Lara Hudson Building a Pilates brand

Lara Hudson’s Pilates studio near Cow Hollow’s trendy Union Street looks like a nightclub. That’s intentional. She wants you to work it.

She and her husband Darren Press are trying to make Hudson into a brand name for a type of Pilates that appeals as much to young people looking for hard bodies as the infirm looking to strengthen core muscles while recovering from injuries.

“I came because of the atmosphere and stayed because of the teaching,” said student Ariane Flieger, 45, after a Wednesday morning class. “This is the one [workout] that has … every muscle in your arm and every muscle in your abs, you really feel it.”

Hudson and Press opened their new studio, Mercury Fitness, in May after building a San Francisco client base for around five years. Hudson has also starred in four 50-minute workout videos. The most recent, “The 10 Minute Solution: Rapid Results Pilates,” was released Sept. 6. An earlier video has sold more than 500,000 copies to date.

Hudson was paid a flat fee for those videos, rather than a cut of sales, so the business is still working to get into the black, and she has plans to create her own videos. Potentially directed by a music video director to give it an unusual feel, it would allow her to see greater shares of the profits, Hudson said.

Pilates is a form of fitness developed by former boxer and gymnast Joseph Pilates while he was in a forced internment camp for Germans in Great Britain during World War I. First adopted by dancers, his exercises on a mat and with machines are gaining greater popularity in the United States today.

Hudson’s own fitness career began as a child gymnast in Denver between the ages of 6 and 13, when she grew too tall for the sport. Later, while studying theater at UCLA, she fell in with theatrical movement teacher Jacques Heim and joined his dance troupe Diavolo. But she still felt she was lagging behind.

“I couldn’t get any power from my body,” Hudson said. “I couldn’t run fast. I couldn’t jump high … Pilates helped me discover how my body moved and changed it.”

She picked up the practice after Press, another member of the troupe, herniated his lower back discs, Hudson said. He adopted Pilates to help him recover, and she watched as his body transformed into something more toned and muscular. She wanted that for herself.

They later moved to the Bay Area, where Press worked as a pastry chef while Hudson built her client base.

Pilates exercises deep muscles around the joints and hips, which is why it helps people with injuries. But it also changes a person’s form — a point touted on the Mercury Fitness Web site, which frankly appeals to customers’ vanity. Hudson said that many of her customers are healthy people between 30 and 50 years old who appreciate the “sweat and shake” workout she offers. The studio’s bread and butter consists of private clients, although many people take the size-limited mat and machine classes, she said.

lara hudson


New project: Prevention Fitness System’s “Slim, Strong & Firm” DVD, due for release March 2007

Last project: “10-Minute Solution: Rapid Results Pilates” DVD

Number of e-mails a day: 50

Number of voice mails a day: 5

Essential Web site:, online radio station

Best perk: My husband, Darren, cooking for me every day

Gadgets: Nespresso Essenza C100 espresso maker

Education: B.A. in theater, film

& television, UCLA, 1996

Last conference: Pilates Method Alliance International Conference, November 2005

First job: Usher at StageWest Dinner Theater in Denver

Original aspiration: Olympic gymnast

Career objective: Open more Mercury Fitness Pilates Centers; producing own line of fitness videos, apparel and High Performance Lifestyle guides; bringing signature workout style to the mass market; creating most ubiquitous, cutting edge mind-body lifestyle brand in the world.


Details: 35 years old, 5’9,” wakes at 5 a.m.and eats a “pure fuel” concoction of meat and veggies in hot broth, loves BeneFit’s Gorgeous Georgia face powder and BeneTint, watches reality TV

Hometown: Denver

Sports/Hobbies: Reading InStyle magazine, yoga, listening to ‘80s New Wave music while running

Favorite restaurant: A16, Cordon Bleu

Role model: Sean “Puffy” Combs

Worst fear: Complacency, self-entitlement and victimization

Motivation: A full-length mirror!

Reading: “The Last Playboy: the High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa,” by Shawn Levy

Motivation: A full-length mirror!