Adventure: Madison, WI

Kari discovers some amazing studios, new exercises and some stunning scenery.

By Kari Gregg

I started my journey out West to take a break from the Big Apple, where I’m currently based, and take a less conventional approach. Wide open spaces, fresh air and new Pilates experiences was what I was craving after years of living in big cities. I was curious to learn more about the Pilates fundamentals I was taught and have been teaching in NYC. My plan was to forgo signing my apartment lease in Harlem, sell as much furniture as possible, buy a travel trailer and set off for a road trip of a lifetime. Thus, began my Pilates pilgrimage.

Stop 1

Armed with my six Pilates principles and an adventurous spirit, my first studio stop was to Madison, WI, at Pilates on Harrison.

The super-cute, sunny boutique studio is filled with brand-new Peak equipment. I was welcomed with the muted palette of soft yellow, salmon and sky-blue walls, along with a smile from Julia at the front desk. Although I had hoped to take a mixed-equipment class from Susan, I had signed up too late and it was full, but was invited to observe. I could tell right away that Susan’s easy tempo and pace would be the antidote my muscles needed after my long drive. Next time, I’ll be sure to reserve a spot online ahead of time!

One of the things I took away from her class was the use of the Small Barrel. She had the students put their feet against the poles of the Cadillac and cup their hands at the base of their skulls; they eased onto their backs in a Half Roll-Up and back up. Absolutely delicious!

Stop 2

After class, and stepping out into the fresh sunshine day, I strolled along the streets and found myself browsing the clothing from Hive of Madison. I wanted to completely change my wardrobe with all of their clothing and accessories!

Lake Monona.

Stop 3

There’s a Trader Joe’s across the street. If you’re a New Yorker, you know how precious this find was! I suggest picking up some cheese, crackers and of course a bottle of wine to venture off to one of the nearby parks overlooking Lake Wingra, Lake Mendota or Lake Monona. There’s also Lake Waubessa a little farther from the studio. So many lakes!

Stop 4

The Henry Villas Zoo is also five minutes away and is one of only a handful of admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country!

After my visit to Pilates on Harrison, I made my way over to the Capitol Square and joined Vanessa for an outdoor mat class at Pilates Central. For this class, I made sure to sign up ahead of time online and was excited as Vanessa handed us our Magic Circles! #myfavoriteprop

It was wonderful. Her background and teaching style was familiar to what I had been taught in NYC, and my body openly welcomed the movement. Some exercises I took away from her class: having the MC in between my ankles and my hands on the outside of my ankles for Rolling Like a Ball, and Tree with the MC. I highly recommend taking a class with Vanessa if you are in the Madison area; she also has a private studio with Peak apparatus.

Stop 5

The food trucks right outside the door serve local, fresh food that is sure to continue the good-feeling vibes your body is already enjoying. If you’re a fan of local cheese and beer, check out Fromagination, which celebrates the Badger State’s cheese-making heritage and allows customers to see, smell and taste delicious local foods.

Students at the University of Madison-Wisconsin.

Stop 6

My next venture was how my Pilates Pilgrimage came to fruition: The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Collette Stewart has been a Madison resident for many years now, and has contributed immensely to the growing Pilates scene. She owns three studios with her husband (one of which is Pilates on Harrison) and is also on faculty at the University teaching dance and…Pilates! Not only are undergrads given the tools to help their own bodies stay in tip-top shape, they also receive a Pilates Certificate from the University to become a teacher when they graduate. The program takes about two and a half years. Not only did I observe Collette’s calm, cool and yet disciplined disposition, she also let me teach the students! I wanted to remind these students that they are receiving a true gift at such a young age, but I quickly learned that I didn’t need to remind them of anything. The respect was there.

If you are planning on visiting the campus, I suggest heading out to the Union for a brat, corn on the cob and local ice cream! Sit out on the docks with your feet dangling over the side while enjoying the sweeping views of Lake Mendota.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Stop 7

The next day, I visited Olbrich Park Botanical Gardens. What a beautiful spot to wander around! The 16 acres of twists and turns hold no shortage of quiet and unexpected spots to sit and enjoy stunning landscapes and Midwest plants. It’s free to walk the paths and $2 to go into the Bolz Conservatory. I couldn’t help taking many photos as well as me doing my Elephant walks near the stone elephants along the trail to the beautiful golden Thai Pavilion.

Stop 8

I was then off to take one of Collette’s mat classes at one of her other studios, Mound Street, located on the corner of Mound Street and Randall Avenue inside a charming, green two-story home. Everyone in class knew each other, and I was welcomed to warm greetings. Collette’s cueing and eye for detail was refreshing.

If you ever have the chance to visit the town of Madison, WI, you have absolutely no excuse to not “get your Joe on!”

Kari Gregg was first introduced to Pilates in college, and was impressed by the exacting and intuitive approach it had on maintaining and healing her body throughout a rigorous dance program. After receiving a bachelor’s of dance from Butler University, Kari launched her professional dance career, both domestically and abroad. For the past 15 years, she has performed in cities all across the United States, and continues to dance professionally with The Radio City Rockettes. Kari loves practicing all disciplines of Pilates, but was immediately drawn to the traditional method and was certified by the New York Pilates Studio Teacher Certification Program under Brett Howard. A believer that a true teacher is a constant student, Kari continues her education in all styles of Pilates with instructors all across the country. Kari is now excited to combine her dedication to Pilates and insatiable wanderlust to embark on a new adventure. This summer she will travel across the country and delve even deeper into the Pilates practice through the lens of Pilates folks and traditions nationwide. Follow the journey from her hometown of Greenwood, Indiana to the wide open road of this beautiful country on Instagram (@karilates). For more information, contact Kari at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 comment

  1. My Pilates Pilgrimage – Pilates Style – Live Life to the Core Reply

    […] Adventure: Madison, WI […]