by Saralyn Ward
Every once in a while we are lucky enough to experience a moment of affirmation: a quick instant that may seem inconsequential to anyone else, but lets us know that we are in the right place at just the right time.
I had one such moment when I walked into Pura Vida Fitness and Spa for an interview. As I took a seat in the conference room, the club’s maintenance guy was rolling up some floor plans, heading out.
“Are you going to work here?” he asked me.
“I don’t know. I hope so…” I wasn’t sure if this was a trick question. I braced for his response.
“Well,” he said, drawing out his words like any good Colorado cowboy would. “I hope you do, too. It’s honestly the best place I’ve ever worked in my life. And I really mean that.”
I knew, in that moment, that this place was something special, and I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve been working in health clubs since I was 18 years old – first as a “fitness monitor” (a fancy name for someone who picks up dirty towels and cleans equipment on the fitness floor) and front desk staff, and ultimately as a group fitness and private Pilates instructor. But in all of those years, never had I met someone so enthusiastic about their job.
Up until that encounter, I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision. I already had a decent job with a reputable fitness education company: it was steady and stable, and I had built an amazing network in the industry. But I wasn’t fulfilled. For one, I wasn’t teaching. When you put a teacher or trainer behind a desk day after day, it becomes stifling. I felt like my skills were dulling –how could I educate instructors when I was so removed from their daily experience? A return to teaching was necessary, yet I still had so many IDEAS. I wanted so badly to drive an education brand that would elevate our industry, bring credibility and sustainability to our profession, and inspire the fitness community as a whole. I felt as if I was looking for the holy grail – a dream job – combining my love of teaching with my thirst for big ideas. How on EARTH was I going to find a company that would support both passions?
Luckily, that company found me. A friend connected me with Heather Bahlmann, Pura Vida’s Fitness Director. We met to discuss teaching opportunities, but in our first conversation it was clear we shared a common vision: a desire to develop professional fitness education that would benefit not only the trainer or instructor, but would have a direct and lasting impact on the everyday experience of our members. We both agreed it’s not enough to give a trainer the most up-to-date information; we need to show them how to deliver that information to clients in a way that is accessible, approachable, exciting, and relatable. If our ultimate goal is to affect the lifestyle of our members, then we must equip our staff with every means to do just that. While we want the training staff and instructors to have access to the most up-to-date research, that information is only useful when they are able to deliver it in a way that everyday people can understand and digest. By weaving education into the daily experience of our instructors, we affect the very culture of the Pura Vida community. In doing so, we enhance the member experience.
In fact, the member experience is the heart of Pura Vida, driving the brand forward. J Madden, Pura Vida’s founder, says, “Pura Vida from its inception was aspiring to generate a deeper connection with our members & guests than just a workout, or a spa treatment. Our premise was to build a like-minded community where lasting friendships were developed in tandem with an exceptional fitness & spa experience.”
As J’s vision took shape, care was taken to hire the right staff to deliver the experience that would set Pura Vida apart. “The staff was hired not only because they were talented and had an exceptional CV, but because they showed curiosity, empathy and desire to deliver an experience that was lacking in other health club models,” says Keith Moore, General Manager. “Once you have an exceptional and caring team in place, deliver the service in a serene yet invigorating environment – a community of like-minded people develops – a community living life with passion and caring. This is a foundation for great things.” The community alone is a strong catalyst driving the vision of Pura Vida Education: when you are surrounded by the best of the best and encouraged to learn from one another, it’s only a matter of time before big ideas take flight.
The doors of Pura Vida’s Denver location have been open 6 years now, and with a solid reputation, strong commitment to philanthropy and energized community, you would think the PV team would be content to sit back and enjoy their success. But it’s only just beginning. As Heather explains, “What moves us is the attention to detail and the experiences we create daily at Pura Vida: it is never about the workout of the day, but what we are doing that day to change someone’s life. Going forward, education will play an immense role for us in sustaining not only our brand, but the way we approach our service to members. By hosting education from the best presenters as well as developing our own signature education, we will be able to teach our instructors not only how to deliver information, but how to deliver a lasting experience.”
When I accepted the position of Pilates Director and Education Coordinator at Pura Vida in January of 2014 I knew I was blessed to find a unique opportunity – the chance to change the way we develop and deliver fitness education, while teaching alongside people who would educate me. Already, our collaborative endeavor to offer something new to fitness professionals far and wide is taking shape. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Pura Vida invites presenters and certification programs to contact us for opportunities to offer lectures, workshops or certifications in our Denver location. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
|by Saralyn Ward | Fit to Glow | Pilates Director and Education Coordinator, Pura Vida Fitness and Spa | Consulting Editor, MyGroupFit. | Master Pilates Instructor
Saralyn Ward is a movement educator, biomechanics nut, and wellness advocate, realigning and re-balancing the masses, one body at a time.
photo credit: Pura Vida Resort & Spa