MENDON — After years spent working as a stay-at-home mom, with her youngest child about to begin his senior year in high school, Anne-Marie Stearns decided it was time to get back to one of her passions, teaching Pilates.
She opened a studio at Mountain Green Resort late last year, and for a while, things were going well.
“I was only open for about two and a half months and then the whole world shut down,” she said Monday.
Government mandates aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic were a big setback to “nonessential” businesses that rely on in-person services, such as gyms and fitness centers, but for Stearns it may have led to her being in a little better position to open up again later.
Stearns’ new Pilates studio, Trails Within Pilates, opened last week at 1360 Route 4.
“I had a COVID-style grand opening,” she said. “People could sign up for free slots.”
Pilates is a style of exercise that works the entire body, specifically one’s core muscles. Stearns said her classes are centered around a piece of Pilates equipment called “The Reformer,” a bedlike device that can use natural resistance or springs for added difficulty.
“Once they get on it, they love it, but it can be intimidating at first,” she said.
Stearns’ studio has four Reformers spaced eight feet apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines. She said when COVID-19 restrictions are loosened, she will have space for two more Reformers but favors small class sizes anyway.
“I have a hand sanitizer station set up when they walk in and because we’re so far apart they can choose to take their mask off when they’re on the Reformer or they can keep it on,” Stearns said, adding that she keeps her mask on for the duration of each class and builds enough time between sessions to allow for a thorough cleaning of the equipment and studio space.
She hopes to draw clients of all ages, as she says Pilates is good for just about anyone, but wants to attract a younger demographic if she can, especially athletes.
Stearns said her first run in Killington was good for her, as it helped sharpen her old teaching skills, but the nature of the location meant she was seeing different people every week and not building much of a base.
“Down here I’m close to the hospital, the schools, it’s a whole community down here,” she said.
Stearns said people are eager to get back into fitness routines and want to try something new, which Pilates offers. For people who want to take her classes but are concerned about COVID-19 exposure, she offers classes via Zoom.
“People want to exercise, they want to feel good, they want to feel healthy,” she said. “I’ve only had one person who has expressed concern over coming into the room with others. We are careful. We make sure we follow protocol when people come in.”