The mission at Houston’s Citizen Pilates is inclusivity

Jess Hughes, founder of Citizen Pilates, has background in oil and gas and she returned to her fitness roots to build this business.

Ask Jess Hughes when her passion for Pilates began, and she’ll laugh and say that she is still waiting for it to kick in.

That’s not what it’s all about for Hughes.

The owner of Citizen Pilates isn’t proselytizing about fitness or trying to convert anyone to a particular format. Instead, she’s bent on creating a place where everyone feels like they can join.

“You’d be hard pressed to come into my studio and not have someone call you by your name,” Hughes said. “It’s just not going to happen. I want everyone to feel welcomed. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated.”

That means that instructors do not have to “pass a crop-top test,” Hughes added. Everyone has a different body type, she said, and a perfect coach can sometimes deter others from achieving their goals.

“I want everyone to have a positive body image,” she said. “Our beginner classes are super friendly to whatever human walks through our front door. Maybe you’re in the best shape of your life. Maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. We don’t want anyone to feel rejected.”

“Come as you are” is the philosophy at Citizen Pilates.

Take the BYOB class, for example. “B” stands for “baby” instead of beverage in this case.

When Hughes noticed that more and more of her clientele were pregnant about 18 months ago, she decided that she would need to offer a baby-friendly Pilates class in the near future. Now moms meet a couple days each week at the studio with babies in tow.

Hughes gets creative with solutions to make Pilates appealing to all.

“Our whole goal is for you to find the strongest version of yourself,” she said. “The physical part of that is secondary. We want you to be able to lean in, walk tall and feel better about yourself.”

Not being exclusive makes more people engage in exercise, Hughes said. Her desire to open her doors to everyone is part of the reason she decided to start her own business.

Hughes has a heart for entrepreneurship. She also likes economics. “That’s where I flourish,” she said. “I like all the aspects of running a business.”

A Houston native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at the University of Texas at Austin, before returning to her hometown to start her career in oil and gas.

Starting a fitness studio was a leap of faith, she said. “I took a big breath and said, ‘I can do this.’ It’s either going to work or it’s not.”

Citizen Pilates just celebrated its four-year anniversary. Classes filled so quickly at the first location, 3217 Houston Ave., that she opened her second, 940 Heights Blvd., six months later.

Two more spots will be under construction soon. The ink is just drying on the contracts, she said. “It’s going to be a big Pilates empire.”

Hughes became a certified Pilates instructor in college. The exercise technique complemented her competitive cycling.

Pilates, named for founder Joseph Pilates, includes stretching, body alignment and strengthening, as well as developing core muscles and the ability to balance. The device used for the exercise style is called the “Reformer.”

Because it is low impact, Pilates can work for any age or body type.

“What I love about it is that everybody can do it,” she said. “It’s not a fad. Anyone can come. You can be 20, or you can be 80. You can be injured, you can be healthy, or you can be overweight.”

Helping clients reduce anxiety is one of her main goals, Hughes added.

“Pilates can be your happy place,” she said. “You just get a moment to take care of yourself. It’s more than just a workout. It’s a place where you can get away and forget your next task for a minute.”

That’s how Stacy Treviño feels about Citizen. “It’s my favorite place to go,” she said.

She went five days a week, even through her pregnancy, up until four days before giving birth. She couldn’t wait to get back to the studio — and planned to bring her son Henry to the BYOB class the following week.

Treviño started attending fitness classes when she moved to Houston. “I tried a whole lot of work-out places first, and they were just OK,” she said.

Then, she discovered Citizen. “I ended up loving it so much that I stuck with it,” she said. “I’ve been going for three years.”

The inclusivity of the place is what keeps her going back.

“It’s different people from different walks of life,” Treviño said. “It’s people who are physically fit, people who just had a baby, people who’ve never worked out a day in their lives. That’s what I love about it.”

Having all types of people in the studio makes it easy to have a conversation and make a friend, she said.

“Exercise is important and that’s why we’re all there. We all want to be fit and feel healthy. But it’s also real. Jess will say, ‘Let’s work out so then we can all go out for tacos and margaritas.’”

Article written by Lindsay Peyton. Peyton is ReNew Houston's Transformation columnist.


The workout itself is top notch with 45 minutes of nonstop reformer work that will leave your body feeling aligned and defined.

I’m only a nice person on any given day if I’ve worked out that morning.  My group fitness addiction is really just a way of fending off my nasty crankster self as a courtesy to others.  So naturally, when I became a fulltime Mom last October, I was anxious about handling life’s new stresses without the freedom to blow off stream in barre class anytime I’d like.  Shortly after my son was born I started doing some home workouts but these were tough to fit in and I’m never as motivated when I’m exercising alone.  My husband would sometimes babysit so I could pop into a yoga class, but this cut into our rare and precious family time.  So when someone told me I could take group fitness classes with my baby, I had a hallelujah moment and immediately registered for every mommy baby class I could find. 

A true god send for new mommies, these classes provide post partum benefits like rebalancing hormones, and building the superhero strength required to lug a kid around in a car seat.  More importantly, the babies love meeting new faces, bouncing to the music and bonding with Mommy. 

After trying them all, I am sharing my 5 favorite classes in Houston.  Each studio provides space for feeding, changing and socializing post class.  Some require a carrier, and all are excellent.  Start when your baby is 6 weeks and your doctor approves.  

1. CITIZEN PILATES - BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby)

Location:  940 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77008 (Corner of Heights @ 10th Street)

Cost: $29/class, discounted packages, and memberships available

Accepts Class Pass: YES

Schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00am – 10:45am

What to expect:  Full Pilates reformer class in an impeccably maintained, luxury studio.  Babies can play on the padded surface next to Mom’s reformer, or rest in car seats, bouncers, bassinets or anything else Mommies bring to keep baby occupied.  With only 7 reformers, small class sizes mean plenty of room for baby gear and lots of personal attention from studio owner and instructor, Jess as she floats around the room, cuing detailed exercises while simultaneously keeping a watchful eye on babies.  The workout itself is top notch with 45 minutes of nonstop reformer work that will leave your body feeling aligned and defined.

Click below to read more! 

Houston’s Most Beloved Bosses in 2017

Our readers nominated their favorites, and we asked them their management secrets.

"This is my family—this is my team—and if I don’t have these human beings in this studio, I don’t have a business. Your team should be treated better than your clients.”


WHEN JESS HUGHES opened her first Citizen Pilates studio in 2015, it was with years of experience under her belt—in the oil and gas industry. After 18 months in her new business—and opening a second location—she realized that running a boutique fitness studio required a big shift in her management philosophy. “A few of my instructors started to leave,” says Hughes, and exit interviews revealed a pattern of unhappiness with what they perceived as overly assertive leadership. “As you grow as a leader, you have to stop and go, The same things are happening in my business. They all left on the same terms; they were frustrated. You have to literally sit down and go, Oh, it’s me.

After this tough realization, Hughes embarked on a mission of change. “I just did a huge personal assessment and said, I have to pull back a little bit and realize I’m no longer in a very strait-laced oil-and-gas environment that’s dominated by men.” She asked her mentors and staff to help her change course. Now, thanks to her focus on employee satisfaction, Hughes says, people are “beating down the door” to work at Citizen Pilates—and just in time, as they’re opening two more studios very soon and will be adding more instructors to the 12-member staff.

On valuing employees: “Arianna Huffington once said to me [at a conference]: ‘Are you treating your team better than your clients?’ And you think, Well, why would I do that? My team doesn’t pay money to take classes; my team doesn’t make the studio money. And then you stop and you go, oh, wow—they do. If you can’t recognize that as a business owner, then you’re gonna have a rude awakening. This is my family—this is my team—and if I don’t have these human beings in this studio, I don’t have a business. Your team should be treated better than your clients.”

On creating a positive environment: “You want to lead by example. Smile. Ask someone how their day was. Be nice. I’m all about recognition: gift certificates to Lululemon, gift certificates to Juice Girl. I think that getting those little surprises of unsolicited thank-yous to your team goes a long way.”

On when to let your Type A side out: “I’m a control freak. But guess what? I have full control over me. I don’t have a lot of control in this world, but I have control over what I say, how I say it, when I say it.”

An Open Explanation to all Citizens

If you don't have Facebook's On This Day feature turned on, do it.  I use it as my daily reminder of how much life has changed, how much I've learned to throttle back my public opinions and for those less adult moments, I enjoy the occasional chuckle when I see old status updates that started with a verb. Remember those?  Today's memory touched a soft spot compliments of an article that originally appeared on Your Fairy Angel and eventually made its way over to The Huffington Post in 2013. In the article, Iris Higgins recounts the 3 years she spent as a weight loss consultant only later to admit that while many of her clients walked in healthy, they walked out with eating disorders, body image issues and the notion they were a “failure.”

We don't post sexy videos and we certainly don't take before and after weight loss photos of our clients and despite all this, our digital media creativity is being copied by local and regional competitors at a bold pace.  I'm absolutely flattered.

Weight loss.  I hate that phrase.   

I eat to live and live to eat in one of the best foodie cities in America.  Thanks to Houston's enterprising chefs like Ryan Pera and Justin Yu, I never have to leave my neighborhood, or flip flops, for a 5-star meal. But I digress and am once again distracted by food. When my "weight loss" Facebook memory popped up this morning the irony wasn't lost on me that four years later, I am now the face of a fast growing start-up boutique fitness studio in its third year.  I don't wear crop tops, or string bikinis and have never in my entire life been on a 1,200 calorie diet.  I don't take pictures in front of fans to make my hair blow back and you'll never see me post a selfie of my backside while peering over my shoulder with pursed lips into the mirror. 

Higgins' realization that it wasn't just weight loss clinics aiding this sense of body failure only answered half the question no one wanted to ask.  Short of a true medical conundrum, why are doctors and registered dietitians on medical advisory boards, mass media and magazines fat shaming everyone?  

Yes, sex and shredded abs sell but happiness is also a predominant force in today's experience-driven group fitness scene.  

Let's take a stroll back to sophomore biology class and remember the 4 major chemicals in the brain responsible for happiness: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins (DOSE).  Nicole Lazarro, (look her up, she's amazing) notes it doesn't take magic, just a little bit of science to understand the role each chemical plays in our quest for happiness and client loyalty.  She reminds us 80% of serotonin exists in our guts, and is governed by our state of hunger. So when you get hangry, there's an actual reason why. 

A little closer to home, Citizen Pilates' mission isn't to defy your ear drums or to rock your body to unrealistic BMI indicies. We are so much more cerebral than that.  We understand the benefits of essential, proper movements and the importance of a strong structure from your feet to the crown of your head.  We don't post sexy videos and we certainly don't take before and after weight loss photos of our clients yet despite all this, our digital media creativity is being copied by local competitors at a bold pace.  I'm absolutely flattered.

All eyes are on Citizen and they should be. We're touching people's lives and giving them a sense of confidence they haven't found anywhere else.  As 2017 rounds the corner towards cooler weather, Citizen is poised to transcend the meaning of fitness with the addition of more instructors, more class times, community partnerships, wellness programs and yes, expansion.  We'll be further reducing our third party booking options as they equalize experiences in their users eyes while increasing our membership options for those who have a hectic life + work schedule.  

Hi, my name is Jess Hughes and I am a thought leader not a fitness fiend.  Welcome to The Citizen Experience.    

5 Ways to Make a Healthy Lifestyle YOUR Lifestyle

Sometimes the idea of truly living a healthy lifestyle can seem a bit overwhelming. It can be hard to break old habits and old excuses and most people just don’t know where to start. Lucky for you, we can confidently say, “stop sweating it,” save THAT for our killer Pilates classes. We have broken down 5 easy steps that will help you live a healthier lifestyle.

1.      Create a routine

It takes 21 days to create a habit, after that it’s smooth sailing. Make a habit of waking up early, eating better, and working out. Commit yourself to 21 days, without ceasing; more importantly, make it something you look forward to. Of course we recommend taking a Pilates class, but any class offering structure and community are helpful to sustaining great habits. Whatever your workout, do it for 21 days. After that, your body will start to crave that structure.


2.    Work out with a buddy

Working out can seem like a daunting task when you’re by yourself. Sometimes we need that extra shoulder to lean on, and that’s what friends are for (and not for talking you out of said workout.) Get a workout partner that you can depend on, someone to tell you to put the donut down and pick up the gym bag. The more people involved, the more people you have to cheer you on through the journey. So grab an encouraging friend, or two, and make that healthy change together.


3.    Meal Prep

When life gets hectic, your diet is usually the first thing to go. The truth is, junk food is way more accessible than healthy options. So you have to stay prepared. The best way to do this is to meal prep. Meal prepping isn't just coming home each day and packing yourself lunch for tomorrow. It's making sure your fridge is full of healthy meals, so when you get the urge, driving thru McDonalds on the way home is no longer a justifiable excuse.  An investment of time and money into preparing healthy options for the week will not only help pave the path to looking better, it’ll help you feel better each day.


4.    Get plenty of sleep

Getting your full 8 hours of sleep is imperative. Studies show that a lack of sleep increases your risk diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Additionally, when you DO get a sufficient amount of sleep, your mind will be clearer and your energy will increase. Giving you the boost you need to prepare a healthy meal or do a late night workout. Skip the Netflix and chill, and instead just chill with a full eight hours under your belt.


5.    Set goals

Setting goals allows you to measure your success. It gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation while also helping you organize your time and resources. The best way to set your goals is by writing it down and making a plan. Once you start seeing results and checking off your accomplishments, you won’t want to look back. Whether you want to lose 5 pounds or 20! Write the goal down, make a plan, take action and make it happen.

We believe that you can live that healthy life you’ve always wanted. It’s important to us that you have a place to call home as you achieve your goals. We'd love to offer you an opportunity to join our Citizen family. Book your first month of Pilates classes at Citizen Pilates for only $129, and start your journey to a better you.

Top 5 Reformer Pilates Moves

The year is coming to an end. That means it’s time to reflect and create goals to better your future. If you’re like most of us, it seems like 2016 came and went with a blink of an eye and some resolutions just didn’t get accomplished. It’s OK! This year we are helping you get prepared to accomplish one very important goal, staying active. Reformer Pilates is great for overall strength, flexibility and coordination. Plus, it’s just ridiculously fun! So look no further, we’ve got you covered. Unless of course, you’re taking a peek at our awesome form and cute leggings.

Here are our top 5 Reformer Pilates moves to keep it tight all through 2017.

1. Front Lunge Slides

Who doesn’t want legs for days? This Front Lunge Slides targets your hamstrings for some seriously strong legs.

2. Leg Lifts

Perfect legs lead to a perfect bum. The balance & strength required of these Leg Lifts are no joke, but totally worth it for a JLo booty.

3. Cross Body Lat Fly

Make tank top season year round. This Cross Body Lat Fly does some serious work on your shoulders and biceps.

4. Supine Arm Circles

Girl, you’re bringing sexy back! These Supine Arm Circles target your arms and back, with a subtle ab workout too.

5. ELEVATED Wheelbarrows

Planking just got harder with these Elevated Wheelbarrows. This move literally targets every muscle in your body. Trust us, you’ll feel it.

Okay, so we know you are dying to jump into your next Reformer Pilates class. If you live in Houston or are simply visiting the Houston area, you’re in luck. Everyone's first class at Citizen Pilates is only $10. We have two locations in the Houston, Heights. Let’s start off this year the right way, together.

5 Minute Plank Challenge

Our goal this November is to build our core strength towards a FIVE MINUTE PLANK! Those Citizens who take the challenge each day in November AND share their progress will be entered to win a one month complimentary membership. We'll be giving away FIVE FREE MEMBERSHIPS* valid at both locations. 

Plank in the studio, from home or on the road but give us all you've got every day.

Please register below and let us know you're taking the challenge with us!  We'll be with you every plank of the way.

Name *
There are 100 social sites, we know. Here's what we're tracking for the challenge!

*Promotional monthly memberships will be subject to current membership contract terms in effect as of December 1, 2016. Promotional memberships will begin upon winner's activation and will expire 30 days from activation. Promotional memberships must be activated within 3 months of notification of winning and may not be gifted, paused or used towards any other services or products.  

What’s Going on at Citizen Pilates?

Wow! Time sure does go by fast when you’re planking. Just last year we opened up the first Citizen Pilates, a reformers Pilates studio right in the Houston Heights area. And now, we’re opening up our second Citizen Pilates location in December. Why? Our sole complaint is “we can never get into a class,” because classes are always booked.  BUT, we’ll just have to blame that on our awesome instructors and that inclusive #CitizenExperience.

Either way it goes. We are super excited to expand. And the good news is that we will still be in the Houston Heights area, only 2 miles west of Houston Ave. The proximity of the two locations will effectively double our capacity while still maintaining the intimacy of the close community that we’ve created.

And that’s just it. This community of Pilates lovers is the sole reason why Citizen Pilates has expanded. When teaming up with NextSeed, we received an overwhelming amount of support, raising our goal of $100,000 in just 5 days! It’s amazing to know that the community believes in Citizen Pilates as much as we do.

The new Citizen Pilates studio is 1,500 square feet of space located at 940 Heights Blvd. And with the money raised through NextSeed we were able to fund the purchase of new Pilates equipment and the interior build out. Two words. Pilates heaven.

Can’t wait to open the doors to all of you on December 5, 2016! Our schedule is LIVE for both locations so get your reservations in early before you get caught on the wait list!