Anne-Mette Friis is the owner and founder of Scandi Pilates, London. Originally trained in ballet, Anne-Mette qualified as a fitness instructor in 1997. Since then, she has worked as personal trainer and group exercise instructor and gained additional qualifications, including a BA in nutrition and a Masters degree in Sports, Physical Activity and Health. After working for studios in London and Melbourne, she set up Scandi Pilates nine years ago.
Starting a business is always hard, but London is a great environment for entrepreneurs. I started out by teaching group classes all over London, later focusing specifically on building a private client base. These days, many apartment buildings have their own gyms, so I can see clients there for one-on-one sessions.
I meet most new clients through networking. Mouth to mouth is effective, both in terms of clients recommending me to friends but also other fitness instructors referring clients. I strongly believe in freelancers helping other freelancers; along with a professional and flexible attitude, sharing is an important part of being an entrepreneur in my field. Don’t hold ideas and knowledge close to your chest but be open to others. You always get something back.
When I first joined in the London fitness industry, it was only scarcely regulated. This has changed hugely over the years and the environment is now very professional. Unless you have the necessary qualifications you will not get on the books of the studios, nor will you be able to acquire the liability insurance necessary when training private clients. So, anyone setting up must be sure they have all their qualifications in order.
Another thing that’s changed significantly is the focus of the training. It’s no longer only about being thin. Nowadays, clients are more focused on the healthy-living aspect of their fitness. They still want to be slim but these days it’s all about being lean. People want to feel strong and fit without bulking up. So, we use fewer heavy weights but instead design exercise programmes with an emphasis on posture and conditioning in order that the client can build up a strong and flexible body. Pilates and ballet barre exercises are ideal for that. Pilates strengthens the weaker and smaller muscles and brings the body into balance. Posture will be improved by strengthened core and back muscles and this is also the focus in a ballet barre class. Over the last years, arms have got a lot of attention, and with light weights used with high repetitions and movements in all angles, great strength and toning can be achieved.
This being London, my clients come from all over the world, ranging from professional athletes to young fitness enthusiasts for whom training is a fundamental part of their lifestyle. Many work out numerous hours every day. I also work with cancer patients for whom exercise can relieve some of the effects of disease and therapies and also serve to speed up recovery after treatment. Exercise, literally, can help improve most conditions; everything from physical illness or back injury to hormonal issues and depression can, at least partly, be relieved through appropriate exercise. I strongly believe we are going to see even more focus on healthy living in future, as we gain further understanding of just how much our diet and exercise affect our health and wellbeing.