Seven years ago Michigan native Kellie Carl joined a gym and discovered Pilates. She loved it from the very first ab contraction, and a few years later she checked out another studio closer to home and signed up for TRX too. She started taking classes three to four times a week, and it wasn’t long before the studio owner asked about her interest in teaching.
Since then, the former dance and theater kid from Clinton Township, MI, became TRX and Stott Pilates Advanced Level certified, and she even focuses on special populations from aging clients to a college hockey national champion.
Her empathetic perspective is also informed by her own amazing weight-loss journey. Now, she teaches six days a week at S.C.S Pilates Connection in St. Clair Shores and also offers privates and duets. You can also find her on Facebook via Pilates With Kellie.
Read on to hear how she has used her own experience and love of Pilates to fuel her own passion, as well as that of her clients.
SBS: What’s your own journey been in wellness? How has it affected your work as a practitioner?
Kellie Clark: I was very active in dance growing up, and I got married at 24. At 26 I was pregnant and classified as high risk and could not dance or workout. Hence the weight gain. I really never got back to a healthy weight.
13 years ago I went through a horrible divorce and gained a lot of weight: I weighed 289 pounds on a 5'3" frame! Then to top it off, my doctor put me on high blood pressure medicine.
So here I was: 45, overweight with high blood pressure. So I made the decision that I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle and needed medical help. I decided on gastric bypass in 2011, and I had the surgery January 3, 2012.
It has completely changed my life: There’s no medication, and I am more active now than ever! I’ve maintained a 150-pound loss through nutrition and exercise.
Because of this, I can relate to many people in my community who struggle with weight, and I really care about how my clients feel in class. I want everyone to feel comfortable regardless of body shape or size. I have been in their shoes. I never make anyone feel that because of his or her size that they can’t do an exercise. I gently offer variations in general to my entire class.
SBS: What's your style and approach as a teacher?
KC: My style is very versatile. I work with aging clients (87 years old) and rehabilitation clients (hip and knee replacements), as well as clients who want to tone and lose weight. I try to offer several variations to my exercises in my classes so that everyone can benefit. I just want my clients to leave class feeling better than when they arrived. I am upbeat and try to make my classes fun too!
SBS: What does Pilates bring to your life? What do you hope it brings to your clients?
KC: It brings such joy, and I love what I do. I love to see my clients reach a goal, and it’s such a blessing to be a role model at the studio with some clients.
I hope my clients can see my passion and feed off of that vibe in my classes. I truly get to know each and every one of them and build that relationship. Most of my clients have been with me for three-plus years.
SBS: How were you offering Pilates pre-covid? What's your journey been like during Covid?
KC: During Covid I set up Zoom classes in my home. I taught two classes each night and I was able to stay connected to them during our shutdown.Even now I still have clients that livestream my classes from home. I also took Zoom classes during the shutdown, and it allowed me to take classes from teachers all over the U.S.
SBS: What are your tips for new Pilates practitioners?
KC: Get to know your clients personally. Keep learning: Take workshops or online courses.
Be on time to teach your classes and set up, because no one likes to come to class when you aren’t ready. Keep your classes fresh and new.
SBS: What are your tips for students new to Pilates, both in person and online?
KC: Start slow and give yourself time to learn. Start with private sessions to learn the equipment, and this also helps the teacher learn more about you. Keep at it: Consistency is key.
SBS: What's your own wellness routine? How has it changed since Covid?
KC: I try not to overbook myself so I can get two classes in each week. I’m also training for my third half marathon.
SBS: What’s next for you?
KC: I will continue teaching Pilates; I work 25-30 hours per week. In August, I’m returning to college to get an Associates degree in health and exercise science.
SBS: What other advice do you love for everyone?
KC: Be Patient. At 45 years old I started my weight loss journey and have never looked back. I am now living my best life. I hope I can inspire those around me.
Kellie’s SBS Mantra:
Be Fearless. Fearlessness enables me to do unbelievable things like run marathons, launch my new career at 55 years young and most importantly, boldly live my ideal and healthy life!
The best, zaniest part of being Kellie: I laugh and cry a lot...sometimes at the same time!
Kellie’s Michigan, Faves
Faves in your area: The Serendipitous Soul, Ember World Travel
Healthy Restaurant: Beyond Juicery + Eatery
Splurge Restaurant: Louis’ Chop House
Fun Activity: Kayaking, paddleboarding
Calming Activity: Running
Fitness Studio: S.C.S Pilates Connection
Athletic Shoes: Nike
Online Resources: Pilates Anytime, Merrithew