Long before she bought her own Club Pilates franchise and started training to become a certified instructor, Julie Karickhoff assumed Pilates were similar to yoga.
It was not until she tried a Club Pilates class herself at one of the national company’s California studios that she realized what a Pilates workout actually entails.
“I had no idea what Pilates even was. I didn’t know what the ‘Reformer’ was. I thought Pilates were just on a mat like yoga,” Karickhoff said. “I tried a Reformer-based class, and I fell in love with it.”
Developed by a German athlete named Joseph Pilates, Pilates started as a method of building strength for injured soldiers during World War I, but it was later refined to include techniques from a diverse range of sports, such as boxing, diving, and dance, as well as yoga, according to Club Pilates, which launched in San Diego, Calif., in 2007.
According to its website, Club Pilates prides itself on using “state-of-the-art equipment,” including mats, rollers, EXO chairs, and Reformers, an apparatus that resembles a bed frame with adjustable springs, a foot bar, and a padded platform for the user to lie on.
There are 362 Club Pilates studios around the U.S., but Karickhoff’s franchise will be the first one in Fairfax County when it opens at Burke Centre Shopping Center this summer. Locations in Tysons and Falls Church are expected to be added later in the fall.
“I’m looking forward to seeing happy smiles on people’s faces,” Karickhoff said. “If you are out-of-shape or if you have a sedentary lifestyle, when you do Pilates, you start to be active again, and I think it permeates outside. Maybe you start to go hiking, maybe you start to go biking, maybe you start to get back into life that you have not been able to do.”
Karickhoff’s journey toward Pilates started almost a decade ago.
The Fairfax native was always active when growing up, participating on the dance and lacrosse teams at W.T. Woodson High School and at Duke University. Her speed as a runner even earned her the nickname “Crazy Legs” from one coach.
However, in 2009, she suffered a major knee injury while playing volleyball, and two years later, she hurt her ankle after falling on her roller blades.
After that, running was no longer an option, and many of the personal fitness training options she looked into, such as Orangetheory Fitness or CrossFit, similarly put too much stress on her injured knee and ankle.
That is when Karickhoff discovered Pilates, specifically Club Pilates.
“This is so great for my ankle,” she said regarding why Pilates is a better fit for her than other exercise regimens. “I can still do cardio but laying down, and I can work on the trampoline, but I’m not going to have injuries.”
At that point, Karickhoff had lived in California since 2002 and had spent about 20 years working in corporate marketing after getting a master’s degree in business from Georgetown University, but it was her mother’s death from leukemia in 2014 that ultimately prompted her to return to Fairfax County.
“That’s when I started thinking about how I can really change my life,” Karickhoff said. “It was always in the back of my mind to do my own business, and being in the health and wellness industry kind of just made sense.”
Karickhoff moved to Alexandria to be near her father, who turned 80 this week, and she bought into a Club Pilates franchise in April 2017.
Originally, Karickhoff planned to bring her franchise to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, but the lease fell through.
She says the location in Burke turned out to be more ideal anyway, since the shopping center already has several tenants like Massage Envy, Beau Totale Salon and Spa, and Allure Nail Bar that attract customers who might be interested in a Pilates studio.
While she works with Fairfax County, an architect, and a contractor to prepare the Burke studio for a late June or early July opening, Karickhoff is currently employed at the Club Pilates Potomac Falls location in Sterling, where she provides customer service to clients and helps lead 30-minute, free introductory classes.
Karickhoff is also working to become a certified instructor, because she wants to teach at the Burke studio along with owning the property, working the front desk, and interacting with clients.
Club Pilates requires trainers to undergo a 500-hour teacher training program that includes learning about anatomy in addition to both observing and leading classes.
“Since I’m so inspired to stay healthy after my mother’s death, I want to inspire other people to stay healthy,” Karickhoff, who has completed more than 300 hours of the training program so far, said. “…But if I wasn’t working in the studio, I wouldn’t have the daily interaction with the people.”
In addition to preparing to open her own studio, Karickhoff will join other Club Pilates trainers this weekend for National Pilates Day festivities.
National Pilates Day occurs annually on the first Saturday of every May, and Club Pilates has been offering $10 e-gift cards for various retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, Starbucks, and Whole Foods, to anyone who has participated in a free introductory class since Apr. 30.
The promotion concludes at the end of May 6.
“It’s just one more way to thank our clients for trying Club Pilates,” Karickhoff said.