The reformer machine

Revolutionising Pilates: Taking a Look at the Reformer Machine

The reformer machine has elevated pilates. We’re catching up with Leanne Clack, founder of Rise, a stylish studio on Yarm High Street

Elysia Fryer

Editor at Luxe

It’s always exciting to see a shiny new shop front pop up on Yarm High Street even better when it’s something that can positively impact our lifestyle.

This has been the case for many people who have made Rise Reformer Pilates part of their weekly routine or wellbeing practice.

Leanne Clack is the brains behind the business. She is sunshine in human form – a bundle of bright and bubbly energy. As we get chatting about her inspiration and her pivotal time on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, her cool and calming energy starts to make sense.

“We are originally from the area and lived here in Yarm with our three kids,” she starts.

“But we moved over to Australia for seven years, where I was working for a franchise investment company doing social media.

“We were very much enjoying life by the beach, and I wasn’t looking for a big career change in any way, but a new pilates studio opened up in our town, so I went along as a client and when I was introduced to the reformer machine, I absolutely fell in love.

“It was the best thing I’d ever done. I signed up and was a client for around six months when they were advertising for a sales role. I was so excited at the thought of working for the business, so I applied and got the job.

“So, I worked there for two and a half years, not as an instructor, but I just loved being a part of the business. It was so in line with many of my values.”

The reformer machine

The Healthy Way to Live

Shortly after, we were struck by Covid, and like many people, it forced Leanne and her family to make some huge decisions.

“It was at that point we decided it was time to come home,” she starts.

“It just made sense for us as a family, but I wasn’t quite ready to fully let go of the lifestyle I had over there, so I was determined to take the plunge and train to be a reformer pilates instructor. This wasn’t a business idea as such at that stage, I just really wanted to do it for myself. I’d found something that really made me tick and I wanted to challenge myself further.

“In Australia, people live such healthy lifestyles. Their health and wellbeing is a priority and it is infectious.

“Pilates is the number one form of exercise over there. There’s a lovely work/life balance and it’s about really making it a part of everyday life, rather than a chore or something you ‘just have to do’ to keep well. The sunshine, of course, helps –
unfortunately I couldn’t bring that back with me to Yarm, but I did bring reformer pilates! Surely that’s the next best thing…”

Armed with her new skills and a real passion to pursue it further, Leanne really struggled to find any pilates business like the one she had fallen in love with in Australia.

“It just didn’t exist here,” she says.

“I started a studio from home and the demand was so huge that we decided to just take the plunge and look for a space of our own. It’s our first venture in business, but it just felt so right, and I really wanted to share what I’d discovered with people back home.”

The reformer machine

Elements of Australia

The studio opened its doors in June 2023 and has since built a beautiful community of like minded women. The space itself is incredibly chic – a total breath of fresh air, taking inspiration from the Sunshine Coast.

“We’ve tried to keep some of the elements of Australia in here – it’s very light and bright and relaxed. The interiors have those beachy notes, there’s lots of eucalyptus and essential oils. Just to try and make it feel like a sanctuary.

“The locals are so surprised when they come in here. It went from a dark and dingy betting shop to a retreat-like space, all about health and wellbeing. It has gone through quite the transformation.

“The look and feel of the place is obviously very important, as is the quality of the service we offer in terms of classes, but one thing we really wanted to nail down was bringing a sense of community – ensuring that Rise is a place where people can feel connected – mentally, physically and socially.

“We make sure we know everybody’s name, we know what their injuries are if they have them, we know a little bit about what’s going on in their day-to-day lives. Every month we host a Rise social – whether it’s a glass of wine over at Fourteen Drops, or dinner out somewhere. People want to be in an environment where they feel a part of something. It’s really special.

Pilates for Everyone

“What is really lovely is we have a variety of age ranges doing classes. You’ve got your 20-somethings, your school mums, you’ve got your 50s and 60s who are still working, then you’ve got your retired ladies. There’s a real mix of people and it’s fantastic.

“We’re doing our best to make sure we promote the fact that pilates is for everyone, moving away from the ‘pilates is for skinny girls’ mindset – it really isn’t.”

We’re seeing lots of A-list celebrities and sports stars taking to reformer pilates, and that is great for promotion in some respects, but what that can do is scare people into thinking that it is only suitable for those with a ‘polished’ lifestyle.

That isn’t the case here. Yes, it is a beautiful space and totally Instagrammable, but it is also a safe space where each client is on an individual journey with unique goals.

The fitness world is full with classes that push your body to the limit. Reformer pilates turns that concept on its head. Yes, it’s about working your body and setting goals, but it’s also about nurturing your body while building strength. Most importantly, it’s about finding your flow.

“We want everyone to leave the studio feeling good,” says Leanne.

“And it’s amazing to see the difference in our members from the moment they walk through the door, to the moment they step foot off the reformer machine. People come rushing in – whether they’ve just finished work or just done the school run – they lie down on the carriage, find their breath and really make time for themselves.”

The Reformer Machine

Reformer pilates is a wonderful mood- booster. It can help you gain strength, improve flexibility and aid with weight loss, all while releasing those feel-good endorphins.

“You really have to concentrate to get into the flow,” Leanne starts.

“Which is one of the main principles of pilates, and it really gives people a space to switch off from the stresses of life.”

Reformer pilates might be new to the high street in Yarm, but its core principles were developed over 100 years ago by Joseph Pilates. During the latter part of the First World War, he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man where he worked with patients who were unable to walk.

Many of the techniques used in his unique rehabilitation methods are still used in pilates classes today.

Following the war, he emigrated to the United States with his wife and set up a body-conditioning gym in New York, next door to the New York Ballet School. He worked closely with the dance community and thus his movements developed into choreographed sequencing.

“Since then, mat pilates has grown from strength to strength – excuse the pun! But many of Joseph Pilates’ principles have stuck,” says Leanne.

The reformer machine takes the key principles of pilates, but the apparatus encourages more range and resistance, creating more dynamic movement.

The reformer machine

Reformer Pilates Taking the World by Storm

“The reformer was often used in England as a rehab tool. If you went to a physio, they might get you moving on a reformer machine. That is what it has typically been used for.

“To do it as part of group exercise is a new thing, but pilates itself has a lot of history.”

Reformer pilates was new to most Rise members, Leanne tells me. But it’s certainly taking the town by storm.

“We’re delighted with what we’ve created here and I hope the town and its people can see the positive impact,” Leanne says.

“We’re celebrating our first birthday in June, so that’s a big milestone for us.

“And with that, we’ve got plans to expand the business, with some products in the pipeline. It’s all very exciting and we’re just so happy that our members are here for the journey.

“We can rise together…”