Behind the brand: How Emma Stallworthy is bringing reformer Pilates into the homes of mums across the country

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Not only good for the body but also the mind, Pilates helps give your body strength, energy and confidence and can help you prepare your body for pregnancy and childbirth, as well as help maintain your pelvic floor strength to aid recovery and re-strengthen your core that becomes weakened during pregnancy. 

This is something Emma Stallworthy, founder of Your Reformer and mother of two, knows firsthand.

“What I found through my journey to become a mum, was to focus on slowing down and doing movements that helped my body to prepare for getting pregnant,” Emma tells Kiindred. 

After going through multiple rounds of IVF, it was three months after making the switch from high-intensity HIIT workouts to Pilates, that Emma fell pregnant on her fifth round of IVF.

“I loved the variety in a reformer Pilates class, and it still gave me the satisfaction of feeling my body being challenged, whilst knowing it is low impact and suiting me better.”

Falling so in love with it, Emma ended up training to become an instructor and during lockdown saw a huge gap in the market for people who loved Pilates but were looking for more flexibility, and cost-effective solutions but couldn’t find the time to get to a studio  – and those who were simply intimidated by the studio environment.

We chatted to Emma about how Your Reformer was born when the pandemic forced her and her business partner-husband to pivot after their Pilates studios were forced to close. As well as all things motherhood, running a business and how incredible Pilates can be for women at all stages of their motherhood journey from conception to postpartum and beyond.

Can you tell us about the evolution of Your Reformer?

At Your Reformer, our mission is to make reformer Pilates more accessible to more people. We offer reformer rentals to metro Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Our rental offering includes on-demand app access, delivery and installation and a beautiful commercial bed to enjoy at home with no long-term commitments.

Our retail beds are available Australia-wide and are designed to look aesthetically beautiful in your home. 

It was important to us to offer a full solution, not just to be a single transactional retailer. We want our customers to enjoy the experience of buying a bed with Your Reformer and to feel a part of a community via our app and socials, despite practising at home solo.

The concept really began during the lockdown in 2020. We had a chain of gyms with reformer studios and rented out our beds to our members with live and on-demand classes. They were incredibly popular and many of our members were sad to give them back when we reopened. I was lucky enough to have a bed at home during lockdown and knew the convenience of having my favourite form of workout at my fingertips, for me to work into my schedule on my own terms each week.

But unless you were an instructor, reformers at home just weren’t a thing. We saw the gap in the market, knew it was something we were incredibly passionate about and started forming our business plan.

I’m very lucky to work with my husband Ben; we complement each other well. We also have an amazing colleague, Sam, whom most of our customers would know – she’s incredible. Together we were able to build a database of interested Melbourne customers and push forward quickly to launch when it was announced that Melbourne’s 2021 lockdown was going to be extended. We knew the timing was right and our website opened for its first sales about six weeks after giving birth to my second son Noah – which was pretty crazy really!

What does your life look like when you’re not running Your Reformer?

I live on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria with my husband Ben, our two boys Bodie, four, and Noah, one, and our cocker spaniel Toby. The beach is certainly a grounding environment for us and I can’t see us living anywhere else now.

Personally, I have always been ambitious and an incredibly competitive person. I think this is what drives me. I love being social too, being around people boosts my energy. I’m an active person who also loves the outdoors and running.  We love travelling and this year we took a trip to Queenstown with the boys and it was our four-year-old’s first time skiing – it was so much fun. 

It’s obvious that Pilates is a passion of mine, but music is as well. It’s something my boys and I enjoy listening to together. In fact, Bodie has a really eclectic taste in music and it’s so fun. He’s even started making up his own songs and I hope to teach him to play the piano soon!

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since starting the business? 

Growing pains are definitely a challenge we face. We’ve been fortunate to grow so rapidly but that does come with challenges to make sure you have the resources to support the growth. We have certainly made some mistakes along the way, but one thing we pride ourselves on is authenticity. We will own our mistakes, and then we’re all about finding solutions. 

Personally, juggling an expanding business with small children at home has been tough at times. I’m often torn between wanting to work because I’m excited about what we’re doing and also wanting to be home with my little ones who need their mum. 

Logistics has also been a huge challenge for us (or, I should say Ben as that’s been his area of focus initially). Our products are not small, so that makes them a challenge to transport and send and then couple that with the size of Australia, which is a huge country.  Plus, there were certainly some COVID-related impacts last year and early this year!

What about your proudest moments? 

When we receive five-star reviews from our customers who take the time to share their experiences, this makes me super proud. Ultimately that’s what we are focused on, providing an amazing quality product and overall experience.

What’s the best advice you have received when it comes to your business?

Leverage your strengths and find great people that complement your weaknesses. I’ve worked with Ben as his business partner for over 10 years now and the best advice we have received as a working couple is to separate our responsibilities and clearly define our roles. And to make sure you have time each day when it’s a cut-off and you don’t talk about work!

You’ve spoken about how you got into Pilates when you were going through IVF and struggling to conceive. Can you tell us about this time?

It’s such a common thing unfortunately but still not something we all talk about as much as we should. It is a rollercoaster of emotions every day, it can be very tough and scary. What I found through my journey to becoming a mum was to focus on slowing down and doing movements that helped my body to prepare for getting pregnant. 

I’m a type A personality and can be prone to high stress and anxiety, which isn’t great when you are trying to fall pregnant. And as most Type A people do, I was drawn to HIIT-type training or running. I learned that this type of training wasn’t suiting me, so I switched to Pilates and yoga. I didn’t love yoga, but Pilates really spoke to me! I loved the variety in a reformer class, and it still gave me the satisfaction of feeling my body being challenged, whilst knowing it is low impact and suits me better. Plus, I noticed my body shape changed and my confidence in my own skin improved.

I loved Pilates so much, I upskilled to become an instructor and re-worked my role within our business at the time to just focus on our wellness studios and teach classes. About three months after making this switch, and on our fifth cycle of IVF and our last embryo, I fell pregnant. I continued with Pilates throughout my pregnancy, right up until I gave birth. I had a really smooth and enjoyable pregnancy and I do attribute some of that to pilates.

Our second time around with Noah was a completely different experience. Pilates was even more entrenched in what I do and how I train. It was lockdown and all I was doing was Pilates on our reformer at home. We actually conceived him naturally, a complete and beautiful surprise. And the postpartum recovery has been even faster than with Bodie.  

Can you tell us how Pilates is great for mums at all stages of their conception/pregnancy/parenthood journey?

It’s a wonderfully functional type of training that can be tailored to suit any stage in your parenthood journey. From strengthening programs to give you energy and confidence that supports healthy conception, to allowing you to keep training safely throughout pregnancy to build strength for birthing and nursing, all the way to re-strengthening your core that is so weakened during pregnancy. 

Regular reformer Pilates during pregnancy can prepare you for the strength you need to give birth,  it can help to maintain pelvic floor strength and provide faster recovery and can also help to reduce back and hip pain that can be felt during the later stages of pregnancy. 

Posture is also a factor that can be negatively impacted during pregnancy with the weight of a growing belly and breasts, and then post-partum with hunching over nursing and holding a baby all day. Pilates is great to correct poor posture habits and stretching tight muscles experienced from repetitive movement.

What are the main benefits of being able to do Reformer Pilates in your home? 

A regular Pilates practice has so many benefits including a sense of empowerment, mental clarity, energy, strength, flexibility, improved posture and injury prevention. Having a reformer bed at home along with classes to keep you motivated and challenged, means that your consistency can be maintained easier than trying to get to a studio regularly. I know first-hand how hard it is to make studio class times, life just gets in the way! 

My recommendation is that if you still love a studio class (and they are great!) then commit to one class a week that is your ride-or-die class – you won’t miss it! Then supplement the class with home workouts. You’ll progress faster, see results sooner and feel more confident and satisfied.

How does the Your Reformer app work? 

We created the app so that we could provide our customers with a full solution. We wanted them to enjoy and actually use their beds in their homes. We now have over 200 classes there and are growing every month. We have also partnered with physiotherapists to bring specific workouts targeting injuries and pre and post-natal workouts. 

We offer a 30-day plan when you’re first starting with us, whether beginner or experienced to follow along and get you started. We also run challenges throughout the year as well, which are available for anyone at any time.

Finally, we even have simple instructional videos that take you through an orientation of your bed and other ‘how to’ videos that may be useful to a Your Reformer customer.

How do you manage the endless work/life juggle struggle?

Every mum knows about the mum guilt! And that’s not just going to work, that’s doing anything for yourself, going out with the girls, going on date night, really doing anything without your kids! 

But what I’ve found is that I am a more present person and a better mum when I have those things with the right balance. Balance is the key though, and I don’t always get that right. It can be very stressful at times, and I’m still learning how to navigate those periods.

I’m very lucky with the business that it does give me the flexibility to work around my kids when they need me, I don’t miss the important stuff whether it’s Mother’s Day at kinder or swimming lessons. As I don’t work full time, it does mean that sometimes I have to catch up on some things in the evening when they’re in bed, but that’s a sacrifice I’m happy to take. 

I have to be OK with not having the house as tidy as I’d like all the time, and not being able to do everything at work. Plus working with my husband Ben and having shared goals at home and work keeps us aligned and working well as a team as parents and as work colleagues.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

The best advice I’ve received for juggling work and being a mum is to focus on quality time with the kids so that each day I know I’ve had special moments with them, even if I haven’t spent the whole day with them. Being present when I’m with them is a huge part of achieving this, so putting the phone away, and doing something as simple as reading them a book, going for a walk to the beach, or baking something yummy with them. 

The other advice that I’m still learning to take is to make sure I do take time for myself, even if I feel guilty because it ultimately makes me a better mum when I do. 

How do practice self-care? 

My self-care practices have changed as I’ve moved into my 30s and become a mum. I love my children dearly, but it’s the little ‘me time’ moments I can carve out for myself that are super important to stay grounded. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as a shower or bath in peace. I’ve also got a lot better at listening to my body and instead of pounding the pavement for a run, I might just go for a gentle walk because that’s what I’m craving on the day, it’s more a mental reset rather than a physical one. I also prioritise my skincare, cleansing and moisturising is a non-negotiable for me morning and night. I also make sure I’m taking my daily vitamins.

Finally, I thrive on quality social interactions and often find that a phone call or a coffee with a friend or family member fills my cup.

How would you describe motherhood in three words?

Fulfilling, beautiful and relentless.

What do you love most about what you do?

It sounds so cliché, but I love Pilates and what we are doing so much that it doesn’t feel like work. I resented going back to work early after I had Bodie, but this time around, we launched this business right after I gave birth to Noah, so I’ve been working all the way through and loving every minute of it. The juggle is real for sure, but it’s been really fulfilling at the same time.

There’s also a lot of excitement amongst the team for what YR is doing and where we are going which is infectious! We all love working with people, so interacting with our customers and helping them to make reformer pilates more accessible is really rewarding.

What’s next for Your Reformer?

We have a company ethos of continuous improvement so always seeking to develop our current offering to our customers. This means more filming for me, more challenges for our customers and an exciting new merchandise range coming out!

We are also working on launching into the commercial space with an exciting on-demand product for gyms, hotels and businesses. Plus, we’re expanding to New Zealand very soon!

So lots is happening for our small team.

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