The Her Movement Interview: Hollie Grant
Interviewed by Sabrina Greenberg-James
Ex-professional Chocolatiere and Pastry Chef Hollie Grant is a Tatler award-winning Pilates instructor and Personal Trainer. She is the owner of three London based PilatesPT studios (in Fulham, Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park and Carnaby Street) where, alongside her all female team, she has trained clients including Jourdan Dunn, Melissa Hemsley, and Deliciously Ella. As the creator of The Pilates PT Method, The Pilates PT Method Online, The Strong Women Podcast, and author of ‘The Model Method’ Hollie’s motivation is to change women’s relationship with their bodies and learn to love exercise.
You recently changed the name of your training method from The Model Method to The Pilates PT Method after 5 successful years. What led you to that decision?
When I first created my method I felt it was the perfect combination of strength, and cardiovascular training. I felt like there was a real gap in the market whereby everyone else was offering one training style or the other and I wanted to fill that gap. I designed the format to be the ideal collaboration, the ‘model pupil’ if you will, and therefore “The Model Method” seemed a great play on words. However, this name was highly emotive and, of course, especially amongst fashion magazines, led to incorrect write-ups and the perception that my method was for models only. Anyone who knew me, trained with me, or followed me on Instagram knew that this was the polar opposite to my actual message and over time the name really started to grate on me. At a time when we should be celebrating exercise as an inclusive experience I felt the name no longer fit ethically and it needed to be changed. From a business point of view it was a bit of a nightmare. All that previous press, including features in The Times, The Telegraph, Tatler etc could all be lost, but I felt more passionately about making the change than focussing on exposure and sales.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to move more, what would it be?
Don’t overthink it. With the rise of social media, and the obsession with fitness in the media, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the ‘what’s the perfect workout’ dilemma but exercise is simply movement and it doesn’t have to be expensive, or trendy, or what Tracy down the pub does. Try to think about the type of movement that you enjoy, be it dancing, gardening, even sex, and find ways to add it into your life. If you overthink it, you’ll end up doing nothing.
What are some of your frustrations with the health & fitness industry?
Ooooh you know me too well. I have been working in the fitness industry for almost 10 years now and it has changed beyond recognition. When I first started teaching exercise was exercise. Most people knew what they liked and they did it for health, and less positively for weight loss reasons, but they pretty much kept it to themselves and there was no big song or dance over it. Fast forward 10 years and the pressure on young women (and men) to exercise is huge. And whilst this has created a thriving industry, and potentially got more people moving, I think it has also created a culture of shame. When it looks like everyone around you is exercising every day, wearing the latest Lululemon leggings, drinking the greenest of smoothies and donning rippling six-packs, where does that leave those who either can’t afford that lifestyle, or simply haven’t the time or energy. The fitness industry puts white, middle class, slim women on a pedestal and I don’t find that particularly inclusive.
There is an assumption that all PT’s and fitness professionals were always ‘sporty’ growing up – would you say this was you?
I grew up with a father in the Parachute Regiment who was, and still is, the most dedicated fitness lover I know. He can turn his hand to most sports and exercise was always a huge part of his life. I saw this as the norm and it was only when I went to university and saw the relationship other women had with exercise that I realised there was a problem. I was sporty growing up, yes, and this really has stayed with me for life and is why I believe it’s so important to get children interested in sport from a young age – it will help get them through the diet culture vacuum they will encounter in their teenage years and lays the foundations of a positive relationship with their bodies. It’s never too late to get involved in the fitness industry so don’t put it off any longer if you are considering a career in fitness. Whilst I personally fit the stereotype above I know many fitness professionals, who are amazing at what they do, who don’t.
We know you used to be a pastry chef before starting Pilates PT – how did you go from pastries to pilates?
All I wanted to do when I grew up was have my own patisserie. I went to a military boarding school who, luckily, pushed me to university where I studied Psychology. This I truly believe has shaped how I run my business now as I developed a real interest in health psychology and my dissertation was on Eating Disorders in First Year Students. During university I secured an apprenticeship with my dream employer. I literally couldn’t have been happier and upon graduating moved to the smallest, coldest studio flat in London to start my pastry career. Fast forward one year and I was very underweight, suffering with depression and pretty poorly. One day I found I literally couldn’t do it anymore and walked away from my dream job, unable to even bare working my notice period. Whilst I got my head together I took a role as a receptionist in a Pilates studio a friend of mine was working at and I instantly fell in love. Pilates helped me rebuild my strength, was all about creating a functional healthy body and was so polar opposite to the catering industry. From here I was rapidly made studio manager, encouraged to retrain as a Pilates instructor, promoted to head trainer at two London studios and never looked back.
How do you like to keep moving outside of the gym?
Truth be told I’m actually not a huge fan of the gym. I like the actual functionality of the gym, and all the amazing equipment, but I, like many others, can find them quite intimidating and busy. I would much prefer to attend a class, such as yoga or Reformer Pilates, then pound away on a treadmill watching TV. I’m a huge fan of bouldering, which is similar to rock climbing but without ropes and at much lower heights. Bouldering requires you to really think about the movements you make, is very sociable (people will help you find a route you hadn’t noticed) and is bloody hard! I walk my dog most days for around an hour and I love gardening – the peacefulness, the fresh air and the mindfulness of it really makes me happy.
What can health & fitness ‘influencers’ do to be more responsible in their content?
Great question! This is a really important topic we covered at a previous ‘Athletics not Aesthetic’ event and I just don’t think it’s discussed enough. As an influencer you have a huge responsibility to ensure that the content, advice and statistics you put out to your followers is accurate, ethical and realistic. For this reason I believe you should ‘stick to what you know’. The number of fitness professionals I know that give out nutrition advice or write blogs about the benefits of certain foods, without the qualifications or science to back it up is frightening and it encourages their followers to spend extortionate amounts of money on bogus powders and supplements, and promotes disordered eating. One thing social media advisors will often tell you is ‘sell the lifestyle’ and whilst this may buy you big followers it can also alienate the public and leave your followers feeling like they simply aren’t good enough because they don’t work out every day.
We LOVE your #athleticsnotaethetics page- fear of being judged is a huge barrier to entry when it comes to women exercising – how can we support women so they feel confident when exercising?
Scroll through the hashtag #fitspo on Instagram and tell me that the photos represent reality. We are simply not being shown the true picture of what exercise and sport looks like as we are inundated with images from professional photoshoots and influencer accounts. When we then exercise, and quite rightly look red faced, sweaty and frizzy haired, we think that we are the odd ones out and not safe to be seen in public. I think this is the biggest disservice and in no way promotes what the fitness industry is really here to do – encourage more people to take part in exercise and sport. If we really want to help women feel confident when exercising, we need to be more honest about how it looks in the media. We need to show women in bigger bodies, women of colour, women with disabilities exercising and stop layering on the make-up at the gym. Let’s try and bring back some reality to exercise by putting up the picture of you at mile 15 of the marathon, or you at the end of spin class, rather than the photo you took at the start of your yoga class. That’s what I really want to see.