Often, people think a classical Pilates studio can be super intimidating. But at Pilates Rox, L.A. celebrity trainer Noelle Rox is adding humor, community, and innovation into the mix too, making sure clients enjoy the traditional foundation, along with some serious servings of fun!
Originally from the Bay Area, Rox knew all about intense rigor growing up as an elite gymnast. After college she worked in real estate, but when she discovered Pilates, the focus on core and dedicated work resonated with the former athlete. Soon after, she changed paths and opened her own Pilates studios, first Simpatico in Santa Barbara, and then Pilates Rox, in Pacific Palisades.
Here, she offers classical Pilates with touches of modernity, allowing students to gain that long and lean Pilates body…sustainably. While she teaches loads of celebrities, it’s the community and convivial nature of the space for everyone that’s priority for her. Read on to learn more.
SBS: What was your Pilates ‘a-ha’ moment?
Noelle Rox: I went to a Pilates reformer class through a friend. The minute I did one Pilates move, I felt I was home. If you look at Joseph Pilates’ history, he was athletic and acrobatic. So I immediately felt, ‘I get this. I want this. I want to help people feel more athletic.’ My knowledge of movement from gymnastics comes down to balance and core. That’s Pilates.
Also, I’m really intense, and I have a very strong work ethic. I was used to training seven hours a day. Teaching Pilates taught me patience with others who aren’t in their bodies. You aren’t always working with athletes. So I had to let go of expecting everyone to come in with the same intensity.
SBS: What makes your teaching approach unique?
NR: I help my clients understand how to use energy efficiently, including where they don’t need to add pressure. I speak from a sense of what’s going to hold you in space, and that’s about organization versus just throwing out the name of an exercise. I’m a technician in helping people find muscles in a simplistic way so they can enjoy that ‘aha moment’ of finding a true sense of center. I want them to move from knowing where their deepest muscles are. I cue in a lot on the true principles of midline, by thinking about the seams of the legs. Hugging that midline is how you find a better connection to the abs. For example, if you’re doing a balance, drawing your inner thighs together and lifting your abdominals is what will help you.
I won’t give the fanciest choreography. Instead, I’ll teach you how to turn your body into a more efficient and athletic machine. How can you get out of your periphery and move from your center? If you skip past that, it’s easy to cheat and draw in the shoulders and quads. Instead, I’m getting smaller muscles working and that’s when you change your body. That’s when you get out of pain. You watch it unfold in front you.
SBS: What’s your take on all the fusion Pilates options available now?
NR: I’m a believer in doing one thing and doing it really well. If you want to learn how to find your core, I’m your girl. But, I think there is a place for everything. Everybody will find the exercise that moves them personally. I like to be genuine, and my background is not dance. So I don’t teach, and can’t relate to, the dance workouts. But I can relate to core and power. But, I don’t think of fusion options negatively because I like variety. Over time people usually circle back to Pilates when they have injuries because then they need to focus on core work. True Pilates makes everybody better in life. I’m not training people to be good at just Pilates. I’m training them to be more efficient in movement that’s sustainable over time.
SBS: What would you suggest somebody look for in private Pilates sessions?
NR: Look for somebody that really understands that Pilates is a core workout. If they don’t sound like that, then find someone who does! The last 10 years, there are so many certification programs that instructors are pouring out, but many of them are just throwing out names of moves as if it’s a fitness class on a reformer. That has its place, but if you want to transform your body and avoid injury, it helps to have a very knowledgeable instructor.
SBS: What are some common Pilates misconceptions?
NR: A lot of people think Pilates was a workout designed for dancers. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dancers were indeed the first teachers and they love it because it doesn’t bulk you up. But as a method, it was from an athlete and about discipline, stabilization, and core. So, it doesn’t have to be adapted when a male comes in! I often see people thinking they have to change it for a guy. Not true!
Too often, instructors are more concerned with choreography and doing more complex movements instead of teaching fundamentals that show you how to move from the center, instead of the limbs. For example, I’ll hear someone say the Hundreds hurts their neck, but that’s usually because they are pumping their arms not from the abs, but from their limbs. If your movement is on the periphery, flailing the wrists, it’s not working. If you lock down under the arms and pull the navel down, then you can hold the weight of the head and get that deep burn in the abs.
SBS: Since you love classical Pilates, how do you add modern touches into your workouts?
NR: Even though we are talking about classical Pilates, I’m a fusion of east meets west. I layer the classical foundation with more abs and butt work that all the L.A. girls want! For men, they need glute strength too, so I add a sporty edge.
SBS: You’re known for your humor and fun attitude. Why is that important to you?
NR: People say I should be a stand-up comedian. If you look at my YouTube, it’s me with a hotdog, and so on... So, one of my main goals is to get people laughing hard. Fitness is so intimidating for a lot of people. And that factor makes us lose a big population that could be working out. So, I always try to bring a sense of humor, heart, and community into my space. If you come in it’s a happy party place! I come from a sport of suffering: As a gymnast, you’re told what’s wrong with you constantly. You can also see that coming from the dance world. So I found strength in helping people feel safe. They can laugh while they’re working hard! I think that’s been part of my success.
SBS: What are your tips for Pilates newbies?
NR: A little bit goes a long way. We live in a culture of all or nothing. But with Pilates, just start small, and try to ride the moment. Try to enjoy how good it feels.
SBS: How do you create community at your studio?
NR: Being present every day, knowing names and introducing everyone that walks in is key. I can’t tell you how many friendships have been made around the watercooler in my studio. I’m a connector, and I set that tone. This is not competitive. This is a place to let your hair down, work hard, meet some friends and laugh.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over the years traveling all over doing workshops- there’s a lack of community. Now that so much is going online, even teacher trainings, it’s hard to cultivate that sometimes. But I never underestimate the power of connection. In a world where we’re going more digital, I think lying on the reformer is a great way to create community.
So, my mantra in opening this place was always that I just want to be part of something great, not to be a celebrity trainer. Everyday, I’m so proud of the community here. For example, we have a bicoastal client who I ran into at the grocery store. She told me she was going through a divorce, and she didn’t know where she belonged. She told me we saved her life…that through Pilates, she found a home. That made me cry. That’s what happens here.
Noelle’s Travel Pilates Workout:
It's all about keeping the buns high and tight and maintain that skinny waist:
-Bikini Butt: Put your feet up on a sturdy chair or couch and bridge your hips up and down. Draw your belly button to your spine as you lift and lower for 15 to 20 reps.
-Tick-Tock: Lie on your back, arms by your side, legs extended up to ceiling (or in table top). Reach legs to the right as you inhale and pause. Then exhale, pulling your abs in, navel to spine, to bring the legs back to center with the thought of a skinny waist. Use your abs to press your lower back down as the legs tick-tock side to side.
-Bicycles: Start with your hands behind head and your legs in tabletop. Lift up your chest from your abs, extend one leg straight and twist lifting chest to bent knee, keeping elbows wide. Go side to side slowly with control, exhaling into each twist, bringing chest to knee, versus pulling the knee in. 20 reps.
Noelle’s LA Favorites:
Calming Activity: Walking along PCH
Nightlife Activity: Watching “Bachelor” while drinking wine and eating pizza with friends!
Healthy Restaurant: A Votre Santé in Brentwood
Splurge Restaurant: Bandera
Athletic Wear: Beyond Yoga
Athletic Shoes: Nike
Fun Activity: Riding my horse, Arctic Express, with Cynthia Shea of Shea Equestrian
Noelle’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind. My mantra at the studio is ‘Work hard, and be nice to people.’ My true purpose is to make people laugh and add some real, raw humor to my workouts. It's about making it fun.
Being kind and making people laugh has an incredible ripple effect. I teach with kindness in my heart, eyes, and hands to make it personal, create positivity, and give people a sense of happiness and joy.