At just 13, then-competitive dancer and swimmer Andrea Speir suffered a knee injury, her first encounter with the reality of how fragile our bodies are. But, the experience also fortuitously introduced the San Francisco native to Pilates. And that, it turns out, was a thread she’d later follow after performing in NYC, London and LA.
Now, she’s even more in love with Pilates since opening Speir Pilates, her modern and motivating home for Pilates, barre and more. There, she offers her fun, fiery take on the modalities, and clients are equally addicted to both in-person and on-demand options.
Read on to hear how she’s handled the inevitable dips during quarantine to find success, why she feels a team environment is essential, plus how she fosters it.
SBS: How did you make your way back to Pilates, and eventually to teaching, after performing?
Andrea Speir: I grew up dancing and performing in the Bay Area, and then obtained my undergraduate degree in theater and dance. I went on to perform in NYC and London, eventually coming back to LA, where I began working as an actor in television.
I realized at this time my body needed to be given extra love and attention to keep me strong. I decided to get my 600-hour certification in classical Pilates at this time, mostly so I could learn more about my own body and practice. That’s when I fell in love with the teaching side of it. I always thought I would go back to stage and TV work, but I found myself completely immersed in teaching full-time for four years.
Then, I wanted to challenge myself with a different part of my brain as well, so I left Pilates to go to law school. At this time, I realized how much I loved the quality of my life when working with people and making them stronger, healthier, and being a part of such an overall positive experience. I came back to LA, and this is where Speir Pilates was born.
I decided to open my own business and make it everything I always wished I could find in the fitness community: incredibly educational and effective workouts that offer the same great results as private training, but in a more cost-effective, small group class environment, along with a fantastic sense of community.
Additionally, I used my on-camera training as the Pilates personality for companies like Daily Burn and Cyberobics. I’m still working in TV too, as the trainer on Germany’s Next Topmodel with Heidi Klum and as the on-camera fitness expert on the Kris Jenner Show, The Doctors, Hallmark Home and Family. I feel incredibly lucky that my paths fused together and led me to where I am today.
SBS: How did you land on your brand and unique fusion of Pilates, barre and more for Speir Pilates?
AS: When discussing what Speir was, we were very sure we wanted it to reflect our style that showed the workouts were high energy, musical and community-driven. We made sure our branding wasn’t especially feminine or a more classical, wellness vibe like a yoga studio may have. That was the starting point for what came to make up our style!
SBS: What's your unique approach to teaching?
AS: I make sure to always teach to the strongest body in the room, while offering adjustments that will be inclusive of all levels of experience and bodies. I make sure to do this in a way that gives permission to go lighter with springs or take breaks, versus. saying that if something is too hard or too heavy to take a break.
I’ve found that when you phrase modifications like that, people are disinclined to take them, as they are told by years of media to power through. By giving permission and letting them know the form is what’s going to change their body, not how many reps they do, they will take breaks. Additionally, by teaching to the strongest body in the room, you are also giving a workout that will challenge anyone. The person who doesn’t need to take a break isn’t forced to, and can also challenge and change their practice.
SBS: What style of teacher are you?
AS: My teaching style fuses my dance and theater background a bit. My classes are athletic, musically-driven, focused and fun!
SBS: How did you link up with Liz Polk? What's it like co-leading a studio?
AS: Liz Polk is a total powerhouse. I’ve never met a woman who is so smart, driven, and a total badass. We had known each other for years before Speir came to be, through our husbands, who both worked in advertising together.
We got to talking one night at her house about what I was looking to do for Speir (I was currently looking for the first location). We realized we were both inspired by each other. She brings a different set of eyes to this; she’s not coming from a fitness background, but the legal and high-level business strategy world. That combined with my creative vision, as well as knowledge and experience in the fitness industry fused us into what I feel to be such an incredible partnership.
SBS: What's your approach to leading, managing and training a team in your technique?
AS: I’ve found that making sure we are a team and a community that supports each other is the most essential thing. Before opening Speir, I never felt like I was truly a part of a team, more on my own. There seemed to always be some semblance of competition amongst the staff. Part of the driving reason for me to open my own studio was to create a space where we all lifted each other up and helped each other achieve whatever we dreamed of. This is the first, and most important, element for me in leading our team and creating a supportive and inclusive environment.
SBS: How has your COVID journey been? What were you doing before and how has it shifted, both professionally and personally?
AS: The Covid journey has been a wild ride! We were about to open our West Hollywood studio for Speir Pilates at the exact moment the world shut down in March 2020. Covid navigated us down different paths that were a range of unexpected beautiful things to eye-opening and tragic.
We made our WeHo studio a gorgeous rooftop studio for that time, which was something I had never imagined. It was so beautiful up there, and helped us to safely be around a small group of people, so in that sense it was such a silver lining. It got us outside into the sunlight and allowed us to still stay connected to our community, which was emotionally a savior.
Our Santa Monica studios got looted unfortunately, and we lost our smaller private studio, which was truly heartbreaking, but showed me how the community can come together and help pick up the pieces together. We had strangers, neighbors and clients inside the studios sweeping glass before I even arrived the next morning. It also taught me a lot about what is going on in this world beyond my small hemisphere. I wasn’t upset about being looted (shocked, absolutely); I was upset about the injustice in the country that led to such upset for those that felt the need to hit the streets out of anger and frustration.
This time also allowed me to do something I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time: create an On-Demand site with hundreds of mat and reformer workouts. And, it also let me be home more with my kids. My son was only seven months old when the world shut down, so I got some invaluable time with home in those early years.
SBS: What's your own wellness practice? How has it changed?
AS: Filming so many Pilates workouts each week for Speir On-Demand put me in the best shape of my life. It truly showed me the power of consistency in your Pilates practice and how absolutely energizing it is. I know now, without a doubt, that Pilates every day makes me feel better than anything else. As if I wasn’t already in it to win it with this style of movement, I am more in love than I ever was or could be.
SBS: What advice would you give to new instructors during and post-Covid quarantine?
AS: This is such a different time right now, so understand that clients are all experiencing re-entering the world at varying levels of comfort. If you are having trouble reading your clients, that doesn’t mean they don’t like the workout. There are so many things we are all thinking about now as a community.
SBS: What advice would you give to clients doing Pilates/barre for the first time? What about via virtual gatherings?
AS: My advice is to come in with an open mind! Pilates and barre can sometimes seem intimidating for a first-timer. There is more choreography, and with Pilates, a medieval looking piece of apparatus.
The workouts, however, are very easy to follow with a good instructor! They also leave you feeling energized and invigorated, so coming in being ready to just move your body and not so much worried about what you might look like when doing it is key.
SBS: What's your approach to nutrition?
AS: Nutrition is all about living a balanced lifestyle for me. I’ve found if I schedule my workouts as a priority, my diet and nutrition follow much more naturally. I want to eat clean and nutritious foods before and after a workout, so overall I end up feeling very energized and balanced!
I try not to deprive myself of anything, but instead just have an awareness of when I am choosing to have a glass of wine, dessert, etc. so I prevent myself from following into a habit that isn’t mindful.
The best, zaniest part of being Andrea: Although I’m crazy busy with every minute of the day scheduled from start to finish, it all feels like a giant dance party, which is really the goal in life, isn’t it? I create my class playlists in my car (with lots of mom dance moves to accompany this), followed by rocking out in the studio to our musically-driven, athletic classes. Once I’m home and done for the day, there’s always music and dancing with my two kids around the kitchen as we cook dinner or get ready for bed. So even though each day is so packed with tasks, chores, work and kids, it still feels like I accomplished my goal of living in a giant, dance-party for the better part of the day.
Andrea’s SBS Mantra: Be Happy resonates most with me. For me, all the mantras can be summed up in those two words. Everything we do at the end of the day is simply to be happy and enjoy each precious moment we are lucky enough to experience.
Andrea’s LA Favorites:
Healthy Restaurant: Flower Child
Splurge Restaurant: Huckleberry
Nightlife Spot: Esters
Yoga Studio: Kyle Miller Yoga
Fitness Studio: Speir Pilates, Training Mate and Gloverworx
Fun Activity: Cooking
Calming Activity: Reading, surfing, bike riding, coloring with the kids
Online Resources: Apple News, Goop and The Tot
Books: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling