McCall and its surrounding mountains, lakes and rivers have an almost magnetic pull for many. Ask a relative newcomer why they moved here, and often the answer includes a long-ago visit to the area that left indelible impressions of a place that kept calling to them until finally, they answered.
That’s the case for Lisa Marie, age 38 and owner of McCall Pilates Studio. One hot August some fifteen years ago she visited this area during a whitewater kayaking trip. With friends she drove from Colorado through Utah to Boise and paddled the South and North Forks of the Payette River. Passing through McCall, Lisa stopped at the Huckleberry Garden Health Food Store, impressed that such a beautiful small town had a health food store. After visiting Sandpoint, the group returned to Colorado, but the trip reminded Lisa that she had always wanted to live in Idaho.
Background in Recreation
Originally from Wisconsin, Lisa enrolled in college at Oregon State. The start of her college career was sidetracked, however, by a terrible accident. “I was excited to ski on a real mountain,” she remembers. “I was on Mt. Hood all day, and toward the end of the day, I heard a pop in my knee – I tore my ACL – and fell on my arm, breaking it. It was a bad injury, at age 18, my first year of college. I was a mess. I didn’t do enough physical therapy during recovery, and over the years developed chronic back pain.”
Eventually Lisa got her college education back on track by attending Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, studying recreation. Despite her ski injuries, she participated in competitive sports, running cross country and track from 2000-2002. Part of her studies were focused on water-based sports, including whitewater and flatwater kayaking and swift water rescue. This is where Lisa first learned to whitewater kayak and developed a love of being on rivers. She also took the land-based classes including mountaineering, learning the principles of Leave No Trace when recreating on public lands. Lisa graduated in 2002 with degrees in Recreation and Kinesiology, and by 2004 was a Certified Personal Trainer.
While living in Gunnison, Lisa entered a local 10K race. She won a gift certificate for a private Pilates lesson at a studio in Salida, Colorado. Initially skeptical, thinking Pilates isn’t exercise, Lisa almost didn’t go but then decided to check it out. “That first session, the focus was on my breathing and balancing my muscles. I thought, ‘This is it!’ I had tried fitness classes and always felt worse afterward. The dynamic stretching of Pilates versus holding poses in seems to be what works.” Because of her earlier ski accident and injuries, it made sense to Lisa to be stable in her spine and stretch in a more controlled way. She enrolled in some one-on-one instruction that helped her understand the fundamentals of Pilates before ultimately joining in classes with others. She was hooked, and her life would soon take a new trajectory.
The Winding Road Leads Back to McCall
Lisa met her husband Justin in 2010, at a climbing gym. They moved around a bit, and in 2014 were living in West Virginia yet they both wanted to return to the West. Justin’s from Colorado, but they realized the cost of living there was too high. “We wanted a new place,” says Lisa. “One night I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, McCall! If Idaho is the whitewater capital, McCall is its center. Researching online, we also saw that there’s good fly fishing here, something Justin enjoys.” They were lucky in finding an affordable house to rent on Craigslist and moved here December 2014. They now have their own home in Donnelly.
Bringing Pilates to McCall
Lisa realized that except for some mat classes at gyms and yoga studios, there wasn’t any Pilates offered in McCall, certainly no Pilates studio with proper equipment. After some research to determine whether a town the size of McCall could support a Pilates business in addition to the three existing yoga studios and a few gyms, Lisa decided to open McCall Pilates Studio, initially with one Pilates chair and some small apparatus. Feedback was positive and encouraging. Moving to her current location near McCall Airport (335 Deinhard Lane, #3) in March, 2017, Lisa has purchased more chairs and equipment. “We’re bursting at the seams,” she says with well-earned pride.
Lisa became a certified Pilates teacher in 2004. She trained at Balanced Body in Sacramento, California, and is qualified to certify others as teachers using a curriculum developed at Balanced Body. To become certified, a teacher must have 488 hours of hands-on work and pass a written and practical exam. “It’s similar to becoming a massage therapist,” says Lisa.
Lisa’s philosophy toward Pilates and for her studio is to keep classes small – no more than six people – so that everyone gets individual attention from the teacher. New clients start with one-on-one instruction, just as Lisa did when she cashed in that gift certificate. “Some people aren’t very patient going through the one-on-one introduction, but everyone moves differently, so I need to learn how each person balances, where their imbalances are. I recommend three one-on-one sessions to new clients. If they have chronic pain, I might recommend ten to twenty one-on-one sessions before they join a class. It depends on the individual client.” The Pilates principles are Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow. These take time for the teacher to assess and the client to learn.
One of teachers at McCall Pilates Studio is Deb Fereday, who taught Jazzercise in McCall in the ‘80s when she was in her thirties. “When I look at what Jazzercise was, I see some Pilates there,” says Lisa, smiling.
Taking it to the River
One of Lisa’s regular kayaking friends is Devon Barker-Hicks, a world-class whitewater kayaker who teaches middle school at Meadows Valley School District. (Read more about Devon here.)
Devon and her husband own Barker River Trips, a river guiding company that offers rafting trips and kayaking instruction. As part of Barker River Trips, Lisa and Devon created Wellness Retreats, combining kayaking and Pilates on guided trips on the Salmon and Lochsa rivers. Devon handles the water training, Lisa the land training. “We do stretches before and after paddling,” says Lisa of the Pilates component. “We use sleeping pads on the beaches of the lower Salmon while the guide is making breakfast. Or we’ll use our paddles for side and hip flexor stretches while standing. During the day while on the river we use pool noodles to stretch in the water, keeping cool. We get creative.”
It’s the perfect synergy for Lisa and her students: the natural flow of the river mirrored in teaching them how to move their bodies in a flowing manner, emphasizing fluidity, grace, and ease.
Lisa sees how much happier clients are on these Wellness Retreats, despite sleeping on the beach and lifting a lot of heavy equipment. This is the third year they’ve offered the retreats. Two trips are on the lower Salmon where participants can raft, paddle an inflatable kayak or a hard shell; they’re open to all levels of paddlers and one is for women while the other is co-ed. There’s also a Ladies on the Lochsa retreat each year. Expanding their program to include international travel, last year Devon and Lisa took a group of kayakers to Ecuador for a Wellness Retreat and hope to do that every other year.
Goals for the Future
When asked what her primary goal is, what she sees for herself in five years, Lisa responds, “My reason for moving here, for living here now, is to provide a way to help people in pain, to help them with balance, to be able to pick up a grandchild. Anybody can do Pilates. I want to help everyone, so my goal is to grow my studio to a point where I can do that.” Other goals also involve finding creative way to help people move and exercise more, like the Wellness Retreats. One of Lisa’s hopes is to see the Donnelly and McCall communities connected via bike and foot trails. Another goal is to introduce the Pilates Method and movement into the school system as an alternative to the standard organized sports.
In the meantime, Lisa is happiest helping people develop balance, breathing and flow, in her studio and on the river. Outside of work, she’s enjoying the mountains and rivers that first called her here, running trails, whitewater kayaking with friends, hiking to high-elevation lakes, even climbing a little, the chronic pain of that long-ago ski accident gone because she took a chance on a gift-certificate Pilates lesson and discovered a better way to live in her body.
Visit McCall Pilates Studio to learn more about Lisa’s background, who else teaches there, and the different types of classes offered.