Kelsey Wiedenhoefer is basically everything I wish I could be: she epitomizes the endlessly cool woman, capable of moving with breathtaking grace as she flows from one pose to the next with such an ease that belies the complexity behind each movement. Kelsey is the director of instruction at Maiden Lane Studios a high-end pilates, barre, yoga and fascial stretch therapy studio located in the most luxurious block of San Francisco’s Union Square right next to the flagship Oliver Peoples, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Hermès locations. She is also one of the studio’s master trainers, leading a clientele that includes Victoria’s Secret Angels, Silicon Valley movers and shakers, and editors from Vogue and GOOP who continually sing their praises in the press.
We knew from day one that we had to feature her on Garçon’s World, and today we’re excited to share Kelsey’s interview with you!
“I was born into a family of athletes, dancers, and educators, so when I look at my lineage and the path I have chosen, the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” really rings true for me. Both my parents and grandparents were athletes and educators. My parents are educators and have also been coaches at the high school and collegiate level. My paternal grandfather was a wrestler, football player, and eventually became the athletic director of the community college in Fresno, where I grew up. His wife, my grandmother, was a dancer and taught dance until she retired. My maternal grandmother taught and coached basketball at a community college in San Diego.
I grew up dancing, attending the aerobic classes that my mom taught, and playing various sports. Luckily, I never felt pressured to play a certain sport, or be involved in any activities I was not authentically interested in. Eventually, I landed on volleyball. I was tall, had a decent jump and good hand-eye coordination, so the sport stuck and I fell in love with it.
I played volleyball all four years of high school, both club volleyball and for my high school team. This took up a good majority of my free time, but I loved it and it kept me occupied and out of trouble. During my junior year of high school I started to get recruited by a few small schools to play on their teams.
After a big club tournament at the end of my junior year, the coach from the University of California, San Diego reached out, and I was all in from there. I was a Political Science and Ethnic Studies major in undergrad, and have a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. My experience as a student athlete at UCSD was a unique and unforgettable experience and has really helped shape me into who I have become today.
Half way through my senior season at UCSD I tore my ACL and meniscus during a game. This injury ended my volleyball career. A couple years after the surgery my range of motion was still not 100% and I was still having pain associated with the injury. As it is with many traumatic events in our lives, there is always a new opportunity waiting just beyond it.
The initial plan was to go to law school, but after working at a law firm for a few years and being in school for so long I decided to take a break. I did a complete 180 and got a job in sales with pFizer Pharmaceuticals. A friend of mine had just started teaching Pilates, so I decided to try it out, and again, I fell in love. I decided to get my Pilates certification during my time with pFizer.
Initially I looked at the certification process as a way to deepen my knowledge, teach a little on the side, and get to take Pilates for free at the studio I was going to work at. Little did I know it would turn into my passion and career.
That transitioned into me moving back home to Fresno for a brief stint where I started to teach Pilates full-time at a couple different studios in the area. I also put my Master’s Degree to work and became adjunct faculty at Fresno Pacific University and taught Restorative Justice and Crime and Diversity courses for the Criminology Department.
Before Maiden Lane Studios came to be, I was actually considering buying the studio I was working at in Fresno. The owner’s husband was in the Navy and getting stationed out of state, so the closing of the studio was imminent. It would have been a turnkey business for me to invest in, but I was not so sold on committing myself to living in Fresno forever. Although my family is there, I never felt rooted, and wanted to live in a more metropolitan area.
Literally the moment I came to terms with this dilemma I received an email from the other co-founders and owners of MLS, Jean Wang and Patrick Villyard. They were friends of friends from the Bay Area who had been following what I had been doing on social media with Pilates and wellness, and were interested in opening a studio in the Bay.
A week later I drove up to meet with them, do some market research and hash out a business plan. We were in from there out. About a month after our initial meeting I moved to the Bay area, and two months after that we had secured a space, ordered our equipment, hired instructors, redesigned the space (the majority of which was done by us) and opened our doors June 1, 2012.
The period of time between opening the space through the first two years of being open, feels like such a blur. Everything was new and surprising. I ate, drank, and breathed Maiden Lane Studios, and having 14-hour days was a very regular occurrence. I don’t know what it is like to have a child, but I imagine many of the emotions are similar. It’s physically and energetically draining, but you love it because it is an extension of yourself and fruition of a lot of hard work and dedication.
The moment where I thought “we finally made it!” was about one year ago when we were listed in Vogue as one of the best places in the U.S. to get stretched. I remember reading it and beaming like a proud mother!
On top of yoga, Pilates, and barre, we also offer a type of bodywork called Fascial Stretch Therapy. It is similar to massage in that it is one-on-one and the work is done on a massage table, but you don’t have to take off your clothes and get oiled up. It is more functional than certain types of massage and you can feel the effects in your body much longer.
I love the energy and light in our space. It sets the tone for a community of both clients and instructors who genuinely like being there. Because we are a smaller studio, only twelve students fit in our group classes (yoga, Pilates mat, and barre), and 4 in our reformer classes we have been able to maintain a sense of intimacy and people really get to know one another.
I love being able to see people grow. When you become stronger and are able to tap into a deeper connection with your body, things change. Not only on a physical level, but on a more personal level too. Being able to empower my clients in this way has been the most rewarding experience.
I learn from my clients every day. They are just as much my teachers as I am a teacher to them. On a surface level, they teach me about books they may be reading, or certain recipes to test out, or what the next best skincare line is. On a deeper level, they have taught me how to better roll with the punches. To know that each day is going to be different, and depending on many external circumstances, you can never fully plan for how a session may go. I’ve also learned how to develop relationships with people I may have nothing in common with or would have never come into contact with outside of the studio.
When clients work with me, the goal is not about how many calories get burned in the hour. It’s about getting stronger, feeling smarter and more body aware, and better able to perform their daily activities at work, at home, and in the bedroom. 😉
Any health tips for clients and readers?
My biggest tip is to drink a lot of water, start the day off with a form of protein (my go to breakfast is a plant based protein shake, a handful of nuts, and black coffee), and to move until you sweat at least 3-4 times per week. My recommended and personal favorite way to move is a combination of Pilates, barre, yoga, and running outdoors.
What is next for you and Maiden Lane Studios?
This year we are focused on growing our team of instructors, and filling the studio with more classes and space for private instruction. We are also expanding our reach to our corporate clients and working on bringing more of our classes to them.
I am focused on holding more workshops and trainings both in and out of the studio, expanding my network, and continuing to learn and grow.
– As told to Garçon’s World