Albert Lea natives bring pilates training to southern Minnesota

Published 2:10 am Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Albert Lea natives are teaming up with the Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center to bring Stott Pilates training to southern Minnesota.

Gayle Winegar and Jill Winegar of the SweatShop in St. Paul began offering the training this weekend. It will continue for several weeks.

The fitness center has been teaching Pilates for 15 years.

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“Under Jill’s original vision, Pilates would be a major trend,” Gayle said, adding that as a result, the SweatShop chose to associate itself with Stott Pilates from Toronto “long before anyone could even say Pilates.”

Stott Pilates is the leader in training Pilates instructors and trainers.

“As the licensed center for training fitness instructors, we have now trained close to 700 fitness and health professional trainers in Stott Pilates, which is a considerable undertaking to achieve full training and certification,” Gayle said.

She said previously, people could only get this training at the SweatShop in St. Paul, but now it’s being offered at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center so southern Minnesota fitness trainers and health professionals like physical therapists and chiropractors can have access to this training on their home turf.

“This allows southern Minnesota to jump on this worldwide trend with access to the best training around,” Gayle said.

Mayo Clinic built its state-of-art health center for its employees. It includes cutting-edge Pilates programs in an upscale Pilates studio.

“Two of the staff members have been trained by us at the SweatShop and because they have a demand for more Pilates trainers and instructors as does the Rochester Athletic Club, they are providing the site for us to bring the training to southern Minnesota,” Gayle said.

Right now, Pilates instructors are getting hired faster than we can turn them out.

“We just hired three more to our staff of 12 Pilates trainers. We get calls from clubs looking for instructors. The graduates from our courses are starting small studios and doing really well,” Gayle said.

The Minnesota Workforce Development Center is paying for training for people who have been laid off. “Our training is accredited by the Minnesota Department of Education and therefore qualifies as career education,” she said.

“We have folks going through complete training right now to become Pilates trainers and because they were downsized from their last jobs, their training is being paid for by the stimulus package money. And they will get jobs!”

Gayle said she and her sister started the SweatShop back in the Jane Fonda years.

“We have kept reinventing ourselves in the fitness world for three decades. Jill, who is still a master trainer for us, now travels internationally, training fitness pros in England, Spain, Mexico and more,” Gayle said.

She has also trained firefighters in kettlebell and may work with Olympic coaches in Austria, her sister said.

“Though we both teach, Jill has focused on becoming a world class master trainer — to fitness pros — and I have focused on the running and marketing and reinventing of a unique small business with a big reputation,” Gayle said.

She credits her parents, Deanne and Wally, for their legacy of trend-setting.

“Mom is a yoga instructor who has been baking bread and serving organic for the last 60-plus years and Dad is one of the first holistic physicians in the state — way ahead of the curve on chiropractic, naturalpathy, homeopathy and Chinese medicine,” Gayle said.

Both girls grew up being active. Gayle was in gymnastics at Brookside and ALHS and Jill was a swimmer and hockey player.

According to her Web site,, Gayle’s vision is rooted in her empathy with her clients’ struggles to “find time for exercise.”

Her turning point came 30 years ago when she found herself in a “hotel room in Rome at midnight eating steak tartare from room service and calculating how much longer I could live that way before I became Miss Piggy.”

Before opening the SweatShop, Gayle worked internationally in the travel incentive business and as a health club consultant. She was also a partner in a Spanish restaurant and wine bar and managed other small businesses.

SweatShop clients are, for the most part Baby Boomers, but with Pilates, those demographics are moving down the age scale. Pilates is popular with people in their 20s and 30s as well.

“We serve 70 percent women and 30 percent really smart men, including university and college presidents, visiting supermodels, rock stars, actresses and dancers,” Gayle said. “These folks are frequently looking for the best trainers and our name is out there for Pilates. Jill has trained Sting and Cheryl Tiegs has worked out here, too.”

Even though economic times may be tough, people are still putting an emphasis on fitness.

“Industry numbers show that attendance is up — cheap stress reduction and folks taking preventative care in hard times,” she said. “In January, industry numbers were up 5 percent over last year. We see people dropping pedicure appointments or maybe not taking a trip, but not dropping their club memberships or Pilates training.”

Today, the business is 29 years old. “In the age of big box, corporately owned health clubs, the SweatShop stands uniquely alone as continually being at the cutting edge of the fitness world,” Gayle said. “We have always called the next trends — yoga 29 years ago, step before it took off, kettlebell now.”