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November 08, 2018

This week we sat down with Johanna Dalgleish, the owner and director of Union Pilates, a Fletcher Pilates® studio in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Specializing in self-care, physical education, rehabilitation and teacher training, Johanna was kind enough to share some of her thoughts about being an entrepreneur and movement educator wit h us. She showed us what you can do in our new Apollo Collection.

Johanna Dalgleish doing pilates

Our Interview with Pilates instructor Johanna Dalgleish

How did you become interested in Pilates?

I come from a dance background— I’m a contemporary dancer, so I’ve been doing pilates since I was a teenager. When I became a professional dancer, I started doing Fletcher Pilates intensively through my training, and then it was just a natural progression to do my teacher training from there. Now I’ve been teaching pilates for 10 years.

Can you tell us about your business?

Yes, so I own Union Pilates, a Fletcher Pilates studio that has been open for a year and a half in this location. Fletcher Pilates is a specific style of pilates, evolved directly from the work that Joseph Pilates created. We’re the only Fletcher Pilates studio in BC, and we also run teacher training here.

Why did you decide to turn your passion into your job?

It happened really naturally; its all that I ever really knew to do. I really couldn’t envision my life any other way. Pilates is such a great parallel career to dance— it was just a natural progression that Pilates took over and became more and more my passion.

It gives me drive, it makes me want to be here every day. Being passionate about my job makes me excited to work hard and to pursue my goals.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up around six and I answer whatever emails I need to answer. Then I come in to the studio shortly after that, and I’m doing a combination of teaching clients, mentoring my student teachers, as well as doing admin and studio development. I also try to fit in my own personal practice, somewhere in there. Realistically I’m here thirteen hours a day, six days a week. After that I go home and try to decompress and not think about work anymore.

Johanna doing pilates with her leg in the air

Okay, so which parts of your day do you find the most fulfilling for you, personally?

Definitely teaching! Both teaching my clients and my students— right now the most exciting part of that is the critical thinking aspect. It feels a little like I’m a detective, when I’m working through someone’s physical considerations. Each person has their own pathologies or pain or goals, and it really excites me to focus on each unique body in front of me.

So what is your fitness philosophy, then?

My fitness philosophy is 'to feel the joy of movement', and then for me personally, its about finding joy in whatever I do.

What does being ‘strong’ mean to you?

My definition of strength changes a lot. Right now it is being empowered to find balance, whether that means balance in my body, balance between power and ease, or balance between my work life and my personal life. I feel like a sense of equilibrium is what makes me feel strong these days. As I said, my passion is my business. So I need to find ways to make sure that it stays my passion and doesn’t turn into my job.

Do you have any strong men or women in your life, who have helped you in your business?

Well I have colleagues within my Pilates practice who have been role models. For example, I have a colleague who has another Fletcher Pilates studio in Seattle, and we have very parallel businesses and similar values for our businesses. So, yes, my entrepreneurial peers have been mentors. They’ve given me a sounding board— an ability to have a dialogue. They also give me strength to get through the hard times, to know that I’ll make it out to the other side.

Johanna doing floor work in her pilates studio

Where do you see your company going in the next five or ten years?

Right now I’m building my staff and I’m working to create an education centre, the kind of place thats known as a hub for Pilates teacher training. I can see us potentially expanding or having another location. I always want to feel a sense of growth happening for my business.

So then, what would success look like for you?

Like I said, I want to feel a sense of growth happening, whether that be the growth of my business, or intellectual growth or stimulation. I like always having things to work and strive towards— I think success is the opposite of feeling stagnant. And then when I get testimonials or feedback and I know that I’m doing good in people’s lives— thats the point of it all!

So is that what you are the most proud of— good feedback from clients?

Yeah, totally! I’m proud of the fact that the studio has simply grown through word of mouth, through those positive referrals. But I’m the most proud that my brand--my vision of my brand--has come to life. I think thats also how I define success: if my vision is translating, if the people who come to my studio also see it as an education centre, that they are also experiencing the joy of movement. I feel like I’m most successful and proud when it all gels.

Sometimes I’ll walk into the studio and there’s three people teaching at once, with two busy classes—when things are buzzing, that is really exciting for me.

When it becomes bigger than you?

Yes, it helps me put it into perspective. It’s so easy to just get stuck in the grind of it all. Those moments help me to remember ‘woah, I built this’. Otherwise, it can be hard to remember to see it all.

Okay so last question, whats the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

Well one thing is to delegate— to outsource, to have people who are experts in their fields supporting you. Even if you can do it all, to not necessarily do it all. To take care of myself through it and remember to keep perspective — its about the end goals and the bigger picture, not the daily grind.

Johanna instructing a student on proper form


Union Pilates is Mount Pleasant’s newest destination for self care, physical education and rehabilitation. They offer private and group instruction both on and off of their specialized Pilates equipment. Specializing in Fletcher Pilates®, an internationally acclaimed, complete physical conditioning program evolved directly from the work of Joseph Pilates, each class is designed to progress you through safe and effective exercises, providing you with a strong movement practice that balances the body through strength, flexibility and spirit. You can find more information about Union Pilates here, or follow them on Instagram here.


Stay tuned for more #STRONGWOMEN and #STRONGMEN interviews. If you know any game changers we have to interview, nominate them in the comments below! 

Interested in our other favourite local studios? Check out West Coast Strength & Movement here. 


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