Elaine Economou is the founder of MOVE Wellness based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She’s also a long-time Reveler and we’re delighted to be launching a series of her classes in February and March! Enjoy our conversation with Elaine below, and at the end, you’ll find links to sign up for all MOVES’s offerings on Revel.
My entry into Pilates began as I wound down dancing in the mid-90s. As a dancer, I felt like I trained my body as hard as humanly possible for many years and it brought me so much joy. When I decided to stop dancing, I started going to the gym like everyone else and when I looked out over the fitness floor, to me everyone looked miserable. It was a curious revelation that fitness seemed to have become such a chore in our culture. It was quite a disconnect.
Once I found Pilates, I fell in love. It had the efficiency of whole-body movements that I loved from my dance training and the impact of a strength workout. Simply helping people breathe as they moved helped them connect to their bodies in a pretty powerful way. I loved the impact Pilates was making on people’s bodies and lives including my own. I believe Pilates helps us all claim or reclaim power over our physical well-being in ways that rest outside the mainstream fitness realm.
My practice grew and I was teaching Pilates in various places, including my basement, while my kids were growing up. It gave me flexibility and income and I could go home and not worry about a thing from work. A good balance at the right time in my life. Over time, my business grew along with my community and industry network. I met so many Pilates studio owners who couldn’t make ends meet and so many great trainers who didn’t have a full client schedule. The time felt right to make a big change.
MOVE was born out of a vision of creating a positive culture for everybody, trainers and clients alike, to find ease and strength in their body and in life. My friend Robin Krienke and I began to think about how we could create a successful and scalable business model in the boutique fitness world where the value of the services we offer could support trainers in making a living. With a shared entrepreneurial spirit, Robin and I became business partners and co-founded MOVE in March 2014.
To me, fitness should be about how you feel and care for your body. Not what you look like. Moving well, without pain is an essential need. I’m committed to exploring what Pilates and the other systems we teach at MOVE have to offer the continuum of care in the healthcare industry. Helping people get as strong as they want to live a life they love and do all the things they enjoy is our philosophy at MOVE. We strive to change things for the better both in the fitness industry and in our community.
On March 10, 2020, we celebrated MOVE’s sixth anniversary and we took our staff out for a glass of wine to celebrate. Robin and I looked at each other, clinked glasses and said, I think we did it. In the first two months of 2020 we had finally covered our costs, paid ourselves and were on our way to building an infrastructure for benefits for staff and profit for MOVE. Everyone can guess what happens next. By the following Sunday, we were closed. Within 48 hours we built out new systems and technology. We moved nearly 100 private clients online. A schedule of 45 group livestream classes was created. Most importantly, we kept our staff working and our clients moving through the most challenging months.
Now, almost 2 years later we still have some rebuilding to do as the balance shifts back toward in-person training. The funny part is that livestream and on-demand programs were on our radar before March 2020, but we kept putting them off. It seemed so complicated at the time and other things kept taking priority. Now they remain an important part of our present and plans for the future. We have built the infrastructure that will allow us to grow. We hold our founding values of community, integrity, mindfulness, excellence, and joy close as we let them lead us into our next phase.
The simple answer? Commit to one “exercise” thing every day and fill my day with as much movement as possible. My favorite fitness activities are Pilates and GYROTONIC® exercise. I like to do those activities three days a week at a minimum. I need accountability, so I sign up for a couple of MOVE’s livestream classes. I love showing up for my staff! Then, I do a workout Wednesday with a colleague at my studio on our Pilates Reformers and GYROTONIC® equipment. Doing Gyrotonic feels like a workout and a massage, so I try to make sure I do that at least once a week. I fill in my other days with a well-balanced mix of activities and try to keep moving as much as possible. Cardio is the hardest for me, but I get on a mini-trampoline for 10 minutes (and dance to some 80s music). It really does help you feel better and it is good for your bones and joints. Weekends are for a long hike with my dogs—being outside is my restorative time. The treadmill is so flipping boring but on the coldest of days I convince myself to get on it for even a few minutes.
The movement professional in me is always in educational training and looking to learn more about human movement and deepen my knowledge in the systems I teach. Currently I am learning about old ways of moving the joints and practicing “primal postures”. I love the idea of squatting and hanging and opening the body doing things that are hard AND fun. I just love moving in a lot of different ways, so I try to explore a little. In the past few years I’ve learned tennis, continued my yoga practice, and went back to my dancer roots with ballet and hip hop dance classes. I love being a student of movement.
It sounds like a lot, but it is not a rigid structure, and I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day. I do try to stay as consistent as possible because I feel better, sleep better, and am able to live in my identity as a healthful, strong, mobile person.
I could never choose just one. It’s like asking someone to pick their favorite child! I love solving movement problems for people and helping them reframe what fitness means in a more powerful way for themselves. That might be one on one, in an Essential Pilates class, or a GYROKINESIS® class. I really enjoy hosting my Revel Workout Wednesday classes where we have a topic (pelvic floor, feet, neck and shoulder, bone health, etc.) that we discuss and focus on. Whether they are just starting out or are super athletic, I enjoy getting people on the path to unraveling their issues or trying something they never thought they could do.
I encourage people to think about consistency as they start. Commit to some focused time every day, ten minutes if that is all you can do, while trying to bring more movement into your life overall, especially outdoors. Be kind to yourself and move as an act of self-compassion and self-care. The more mindful and self-aware your practice is, the less potential for injury and more understanding you will gain of what your body needs and enjoys. Then build the accountability and the support you need to unravel your individual injuries and understand your unique body to get strong enough to meet your life.
Every person I have ever met has one type of fitness or movement they prefer over another. Some people are drawn to the cardio aspect of fitness. They really need to feel that burn to have a sense of accomplishment. Some people love the deep release of yoga or the whole body strength, balance, and mobility of Pilates. Our cells, tissues, muscles, everything needs a variety of loads, speeds and movement in all ranges of motion. By including the different types of fitness and movement in your life you can make them all more effective.
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. Please read it. It is so beautiful and important and she is a true Reveler in how she struggled to have her voice and research heard in her industry. Mother trees actually recognize their own seedlings and exchange specific nutrients and other earthy things with them. I think her work will be forever recognized as the beginning of the end of the belief that humans hold power over nature. Thank goodness.
I would say that my love for reading is at the top of the list. Especially heading to our cottage up north on a small island in Lake Michigan with a stack of books. Our place is in the forest and looks out over the lake. We don’t see neighbors and are able to truly feel away from it all. I am also enjoying Revel events - no kidding. I love that I can drop in and learn about something new. I learned about bitcoin and personal branding all in the same week!
Not really resolutions, but last year I had a few words that served as guides for the year and they were actually quite powerful. Last year’s words were focus, clarity and hope. My words for 2022 are practice, presence and a peaceful heart. I have them written in my notebook and on a couple of sticky notes and they inform how I set my intentions each week. The one consistent practice that I started recently is committing to daily meditation. It brings sort of a foundation of ease in my body and mind that makes everything else flow.
This is a hilarious question since we now teach classes online and suggest a variety of at home fitness prop swaps. We encourage things like stretchy pants or pantyhose if you don’t have a TheraBand handy. Towels for mats and soup cans or water bottles for weights. Now you have me imagining what fun things I could do with a coconut or palm tree frond. Seriously though, my one choice would have to be a variety of TheraBands (or stretchy pants!). I really do take them with me when I travel. They don’t take up a lot of space and provide all the levels of resistance for a whole-body strength and mobility workout. Then there would be room for all the Italian food.
A Conversation with Dr. Gennifer Herley, the Founder and Executive Director of TransNewYork
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