North Salem’s Megan Smith offers pilates for every body at The Hardscrabble Club
Imagine coming off the heels of a busy day and entering a fitness studio. The lights are dimmed, soft music is playing, and essential oils waft through the air. Enter Pilates 4 Every Body: North Salem pilates instructor Megan Smith offers a warm, inviting space, complete with a fridge full of CBD seltzers to get her clients in the mood to move in a way that promises to make them feel taller, improve posture, and boost confidence.
“I do aromatherapy and play music because I think these sensory experiences help people better connect, make that mind-body connection and focus,” Smith says.
Smith was a Division 1 runner at Lafayette College in 1999 when she suffered a knee injury that sidelined her from running. Meanwhile, a friend who was a costume designer in Hollywood explained to Smith that all of the celebrities were doing pilates and that the practice could make her look taller. In need of a new way to fill her ninety-minute running timeslot, and desiring to gain a few inches in height (Gwenyth Paltrow-inspired height, that is) Smith decided to give the workout a try. Humbled by her first class, she says, “I [couldn’t] believe how weak I was. I could run a 5-minute mile [yet], I had no core strength; it was interesting. It showed me where I was weak and challenged me in a different way.” After a few sessions, Smith caught her own reflection in a window while walking on the street. “I actually looked taller,” she says.
From that experience forward, Smith has never stopped practicing pilates. She progressed from being incapable of touching her toes in ‘99 to opening her studio at The Hardscrabble Club, twenty-four years later, in November 2022.
About five years after that first experience with pilates, Smith decided to complete her teacher’s certification, not with the intention of actually teaching, but instead for what she calls “selfish reasons. I hit a plateau and wanted to learn more,” she explains. Shortly after obtaining her certification, Smith learned that pilates could make her win in areas of life besides feeling taller. In 2006, she broke the tape at Fitness Magazine’s 4-Mile Women’s Run in Central Park. “Talk about a confidence boost!” Smith says enthusiastically. Taking first place, with thousands of bodies behind her, she knew that she had pilates to thank for the speed and performance she accomplished in that race.
Smith, who swore she would never leave Manhattan, knew it was time to look for a bigger home outside of the city when her son began hitting tennis balls across their apartment. “When I moved from New York City, I had never ridden a horse before. We moved [to North Salem], my daughter and I started [riding] and loved it. Pilates is so much about posture and so is riding,” Smith explains. The connection between riding and pilates was forged, and Smith knew she had something to offer equestrians. “As I was learning to ride I would figure out things on the reformer [that would be helpful to riders],” she says. What began as Pilates 4 Equestrians in a studio on her North Salem property in 2015 now includes workouts tailored to each client, based on their personal activities and fitness goals. Seeing pilates’ potential to reach a much broader range of individuals, Smith’s business has since evolved into Pilates 4 Every Body.
“The idea with everybody is that we customize the workouts depending on the person. If you’re a tennis player we do more reps on the non-dominant side, and use the jump board to get a lot of legwork because you need to be springy and fast on the tennis court,” Smith explains. Equestrians, on the other hand, require stretching, posture movements, and getting in touch with their core. Smith plans to begin offering thirty-minute classes for young athletes as well. Whether a client wants to strengthen for a sport, activity, or overall well-being, pilates is beneficial for everyone. “You release toxins when you stretch. The machines help you stretch and access parts of your body that you couldn’t on your own. [Additionally,] it’s an hour away from their busy lives, focused on them.”
On her website, Smith has developed a series of 20-minute workouts that are geared toward equestrians, who tend to spend a great deal of time on the road. Offering workouts that require only a mat or simple tools like a stretch band ensures that riders can continue their practice with just twenty minutes a day. Classes are designed to be stacked or taken alone, as Smith says that “everyone has twenty minutes,” and it’s “enough to make a difference.” Firing the appropriate muscles with her pilates video workouts allow clients to be stretched out, with their core activated, and shoulders relaxed.
“I’m a believer in pilates,” Smith says in a tall posture with conviction. “You feel better, you move better, you can perform better in different sports and activities and it helps prevent injury.”
Pilates 4 Every Body will have an opening party, welcoming anyone interested in trying Pilates, in early May 2023. Updates will be posted on their website, soon to be rebranded as Pilates 4 Every Body.