Pay it Forward, Be a Mentor

This new venue has established a healthy culture of community based fitness in a relatively short amount of time. The promotion of strength in numbers is evident in an energetic yet soothing setting. The compulsive need to test physical limits blends surprisingly well with an atmosphere of serenity. Familiarity and intimacy result in a collective of enthusiastic residents in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle at Citizen Pilates.

When Sam Stephens first reached out to me with a feature request, I did not give it much attention.  I could not differentiate his value proposition from fitness bloggers before him nor did I understand his purpose.  Although he never asked for more than an opportunity to photograph the studio while understanding the benefits of Pilates reformer, I was compelled to challenge this budding entrepreneur's intended direction.  It is those tough questions we rarely ask ourselves that set the standard for all our business is to become.

Sam brings an unbiased view of local businesses through vivid passages and historical references void of biased opinions. His professional photographs complement his positive attitude towards his features, leaving readers a sense of pride in the establishments they frequent.  I am honored to share our Flex in Texas Feature with you and although Sam Stephens is paving the way for Texas businesses to flex a little muscle of their own... Pilates leaves us the most flexible of all! 

Jessica Hughes: Becoming a Good Citizen Pilates Studio

Did you know that over 11 million people practice Pilates as a form of exercise? If you haven’t tried Pilates, it is all about slow controlled movements that make your muscles toned, long and lean and it is a tough workout that will leave you feeling energized and sore and get you looking great all at the same time. Pilates can also be intimidating if you haven’t tried it. The trend is group classes and walking into any group class as a beginner is always intimidating, but when you are talking about a Reformer Pilates class, where you will be balancing and doing exercises on machines with pulleys, well, you might walk into a studio and turn around and walk right back out. That is why Jessica Hughes, owner of Citizen Pilates, decided to make her Pilates Studio a place that welcomes everyone, no matter what your athletic ability is, how your look, your age or what you wear. Citizen Pilates is for everyone, and this is why Jess’s success is allowing her to open a second location in January, after launching her first studio in July 2015.

Jessica Hughes – The Citizen

Jessica Hughes moved to Houston when she was two years old, and she attended Lamar High School and the University of Texas. What we like so much about Jess, other than the fact that she is just plain awesome, is that she doesn’t apologize for being her and follows her own path. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer in her senior year in high school, as a show of support, Jess shaved her head three weeks before her senior prom and kept her head shaved for almost two years because it was easy and she could save money on hair products.

When her father started to get into mountain biking and racing he took Jess to the races with him and out of boredom decided she wanted to race too. With a mountain bike under her, she considered herself a weekend warrior, and we believe that this has shaped Jess Hughes into the person she is today.

Mountain biking has always been cerebral for me. The terrain is constantly changing and you are constantly having to reevaluate which way you are going to get over to point B, versus riding on the road. The course is always changing, the people are always changing, the equipment is always changing, and I could make better use of my brain on a mountain bike trail than on a flat road.

And, Jess Hughes is cerebral. Mountain biking and the way that Jess describes it is very much like being an entrepreneur, where the landscape is constantly changing, and you have to be ready to reevaluate your plans and make changes at a moments notice. Jess has shown she can do that with the birth of Citizen Pilates. But, that’s not the only thing that Jess Hughes does.

Jess is calm, even, super focused and very busy. She not only runs the back end of her husband’s business, but she also has a full-time job in the oil and gas industry, where she has learned invaluable lessons that she takes into her business negotiations. Jess doesn’t have the ability to not work, but she can be still. She exudes confidence and warmth that you are instantly drawn to when you meet her, but you also know that she means business and that she is serious at the age of 34.

Citizen Pilates

Citizen Pilates came about because Jess was taking group classes and couldn’t find her tribe for Pilates. She realized that the vibe of the studio was what would make it or break it, and she also knew that she wanted to create a place where everyone would feel comfortable, and that is what she has done. Citizen Pilates has not yet been opened for a year and already almost every class is full, but Jess has implemented a very easy and comprehensive way to get on a wait list with her downloadable app.

It’s easy to sign up for classes, and the first class you attend is free. Jess is a marketing whiz, has not had to take any partners for her business and done very little advertising. Citizen Pilates has grown so fast that she is opening a second location in the Heights, not too far from the first location, in January of 2017.

But, just a short four months after opening Citizen Pilates, Jess was in a horrible car accident and at the hospital when they ran routine scans of her lower abdomen to see if she had any bleeding or internal damage, they found a mass on her kidney. In January of 2016, Jess had surgery and had her kidney removed and found out she had cancer. Between the time that she was in the car accident and the time of her surgery, she had to get her affairs in order, and that also meant training one of her instructors on how to run the studio, which meant letting go of some control of her baby.

Citizen Pilates has thrived and so has Jess, who is cancer free right now. Has having cancer changed her?

I didn’t think I was going to die, but it was a quick reminder that life can get from you away at any time. I used to let all the little things bother me, but now nothing phases me. I’m a nicer me, and I’m more understanding.

And, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, what’s Jess’s advice?

Never start anything with convenient pre-existing strategy. It needs to be something that is distinctly yours and never lose touch with Corporate America. When you work for yourself, you lose the ability to collaborate, so it’s important to realize that others can do things that you can’t do, and to bring in people where you need to do it, but to do it wisely and smartly.

Why go to Citizen Pilates?

If the word Pilates is intimidating to you, I want to give people the opportunity to prove them wrong. I want 45 minutes to see if I can change their outlook on life.

We know that if you go to Citizen Pilates, your outlook on life will change.

Why Citizen Pilates is the BEST New Studio in Houston

BABES! I’m ultra, stupid, crazy excited about today’s post.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Jess Hughes, the owner of Citizen Pilates, one of the newest Pilates studios in The Heights. She’s an outgoing, driven, native Houstonian that brings a breath of fresh air to the sometimes stuffy studio world. (You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you walk into a studio and immediately feel out of place because you workout “ensemble” doesn’t cost $250. Sorry the designer shit rides up my crack, sue me!) The second you meet Jess, she captivates you. Whether she’s discussing what it’s like to own a business, or her admiration for her staff, she draws you in and you’re glued to her every word.

Here’s what went down …

| Hi Jess! Please introduce yourself |

My name is Jess Hughes! We opened Citizen Pilates on July 30th (2015), so this is our fifth month in business. I have never taught Pilates in Houston. I started teaching back in college in Austin and I became an instructor because I couldn’t afford classes. At the time, it was super new and I was working at 24 Hour Fitness. You had to pay the regular monthly dues plus the price of the reformer classes! So I got certified so I could take free classes and just really enjoyed the workout itself. I went to school for sociology and really have been an entrepreneur from the word “go.” Everyone in my family owns their own business and I have always been “the helper” in the family. I finally just decided that this is the year for me. I still work full-time in oil and gas. So technically I’m oil and gas by day, Pilates by night.

| Define Pilates |

Pilates is either a floor exercise similar to yoga called mat Pilates (no equipment) or the vastly different reformer Pilates on the machine. It’s a muscle conditioning exercise, but it’s also supporting the weight of your body so the reformer allows you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do because most of us can’t hold our body weight. Pilates (on the reformer) is an exercise that works off a spring tension system that allows you to strengthen your core, lengthen your muscles, and get a head to toe workout every single time, which is very low impact. I can go to the store and pick up a 50 pound bag of dog food with one arm. You just feel better and stronger. Since we opened in July, I personally have lost 24 pounds! Pilates helps you fit back into your skinny clothes that are almost kind of baggy now.

| Do you come up with the different workout variations? |

All of the routines here are 100% original to the instructor. All of our instructors have full creative freedom, so it’s not cookie cutter choreography. We have five instructors that all teach similarly, but everyone has a different vibe. We all bring a different element to this class, so even though you can be a creature of habit and workout three times a week, you’re not going to get the same workout.

| What sets Citizen Pilates apart from the competition? |

The approachability of our instructors. I have been to a lot of studios with a “mean girl” vibe and a cookie cutter demographic that excludes so many people. It’s in the name of our studio. “Citizen” didn’t happen overnight. I wanted something that exuded community and a place that anyone could go. I have clients here that are in their 20s, 80s, and everywhere in between. I want people to know our name and I want to know their name. I want you to feel welcome. I want to know if you have had shoulder surgery so I can change my routine when you come in, in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the rest of the class. This challenges my staff to change their workouts on the fly to accommodate the class with 3 thirty-year-olds and 3 sixty-year-olds.

| Is diet and nutrition also important to you and your staff? |

Yes. I don’t push it. I don’t sell products or supplements. I always joke that I have a “taco-centric” approach to abs because I like to eat, but I also know that my working out enables me to consume the things I enjoy. Do we harp on it? No. Through class I occasionally say, “Hey ladies, this week have an extra glass of water before you have another glass of wine.” Nutrition is important, but I’m not hardcore. I like to eat clean but I also believe that if I just want to go home and have cheese and wine for dinner, I am going to have cheese and wine for dinner. I think that’s another thing that makes my instructors warm … we’re not starving!

P.S. Neighborhood tip of the week: Good Dog Houston now offers side salads and can serve the dog lettuce wrap style!

| What does your weekly workout schedule look like? |

I spend so much time here it’s almost all Pilates, but I do throw in spin classes. I’m a cyclist at heart so I do like to get outside, but I’m a fair-weather outdoor creature, let’s not be mistaken. If it’s pouring down rain during the MS-150, I’m just going to go to breakfast. Spin class is a very effective cardio workout that’s completely different than cycling. You cannot lift weights on a bicycle except in spin class. I typically try to workout at least twice a week, but I’m an active person at home, too (I love walking my dogs!)

| How do you stay motivated throughout the day? |

From an instructor’s perspective, we are teaching the same routine on the same day, so what motivates me is the vibe I get from people that are here. Once I get here, turn the music on and those smiling faces start walking in and you get to catch up with this person you haven’t seen in a while, that’s what motives me. The positivity from the clients is what feeds our souls. Aside from that, it’s music. We want something that appeals to a larger group of people. We need a tempo and a beat to keep the energy high!

| What other hobbies do you have outside of Pilates? |

Cycling for sure. I’ve been cycling my whole life. I did my first MS-150 when I was 13-years-old (but only because my dad said if I did it I wouldn’t have to go to school on Monday. So that was my incentive). I’ve done at least 11 or 12 and I like to volunteer for the National MS Society and go to La Grange and help set up.
(Her husband is a master bike fitter and operates off of 11th in The Heights. Find him here —>THC Fit Studio)

I also love hanging out with my friends and just letting our dogs play. That’s my other true hobby, professional relaxing : )

| What are some of your favorite workout clothing brands? |

My absolute favorite is Alo (pronounced aloe, just like the plant). That was a side perk that I was not anticipating. I did not have a huge supply of workout clothes prior to owning Citizen, but I’ve kind of turned into a little more of a girly girl because it’s fun! I’m no longer buying slacks at Nordstrom. I’m going to the local businesses here that sell high end yoga clothes, granted for the same price as the slacks, but I love them and love to actually match! I also love Onzie and Wantable which is a monthly service similar to Stitch Fix, but can be geared towards workout clothes. You have a stylist and tell them your sizes, palette, style and fit. It gives you a price range when you’re filling out your profile so you’re able to choose what you think is reasonable for each item. It’s totally affordable because you get to tell them what your price range is. Based off those preferences, they send a monthly shipment and you’re only charged for what you keep plus the $20 styling fee.

| Alright break it down … What’s your go-to cheat meal? |

Tortilla chips + protein leftover from the week + tomatoes + lime juice + cilantro + cheese + 18 minutes in the oven = perfection. Pizza pan straight to the coffee table generally with a bottle of wine!

| Last but not least, what’s a fun fact about you? |

Tad and I were married at a walk-up wedding window in Vegas. We tried to get married at the drive-thru wedding chapel, but apparently in Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas) it is illegal to get married in a cab. We go to a bicycle convention in Vegas every year and we were engaged at this point. We were in a cab that drove us to old Downtown Vegas, filled out the paperwork and the cab driver drove us through what was literally a drive-thru with a covered awning and the officiant opened the window and said, “sorry, can’t get married in a cab!” So, we walked across the street to the walk up wedding window and got married! This 90-year-old man with an oxygen tank wearing a bolo tie married us for $85. We just celebrated our five year anniversary! So, so far so good!

Kelsey Faubion is a Houston blogger obsessed with fashion.  Find all her finds @fabulesslyfaubs.