Difficult recovery inspires Pilates ProWorks
It’s not every day a plane crash is the start of a happy story, but surviving a horrible accident in Colombia years ago began Oscar Sanin’s quest to build a better Pilates machine and, years later, the Pilates ProWorks franchise system.
Founded by Sanin and his wife, Taylor Carter, Pilates ProWorks is a direct result of Sanin’s serious injuries and long, expensive recovery from the disaster that opened his eyes to the potential of Pilates, but also to the outdated machines and expensive classes that characterized the category at the time.
“In 1994 I took a plane ride with family friends near the capital, Bogota, and the engine went off and we crashed. Nobody can believe we survived, but we all survived,” he said of the experience now 25 years in the past. “The thing is, we all got a lot of injuries from the crash and, mainly for me, my back suffered the most. I was the only one who didn’t have any burns or cuts.”
Sanin was in the hospital for months, and immediately started physical therapy his doctors said would be key to having a happy, healthy future. Feeling somewhat better, but not back to normal, he stopped treatment and his progress immediately went into a downward spiral.
“Stupid me,” he added. “I kind of stopped doing everything after about a year. I felt like everything was fine, this is it, this is as good as I’m going to get, and I continued with my life.”
Moving on included moving to California in 1999, but soon Sanin’s pain grew increasingly unbearable and he struggled to even walk without crushing pain. Thus began his quest to find effective treatment without major surgery.
Oscar Sanin went through grueling rehabilitation after a plane crash, which inspired him to co-found Pilates ProWorks.
He found his answer at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills, where a doctor suggested trying Pilates before investigating more serious options. He gave strict orders to do Pilates every single day for a month to judge its efficacy. Sanin saw dramatic improvements right away.
“It took about eight days for me to start tying my own shoes and other things I wasn’t able to do before,” he said. “I was already improving at this really fast pace. It was unbelievable, so it became kind of like an addiction.”
He felt drastically better at the end of that month, but each visit was $125, which wasn’t sustainable over the long term. Soon he got his own Pilates certification and bought a machine for at-home treatment. Based on a decades-old design, the machine was disappointing and he decided to design his own.
“I always had an interest in design and, in general, I thought this machine is cool, but it could be cooler, it could be a lot better,” he added. Seeking feedback after their first prototype, Sanin asked a friend with a Pilates studio if he’d put his machine on the floor. A week later the friend called saying his clients loved it.
“I was like, all right, I think I have a business right in front of me, so at that moment I hired a fitness consultant to help me document a workout based on this machine,” he said, recounting the start of the franchise.
His first locations in San Francisco’s Marina and Financial Districts focused on a slower pace and more rehab work than traditional studios, and the enthusiasm in the city’s fitness circles was immediate. By 2015 Sanin had six locations, and he decided it was time to franchise. Entering 2019, Pilates ProWorks has 27 open units, including two in Shanghai and a location down in Bogota, where his life changing moment began. Average costs range from $187,000 to half a million, depending on the size and cost of real estate.
“Starting the whole franchising program wasn’t easy,” he said. “But we’ve learned a lot and we have a fantastic team that can now support a lot more units and open more units at a faster pace.”