Golden lessons for Silver Squirrel Pilates Studio from Dame Kelly Holmes
A stint working for Dame Kelly Holmes honed Joanna Foulser's fitness business skills.
The 33-year-old beat 500 other candidates to win her role with the double Olympic gold medallist, who triumphed in the 800m and 1,500m races at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Joanna, a former pupil at Manor Fields primary and St Mary's Catholic School in Bishop's Stortford, sprinted into the job straight from studying sports science at university.
She had financed her studies by working at the Stansted Airport Radisson Blu hotel's gym, and it was this hands-on experience coupled with her first-class degree which made her the ideal choice to help Dame Kelly design sports programmes for young athletes.
Joanna said that the experience had given her "the armour you need for the real world".
"What I learned from her was to take things with a pinch of salt. I learned that everybody is going to have an opinion whether you like it or not and you can let that destroy you or keep going."
That determination has stood her in good stead as she has turned her passion for Reformer Pilates into her dream business.
Her new studio, tucked away in a courtyard off Forest Hall Road in Stansted, is the culmination of more than a decade dedicated to fitness and education.
The former Harlow College lecturer has named her business Silver Squirrel Pilates Studio because she was such a bundle of energy as a child that her accountant dad Keith nicknamed her Squirrel.
He died almost three years ago, aged 68, after suffering from bowel cancer. As a tribute to him, a star incorporated into the business's logo she designed is a reminder of his continuing inspiration.
She said: "He's with me all the time and it makes me want to push myself and work harder and make him proud."
Mum Tina has also been a tower of strength over the three months it took to transform the unit into a tranquil exercise space equipped with Reformer machines which cost £4,500 each.
Joanna said: "My mum has been the backbone – without her, this couldn't have happened."
Setting up on her own was a leap of faith, but Joanna said: "I've always been someone who's never really wanted to stick to the rules. I've always had that bug to find out if there's something more to life and work.
"It's taken me time to get into the position where I can do this, but I'm glad it's now and not before. It's the right time."
While she is a keen runner and a regular at Koru gym in Bishop's Stortford pumping weights, she believes Pilates is the perfect exercise for everyone from couch potatoes to elite athletes.
The technique was developed by German-born Joseph Pilates, whose father was a gymnast while his mother was a naturopath.
He believed mental and physical health are entwined and used exercises to strengthen and lengthen the body's muscles and ensure a stable and strong core.
Joanna has been a practitioner herself for many years and is an experienced instructor of the programme which began as rehabilitation therapy.
She said: "It's the crème de la crème of exercise and you learn so much about yourself as a person. I know that sounds odd, but it teaches you how your body moves – what it likes and what it doesn't like."
Her clients range from Bishop's Stortford rugby club players to pensioners, from long-term fitness fans to beginners, and she tailors exercises to address their goals and any injuries.
She said: "I just love seeing someone develop and achieve and feel good about themselves."
She offers bespoke one-to-one sessions and small classes of no more than four so that each client gets individual attention and the chance to get the best from each session.
Joanna has set herself a punishing schedule with the aim of expanding to three studios over the next five years and adding staff.
She said: "I'm prepared to work my butt off. The goal is within six months I hope to be able to take someone on – and the way things are going, I'm well on track."
For more details of the studio's timetable and pricing, see https://www.silversquirrelltd.co.uk/