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Amy Nelms has likely been the recipient of many shiny apples.

The onetime school teacher discovered Pilates 20 years ago, before the modality became so ubiquitous. Over the years, she has honed her skills, methodically building a sterling reputation and a roster of deeply dedicated clients.

Nelms’ approach isn’t about bells and whistles—that’s not what has allowed her business, Flatiron Pilates, to grow and thrive. It’s about a personalized approach, a discerning eye for strengths and weaknesses and an impeccable instinct for how to meet challenges and nurture each person.

Here, she talks about the importance of openness to every kind of learning style:

LIVE THE PROCESS: How did your love affair with Pilates begin?

AMY NELMS: Thirty years ago, I discovered a small but welcoming neighborhood gym called West Village Workout. The owner was a guy named Joel. At that time, there wasn’t the wide selection of boutique fitness studios and gyms we have now.

The first class I tried was Pilates mat and it was amazing! I think there were a few people in the class who even got their Pilates certification. After a month of classes, I saw a huge change in my body—I was longer and leaner with a narrower waist, slimmer thighs and a stronger core.

There was a reformer in the front of the gym and I started having one-on-one sessions with Jennifer Kries and Alycea Ungaro. I was intrigued by the equipment and loved that I felt energized, refreshed and focused after a session instead of exhausted and depleted. I saw my body slimming down and getting balanced and toned without bulk or overworking any one muscle. Pilates completely changed my body.

I am 53 and have never had any injuries thanks to Pilates practice.

LTP: How does your experience as a former school teacher inform your approach to clients today?

AN: Out of grad school, I taught in East Harlem at a school called the Creative Learning Community (which no longer exists). After working with junior high school kids, you can deal with just about anyone. That experience taught me to identify and adapt to different learning styles—visual, auditory, etc. And I still give homework to reinforce the lessons, provide active learning and make sure my clients feel ownership over their exercise.

LTP: This month, on Live The Process, we’re featuring innovative and entrepreneurial women who inspire us as they build successful businesses, support their sisters and make the world a better place for us all. To what do you attribute your success?

AN: I started my business 20 years ago. In the beginning, when I was apprenticing in LA, I made $8 an hour! 

I take a very personal and individualized approach that incorporates different modalities. I am very nurturing and genuinely care about each of my clients. I am also lucky in that I can choose with whom I want to work.

Building a successful business takes, grit, determination, guts, perseverance and sacrifice—and I still work 12-hour days. I wish there was enough time in the day to get everyone in!

LTP: What’s new or upcoming for you, including collaborations?

AN: I am very excited about working on a new ballet/Pilates mat video with the beautiful Anabel Katsnelson from ABT.

I’m also developing a line of Flatiron Pilates training equipment: bands, balls, sliders, etc. that should be out soon.

I love collaborating with other female wellness practitioners like physical therapist Lizz Smith, nutritionist Dana James, lymphatic drainage expert Marina Barastashvili and Anna Zahn and Gia Castellano from Ricari Studios.

LTP: What does happiness look like to you?

AN: Being with my husband and daughter (both playwrights), doing anything together.

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

AN: I try to be positive and thankful for my amazing clients, friends and family.

Cover image via Alexis Christodoulou

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