From the Core Pilates

Photos by Luke George Photography

Did you know Benicia has a Pilates studio? Did you know it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this month? From the Core was opened by Nancy Camilli in 2003 at its original location across from Big O Tires on Military East. In 2010, it moved to its present location on First Street, located across the fountained courtyard behind the Double Rainbow Cafe.

Nancy was always an active person.

Even now, she admits she has trouble sitting still, and jokes that she’ll probably “die standing up.” Early in her adult life, she worked manufacturing contact lenses. On her breaks she would go for a run, and after work she’d go to the gym and do aerobics, every day. Her instructor at the gym finally convinced her to become an instructor herself, turning her happy place into her place of business.

In 1991, while Nancy was working as Fitness Director at a gym in El Sobrante, the owners purchased another gym in Vallejo, and Nancy moved as part of the package. Eventually, she was drawn to Benicia, and began only working with clients and gyms here. She has taught many forms of fitness and personal training styles, including Total Sculpt and Kickboxing, but ultimately found Pilates to be her calling. She began training in Pilates to rehab her body from the daily wear and tear it was undergoing, and found it to be transformative. “In the late ‘90s I realized getting older really takes a toll on your body,” she recalls, “I was teaching anywhere from 12-15 classes a week, so my body was starting to get little injuries here and there. As I started training in Pilates, I realized this was the way I was going to need to train in order to keep doing what I was doing.”

So, Nancy began racking up certifications, picking and choosing which Pilates methods she liked best to create her own unique blend. “First it was a fitness approach to Pilates, and then it became a therapeutic approach to Pilates, and post-rehabilitation is kind of where I landed.” For those who don’t know, Pilates is an exercise method often prescribed by physical therapists and other health professionals for injury rehabilitation. Its focus is on developing a mind-body connection and awareness while training deep stabilizing muscles within the body. 

Nancy Camilli at From the Core

Nancy began teaching Pilates classes at a local gym in 1999, and opened her own Pilates studio in 2003.

The move to the First Street location helped her business, which mainly thrived by word-of-mouth. The studio has a range of equipment for clients to work with, from Reformers to Pilates Chairs, to Springboards, to TRX; there is plenty to work with. She offers group classes, private classes, and duet classes. At least one private class is required for newcomers to Pilates before receiving the “okay” to jump into group classes. This ensures the client is up to speed on the Pilates technique.

“I’m here to train all age groups, all genders, and all abilities,” says Nancy, nodding to the common misconception that Pilates is for “fit” women only. “I encourage anyone who is remotely interested – big or small, old or young, able or disabled – to try it.” At one time, she taught a free Pilates class for a disabled group from the PACE program (the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly), which she enjoyed teaching until the studio became too demanding to continue the off-site class.

Still, Nancy refers to the business as her “hobby job.”

Her true full-time job is taking care of her two disabled sons. “This is my escape,” she says, “It’s my time to go from being a constant mom to two disabled men, to what I like to call the ‘fitness grandma.’ I’m one of the oldest trainers in the area – training for almost 40 years.” Nancy formally retired in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. This allowed her to keep the studio open virtually so that her instructors could continue earning through the lockdown. While the pandemic slashed her clientele, business is showing signs of recovery, and she is actively looking for more instructors to help take some of the client load. She plans to continue teaching and running the business, admitting that when she turns 70 in a couple years, she will probably re-evaluate and see if she wants to double-down or sell, fully expecting to continue teaching even if the latter comes to pass.

Disclaimer: The author of this article is an instructor at From the Core.