out these photos for some examples.

Cleaning with Saddle Soap

Then, just like equestrian tack, your leather straps need regular cleaning with saddle soap.  Saddle soap will not only clean your leather straps but it will help keep the material strong and supple, preventing dangerous cracking.  Unlike our horsey friends, though, Pilates straps don’t take quite as big of a beating with outdoor weather and sun exposure, sweat and dirt, so a cleaning about every six months is plenty.

To clean your leather straps, first remove them from the carriage.  Take a microfiber cloth and get it damp with water, then use this damp cloth to wipe down the straps to remove any dust or debris that might interfere with the application of saddle soap.  Note that the most vulnerable parts are the ones that you can’t easily see (under the carriage, along the seams, and around the rivets) so be sure they get the most attention.  Depending on the type of saddle soap you buy the exact instructions may vary, but in general you simply dab some soap on a dry cloth and rub it into the leather.  You’ll need to rub enough that the saddle soap soaks in to the leather and no excess remains on the surface.  If necessary, take another dry rag to wipe up the excess.

Doing this every six months or so will greatly extend the life and improve the suppleness of your straps, as well as help you detect any rips, tears or seams separating which could cause them to break during use.

This post also appeared on the Balanced Body Blog.

Demystifying Pilates Spring Science

KaleenEquipment Care, Nerd AlertLeave a Comment

Can you imagine a Pilates apparatus using static weights instead of springs?  When I try and picture it, I see an equipment beast: heavy, thick, ugly, and even more torture-device-like than what they look like today!  Using the springs on a Reformer, it is possible to produce well over 100 pounds of resistance, and yet there are no weighty blocks, discs or bars slamming up and down, taking up floor space, or collecting dust like you see on traditional machine weights in a gym.  Joseph Pilates was a genius to use springs rather than weights, and I applaud him for finding such an elegant solution.

However, for all the convenience that springs bring in space and weight constraints, they aren’t as straightforward as traditional weights.  It isn’t possible for our clients to brag about a 200-pound squat because how much tension a spring is providing isn’t constant. Nor, is it labeled and apparent to us as instructors or clients.

Because springs are sometimes seen as this mysterious part of the Pilates world, I want to address the three most common questions I get from Pilates studios around the world.

Question 1: How much weight is the red spring?

Many new clients often ask me, “How much weight am I lifting?”  After so many questions like this one, I’ve chiseled my response down to a concise, two sentence answer: “How much resistance the spring provides changes on how far it is extended and how thick the coils are.  In Pilates, we aren’t concerned so much about your ability to move a certain weight as we are about the ability to move well.”

The resistance, or force, a spring provides is dependent on two things: the amount of stretch (x) it is experiencing at the moment, and the spring factor (k).  This relationship is explained by the equation F=kx, known as Hooke’s Law. The spring factor (k) takes into consideration the design of the spring, including the material, diameter of the coils, and thickness of the material.  Using basic math you can calculate the force a spring provides by multiplying the spring factor and amount of extension. Or, using some algebra, you can calculate the spring constant of your own spring by measuring the force of the spring and dividing that number by the length of extension.

Let’s use a made-up Reformer spring as an example.  Say we are doing footwork with one spring attached, and that spring has a k value of 1.5 lbs/in.  When the carriage is pressed out 2 inches, the resistance is 3 pounds. Then, when pressed out to 6 inches the resistance increases to 9 pounds.  And at 12 inches of extension, the resistance is 18 lbs. You get the idea. The more you stretch the spring the heavier the resistance.

How often do we do footwork with one spring on, though?  If you want to calculate the total force of three springs, you simply add together the resistance of each of the three springs.  So, if we had three of our imaginary springs all with the same spring constant from the example above, the total resistance at 2 inches of carriage extension is 3+3+3=9 pounds, and at 12 inches of extension is 18+18+18=54 pounds.

 

Using this principle we can also calculate the total resistance of different springs.  Let’s assume we have three unique springs, one with a spring constant of 0.5 lbs/in, one with 2.5 lbs/in and, another with 5.5 lbs/in.  At 2 inches of carriage extension, we can calculate the resistance of each of those individual springs by multiplying 2  inches by the spring constant, and then adding those three values together.

This kind of relationship between the spring constant and the extension is described as linear because if you were to graph this, you would get a straight line.

Question #2: Do my springs wear out over the years?

Many of my maintenance clients have told me that they’ve replaced a spring because it had worn out, meaning it felt lighter than it should.  Theoretically, this is very, very unlikely, because as long as you do not stretch the spring past its extension limit, it should last millions of cycles.  By even then, the mathematical result isn’t an exact number, but rather a probability.

For example, if the extension limit for the spring is 30 inches (this is my imaginary spring, remember), and you want to know how many times you can pulse the spring in and out to 20 inches before it breaks, the equation doesn’t give you an exact number.  Instead, it might say that at one million cycles the probability of the spring breaking is less than 10%.

Despite the theoretical low probability, I believe it is possible for springs to wear out, though I’ve never tested it.  (Someday!) Why do I think this? Because I don’t know of any Pilates studios that operate like a laboratory. When teaching clients to use a jumpboard, inevitably the carriage will slam home at least once.  Or, someone’s hands will slip off the roll down bar and the springs will snap closed uncontrolled. Or, we let in the cool sea breeze and the springs start developing rust. Or, we touch the springs with sweaty, lotioned hands.  You get the idea. All of these things cause micro-damage to the spring and can add up to significantly shorten the life of the spring.

So how do you tell when a spring’s life is over?

Question #3: Do I really need to replace my springs every two years?

Ordering new springs may be a financial burden on your business, but is absolutely necessary for safety.  Spending upward of $100 per Reformer every two years seems a little ridiculous, and I’m going to confirm your suspicions with a caveat.  If (and only if!) you are closely monitoring your springs for safety hazards, you can go past the 2 year mark and only replace individual springs when you notice a warning sign or have determined the spring no longer provides enough resistance.

Fun fact: about 30% of my maintenance clients report having a spring break during a session!  Having a spring break during class is a real risk, so I don’t recommend writing off the manufacturer’s warnings.  (Note: If you don’t want to check your springs, then yes, please replace them at least every two years!)

Here’s what I recommend: Check each of your springs every month.  Visually inspect them for any kinks, gaps, or obvious waves. Sometimes if I’m unsure, I will lightly run my hand down the length of the coil to feel for any deviations.

Then, extend the spring a little bit.  The coils of the spring should separate evenly as you stretch the spring.  If you notice anyone spot in the coil opening more than the others, that’s a sign there’s some damage to the spring and it’s time to replace it.

I’ve included some photos of common examples of damage I’ve seen.  Keep an eye out for these and replace them immediately if you find one that looks like this!

 

 

Perhaps springs aren’t quite as straightforward as stereotypical gym weights.  But as a mechanism of resistance, they are a fantastic tool for many reasons and integral to teaching Pilates with equipment.  I hope that I’ve been able to explain the basic science behind the springs as it pertains to use in a Pilates setting and that as a result, you can approach your Pilates practice with a little more confidence, understanding, and appreciation for Joe’s genius.

This post also appeared on Lesley Logan’s Profitable Pilates Blog.

How to know when to replace your springs in 3 easy steps

KaleenEquipment Care, StudioTipsLeave a Comment

Since the springs on your Pilates equipment are integral to the method you teach your clients, it is absolutely necessary to make sure they are safe.  But how, exactly, do you determine whether a spring is safe?  Here is a simple three step guide to keeping you and your clients safe in the studio.

Step one: Make a Plan

Schedule a time every month that is convenient for you to make a quick round of the studio.  I’ve been to many studios that know what to do, but don’t actually do it because they didn’t schedule a check in their month so other priorities consistently pushed equipment checks down the To Do list.

The best plan is one that you will actually do, so figure out a way that works best for your studio.  It could be you, the owner, your office manager, or a designated instructor who has taken on the extra responsibility.  I’ve visited some creative studios where each instructor has one or two pieces of equipment assigned to them, and they are responsible for all maintenance of those pieces, not just spring checks.  Other busy studios have traded Pilates classes for two or three hours of monthly maintenance work with a trusted client of theirs.  Whatever the method, make sure it’s one you can easily and regularly execute.

Step Two: Record what you See and Do

Using a maintenance log to track your monthly checks will make your life much easier not only tracking spring condition but other maintenance tasks as well.  Your log can be as official as the one Balanced Body sells, or as simple as a lined notebook or Excel document on your computer.  Not all your springs will be changed at the same time, so you may have springs of varying ages on different pieces of equipment.

In my log, I typically have a page where I note the date and my initials every time I do an inspection.  Then, I have one additional page for each piece of equipment where I record the serial number, purchase date, and any relevant observations, upgrades, part or spring replacements for that particular apparatus.

Step Three: Inspect Your Springs

When you inspect your springs, look for things that don’t look uniform.  This may include:

  • A gap in the coils when at rest
  • A wave in the coils
  • A kink or shift in the coils
  • Rust or other significant discoloration
  • When expanded, coils that don’t open evenly

The pictures below show a few examples I’ve come across in my travels.

To find anomalies like these, be sure you check the WHOLE spring.  One of these examples was hidden under the Reformer carriage, so no one noticed it until I peeked my head underneath.  When you see something that doesn’t look normal, stop using the spring immediately.  It could break!  And, as always, if you find any suspicious-looking springs you aren’t sure about, send a photo to your manufacturer’s Tech Support.

This post also appears on the Balanced Body Blog.

Why cleaning your Reformer rails is fast, easy and necessary

KaleenEquipment Care, StudioTipsLeave a Comment

The cleanliness of your equipment can greatly detract from the Pilates experience.  You and your client should be focused on the movement, not tuning out bumps and squeaks as the carriage travels within the frame.

One of the easiest things you can do for your Reformer is to wipe the rails and surface of the wheels every week with a damp microfiber cloth.  If you do this regularly, you will be able to quickly and easily get the dirt and grime off the rails and wheels, which will help the carriage travel smoothly for years to come.

There are a few additional benefits of regular cleaning besides simply improving a client’s experience on the Reformer.  First, regular light cleaning eliminates the need for harsh chemicals.  I normally clean the Reformer rails and wheels with a microfiber cloth that is damp with water.  Yep!  Just water!  This gets scuffs, dirt and hair off very easily.  The danger of using special cleaners, even multi-purpose cleaners, is that over time you can damage the finish on the wood frame or aluminum rails.

Second, all that hair and dirt on the rails migrates up into your wheels and gets wrapped around the axle and caught in the bearings.  Hair around the axles is harder to clean once it’s on the wheels (you’ll have to take the carriage out of the frame), and once the gunk disappears into the bearings it causes a grinding feeling, as if you are riding over sandpaper instead of smooth aluminum rails.  At this point, you’ll need completely new wheels to restore the original feel.

And finally, your Reformer looks clean, which reflects well on your studio.

If you haven’t been cleaning your Reformer rails regularly, you may have some nasty gunk built up on them. For this, a wet cloth probably won’t get the job done, so you will need some water and a folded piece of aluminum foil (the same thing you use in your kitchen!). Spray the water on the rail, scrub until the water turns black, and then wipe the dirty water off with the rag. Repeat the process until the rail is clean, or you’ve repeated six times. Once you do a deep clean, be sure to follow it up with weekly light cleanings because frequent scrubs with aluminum foil could take a toll on the metal coating of the rails. 
This post also appears on the Balanced Body blog.

Escape the Norm and Find an Online Studio Scheduler You Actually Love

KaleenBusiness Tools, StudioTipsLeave a Comment

Note from Kaleen:  Katie is one of my dearest friends, whom I met while working at Balanced Body.  She is outgoing, loud-mouthed, smart and an awesome Pilates instructor who has her own busy studio.  I help her with her website and graphic design, and since she raves about Tula so much I asked her to write something for you guys.  I hope you enjoy!

By Katie Prior of Pilates Heartcore, Rancho Cordova, Ca.

In the world today, there are a lot of choices out there for us.  Hundreds of resturaunts, multiple coffee shops and clothing stores galore.  And if you cannot find what you need in a physical store, then you just go online.  Or these days, you go online first and nix the stores all together.  There are so many choices that oftentimes it can be overwhelming.  Too many decisions can make a person confused.

This is also true when there is a lack of choices.  If you only have one or two choices you just hope that they are going to deliver what you need.  Due to the small market that Pilates occupies, we as Pilates professionals aren’t always given many choices when it comes to our career needs or studio operation requirements.  For training you often have to travel to a far away location in order to attend, and for equipment there are really only three quality brands to pick from and.  Plus, you can search long and hard and not find qualified instructors to hire for your studio.  It’s tough!

This is especially true when it comes to scheduling and software.  Who is the first company that comes to mind when I say Online Studio Scheduler?  MindBody right?  Across the board, it’s MindBody.  It’s the largest company in the realm of fitness studio software systems.  And yes, it is impressive that they have grown along with an industry that is gaining quite a bit of traction and notoriety in our world today.  But does that make them the best?  Are they the superior choice for what your Pilates studio needs?

I have a unique position on this.  My day job for the last 3 years has been in Customer Service of a major Pilates equipment company.  On any given day I talk to between 10 and 20 Pilates instructors and studio owners.  In order to help them analyze their studio equipment needs, we talk.  We talk about the size of their space, how many clients they see, where they are located, what classes they want to teach or add, how their website is looking and working and what software they use for their schedule and payments.  Most say MindBody.  So I ask why MindBody?  And typically the answer is: Because everyone else does.

I never hear anyone say they use Mindbody because it’s the best!

Listen, we are all busy.  Pilates instructors and studio owners don’t have time to spend hours digging online for other options.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to go with what is right there in front of us.  It doesn’t matter if it is more expensive, less user friendly, harder to set up, harder to use, isn’t pretty, they haven’t heard glowing reviews about it and it captures your clients as its own leads.  It’s there and known, so people use it.

After years of hearing my peers complain about MindBody, when it was time to open my studio I realized I had to find an alternative.  I am here to tell you that I spent hours doing research on scheduling systems.  HOURS!

Little tidbit about me:  I am SUPER anal and obsessive when it comes to this sort of thing.  I’m the kind of person who will research something to death, then mull it over and over and over in my head, lay in bed running circles around it mentally, and make people listen to me while I talk it to death before making a decision.  I want to make sure I have exhausted my options (and the ears of my husband) before I decide which path to take.   In this case, I knew I didn’t want to use MindBody so I purposely set out to find a better option.

I did my homework and tried out 2-week free demos for three different services.  I tested them with clients, tried to integrate them with my website, and compared features I knew to be critical to my business success.  After all this testing, the service I decided on was Tula Software.

Tula isn’t a huge corporation.  They are a small company that started when the founder’s wife opened up a Yoga studio.  When they weren’t happy with the options out there for software, they decided to make their own.  The result is a web-based software system that takes just minutes to set up for your studio, and even less time for your clients to make an account and register for classes.  There are custom iPhone apps, a find-a-sub feature, electronic waivers, website widgets, multiple permission levels for your teachers, online payment and registration and no contract required.  They can also migrate your data over from your current software, so switching your service provider is easy.

One of my favorite things about Tula is that they match the color of your website in their website widgets so the scheduling and payment functions are seamless!  No bouncing clients off your page to a boring-a$$ white MindBody schedule.  You can have a hot pink and black schedule!!!

You are probably thinking, WHAT?!?  Oh yes, people, options galore.  Freedom to be freaky.  Freedom to jump in your app, make a change in less than 2 minutes, jump out, and carry on with your life.  Who doesn’t want that?  And they are about half the price of MindBody.  HALF!

Plus, if you do get stuck on something and refuse to read their easy-to-find-and-understand Users Guide and frantically email them IN ALL CAPS (hey, I was freaking out!), the owner is one of the guys who gets back to you in less than 10 minutes every time you have a question. This company is amazing. Simply amazing.

Tula isn’t paying me to tell you this.  Nope.  Tula didn’t ask me to talk about them on Instagram or Facebook.  They don’t even have an affiliate program, so I don’t get anything if you go sign up after reading this.  I am just one of those people who, when I find an amazing frozen yogurt place, will be like DUDE I found this amazing frozen yogurt place, you have to try it!!!!  I have a big mouth and I like to share good stuff.  I love when people share with me what they like and what works for them.  So now I’m sharing Tula with you.  Tula works.

If you want to see Tula in action you can visit my studio’s website at www.getheartcore.com .  Just try not to drool on my website, ‘cause you can have that too– it was done by my lovely lady friend here at The Fit Reformer.

Want to find out more about Tula?  Check out these links:

tula mockup 1-min

What riding my bike taught me about the difficulties of Pilates equipment maintenance

KaleenStudioTips

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I went cycling through wine country in Dahlonega, Georgia.  We stayed in a cool container cabin at the Hiker Hostel, visited a few wineries, and cycled 32 miles and climbed 2500 feet.  Whew!  My quads were bricks!

About 3/4 of the way through our ride, almost to our last winery, I was cursing my bike.  My fitness.  The hills.  You name it.  And every time my bike took 5 seconds (yes, 5 whole seconds!) to shift gears while climbing, boy was I furious!  That’s like 4 or 5 more pedals at an effort that I didn’t want to be at!   It was the straw that broke the camels back.

The thing is, around town I don’t mind that my bike doesn’t shift right away.  However, on these short, everyday trips, I’m only riding for 10-20 minutes at a time and there aren’t such steep hills.   I simply think of my bike as a mode of transportation, not an object to love.

I use my bike all the time, but I’m not really interested in working on it.

So I don’t.  And as a result, it frustrates me when I absolutely need it the most.

While I was riding, I was chastising myself.  Why didn’t I just YouTube how to adjust my shifting?  Why didn’t I take the time to fix it?

Actually sitting down and adjusting the tension on the cables so it will shift smoother is actually pretty easy.  It takes 5-10 minutes, maybe, and provides a much more user friendly and enjoyable ride.  But, I hadn’t taken the time to be proactive and learn how to prevent it or fix it until after it caused me a bunch of heartache.

Pilates equipment maintenance is the same.  It’s easy to ignore it.  The machines function fairly well, and over time you grow used to the quirks and bumps and little squeaks that develop.

What I want my clients and the Pilates industry to realize is that, someday, your un-maintained Pilates apparatus will fail you.

In the cycling world, you can turn to YouTube for literally thousands of video tutorials on how to maintain and repair your bike, no matter what size, style manufacturer it is.  Or, if you don’t want to work on your bike yourself, you can pay to take your bike to a professional and get a tune-up at a local bike shop.

As the Pilates industry grows, the need for this support network does too!  Your Pilates equipment facilitates the teaching of your method, and unsafe, inefficient and noisy equipment detracts from that experience.

We want people to fall in love with Pilates and what it can do for their lives.  Don’t let sub-par equipment performance detract from the head-over-heels feeling.  Just like riding a poorly-maintained bike can turn you off of bike riding, a poorly-maintained Reformer, Cadillac or chair can turn you off of Pilates.

To help grow the Pilates industry, I want to create the same on-going equipment support opportunities for Pilates equipment owners that bike riders have.

First, we need education for equipment owners.  I can’t tell you how many studios I visit or instructors I talk to that think their equipment doesn’t need regular care beyond wiping the upholstery between clients.  It’s not their fault… the industry just doesn’t stress the importance of safe and effective equipment.  Maintenance of Pilates equipment needs to be as natural as an oil change on your car.

Second, we need expert service-providers to turn to for on-site maintenance and repairs.  I serve the Southern US and Northern California.  The Pilates Guy is in the LA Area.  The Pilates Engineer is in New York.  And the Pilates Doctor is in Colorado.   These are my colleagues who work specifically on Pilates Equipment.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Pilates industry will exactly copy the bike shop model and create such an abundance of local repair shops.  This situation is quite unlucky for those studios who aren’t near these four US locations.

Third, we need an online resource for Pilates equipment owners to learn about caring for their equipment themselves, independent of the major manufacturers and easy for non-technical people to understand.  This will give studios the option to do it themselves, no matter what their budget, location or technical ability and desire.  It will provide reviews and advice for every major brand of equipment to give Pilates professionals the chance to make educated buying decisions.  Most importantly, it will be another way to keep Pilates studios in peak shape to help attract new clients and retain existing ones.

During that bike trip I got a taste of what it’s like to be a consumer who uses a machine yet doesn’t maintain or repair it, even though it’s a simple fix.  I had learned to live with the sub-par performance of my bike, and it bit me in the butt at the time I asked just a little bit more from it.  Luckily, there are tons of resources out there for bike owners and I can teach myself how to fix it myself.

Now, it’s time to create those same resources for you, my beloved Pilates instructors and studio owners, to grow our awesome community.

If you’d like to help me create resources and grow this corner of the Pilates industry, please consider taking 3 minutes out of your day to fill out this survey.  It will only be live until April 11th, 2016.  As a thank you, I will email you a copy of my four-page Ultimate DIY Maintenance Guide.

Thanks for your help!

How to create and actually perform an equipment maintenance routine

KaleenStudioTips

Pilates equipment maintenance is an easy subject to gloss over in the grand scheme of running a successful business.  Everyone knows they should be doing it, but few do.  It’s like cleaning your house or maintaining your car.  The average person knows there are basic schedules and tasks they should do, but they often put them off until it’s really necessary.  It’s too easy for other tasks (often more fun or seemingly important tasks!) to get in the way.

Sometimes I go into a studio and it is immediately evident that I’m working with someone who is Type-A about everything (seriously, everything).  Their laundry room at home is impeccable, I’m sure.  Dirty clothes sorted by color and type, special hanging racks for air dry only clothes, every drawer and basket labeled.  Nothing overflowing from its place or casually set aside in the heat of the moment.

In their studio, they aren’t really sure about what kind of maintenance they should be doing, but in the meantime they want everything to look and feel great so they clean like they’d clean their house.  No dust, no dirt, no hair, no debris, no grime.

For these people, my job is to make small tweaks.  Give them a few extra tools to make them confident in their existing habits, and effective with the few special techniques that will really make their studio shine.

But for the other 95% of my clients, regular maintenance falls by the wayside.  Not for lack of knowledge or desire, but the realities of running a business simply get in the way.  Then, the task snowballs, growing in size and scope until instead of just one hour of easy tasks, it requires several hours of troubleshooting.  Not. Fun.

I’ve been there.

We all know that regular care for our Pilates equipment is essential to a long life.  You may have even picked up a few tips here and there on my instagram, facebook, or #StudioTips blog.  But now you need to figure out how in the heck to fit in one more hour of unglamorous work to your already packed and probably pretty great life.

Your goal is to have safe, functional Pilates equipment that will last as long as you need it to.  (I work on twenty year old equipment very often, so it is not crazy to think your equipment can last your whole career!)

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from studios around the country backed by research.  After all, change is hard!

Make small changes

Instead of saying, “I’m going to add one hour of maintenance to my schedule every Friday afternoon,” Think in baby steps.  “After my last client on Friday I will wipe all the Reformer rails,” is a much smaller and more specific target to achieve, making success much more likely.   Linking new habits one at a time to existing habits is a great way to start.

Plan to fail

You probably won’t be able to check off your weekly maintenance every week, or your quarterly routine exactly on time every time.  So, instead of saying, “What the hell” and thinking you can just pick it up again next week, figure out where your plan went wrong.

If, on Friday afternoon you are just exhausted and ready to go home so you don’t want to take the 15 minutes to clean the rails on each Reformer because Netflix is calling your name, try cleaning the rails at the beginning of your day on Fridays.  Or, at lunch on another day of the week.  Make it easy to avoid excuses.

Another great way to prevent yourself from avoiding the small, easy tasks like lubricating a noisy hinge is to keep your maintenance supplies together in an easily accessible place.  If you don’t, hunting down the right tool for the job will be more effort than actually fixing the problem, making it easier to put off a simple task.

Spread the responsibility

If you work in a larger studio with multiple instructors, try assigning each instructor one task or piece of equipment.  If John knows he is responsible for the Wall Towers, and Lisa is in charge of the Reformers, you are breaking down the large task into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Get creative with your staff and think of ways to incentivize this un-glamorous task by setting goals and recognizing great work.  If your staff consistently performs the weekly and quarterly tasks for a year, throw a studio party or  give everyone an extra vacation day.  Have a bulletin board with space to post flattering comments from clients, like, “The Push-Through Bar was so quiet today!” or “Your studio is so clean!”  Or, add a space on your current employee recognition system that allows others your staff to praise their peers not only for customer service but for studio care.

Find a way to make sure equipment maintenance is seen as a normal and integral part of the studio’s success.

Additionally, some studios will train a student of theirs and trade Pilates sessions for regular maintenance work.  One hour of work for one hour of group class.  Or, two hours of maintenance work for a Private session.  The availability of your student and how much you value a regular routine should influence the agreement you make.

Track your progress

Without a way to easily track your habits, it is easy to convince yourself that you are more consistent than you actually are!   Having to make choices (or dig deep into your memory to try and remember when you did what) depletes your willpower.  Having a calendar with an easy-to-follow checklist not only helps you recall the activities, but actually reduces the burden on the brain and gives you a little psychological lift!

This is why I created my Equipment Maintenance Log.  It’s the only planner made specifically for Pilates studios to track their equipment and maintenance routines.  Never forget when you last changed a spring or did a safety inspection again!

Do you have any other tips or tricks for keeping your maintenance routine?  Tell me about them in the comments below!