New fitness studios combine wellness and workouts
From Pilates to power lifting, new studios and fitness pros combine wellness and workouts.
Bay Area native Elaine Hayes long wanted a career where she could help people. After volunteering and tutoring in high school and then graduating from college, she enrolled in law school.
It was just the thing her parents wanted her to do, but after a year, she realized law school wasn’t her calling. To figure out what was, she took a break. That’s when something from her past bubbled up — Pilates, which she had taken up as a teenager to assist with knee injuries sustained while studying ballet.
“I fell in love with it,” she said of the exercise program of controlled movements. “I could jump higher, dance better, had no knee pain and I developed a new sense of confidence in my body and self-empowerment in what I could do.”
She loved it in high school, and still did. Pilates, she said, “was the highlight of my week.” She dropped out of law school, became a Pilates instructor and never looked back, noting, “I realized I could be successful helping people while doing what I love.”
It was 2010. The seeds for her MNT Studio — “move, nourish, transform” — were sown.
After working at several studios, she started a practice in the SoMa apartment she shared with her boyfriend (now husband). She bought a reformer machine — one was all she could afford — and put it in her spare bedroom. Within six months, she was seeing more than 60 clients a week, so busy that she was turning people away. In 2011, she began looking for a commercial space, and two years later found it at 766 Brannan St., half a block from her apartment. (Pinterest, Airbnb and Dropbox are all nearby.) She opened MNT Studio in 2,000 square feet and expanded to 6,000 square feet in 2015 with the departure of two other tenants, one of whom had occupied the entire second floor.
In fall of 2016, Hayes enlisted Adrianna Doringa of ADBC Architects in Oakland and interior designer Cassandra Crain to transform the entire space — once home to 13 separate rooms on two floors — into a cohesive studio with seven rooms that are light, airy and exude a sense of calm.
Upstairs, where a contractor’s office had been housed, workers removed old carpeting, fluorescent lighting, overhead wires and water-damaged ceiling tiles. Nonfunctioning heating and air conditioning were repaired. Windows were replaced. Hayes learned that the contractor had used one room for tango dancing on the side, which explained its shiny wood floors, red curtains staple-gunned to the wall and sparkling chandeliers overhead.
During the remodeling, original trusses and skylights dating to the 1920s were uncovered, to everyone’s delight The skylights were refurbished and the trusses painted white. “In Pilates, you’re looking up a lot and you’re on your back,” Hayes said. “It’s nice to have that open feeling.” Work finished in April 2017, two weeks before the birth of her first child, a son. MNT offers 66 classes a week in yoga, barre and Pilates, including prenatal classes. Private sessions are also available.
Hayes could have picked a vibrant color scheme, whic some fitness enthusiasts prefer, but went with white and gray — not to stimulate, but to soothe.
“Our clients are mostly professionals who work a lot, are always in a rush, commuting,” she said. “I wanted a space that offered an oasis from busy city life.”
Fitness entrepreneur Elaine Hayes at MNTSTUDIO on Brannan St. in SoMa. Hayes opened the studio in a smaller space and had it updated in 2017 by designer Cassandra Crain and architect Adriana Daringa. The studio offers Pilates, barre and yoga classes in a space of 6,000 square feet on two levels.