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Promoting Pilates for Youth and Adults

Physiotherapist Mandy Tik provides valuable services to a wide range of clientele interested in improving performance, posture and movement.

Mandy Tik has been a registered physiotherapist in Hong Kong since 2001 and a Pilates instructor since 2002. Tik combines her passions for dance and sports performance to serve a clientele that is approximately 60% adult and 40% youth. In 2002, she established the first fully equipped Pilates facility for Singapore’s national athletes, with support from the Singapore Sports Council. In 2011, she opened TherapeuTIKS studio, where she successfully blends Pilates, GYROTONIC® exercise and traditional physiotherapy; her clients range from those seeking postrehabilitation to elite competitive athletes.

How did you get involved with Pilates?

My first job after graduation was as a sports physiotherapist for the Singapore National Team, whom I traveled with. During this time I constantly sought solutions for overuse injuries in runners, cyclists and triathletes. In 2002, I flew back and forth to Melbourne, Australia, to study Pilates from Polestar. In 2003, I met Rochenda Rydeard, a creator of B.E.T. Pilates, in Hong Kong [B.E.T. stands for biokinetic exercise technique]. I studied an evidence-based approach to Pilates under Rydeard and her research staff. She employed me in 2005 and brought me back to the clinical aspects of Pilates.

How did your clinical rehabilitation work improve your skills as a Pilates instructor?

I learned a lot from senior physiotherapists and from my own clinical experience. Over 5 years, I became the chief physiotherapist at B.E.T. Pilates. Rydeard’s method blends Pilates with rehabilitation practices to treat clients with chronic pain, among other [challenges]. A study using the method with patients who had low-back pain showed reduced pain intensity and less functional disability after 4 weeks. Working with a scientist built my confidence and made me believe even more in what I do!

My patients have ranged from an 8-year-old with scoliosis to adults with golf and yoga injuries to older adults with osteoporosis. We saw an onslaught of local yoga-studio openings with overfull classes. This, in particular, resulted in many people with yoga injuries seeking help. During this time, I continued my rehabilitation education by training with GYROTONIC, first in Malaysia and then in Belgium. I also became certified as a Sensory Integration Therapy practitioner with Ayres Sensory Integration Therapy for children and young adults at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The SI method is particularly helpful for children with special needs, such as autism and other developmental conditions. I pursued the SI training independently to enrich my own clinical knowledge.

How did you build such a large and thriving youth practice?

In Hong Kong, medical professionals are not allowed to advertise. One hundred percent of my clients come from word of mouth. I receive referrals from doctors, traditional physiotherapists and existing clients, which is better than advertising. Most young people who come to my studio are elite track-and-field runners, swimmers and windsurfers. Because I worked with the Singapore Sports Council, I know many athletes, and I’m a triathlete, runner and surfer myself. I’ve met a lot of people in the sports community who turn to me when they need help.

In 2012, I was selected to provide pre- and post-race warm-up, injury prevention and stretching training to 50 Hong Kong youth runners sponsored by Nike to run in Hong Kong’s marathon. I do not work with any schools in particular.

How would you describe your studio practice?

I have worked with PhysioCentral, a multidiscipline Physiotherapy Clinic in Central Hong Kong , since 2011. The clinic refers clients who are best suited for Pilates, and I pay a commission for each client. I’m the only Pilates provider. Sixty percent of my clients seek postrehab conditioning, and 40% require attention for subchronic injuries.

What advice would you give other studio owners who would like to build a practice that includes more young clients?

If you don’t have a physical therapy background, liaise with a professional whom you trust. Physiotherapists are a good source of referrals and will respect trainers who, in turn, respect their professional opinions. Pilates instructors should not be diagnosing.

For those who want to build a business that serves young athletes, it’s best to have a competitive athletic background. I was a competitive runner from age 12 to age 23, and I’ve been racing in triathlons for the past 4 years. I appreciate the stress, race goals, and pain tolerance levels. Without this understanding, it’s easy to undertrain clients. Athletic youth have no patience if you’re not competent and do not deliver results. They also have huge compliance issues if your coaching style is boring.

What is the future vision for your business?

My ideal studio would be a three-story building. I’d like to continue to offer Pilates services and have the rest of my team offer other specialties. For example, I’d like to have a Rolfing® therapist, an organic herbalist, and a beautician who specializes in sun protection. I don’t need another person like myself but, rather, people with different talents. The next step is to take the business to another level with like-minded professionals.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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