This article appears in the February issue of 400 Life.
On a recent Monday, Emily Condensa watched her family buzzing around the studio space of Performance Pilates and Training. While Condensa worked with a client on a Pilates machine, she watched her oldest daughter, Justina, 22, the studio’s general manager, taking a chair Pilates class. At the front desk was her youngest daughter, Lucia, 15, the office manager, working on a computer. In walked her middle daughter, Sophia, 19, one of the studio’s personal trainers, to teach a strength training class.
At some point, Condensa’s husband, Mike, was likely to stop by. It wouldn’t have been surprising if either of the couple’s two sons, Sebastian, 20, and Lorenzo, 17, arrived at some point in the day, too. The three Condensa men are just as much believers in Pilates as Emily and the rest of the family, so they often take classes at the new studio (that the three built, by the way) since it opened this past November off Peachtree Parkway.
Emily’s Pilates business wasn’t always such a family enterprise. Emily was a reluctant convert to the trendy fitness method herself.
Emily started out as a runner. A doctor told Emily to stop running after she started having children, so Emily shifted to group fitness, mostly boot camp-style classes. When the family moved to Wisconsin, Emily didn’t like the quality of fitness classes she found at a small gym. So she started teaching them herself.
Emily moved to a YMCA and soon started hearing about this trendy fitness program called Pilates. It was developed by Joseph Pilates around World War I, when he developed an apparatus and exercise routine that focused on strengthening the connection between mind and body with an emphasis on stretching, strength, core strength and body alignment.
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But Emily wasn’t convinced of Pilates’ effectiveness — until she tried it herself.
“When I started working on the equipment, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, everybody should do this,’” Emily said.
So Emily became a certified Pilates instructor.
When the Condensas moved to Georgia, Emily worked stints in physical therapy offices and big-box gyms but wasn’t satisfied in those environments. She struck out on her own and ran a Pilates studio out of the family’s house, and her clients from the big-box gyms followed her. The number of clients gradually increased, and so did the number of Pilates machines. If the family moved, the new house had to have space for a Pilates studio. When Sebatian and Lorenzo came home, they often stopped at the machines to do a few pull-ups before walking to the kitchen.
Eventually, Emily’s business grew too large for the Condensa’s home, so she opened her first studio in a commercial space near First Redeemer Church. Business kept growing, and so this past November she moved Performance into the new 5,000-square-foot studio.
The Pilates equipment classes are Performance’s main staple. The studio has nine Pilates machines and seven instructors. But the studio has evolved to offer more and more varieties of fitness classes as Emily’s expertise and training has increased. They now have CoreAlign machines to improve posture and balance; a TRX apparatus for suspension training; cardio kickboxing classes; circuit training; and more. They have Pilates classes especially designed for kids and teenagers.
Because unlike its reputation, Pilates is a fitness method that anyone can benefit from, Emily says. Sure, most of her clients are interested in building strength and toning muscle, but Emily is also trained to use Pilates to help clients with severe back, knee or shoulder pain. She’s trained to help clients with multiple sclerosis and neurological disorders.
“Most clients want to get in shape and look better, which Pilates can do for you,” Emily says. “But in the long run, Pilates can do all kinds of corrective exercises for you that you didn’t even realize you needed.”
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For Emily, Pilates has even been almost a life-saver.
Six months ago, she was struck by a car while running with Mike. Emily suffered a second-degree ligament sprain in her knee and a fractured foot.
“My orthopedic said had I not been in such good shape from Pilates and not had the flexibility, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Emily says.
Emily still isn’t 100%, but she’s back to running, even on the same route where she was hit by the truck. She had to, she said. She didn’t want it limiting her. Emily prioritizes growing mentally, physically and spiritually, and it’s important that her clients and kids see that.
In fact, it was the premise of how Emily and Mike raised their five kids. Emily and Mike pushed them to always be growing in every facet of their life, whether by being active in sports or reading books. They hoped Justina, Sebastian, Sophia, Lorenzo and Lucia developed a growth mindset and an entrepreneurial spirit.
They’ve largely seen that come to fruition with Justina and Lucia both becoming certified Pilates instructors and taking on integral parts of the business. Meanwhile, Sebastian and Lorenzo work in Mike’s home renovation business (and come for a Pilates workout every now and then).
Sophia is the latest to join the family enterprise. Her passion for personal training inspired Emily to develop a studio concept that would combine Sophia’s area of expertise with the Pilates (hence the name Performance Pilates and Training). Emily added more traditional gym equipment and classes not often associated with ordinary Pilates studios, and Sophia jumped onboard as one of the studio’s four personal trainers.
“There’s certainly a need for Pilates and a need for the strength training and personal training,” Emily says. “I wanted a combination of the two. And I also wanted to bring [Sophia] into the business as well.”
Lucia added, “We all love each other and love working with each other.”
On that recent Monday, clients came from near and far to Performance. Debbie Kennedy drove from Lawrenceville for her regular two-hour Pilates class. Kennedy first met Emily when she taught Pilates at Lifetime Fitness and has followed her ever since.
Kennedy remains a client of Emily’s because of the results she’s experienced, yes, but also because of the family atmosphere she first felt working out in the Condensa’s home studio.
“The atmosphere around that family is such a positive, encouraging atmosphere,” Kennedy says.