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Studio Profile: Pilates on the Lake

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Pilates on the Lake in Pewaukee, WisconsonBy Nicole Rogers

Serendipity has played a role at every turn for Debbie Orlando and Ronda Arndorfer. Both women live in Wisconsin, but met through contacts at The Pilates Center in Boulder. Orlando is a graduate of the Masters Program there and is currently a certified teacher for the Masters Program. Arndorfer is currently enrolled in the Masters Program. While training in Boulder, people kept saying to Arndorfer, “You live in Wisconsin and you don’t know Debbie Orlando? You have to meet her!” They met shortly thereafter, and that was the beginning of Pilates on The Lake, a studio that is fast becoming a Midwestern magnet for Pilates teachers in training, as well as a serious but friendly place for locals to get fit—all in a peaceful, lakeside setting.

Orlando and Arndorfer started with a tiny, 500-square-foot studio near beautiful Lake Pewaukee in Pewaukee, Wisc., a town about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. They soon outgrew the space and began looking for something larger. On a whim, Arndorfer called the landlord of their dream building directly across from the lake’s beach. Nothing appeared to be for rent, but she thought it was worth a try. To their delight, the landlord knew a space was going to become available soon and made their Pilates studio his top priority. A bike shop moved out and Pilates on the Lake moved in about three years ago.

View of Lake Pewaukee from Pilates on the LakeThe partners gutted the entire space and renovated it to create a bright, airy, fully equipped studio. Now there is free parking, men’s and women’s showers and lockers, a room for private sessions and a large open studio room used for everything from group classes to privates with seven Wunda chairs, seven Reformers and 10 Tower units, not to mention floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake.

Pilates Continuing Education Class at Pilates on the LakeAn Educational Focus
But Orlando and Arndorfer hardly get by on luck alone. Both women are extremely well educated in the Pilates method, and they expect the same from their teachers. In fact, Arndorfer says they always have the demand to bring on more teachers, but they hold back and stick to instructors with training from The Pilates Center, or from Pilates on the Lake, which is a Licensed Studio of The Pilates Center. “Not that we are opposed to the possibility of someone with a different background teaching here, and we know there are well-trained people out there. But there is something to be said for consistency, for a language that is familiar to our clients, no matter who is teaching them,” says Arndorfer.

Arndorfer and Orlando are committed to bringing well-known movement specialists to their studio, always growing as an educational center for the Midwest – and the entire country. Pilates on the Lake is a teacher training facility for The Pilates Center and the Franklin Method. Eric Franklin is a regular guest, and Mary Bowen taught a workshop in 2008, not to mention the many Pilates Center workshops that take place at the studio all the time.

Though it may not be common knowledge, Wisconsin, particularly the Pewaukee Lake area, is an amazingly beautiful place to visit. I grew up nearby and can vouch for the brutality of January and February, but Arndorfer and Orlando try to schedule most of their workshops for the gorgeous summer, spring and fall months. Arndorfer stresses that there are healthy restaurants and outdoor activities as well – the Wisconsin stereotypes don’t apply!

A Pilates Tower Class at Pilates on the LakePopular Pilates Classes
Pilates on the Lake has also found great success in their Boot Camp program, though Arndorfer cringed a bit as she told me the name. “People like the term ‘boot camp’ these days, but we teach Pilates. Really it’s a high-energy session that incorporates aerobic training, Pilates equipment circuit training, strength and a lifestyle system.” It’s three sessions per week for 12 weeks and their clients have found it effective for losing inches, losing weight, and learning a new way of eating. Not only is it popular, but it has been rewarding for Arndorfer to see people who have had problems losing weight in the past find a way to change their lifestyle for the better.

Pilates on the Lake also has Chair, Reformer and Tower classes. Up to six people can join any equipment class, including Boot Camp. Arndorfer says that clients come from as far as Chicago to take a class, and the classes are extremely popular. The consistency of the teaching allows clients to progress quickly to group equipment classes.

Ronda Arndorfer and Debby Orlando at the front deskRonda Arndorfer and Debby Orlando, owners of Pilates on the Lake Six Secrets to Their Success
Arndorfer and Orlando offered a few tips that they feel have helped their business over the years.

1. Quality teachers are paramount. Consistency is key.

2. Don’t let teachers teach before they are ready. Pilates on the Lake trainees only teach as apprentices once they have successfully completed their training and received a diploma. “This is only fair to the clients and the trainee,” says Orlando. “They are still acquiring experience and knowledge, and clients can tell if a teacher has the experience and/or knowledge.”

3. Know what you expect from your teachers.

4. Know your clients. For example, a male client came in to see one of the instructors while I was there, and Arndorfer knew he preferred to work in the private room. He may never have told her this, but she knew. There is a certain intuition you develop as you create a relationship with your clients. Part of what they come for is that relationship.

5. Don’t forget continuing education.
Orlando says you can tell when a teacher doesn’t do continuing ed. And the clients can tell too – they may not know what it is, but they can see there is a difference.

6. There is always attrition, so it’s good to reward long-term clients. “A lot of studios give discounts to new clients, which we have done a little bit, but I like to give our long-term clients a discount occasionally. They deserve it,” says Orlando.

Nicole Rogers is a Pilates instructor and writer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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