THE WORK Graduate Feature: Joel Crosby of Vitality Method

We are delighted to share this interview with Joel Crosby, a graduate of THE WORK. Joel was a corporate artist before he transitioned into Pilates. For over a decade, he has grown his business in Duluth, Georgia, while simultaneously growing and supporting a family of 6! His studio, Vitality Method, is a family affair — his wife Ruby runs the administration and scheduling, and his oldest daughter is an instructor.
Joel is an artist and a Pilates instructor. But he also has a way with words, as you will see below. He says “I love art and fitness. I use this love to sculpt and shape real live bodies now.”
1) It is often challenging to describe exactly what THE WORK is, to people new to the Vintage Pilates philosophy. How would you describe this program?

I would describe it to a new person this way. This amazing program will help you learn the essence of Pilates and ground you in the original work. You will get the opportunity to learn from Jay Grimes who worked with Joe and Clara Pilates. It is a much deeper program than your original certification program and really cannot be compared. If you want to learn more and you want to learn the truth about how it was in Joe’s studio then this is the program you want to try to get into. You will learn the exercises exactly the way Joe taught them. The “fluff” is stripped away as you learn the original culture and intention of Joe’s work. Your understanding of how the entire system of Joe’s work is complete will be enhanced. You will find solutions to challenges you encounter with bodies within the work instead of having to look elsewhere or blend in other modalities into the work.

2) Did the experience of THE WORK change the way you teach, and if so, how?

Yes it did in many ways. Jay Grimes and the examples of the excellent teachers at Vintage Pilates, taught me to observe more and speak less. When I do say something corrective, or give a cue, it is more meaningful. Jay Grimes taught me to be a guide for the body rather than just a teacher. I learned to be patient with people as the teachers of “The Work” were with me through the whole program. People have to learn these movements in their own time and in their own way. More talking will not speed this up. In “The Work” I learned so much more depth and intention in the foundation Pilates exercises, that I left behind the idea of having to add in new advanced exercises to challenge the body. I learned at a new level how to challenge the body with the foundation work and logically progress clients to more challenge. I also learned in the program to teach in a way that truly empowers clients and makes them independent. This has brought me even more enjoyment as a teacher. I have seen my clients really taking ownership of their workouts and truly learning the Pilates work.

3) Did THE WORK change the way you approached your Pilates business?

In addition to teaching clients, my business now consists of teaching teachers. I also now host continuing education workshops at the studio. I get invited to teach teachers and do workshops at other studios as well. The Work provided wonderful information to share with teachers form all different certification organizations. The Work helped me set firm guidelines and goals for how I want my existing instructors to teach.

4) You were in the corporate art world before starting your Pilates business. How and why did you transition your career?

Since childhood I have always loved swimming, gymnastics, movement, art, and anatomy. As a young artist I always tried to capture movement, energy, the beauty of the human form, in the work I did. I swam competitively in high school and always stayed active. Fitness was always part of my life as well as art. While working fulltime, I did personal fitness training and nutrition coaching part time. I was always looking for new ways to enhance my performance and that of my clients in ways that prevented injury and burnout. I did my first Pilates class in 1999 and found the exercise I had been looking for my whole life. I worked toward being certified to teach Pilates shortly after that. I was getting tired of the corporate world and saw that with Pilates I could actually make a living doing something I loved. When the company I was working for decided to relocate, I saw this as the right time to make Pilates my full-time job. I leased space from a Karate Dojo that had an extra room for a while, then outgrew that. I relocated and leased some space at a local gym, then outgrew that. I moved to the larger space that I am in now and have been in for the past 11 years. I love art and fitness. I use this love to sculpt and shape real live bodies now.

5) It is not every day that we come across someone who supports a family of 6 with their Pilates business. Can you give us a glimpse into how it all runs?

The bottom line is, it is a lot of work to operate a studio and have a large family. However, I love what I do, and I get a lot of support from the whole family. It involves many hours of work since running a studio for us is not a hobby, it is how we make our living. We start early in the morning 7 days a week and close when the after work crowd is done during the week. We work hard to keep the instructors happy and the clients happy. My wife Ruby and oldest daughter Jade work at the studio. They take care of the front desk, schedule clients, keep the studio clean, and help with marketing. Jade is also a Pilates instructor at the studio.

6) What is your most memorable anecdote from THE WORK?

Wow there are so many that go through my head all the time. Something Jay said would sum it up for me: “Find your seat, and lengthen out from your center. Now move. See it’s simple…but there is nothing more difficult than simple.” Jay told me this at the beginning of the work and emphasized it through the program. The elegant simplicity of keeping the two-way stretch is simple conceptually, but is a lifelong project.

7) And finally: if you could travel back in time and visit Joe and Clara’s Pilates studio, how would you spend the day?

I would get a workout from Joe. Then if he didn’t kick me out of the studio, I would watch Joe and Clara work all day. At the end of the day I would ask to buy the 30 pack of sessions I saw in his advertisement for the new body; so, I could keep coming back for more.