Former gold-medalist competitive figure skater Lauren Piskin has trained everyone from the Olympic national team to Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler for Blades of Glory. After opening a Pilates studio in Manhattan, Lauren realized that, in a lot of ways, the workout could use an update.
Lauren’s daughter, Rachel, danced with the New York City Ballet from age 7. When Rachel retired from the company after a 20-year career, her body rebelled against her, physically rejecting the sudden change to her diet and fitness routine. That’s when she decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, emerging as one of New York’s most sought-after physical trainers.
Just over seven years ago now, the mother-daughter duo co-founded Chaise Fitness, a boutique studio that revolves around the “Reinvention Method,” their custom chair-based workout class that mashes together Pilates, ballet, cardio and strength training in a low-impact, body-sculpting regimen accessible to women of all ages and abilities. Three locations offer 10 different classes, plus there’s an on-demand platform to give clients access to live-streamed classes and pre-recorded workout videos.
Bare Necessities talked to these two Power Figures and took a class to get a firsthand feel for what the family-run fitness empire is about.
Q: Tell us about achieving your dream careers. How’d you get to where you are?
Lauren: We came from different backgrounds and took different paths to come together, but it’s through our different careers that we bring so much knowledge to Chaise Fitness. I started as a competitive figure skater as a child, eventually getting a Masters in Dance and Fitness Education. I’ve since reinvented myself and my career many times. I worked for CBS News for 10 years developing their corporate fitness program, then went back to skating as a choreographer at the national level. Eventually, I ended up back in fitness certifying Pilates instructors and running a studio, which led to the incubator where Chaise Fitness blossomed.
“I’ve reinvented myself and my career many times”
Rachel: I started performing with New York City Ballet in The Nutcracker and went on to become a company member, but my career ended abruptly due to health issues. I thought I wanted to become a costume designer so I got my undergraduate degree in that field but, by working with my mom on the side, soon realized teaching was my passion.
Q: What’s your mission with Chaise Fitness? What’s unique about it?
Lauren: Chaise Fitness was created with the idea of taking Pilates off its back, and creating a method that had the same benefits, with a faster pace. It has grown to be so much more. We strive to support women in particular through every stage of life. Clients of all ages challenge themselves, have fun and see tremendous results. We focus on developing strong cores, improving posture, building lean muscles and supporting the muscles in the spine.
Rachel: When we created the overhead bungee system to go along with the chair, it completed our vision and became our patented system. Together, it transforms people’s posture and upper body tone through very light resistance work. It’s a low-impact method that allows anyone to practice strength training without fear of injury.
Q: What did it take to turn the business from idea to reality?
Lauren: It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, belief in what you do and passionate people around you. It also requires a balance of taking risks and knowing when to pull back and say no.
Q: How did your prior careers prepare you for this?
Lauren: All of my years training figure skaters and Pilates instructors helped me in knowing how to mentor, nurture and certify a strong team.
Rachel: Years of focusing on my body helped me creatively in developing new programming, and the focus required of a professional dancer has helped me in all aspects of the business. I look back at my career as a dancer as my own version of an M.B.A.
“I look back at my career as a dancer as my own version of an M.B.A.”
Q: What does a typical workday look like? How do you unwind?
Rachel: We’re so lucky to work together and have the flexibility of owning our own business. With that flexibility, however, there aren’t any days where you’re officially off; anything from a client issue to a toilet clog requires your attention. We love teaching and that’s when we’re happiest, but a lot of our days are also focused on training instructors and day-to-day operations. Personally, I unwind with a lavish beauty routine at night.
Q: What’s it like to be your own boss? To work with a family member so closely?
Rachel: It’s really a gift. We wouldn’t have been able to grow Chaise Fitness without each other. There is no one you can trust more or be more yourself with than family. This lends itself to creating a unique work environment we’re lucky to have.
“There is no one you can trust more or be more yourself with than family”
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you have to overcome, and how do you do it?
Rachel: When you run a small business in the saturated fitness scene, every day is a challenge you have to overcome. You need to keep your studio relevant while staying true to your brand and mission. It’s also important to keep educating yourself in areas you’re not experts in, like social media and marketing, so we’re constantly trying to learn.
Q: What drives you?
Rachel: We want to build something successful and special not only for each other, but for the staff that has become our family. Some people have been with our company for a decade.
Lauren: This last leg of my career journey is for my daughter. She will make it her own—she always has. At this age, it’s great to mentor my teachers, and hopefully my work will be a legacy to my daughter.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO RACHEL & LAUREN
Lauren: Go after what you dream of, and don’t stop until it happens.
Rachel: To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Dream job as a kid
Lauren: A figure skater, which came true! I always dreamed of being in an ice show.
Rachel: Ballerina, which I was lucky enough to able to experience.
All-time favorite movie or show
Lauren: When Harry Met Sally is so freaking romantic!
Rachel: Parenthood is very high on the list, as is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Lauren: Eggplant Parmesan.
Rachel: Chicken Parmesan.
Best advice you ever got
Lauren: My mother told me to marry someone who loves you even more than you love him!
Rachel: Sometimes you need to be a horse with blinders on. Focus on yourself, not what others are doing around you.
Fear you’re trying to overcome
Rachel: How to balance it all—motherhood, work, family, myself. But I think the fear of it is actually bigger than the challenge.
Perfect day must contain
Lauren: My family.
Rachel: Working out at Chaise, spending time with my family and watching Bravo.
In a word
Know a Power Figure who belongs on our radar? Send her our way by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.