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MILF: Pilates Queen + Founder of MNTSTUDIO Elaine Hayes on why gyms suck, meditating the mom anxiety away, and that near perfect hair!

Started from the bottom, now she’s all the way up! Meet our latest mom(preneur) crush: Pilates Queen and MNTSTUDIO Founder Elaine Hayes. This savvy businesswoman said sayonara to law school nine years ago to pursue her passion in fitness, ultimately growing the small exercise classes she ran out of the spare room of her apartment into the best damn Pilates and Barre Studio in the Bay Area today, boasting 30+ employees and over 6,000 square feet of awe inspiring, jaw-dropping, zen AF space. And her studio offers childcare. Um, enough said, right? We picked Elaine’s brain on how to silence the mansplainers (she takes no shit!), meditate the mom anxiety away and get near perfect hair. Plus, we got the scoop on why she thinks gyms kind of suck!

Q: You dropped out of law school to pursue a career in Pilates…ballsy! What took you from teaching at other studios to deciding to open up your own?

A: Early in my teaching career, I started developing what I would later call the “MNT Approach” to Pilates, but back then I was just experimenting with athletic and contemporary twists to Pilates. Adding functional movement, cardio and props to traditional Pilates moves for a fun and effective experience. My classes were so popular that I started thinking about starting a small Pilates studio out of my apartment, which is what I did. I bought one Reformer (paid for all on a credit card, full disclosure!), popped it in the spare room of my apartment and set up shop. It wasn’t long before I was holding over 60 appointments a week and turning new clients away, which is when I started thinking about opening a bigger space where I could impact more people, hire a team and build a community.

I started small. I sublet a tiny space in a run-down, old building in a part of town that no one really wanted to go to. At the time though, it was all I could afford. MNT was, and still is, 100% self-funded, which is something I’m proud of but definitely presented quite a challenge in the early days. After a couple of years, we outgrew our small space. Classes were sold out, and I found myself once again turning away new clients. I knew we needed to grow again. It just so happened that my co-tenant who occupied the rest of the building I was in was leaving, so I was able to take over an additional 4,000 square feet. It was more than I thought I needed, but my options were to take it or leave altogether, so I went for it. The building was in bad shape and needed a lot of work, but after several months of renovations, we were able to quadruple our space, and today we occupy 6,000 square feet in an updated, fresh and inspiring space. MNT now offers over 70 classes weekly, has over 30 employees and was recently named the Best Pilates Studio in the Bay Area by SF Magazine – eep!

Q: You had your son Leo (such a cutie!) a couple years ago. How has becoming a mom/adding a child to the mix influenced your success? Any parenting skills you’ve honed that transfer to the working world?

A: I was so worried before having Leo that I would lose my professional drive. Everyone kept telling me how much you change after becoming a mom so I sort of braced myself for that to happen, but in reality, I’m more myself than ever. Leo has brought into focus what matters to me, and it’s this: I want my time here on earth to matter, and I want to make a difference in other people’s lives while I’m here. The best way I know how is to create beautiful spaces and incredible teams that deliver amazing workouts and help people live better, healthier, happier lives. As far as transferable skills, I’ve become really good at protecting my time and setting boundaries around when I’ll accept calls, meetings, etc. I used to just say yes to any meeting request, but now I make sure there’s a clear purpose for it, and I only take them during certain times. Having quality time with Leo is my number one priority so I end my work day every day at 4pm so I can be with him until his bedtime. Then I often have to catch up after he goes to sleep, but to me, it’s worth it.

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Q: Biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur so far?

A: In 2016, I thought I was going to have to leave the space MNT in San Francisco, so that was extremely stressful and scary! But luckily, we not only got to stay, but we took over the whole damn building!

Q: Best (or worst!) parenting advice you’ve received?

A: I think the best advice I’ve gotten is that being an “imperfect” mother is the best gift you can give your kids because it shows them that it’s ok to be imperfect, and that you are still lovable and acceptable, flaws and all.

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Q: If someone only knew you from social media, how would they describe your life/experience as an entrepreneur? If they could see the reality behind the scenes, what would they see instead?

A: I’m very open and ok with being vulnerable on my social media, but of course there’s only so much I can share before it gets to be too much. I would say people would describe my life as busy, stressful, lucky, full and happy. And that’s all true, but I would probably add tired in there!

Q: You recently got into meditation after years of resisting! When do you meditate and why is it so important to you now?

A: I meditate every morning as soon as I get out of bed at around 6am. It’s the best way for me to set the foundation to have a good day where I’m less reactive and better able to handle situations. I only do 10 minutes a day, but it’s completely changed my life and virtually eliminated my anxiety. Needless to say, I’m a lifer.

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Q: We read you hate gyms (how ironic, ha!). Can you share your favorite way to sweat at home?

A: I would say I dislike gyms pretty intensely (sorry to any gym-lovers out there!). Probably the main reason I don’t like gyms is I’ve never really enjoyed the experiences I’ve had. It’s usually smelly, a bit dirty, not aesthetically inspiring, and I would always get hit on by at least one slimy guy. #nothanks! I do, on the other hand, love a beautiful, inspiring studio space where I can get a little break from my day. As far as at-home workouts, I enjoy doing Pilates, barre and yoga and actually share my at-home workouts, which you can access by visiting my Instagram profile at @elainerhayes

Q: Pilates or barre?

A: That’s a tough one since we teach both at MNT, but if I had to choose one it would be Pilates. It’s just the best and so effective for toning, aligning, strengthening and increasing your metabolism.

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Q: Your hair is serious #goals! Tell us your secrets. Any favorite products?

A: Thank you! I only wash my hair 1-2 times per week, and I use Alterna’s Caviar line. I always do a deep conditioning mask and never blow dry. Often, I’ll wash at night, go to bed with it wet, then curl it in the morning if I want to look more put together. But most of the time I just let it be wild. It’s actually gotten a lot curlier since I had Leo. I also take Thorne’s prenatal vitamin, which I think helps, and use collagen as a supplement.

Q: Describe your ideal date night.

A: I’m more of a day date kinda girl, so my ideal date would be to start the day with a workout, then grab a healthy brunch, followed by walking around and exploring a city or neighborhood. When my husband and I went to Paris a few years ago (pre-baby), we made a pact to only walk everywhere besides taking a taxi to and from the airport, and we did it. We walked something insane, like 10 miles a day. I was in heaven!

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Q: Favorite local restaurant?

A: We live in Menlo Park, so our favorite local spot is a family-owned greek restaurant called Taverna. It’s the best!

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Q: Favorite local kid’s activity?

A: We love taking Leo to Happy Hollow to run around, say “hi” to animals and ride on the rides especially made for little kids.

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Q: Podcast you’re currently listening to?

A: Here are my current favorites: 1) Goop (great talks on life, business, health and wellness), 2) The Daily (keeps you in-the-know on the news without overwhelming you with all the nasty stuff out there), 3) The Dropout (a fascinating series on the Theranos fiasco).

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Q: Fave womenswear brands?

A: Current faves: Reformation, The Rowe, A.L.C., Joie.

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Q: Fave kid’s brands?

A: Anything on The Dopple!

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Q: Any last words of encouragement or advice for mamas on how to really fall in love with exercise and create a positive relationship with working out, as we know it’s something you personally struggled with?

A: For me, things really changed when I started thinking of exercise as something that I got to do, rather than I had to do. Changing that mindset and the narrative you tell yourself is a total game-changer. Now, when I work out, it’s a total treat and something I’m doing for me because it feels good and is good FOR me, not because I’m trying to “work anything off” or fix something in my body. Also, finding something you truly love doing, whether that’s Pilates, hiking, yoga, barre, etc. is the key. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s for you, so try lots of different things and find what you personally enjoy and it will be much easier to stick to.

Q: What makes you feel sexy?

A: Probably a really great workout or a cold glass of rosé on a warm day…or maybe both!

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SHOP ELAINE’S DROP
Get a Drop inspired by Elaine’s everyday essentials for Leo. Super soft (+ affordable) basics for morning yoga sessions with mom, play clothes that easily wash and wear, and dressy-ish outfits with swag.

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