The Three-Ring Rule

August 22, 2009

By Tom Gesimondo

As mentioned last time, I’m in the final stages of my Romana’s Pilates apprenticeship. Yes, I’ve been in the slow lane, but I get to see a lot more scenery this way. Unfortunately, as the owner of a studio, I find that my training is too often interrupted by what my wife, Carol, and I have come to call the three-ring rule. Coming from the business world (not that Pilates isn’t a business—as well as a calling and an art), we were keenly aware of the need for the personal touch with clients. Our rule at the radio station where I had worked was to never let a phone ring more than three times without being answered—and not by an answering machine, but by a person. The president of the company would often pick up any ringing phone without issue and answer any question and help in any way he could. “We are all salespeople,” he repeatedly told us. “We are all owners. We all have a part to play in success.” I try to instill this feeling in every one of the wonderful apprentices who come through our studio. I think it’s part of their education, whether studio ownership is in their future or not.

But when we’re shorthanded, my workout goes like this: I’m lying on the Reformer when the first ring arrives… Suddenly there is a stiffening in my body not restricted to my powerhouse. I keep my tension in my shoulders, and that ring has called them to action. My instructor steps into my gaze to try and recenter my body and get me to focus. Now it’s the second ring…and it’s like the alarm clock has gone off. The body tilts toward the ring, ready to spring out of bed/off the Reformer. I’ve been saved though…someone has hit the snooze button and answered the phone. I go back to my workout. My instructor has a bemused look on her face: a happy ending to the three-ring rule? Not really. My instructor has seen this before, many, many times. And we both know that this will happen again. Only next time there will be a third ring. And it never fails to happen: not during footwork, when I might actually be able to extricate myself, but most likely during Short Spine, with my hips lifted, legs akimbo and panic in my eyes as I try to get out of the straps. Not a pretty picture.


A True Pilates Timeline

August 19, 2009

Tom in the studio with Romana

Tom in the studio with Romana

By Tom Gesimondo

As owners of True Pilates NY, my wife Carol and I are considered by so many people in the industry as dyed-in-the-wool Pilates people. But unlike some of you “Pilates babies” out there, we came to the game a little later in life. Here’s our Pilates timeline.

One night, watching TV well past our bedtime, Carol and I see an ad for a Mari-Winsor-endorsed product. I turn my slouched shoulders to my wife and say, “Hey, honey, let’s try that.” But I have Carol order it, because I like to keep my record of never having bought a product directly from an infomercial clean. Of course, this is probably the 25th time Carol has played middleperson to my search for late-night-infomercial nirvana.

We start to work out at home. One day, we mention the word Pilates to one of the owners of the radio station we were working for at the time (in our previous life, before my midlife crisis landed us with a loud thump in the Pilates world). “Oh my god!” the boss says. “Do you know who’s next door to you? Romana! The Romana! You have to go to Drago’s and take a lesson with her!” So Carol and I go next door and book a Pilates private. I don’t get put with Romana, I get her granddaughter Daria, and Carol is booked with Cynthia Shipley. We immediately love the experience. In fact, we become Pilates snobs, but good snobs (wink.) When we let the cat out of the bag to friends of ours and they tell us that they do Pilates, too, we say, “Yeah, but do you do Romana’s Pilates?” Friends tolerate us with knowing smiles, but our passion is fueled by each lesson.

A few years later, radio is slumping (though my shoulders are rising), and a casual comment in the studio about the state of broadcast prompts the owner of Drago’s to tell me, “You know, Tom, you should consider buying this place.” And the next thing you know, Carol and I are having a meeting in the lobby of the Parker-Meridien hotel, where Drago and I negotiate the deal without lawyers. But this being the Pilates world, even though Drago and I reached an agreement, the deal can’t close until Romana and her family give their approval. Let me tell you, this isn’t the way deals are done on Wall Street. No lawyers, no book-size contracts: just some honest talk, a dinner, a handshake, a hug, a toast and Romana offering an endorsement with her famous words, “love all around.”

I begin my dream job (this is a job?), and Carol remains at the radio station for financial stability. Just one little problem with that plan: Carol has to deal with me being obnoxiously happy every day while she is still going through tough changes at her job. A year later, she joins me at Drago’s, and we change the name to True Pilates NY. Six months later, our son Bill leaves his job at MTV to join us as well. (Full disclosure: Bill always says MTV, but I do need to point out periodically that he was technically working for the Country Music Network, a division of MTV.) Today, it’s truly a family business: Tom, Carol and Bill along with Romana, Sari and Daria.

After years of running the studio, suddenly we find ourselves taking on another challenge, as True Pilates NY is beginning to handle the day-to-day operations for Romana’s Pilates. We are so lucky to work closely with this family and be touched by the work daily. We are proud to be able to help them do more of what they were born to do: lead, teach and touch thousands. Oh, and p.s.: I’m also working toward my own teacher certification while we do all of this. So if you come into the studio on West 57th Street and see the middle-aged man with the happy face moving at 100 mph, you’ll understand some of the “why.” And I will get through the apprenticeship as well—provided I don’t fall victim to the three-ring rule. What is the three-ring rule? That’s a story for the next time. So stay tuned and remember, with all the proper respect to Romana, “love all around.”