Vaara caught up with the lovely and (very) motivating founder of FORM Studio and METcore Pilates Elissa El Hadj, to speak about her method, her very young but hugely successful business and her thoughts on London's fitness scene.
What is the Form method all about?
The FORM method is designed to empower people to be the best versions of themselves. To inspire them through exercise and impart information during class that motivates. My signature class, METcore Pilates is an intelligent workout, if I do say so myself, as it encompasses every facet of training for a healthy body, both internally and externally. From balance (strengthening core and cognitive health) to resistance cables (building bone density and muscle definition) to cardio (fat burning and cardiovascular health) to my SPEED 8 section, the finale to my 50 minute class, delivering all of the above benefits with the addition of being ANTI AGEING, as Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is produced in the body in these final 8 minutes. Speed 8 comprises of high intensity resistance training (HIRT) exercises that everyone regardless of age should be incorporating into their fitness regimen. The health and aesthetic benefits are immense.
How did you come come up with this technique and your patented MOTR equipment?
I created my technique, as I saw a void in the fitness market that needed filling. My background is fairly diverse. I was a professional dancer and tennis player and have always been a pilates practitioner since my early days. Moving freely, pain and injury free is rare for most people, not just dancers and athletes. These days, we are leading more of a sedentary lifestyle than ever before and stress, obesity and diabetes are ever on the rise. It is vital that we are diligent about our health and wellbeing. Simply making the right food choices and incorporating movement and exercise into ones daily regimen will have a transformative effect.
My creation, METcore pilates is a hybrid class that rectifies imbalances, immeasurably strengthens the core, thus combatting back pain, and builds overall strength and mobility in the body. I have created a myriad of exercises for correctional purposes that I know most people suffer from, day to day. Stiffness and rigidity being the main culprit, brought on through sitting hours on end at work, at computers, frequent travelling on business trips, etc. Sitting is the new smoking! It is debilitating to our bodies.
We live in a fast paced society and people simply don't have time to devote hours a day/week to diversifying their workouts. METcore targets the SIX key components of training in 50 minutes. CORE, BALANCE, STRENGTH, CARDIO, BREATHING and STRETCHING to create a strong, lean, flexible, fit, pain and injury-free body, and did I mention, it’s FUN! We offer a variety of classes from Pilates based to yoga, HIIT, Boxing and TRX suspension classes. My newly launched Re FORM method at FORM caters to 1-2-1 clients looking for a more bespoke approach. The programmes are always varied to ensure the body and brain are evolving and improving.
Have there been any challenges along the way and if so, what kept you motivated?
There will always be many challenges embarking on a new business, no doubt, however, what could have been the biggest challenge, introducing a completely new system of training on a completely new piece of equipment, has proven to be a resounding success in a saturated market. Everything else really pales in comparison. Nailing the product, so to speak, is imperative regardless of the business. There are mistakes you'll make along the way and learn from, but it’s about not making that same mistake twice.
My classes are all about fun and function. Looking great and feeling great and enjoying the process. I ensure that that my classes are informative, thus inspiring clients to work to their maximum capacity in order to reap the benefits. Getting results is addictive!
Knowing that my product makes a difference to those that frequent FORM, is what keeps me motivated, energised and balanced when focusing on other vital aspects of the business.
Congratulations on your recent Tatler Gyms Award! That’s an important recognition milestone for quite a young studio, what do you attribute this success to? How do you ensure the business is growing?
I was very heartened that FORM was afforded the Tatler award so early in our inception last year and then again this year. It is deeply gratifying and a stamp of approval that introducing an entirely new workout concept to the industry worked out! Prior to opening FORM last year, I had certainly sampled my METcore class on my 1-2-1 clients, and was given such positive feedback that the natural progression was to offer it to the public in a class format.
In order for FORM to continue flourishing and growing, it is critical that the company is ever evolving by introducing new ideas and collaborations. Maintaining a superior calibre of instruction and customer service is always key to successful growth.
We have just launched our second studio (extension to our current address in Notting Hill) offering 1-2-1 personal training and health and wellness services, nutritional advice including blood and hormone testing, should our clients request this. I am continually attending and teaching at Wellness/Fitness festivals to further promote my METcore class to continue spreading the word.
Our online/livestreaming classes are in the midst of creation as well. It is a fast paced industry and, thus, important to constantly keep things buoyant and interesting.
You have clients not just in the UK but also US. Do you feel there is a big difference between fitness communities in LA and London? London’s fitness community at large has changed in the last few years quite significantly, it seems - do you find it for the best?
There is still a large disparity between fitness communities in LA and that of London.
Fitness in LA has always existed. It is part of an Angeleno’s blood, deeply rooted in the culture. London is slowly adopting such rituals, like attending a boutique fitness studio class and grabbing a green juice post session, which can only be a good thing. However, when the predominant demographic that attends fitness classes in London are female 20-somethings, it clearly reflects that we are still way behind. LA folk are very passionate about fitness and working out, irrespective of gender and age. It is inherent in their lifestyles.
What other sports or fitness routines do you practice?
Running a business is certainly time consuming, and on the occasion, my workouts do get compromised, but I try my best to prioritise a thrice weekly workout. Boxing and kick boxing are favourites, METcore of course and either a 5-10K run or dance class. I cycle everywhere and walk my dogs, so on days that I cannot allocate to the above, I don't sweat it as I'm pretty active. Not to mention teaching classes at FORM keep me on my toes!
Is fitness both, work and leisure for you - how do you relax in your spare time?
I LOVE being active, so indeed, fitness transcends into both my work and leisure time. I am married to an ex-Olympic athlete who owns FORM with me. Keeping active in our spare time is what keeps us happy, sane and balanced!
When it comes to a bit of indulgence, what’s your vice?
My vice, hmmm, I don't really have any! Chocolate from time to time! Active wear shopping is a mild obsession…
I don’t have a specific favourite snack, but I love The Giving Tree strawberry crisps and Broccoli crisps. Mashed avocado and chili on rye never goes amiss either!
Favourite summer beauty products you can’t go without?
My favourite summer beauty products - a cap/hat to preserve my hair from drying out, Jane Iredale mineral foundation, my Boadicea The Victorious fragrance and Mario Badescu facial spray with aloe, herbs and rosewater.
Form Studio Classes are available at www.formstudios.co.uk