An Interview with Suz and Marco...

Suz and Marco, could you tell me briefly what you offer at the SF Studios?

M: We offer movement: to get people to improve their physicality and to improve their relationship with their body. The quality of service we provide and the attention to every client's need in a small class setting, means that we can achieve good results.

S: People come to us because they want to improve their health. People come to us on every level – some can move and some need treatment to get them moving, that’s why we have two houses, SF Movement and SF Therapy. There is a collaboration between the therapist and the movement specialist so that the patient is helped from either side.

How did you two meet?

S: We were introduced through a friend. Marco started to work part time as a sports therapist – we spent time together and over the years our visions collided. It always felt right between us, from day one. We both wanted to offer something more (than the smaller scale therapeutic studio that already existed) but Marco had to go away to work out his ideas for himself. We stayed in touch – and he came back with his movement conditioning programme. The rest is history. We were always meant to work together.

Could you each tell me a bit of history about yourselves?

S: I was always an athlete, always competitive at school. In South Africa I studied science, then physiotherapy. I originally wanted to work with or in nature –  and on the other hand I’ve always wanted to help people. My dad encouraged me to do the latter as ‘it was no job for a woman travelling the world for a career when she has to have babies and a husband' – little did he know! I knew I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk and knew very well that I always wanted to be in action, on the move.  I trained in Pilates as well and that brought a physical/active element to the hands-on Physio. I was also offered a job before I qualified so I was in the brilliant position of already building up the experience I needed to get into private practice work.  

I’ve always had a personal connection to people and can understand chronic pain and the mental connection there too - and that’s important in my work. I had an amazing teacher who helped me identify incorrect movement patterns and really understanding what the problems are. Never ever be blinded by symptoms – they never tell the whole story.  So my confidence lies in. “if I can identify why the movement is wrong in the first place, I can help correct it”.

M: I studied sports science and did work experience where I saw people coming back from injury, wanting to get back into their sport. It made me want to have control over the process and to try and help understand how to try and prevent the injury in the first place. I moved to London and studied sports therapy and my clinical practice was with a Rugby team. From doing manual therapy, I then shifted back into movement related work and saw that putting both together gave results. When I went away to travel, I came up with a system I trusted more which is the movement conditioning programme.

Where did you get your inspiration from to set up the Studios?

S: Some of it’s from Canyon Ranch in Arizona. The movement, nature, peaceful setting, comfortable atmosphere, yet superb knowledge and quality among all teachers and therapist. I've always envisaged a place that people can feel at home, where they can laugh as well as work. Therapy doesn’t have to be in a sterile environment, what’s important is that it’s a place they feel safe and can trust. I want our studios to be that special place for people – that place where people can have a stable frame of mind and be empowered to make the correct decisions for themselves. One simply has to feel comfortable and have trust to enrol in anything – that is paramount.

How important is your physio background in your work?

S: It’s massively important. And it gives me access to fantastic consultants whom I can approach in any situation. They are my pillars when I need them the most. In South Africa, it’s a full medical training. It taught me to look and see if symptoms are real, to find where the faults in the body are or whether they are psychosomatic, we need to look at all systems in our diagnosis, so we can put things right.  

How do you engage your therapists – what sort of person are you looking for and what is it about them that’s important to you?

S: By having a magical conversation. I’m not interested in CVs – you can train skills but you can’t train a personality. You can tell from the energy they radiate whether they’ll be good for our team. And it’s important to move with them – we all walk the walk, we do things together, we’re interested in the same things.  We all laugh and we all believe in what we do. We have total devotion. This is our life – mostly the money we earn; we save for the next course we want to attend!

What makes you different to the other things that are around - Barre Core/Heart core/APPI/Triyoga?

S: We don’t spend a lot of time looking at the competition – we’d rather spend the time investing in what we’re doing at the studios. But we have long term people here – long term therapists and clients.  We’re like a family. It’s like the restaurant you want to go back to because the owners are actually there and get to know you, the client. There are a lot of good practices around us, the more the better. We need to support one another to deliver high quality work, bad reputations affect us all.

Are you a Boot camp?

S: No, people don’t always have the energy for a bootcamp, they need something tailor made. We treat people who like to work hard ,but bootcamp is not for everyone. Why do you want to do the Bootcamp in the first instance? I am interested in that. Bootcamps for the wrong people are detrimental, we see these guys at SF Therapy….. Saying that, if a Bootcamp is your thing, then by all means, just make sure your body is ready for it too. Gotta be sensible man, even us!

I know there shouldn’t be a difference but I think there still is – do you think you fall into the holistic or medicinal bracket?

S: We fall right in the middle of both. We are medically trained, however our approach is down-to-earth, kind and empathetic. We know that minds impacts bodies and bodies impact minds. At the end of the day we all have hearts and feelings. Energy is fundamental to our work and how we react to clients and they to us.

Who is your typical client?

M: We want people who want to get better. And have the belief that they can get better.  Therapy takes two people – working together, both the therapist and the patient. We want people who are interested enough to immerse themselves, that is where we find ourselves smiling…. It helps a hell of a lot when people want to be informed, understand and when they have self-motivation that counts for a lot too. The great thing is, so many of our clients know that at times they lack motivation, they simply sign-up, turn up and we make sure the job gets done. Always try to remember how great it feels afterwards and that greatness last a long long time

Are you suitable for the not so rich – what about people who feel they can’t afford it?

M: We always say that if you have a problem like chronic pain, you’re going to end up spending a lot of money seeing specialists instead of being able to earn the money. We try to get you moving. If you are just coming for a class, it might look expensive as a one-off but if you look at it as treatment which is what it is, you are actually paying £20 instead of £120 so it’s a no-brainer. Because we give you that individual attention in the classes….

It’s also worth thinking that productivity can pay bills – maybe you can help us out with a skill to pay towards some classes – we never turn people away. A true therapist can never say ‘no’ when someone is genuinely in need.

If a client comes to you with, say, a bad shoulder or knee, what are you likely to suggest to them as a form of treatment/commitment?  

S: Our osteopath, Seb, or a physiotherapist will see them and make an assessment – they will make a call on active therapy or a combination of work. We like to move towards active therapy as quickly as possible but they have to feel safe to do it. It’s not black and white. People might be less fragile than they feel and we have to work out where a person lies in terms of comfort. We need to look at what you want and where you want to be. The same problem, same injury can be different according to the person and that’s important – that we see the individual needs according to the person, not the therapist. As a therapist, I’ve learnt to go with the client’s needs, not mine! That is not always easy, trust me.

Your classes – what do you try to offer across the week?  

M: We offer a huge range of what people feel they need – articulation/mobility/strength/ fitness/restorative/ challenges/ deep tissue work/in-depth conversations/friendships/understanding……we really try our best to look after the whole person.

Can anyone try anything? How do you sort your levels?

S: Yes, apart from starting at level three, here we need to take a bit more care. As long as people can take responsibility for themselves, understand that they enter a ‘group’ setting, which means that they will get attention but cannot ‘own all the attention’ there is no problem. We respond tremendously well in specific settings, one should just be open-minded, pace yourself and let go a bit. And no egos please!

You don’t use things like reformers do you?

M: We will bring the reformer back later in the year, it is a great machine for rehab especially for people who struggle to move their knees under load - for example, after an operation. It also helps us when a client interprets movements difficulty, the machine takes many of the options away and you are confined to one plane of movement….

We do feel that the body responds especially well in ‘free environments’, you just need to learn how to control weight, your own or free weight in different positions against gravity. At Movement, we like using external weights to stretch and we use our own body weight to strengthen.

People often complain of getting bored by an exercise regime, how do you keep things fresh?

M: We integrate what we do – there needs to be a mixture of things you have to do and things you want to do. Motivation to face the challenges and joy has to be part of any practice – otherwise it all becomes “yet another task, a must do”. No-one wants that.

S: Anyone that is bored, please come. I devote my life to movement, I have been in it for 22 years and I have not even scratched the surface….! Your body is the best designed toy in the whole world, no toy would ever have more potential to do stuff than your own body. It is insane! The day I’m bored is the day I die!

If you could get to three things in a week, what would you suggest?

S: One strength-based class; one mobility-based class (my body needs tons of mobility); cardio-vascular class or a restorative class…depending on how hectic your week is.

I am in a phase for my mobility and strength are nearly aligned so the mix is good, however I build strength much faster than mobility so I would say I have to work three times as hard to create mobility. I did Clive’s Restorative Yoga on Friday – mid day, best thing I could have done all week as I was super stressed and it really helped to ground me. To go and pump weighs or challenge myself with stretches on an already heavily laden mind/body would have been stupid.

Is there a masculine/feminine element with your instructors?  Do certain of your classes appeal to a particular gender?

M: No – absolutely not. We really do not distinguish between sexes at all. It is just another body needing various elements of the same things…mobility, strength, a calm mind etc. Our classes are completely mixed but people tend to find a teacher they like – the teaching element is personal and you will make that connection and exercise where you need.

What’s your dream?

S: Oh wow, right now, to get SF Studios successfully off the ground, to get our classes full and for people to choose SF Therapy as their first choice for treatment as they trust and believe in us. It would be wonderful to be known as an exceptional place where a community is being built by word-of-mouth, trust. Then we can get on with the things that we were meant to do in the first place, truly inspiring individual health by helping people to move and think better. To be happy. If I never have to advertise in my life, I will be one extremely happy person.

And one day I want to be in a position where I get regular rays of sunshine on my cheeks….☺


SF Studios