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10 Minute Abs with Pilates Instructor Elaine Hayes

May 12, 2019

10 Minute Abs with Pilates Instructor Elaine Hayes

If you think a 10 minute ab workout sounds like a piece of (gluten free) cake, then you haven't met Elaine Hayes. Elaine is the Founder of super chic MNTSTUDIO in San Francisco and is a Pilates Queen if you ask us. She knows how to make you shake within minutes while still ensuring you walk out of class with more energy than what you arrived with.  

Elaine and MNSTUDIO have actually been in the Après family for quite some time. MNT was one of the very first studios to carry Après (thank Elaine!) and played a crucial part in our development over the last 3 years. The MNT team allowed us to sample early versions of Après there over a year before we even launched and has also served as a testing ground for new flavors! 

We're excited to share this quick, yet effective ab workout straight from the mind of the Pilates Queen herself. We hope you enjoy! xx 

Move 1: Standing Roll Down
- Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart, belly engaged, shoulders rolled back
- Inhale to lift your arms overhead, exhale to roll forward until you reach the ground
- Inhale to prepare, exhale to roll back up
- Repeat 3-4 times

Move 2: C-Curve Roll Downs
- Sit with knees bent and slightly apart, feet planted and arms extending forward
- Begin by rolling back about halfway. This will be your starting position
- Inhale to roll down to your shoulder blades, exhale to roll up to your starting position.
- Repeat 10 times

Move 3: Twisted C-Curve Roll Downs
- Come into the same starting position as before, but now press your palms together and twist to your right
- Inhale to roll down to your shoulder blades, exhale to roll up.
- Repeat 10 times, then switch sides

Move 4: Single Leg Toe Dips
- Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop, hands interlaced behind your head, and head, neck, and shoulders curled up
- Inhale to dip your right toes down, exhale to lift the leg up to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times alternating sides

Move 5: Double Leg Toe Dips
- Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop, hands interlaced behind your head, and head, neck, and shoulders curled up
- Keeping your inner thighs glued together, inhale to dip both legs down, exhale to lift the legs up to the starting position
- Repeat 10 times


Move 6: Double Leg Toe Dips with Ab Twist
- Continue with your toe dips but now add a twist as you lift the legs
- Repeat 10 times in each direction

Move 7: Cat/Cow
- Come onto all fours with hands under shoulders, knees under hips
- Inhale to reach your chest forward and tail bone back, looking forward
- Exhale to round the back, curling your tail bone between your legs and looking back towards your thighs
- Repeat 3-4 times

Get to know MNTSTUDIO Founder and CEO Elaine Hayes 

How did you get started with MNTSTUDIO? Did you grow up wanting to be an entrepreneur?

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back on my childhood, I definitely had entrepreneurial tendencies. At the age of eight I decided I would bake cookies and then sell them around my neighborhood for £5 each (I grew up mostly in London, England) and made a killing every week with that insane markup! Later in high school, I started a tutoring business and even had “employees” who I trained to tutor so I could take on more students.

That being said, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started thinking about the possibility of starting my own business as a career. I had followed a fairly traditional path: Worked really hard in school, went to UC Berkeley (Go Bears!), then went to law school. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the truth is that I was operating from a place of what I thought I “should” do, and never from a place of what I truly wanted or was excited about. It wasn’t until after my first year of law school that I had a bit of an existential/identity crisis and started asking myself the important question of “Who am I and what do I like doing?”

I had started doing Pilates in high school after a dance teacher of mine recommended it, and had kept up my practice through college and now law school. It was the highlight of my week, so when I sat down and listed the things I enjoyed, Pilates was top of my list. I decided to do the scariest thing I’ve ever done: I took a leave of absence from law school and gave myself six months to do what I enjoyed. I got a job doing legal research from home to pay the bills, and enrolled in a Pilates teacher training program. Once my six month deadline arrived, I was teaching Pilates and the happiest I had been in a long time and decided not to return to law school.

I had started developing what I would later call the “MNT Approach” to Pilates, but back then, I was just experimenting with athletic and contemporary twists to Pilates: Adding functional movement, cardio, and props to traditional Pilates moves for a fun and effective experience. My classes were so popular that I started thinking about starting a small Pilates studio out of my apartment, which is what I did. I bought one Reformer (paid for all on a credit card, full disclosure!), popped it in the spare room of my apartment and set up shop. It wasn’t long before I was holding over 60 appointments a week and turning new clients away, which is when I started thinking about opening a bigger space where I could impact more people, hire a team, and build a community.

I started small. I sublet a tiny space in a run-down, old building in a part of town that no one really wanted to go to… But at the time, it’s all I could afford. MNT was and still is 100% self-funded to this day, which is something I’m proud of but definitely presented quite a challenge in the early days. After a couple of years, we outgrew our small space: Classes were sold out, I found myself once again turning away new clients, and I knew we needed to grow again. It just so happened that my co-tenant who occupied the rest of the building I was in was leaving, so I was able to take over an additional 4,000 sq ft. It was more than I thought I needed, but my options were to take it or leave altogether, so I went for it.

The building was in bad shape and needed a *lot* of work, but after several months of renovations, we were able to quadruple our space and today occupy 6,000 sq ft in an updated, fresh, and inspiring space. MNT now offers over 70 classes weekly, has over 30 employees, and was recently named the Best Pilates Studio in the Bay Area by SF Magazine – eep!

Take us through a typical day of eating as Elaine Hayes. How important is nutrition in your life?

I eat pretty much the same thing every morning for breakfast: Three scrambled eggs with half an avocado and himalayan sea salt. Usually by around 11am I need a snack, so I’ll have a handful of almonds, or a Perfect Bar if I’m pretty hungry. For lunch, if I’m home I’ll make a big kale salad with avocado, tomatoes, some veggies (depends on the time of year, but I’m really into artichoke right now), topped with some sort of protein (usually chicken or salmon) and a home-made lemon vinaigrette.

After a workout, I like to replenish immediately, and we luckily carry Après at MNT, so I usually will grab one of those on my way out the door after teaching lots of classes or if I’m just taking class myself. I also keep Après stocked in my fridge at home – as a busy mom of a *very* active toddler, being able to drink a snack with one hand while wrangling him with the other is life-changing.

For dinner, it depends on the night, but I often like to make chicken in our slow cooker so it’s ready by dinner, then pair with some black rice, red cabbage, and roasted vegetables. Current favorites are carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini. Generally, I eat a diet high in healthy fats (Darby taught me the importance of that!), high protein, lots of greens, and low in the simple carb area. I eat until I’m full and don’t worry about calories but rather focus on quality, whole ingredients.

Nutrition to me is of the utmost importance, right up there with exercise and meditation. If I don’t eat well, I notice it not just in how my body feels but primarily in how I feel mentally and emotionally. As more and more research is showing, the gut really is the second brain, so for me to show up and take care of all the things and people I need and want to take care of, I need to be at my best. That means putting nutrition high up on my list of priorities, and eating nutrient-dense, whole foods that help be thrive.

Have you always been focused on eating well and exercise? Or was this something that you started to focus on later in life?

I’ve always had the mindset of wanting to be my best self, but I didn’t always know how to do that or what it looked like. I grew up in a household where the fridge was stocked full of Diet Coke and the freezer full of Lean Cuisines (eeek!). But I think pretty much everyone in the 80s and 90s thought those things were healthy because they were “calorie-free” and “low-fat,” so I definitely don’t blame my parents for that. :) It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started educating myself on food and nutrition, and learning how to eat for optimal wellness as opposed to falling for misleading marketing.

As far as exercise, from a young age I realized how empowering exercise could be and have pretty much stuck with it for most of my life. I never loved the traditional gym experience, which is why I think Pilates resonated so much with me, and why I went on to create an environment where people can get a kick-ass workout in a beautiful space.

We are big podcast fans and love to snuggle up with a good book when we can. Anything you've listened to or read recently that's had a major impact on you? Anything that's a "must read"?

I’m a bookworm and Podcast nerd, so I have lots of recommendations for you! Here are my top three recent reads that I *highly* recommend: 1) Educated by Tara Westover, 2) The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, 3) Becoming by Michelle Obama.

As far as podcasts, here are my current favorites: 1) Goop (great talks on life, business, health and wellness), 2) The Daily (Will keep you in-the-know on what’s going on in the news without overwhelming you with all the nasty stuff out there), 3) The Dropout (Fascinating series on the Theranos fiasco).

You have a beautiful family, an incredible, thriving business, what comes next for Elaine Hayes?!

Thank you so much! I have so many amazing things happening in my life and I am so grateful, but let me tell you, it is a daily struggle. My days are long and exhausting and if I’m being honest I have a moment at least once a month where I want to throw my hands up and go hide under my bed like a big baby – ha! But the truth is that everyone feels that way sometimes, and we keep on going anyway. :)

What’s next for me is I plan on opening more MNT locations throughout the Bay Area over the next two years, am exploring franchising options, and growing our brand in the digital space. Personally, I plan to take more vacations, continue meditating, and maybe grow our family. I’m trying to go with the flow and not hang onto any expectations too tightly while still pursuing all my goals. It’s a tricky balance but I take it one day at a time.