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  • January 10, 2018 6 min read 1 Comment

    High Intensity Pilates, Helmed by Lubna Kamal, Hits Houston

    Though Lubna Kamal was pointed toward a career as a lawyer, she always loved fitness. Pushing herself to her limits was always her approach, and after passing the bar exam, the energetic powerhouse realized law wasn’t for her. When she convinced her husband to move from LA to Houston, she decided to dig into what she really loved: the wellness world.

    Noting the absence of a Lagree method studio there, the Libyan born and Sugarland, TX, bred owner of High Intensity Pilates now uses her fierce focus to run two studios in the Houston area. Read on to learn how she did it.


    SBS: How did you find the Lagree method?

    Lubna Kamal: I met my husband the day after I took the bar, and he was into triathlons and Iron Man. I ended up training for Iron Man too. Then, I decided to get certified in classical Pilates through the Sheppard Method, and I loved the idea of it being low impact. Everyone I met who did Pilates had a great core, and a lot of Iron Man trainers used it as a cross-training option. But classical Pilates was a little slow for me, and even though I loved it, I always felt I needed a jog afterward. I needed more.

    Then one day I was walking by a Megaformer studio in California, and I saw super-fit, beautiful women working hard. I was training for Iron Man, so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to try it. The next day, I couldn’t walk down the stairs. I was addicted instantly to a workout that made me feel sore but was low impact.


    SBS: How did the business come to fruition?

    LK: After my first child in 2013, I convinced my husband to move back to Houston.

    There was no Lagree studio here, and I wanted to share what I love with my city. We opened the first studio less than a year later in May 2014. Now we’re looking at opening a third.


    SBS: What was it like opening your first studio?

    LK: I was completely terrified of opening my own business, especially since most fail. But Sebastien Lagree is awesome. He put up with my hundreds of questions on how to do this. I also had a great landlord who helped me out, and it was a perfect studio that used to be an aerobics room. Everything fit the space so easily. And then a Lagree trainer flew down from LA to help me choose my first instructors. That helped me create a family. Now, even though it’s a different group, I have the most amazing people working with me. My clients eventually became my friends, too.


    SBS: What’s the biggest challenge of owning a business for you?

    LK: For me, it’s all the logistics that are needed to keep the studio going, from the paperwork and bookkeeping to purchasing towels. It’s the daily grind of it, and making sure everything works well and is taken care of.  I much prefer being with clients and the team, so being behind a desk is tedious and challenging for me. But it’s necessary.


    SBS: What was your approach when you first opened High Intensity Pilates?

    SBS: I wanted to give people a clear idea that HIP is not the regular Pilates studio. That’s why I chose the name High Intensity Pilates, so that our mission and offering was very clear. That’s the closest definition of what we do I could think of. I didn’t want people coming in expecting that type of workout. I don’t really consider traditional Pilates a workout, but a way of life instead. HIP offers a seriously hard—in the best way—workout. I get clients thanking me that they can’t sit on the toilet because they’re so sore! And I wanted to market to that, to those people who are crazy like me and would sign up for Iron Man. That’s a specific type of person that is addicted to good pain and hard work.


    SBS: Since there were no other Megaformer studios in the area, how did you gain interest and recognition?

    LK: On the first day, one client walked through the door, and I was thrilled. I remember I’d be happy if we had three or four people in the room. We are located on a street with plenty of foot traffic, which is lucky. We used social media like Facebook and Instagram to help, but really the machines sell themselves. Mothers dropping their kids off would peek through the windows and come in asking about the workout and equipment. Once word of mouth started, out of the blue, our classes were 80 percent full. Lagree also started doing more marketing on his end, and people would ask, ‘Isn’t that what Jennifer Aniston does?’ People started hearing about SLT, too, and when trying to find something similar in Houston, they found us. We’ve also become popular with the basketball team, the Rockets, so that helps too.


    SBS: What are your tips for clients new to the Megaformer?

    LK: I always tell them, ‘You paid for this class. This is your valuable time. Be vocal if something feels scary.’

    We are on weighted resistance springs, and there are so many modifications available. We have a client in her 70s right next to an 18-year-old, and they’ll both walk out happy because of those modifications. You can drop a spring, or maybe you don’t have to move the plank with your arms. You can be on your elbows. I try to let people know that. Ask as many questions as you need. Modifications keep you going: Just don’t stop. Even though the machine can look like a torture chamber, it’s safe, large and sturdy. We’ve had basketball players on them.


    SBS: What do you look for in an instructor to hire?

    LK: If someone comes to me, first I look at how informed they are. I wouldn’t start training anyone who doesn’t already know the workout. Even if someone comes in with a classical Pilates background, that doesn’t mean they’ll be good at Lagree. It’s a different approach and skill set.

    It sounds cliché, but I also look for a smile and personality. It’s a hard workout, and the teachers have to be motivating to get you through. Regardless of how strong they are, they have to be truly aware of how challenging the workout is. You can modify and individualize it, and they need to know that. I look for someone who has that understanding, is motivating, loves Lagree and has that positive energy.  


    SBS: What are red flags to look out for when finding a Lagree instructor and studio?

    LK: I think this actually carries over to all fitness classes: If the teacher doesn’t make you feel comfortable with the workout, that’s a red flag. I remember I took a class once, and the instructor would call people out on the mic.  That lacked sensitivity, and there was no personalization. The instructor wasn’t relating to the clients, and that’s the worst.

    You have to make sure people are comfortable and enjoy their time with you. Why would they return if they feel defeated? Form is so important, but I don’t care if you have 100 licenses if you’re only thinking about yourself. It has to be all about the client.


    SBS: HIP also offers TRX. Why did you choose that class as another option for your clients?

    LK: TRX is another approach that uses the body for resistance. Since we’re the only Megaformer studio in Houston, most people who walk in want to take that class. But, TRX compliments the Lagree method because it’s still low impact, but high intensity. It gives you the same feeling of spaghetti legs with that good type of sore.


    SBS: What is special about Lagree for you?

    LK: Lagree works your muscles to the point of failure. That challenge is what makes your muscles shake. That forces your metabolism to keep working after you’re done. It’s a full-body workout, and you walk out after an experience like no other.

    Plus, we make it fun! It’s all about the client having an awesome time, with great music to rock out to.


    Lubna’s Houston Faves:

    Healthy Restaurant: MF Sushi
    Splurge Restaurant: The Chocolate Bar  
    Fitness Studio: CrossFit Roughnecks
    Yoga Studio: Yoga One 
    Fun Activity: Playing kickball with my little one 
    Nightlife Spot: Boheme
    Calming Activity: IPic Theaters
    Athleticwear: Moto leggings by Alo Yoga
    Athletic Shoes: Mizuno
    Online Resources: Shape.com, Webmd.com, Allrecipes.com
    Books: Pride and Prejudice and The 48 Laws of Power

    1 Response

    jen donat
    jen donat

    January 11, 2018

    We Lagree with you! And Stickybe socks give us inspiration from plank to pike!

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