Owner & founder of SOHO \\ Inspired Body, Denise Mellas is your go-to girl when it comes to anything health and fitness related. Not only is she a pilates guru but she's also a registered nurse, making her the ultimate boss babe. We caught up with Denise on the ins and outs of what it takes to own your own business & stay motivated.
Denise is wearing the Abs Bodysuit in Black
Soho Inspired Body... how did it come about?
The idea of opening my own boutique studio came to me in busy SOHO Manhattan. It wasn’t until I returned back home from a trip to NYC where my mother picked me up and gave me the encouragement I needed. With her support and positivity it all just fell into place. Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, things do get in the way but you just have to pick yourself up, fill every room you enter with your presence and just believe more than ever in that what you’re doing and your ability.
Your goal is to help people learn more about their body & its capabilities and to strive for holistic wellbeing. Outside of your sessions what do you recommend your clients do?
Pilates as your soul means of exercise can AND will transform your body, but it isn’t everyone's be all and end all. I encourage my clients to go for long walks in a nice scenic area to clear the mind of all the rubbish that life sometimes throws at you. It a great way to recover. Recovery in the summer time is swimming in the ocean. There is something about the ocean that has the ability to wash away built up inner tension and bring consistent positive motion to the body and mind.
What is your educational background?
I was a client at a small studio in Sydney’s South. I’d been to countless classes and asked the director of the studio to sign me off on work experience as a Pilates Instructor. I shadowed her and soaked in as much as I possibly could. I received my qualification with STOTT Pilates originally and since then have done multiple short courses. At age 21 I decided I wanted to delve deeper into the human body’s anatomy and physiology and proceeded to study to become a registered nurse. I have been a registered nurse in the operating rooms now for 5 years working along side elite sports orthopaedic surgeons at a prestigious hospital in Sydney’s Centre.
Your greatest reward/greatest challenge as a pilates instructor.
The greatest reward as a pilates instructor is having clients feel empowered about the knowledge they’ve gained in the studio, so much so that they adopt it into their day to day life. The greatest challenge as a Pilates instructor for me, is accepting that not everyone will understand in full, the benefits of Pilates which leaves me a little sad but not hopeless. Even though I believe (along with many others) that Pilates is a MUST in everyone’s life, some people just don’t get it and are blatantly not interested and never will be. Along with that I have to say the long hours can get pretty challenging. Waking up at 5am and finishing in the studio after 8pm can be very taxing. I’m lucky I love what I do and always feel there aren’t many places I’d rather be than with my clients having a laugh and getting s^*t done in the studio.
How does Soho Inspired Body Studio differentiate itself in the market?
SIB isn’t your typical Pilates studio. It is a boutique style outlet whereby Pilates meets group exercise. Pilates High Intensity Circuit classes are offered to those clients who love to get their heart rate going and their lactic acid pumping. The focus is still very much on technique and alignment during every motion whether it be on the reformer, stairs, skipping or at a mat work station. SIB seems to attract the most incredible people. The girls and guys that come through the studio doors are nothing short of phenomenal. The determination, hard work and persistence is what keeps me going and is truly what I believe sets me apart from the rest. So many of the girls throughout past and the current challenge have created life long friendships. The camaraderie and banter in the studio is incredible. The girls have so much fun with their workouts and one another. SIB is a place where the process of getting to know the family makes you feel comfortable and at home, and most importantly happy within your own skin. Here is where the process of self love blooms. I feel so lucky to bear witness to these girls loving the skin they’re in.
Aside from Pilates, how do you stay fit?
I’ve recently started walking a lot in place of running due to an inflammatory condition. It sucks sometimes because running for me is an outlet where I can let off steam, gather my thoughts and clear my mind.
The Famous Joseph Pilates Quote, Fitness is the first Prerequisite of Happiness” this is one of your favourite lines. How do you think fitness leads to happiness?
There are research articles which say exercise can help the symptoms of depression. Exercise releases endorphins which most people are well aware of. Endorphins are peptides which bind to opiate receptors reducing pain by increasing a persons pain threshold, much like the effect of morphine. Exercise and be happy! Whether its the process or journey or whether its actually reaching your health and fitness goals, after every workout you should always feel a sense of achievement. Be proud to be working towards something. Your body gets excited over the fact you’re moving it. Posture also has an incredible affect on our mood and our presence. Pilates works such intricate muscles (definitely global muscles too) that relocate out skeletal system back into its natural and rightful alignment. Modern day society works against this when we are over exhausted fighting to find the energy to sit upright. Long hours at a desk, we slowly take on the physical form that of a turtle. A forward reaching cervical spine, rolled forward shoulders and an over flexed thoracic spine is the reason we’re ending up with so much back and neck pain. Come join a pilates class, learn from us how to sit aligned and open up your chest and consequently your hearts, we’re on the right road to a happier being.
What are some of your favourite Pilates Exercises?
There are way to many favourites, but if I had to chose it’d have to be scooter and lunges. I like a strong and tight butt. I also love jumping with a blue spring and a pilates ball at my thoracic, WOAH what an abdominal burn!
Favourite Pre or Post Workout Fuel?
I generally have a coffee before I teach my morning class and then immediately workout. I LOVE the Salted Carmel Breakfast Smoothie featured in SOHO’s 8 Week Holistic Meal Plan. My mouth waters every time I think about it.
Denise is wearing the Cut Out Leotard in Pink
What does Free mean to you?
‘Free’ to me means utter happiness. That overwhelming elatedness which conjures up the feeling you’re capable of growing wings to soar through the sky and to look down and think, I GOT THIS! That flying high feeling you get when you blubber happy tears. I got this feeling a LOT when I lived in SOHO Manhattan. Every day I had that convictional stride, I could go anywhere and do anything and own every single moment. Thats actually where my business idea was born. Sitting in Equinox on Prince Street in SOHO Manhattan, on my laptop thinking ‘I’m going to turn my passion about movement and knowledge of the human body into a sanctuary for those craving education and motivation on creating happier versions of themselves through movement.’ My one and only tattoo I received in the LES of Manhattan is of a bird, representing exactly this.
Denise is wearing the One Sleeve Bodysuit in Black
What is your morning routine?
5am wakeup, shower, green tea/Nespresso coffee (or both), get to the studio and ensure the 6am class is organised. I then put my SIB family through a rigorous workout and then proceed to put myself through a rigorous workout similar, if not the same my clients endured. I then eat breakfast and do some admin work followed by a 45 minute Infrared Sauna. This brings me to my 10:30am session with another group of gorgeous girls.
What is a regular breakfast for you?
At the moment I’m obsessed with Greek Yoghurt, fresh berries (I love sour blueberries and raspberries) mixed with a whole heap of nuts and seeds.
What or who inspires you in your fitness life?
My clients. They push themselves to their limits and explore their individual capabilities on a regular basis. They inspire me on a daily basis.
What and who inspired you in your business life?
Starting something from scratch which I believe so much in and wanting to join the health movement to change people’s lives for the better is what inspired me to start my business and still is a huge motivating factor to continue. I am here for my people, always. Who inspired me? Definitely my parents. I’ve watched them both work tirelessly throughout their life to give my brothers and I the head start they weren’t so lucky to have growing up. For a leadership unit at university I was asked to pick one person who I felt was a great leader and I opted to write 1000 words about why my dad is so great. He’s an absolute legend. Behind a successful man is a very smart woman, and that is my mum. The hardest worker I know. I thank both my parents, for instilling in me persistent drive, motivation, self belief, a never-give-up attitude and an incredible hunger for success.
What is your go to outfit when you’re not teaching classes?
I am all about comfort! Outside my active wear (what I wear 95% of the time), i’ll pop on some linen shorts, a baggy ’T’ with my stone Commons.
What do you look for in your perfect activewear?
Functional, uniquely fashionable and durable. Basically CONTROLOGY gear. Pilates means making shapes, elongating limbs, delicate stretchy movements, so I want what I wear to move with me, not against me.