7-Minute Wake Up Pilates With Mint Studios, San Francisco

Mornings can be so rough, especially in the winter months. It’s still dark outside when we hit the snooze button for 5 more minutes. And cold shower doesn’t always do the trick to wake us up. So we turned to Elaine Hayes, the founder and owner of Mint Studios in San Francisco’s cool neighborhood of SoMa, to help us kickstart our day with a 7 minutes wake up pilates routine.


f you are in the Bay Area, you must check out Mint Studios. The bright and airy space is already a motivation on its own to put that yoga pants on and head to one of their pilates, yoga or barre classes. Yes, you read that right. Mint Studios offers all three workouts, making it a one-stop-studio for all your bend-stretch-hold (hold a little bit longer) needs. Elaine’s “athletic approach” to her workouts, where she incorporates athletic elements, flowing movements and a strong focus on proper form, has gained already a huge following and created a community of health-conscious folks who love a good workout. We met with Elaine and Carlie, Mint Studios’ Director of Operations, to talk all things fitness, healthy midnight snacks, what it means to run a business and much more. Read on, get to know these two energetic ladies and bookmark Elaine’s workout she created just for us.


*Image courtesy of Mint Studio. 

You both are California girls. How did you get where you are now in your life?

mint-studios-san-francisco-7Elaine: Although I was born in California just south of San Francisco in Los Gatos, I had a pretty international upbringing having been raised in Brazil, England, and finally back in California again. I went to UC Berkeley for undergrad (Go Bears!), worked in finance for a short while, then went to law school. After my first year, I did some soul searching and discovered that becoming a lawyer was not my calling. It was then that I decided to pursue a hobby and passion of mine and became certified to teach Pilates. After a few months of teaching in San Francisco, I began developing my own style of Pilates which I call an “athletic approach.” I became known for delivering classes that were fun, challenging, yet accessible. It was then that I decided to strike out on my own and started my studio in my (and my then-boyfriend, now husband’s) apartment. Within a year, my schedule was so full that I had to turn away new clients. It was then that I knew it was time to expand and open a bigger studio where I could train other instructor to teach in this style, and impact more people.

*Image courtesy of Mint Studio. 




Carlie: I was born in Napa and had your typical small town family childhood – I grew up a block away from my grandparents! I danced all through school and also won a few national titles during high school. During my senior year of high school, I started experiencing intense pain in my back and legs. Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Spondylolisthesis, where my spine separates from itself. I had to undergo surgery to fuse several of my vertebrae to prevent further spinal damage, and it was during my rehab that I discovered the benefits of Pilates. I fell in love with the incredible method that allowed for healing and strengthening and knew I wanted to be an instructor and share my passion with others. Once I moved to San Francisco and discovered MINT, I fell in love all over again. I was able to combine the benefits of Pilates with modern fitness techniques to give clients a great workout and help them live healthier, and happier lives.

*Image courtesy of Mint Studio. 



How did the idea about Mint Studios come about?

Elaine: Once my home studio was at maximum capacity; I knew it was time to open a bigger studio where I could impact more people. I wanted to offer all my favorite workouts that I knew worked and complimented each other, so Pilates, Barre, and Yoga were essential to the formula. Beyond offering a good workout, I wanted to create a space that was beautiful and most importantly warm and welcoming. Exercise classes can be intimidating, so it was my goal to offer an environment that felt very comfortable and non-intimidating. I love it when I hear from clients that Mint feels like more than just a studio; it’s a community. That’s exactly what I set out to do, and I absolutely love what my team and I have built.

So how does a typical fitness instructor day look like, from am to pm?

Carlie: I’m the Director of Operations at MINT, which means I’m the first one in and the last one out most days. Since our first class starts at 6:30 am, I wake up at 5:00 am. I like to give myself enough time in the morning; if I start my day rushing around, it throws my whole day off. I usually eat two hard-boiled eggs and make a matcha latte before I walk to the studio with Oona, my Toy Australian Shepherd. I love my morning stroll; the city is so quiet and peaceful that I forget I’m in SF (but still carry my pepper spray, just to be safe). After all of our morning & afternoon classes, I stay in the studio to respond to emails, answer calls and tidy up the studio.

Around 2:30 pm I head home for the day. After work, I like to take 10 minutes for myself and meditate. This really helps me relax, feel centered, and be more present. Next, Oona and I go for a walk, where we usually find a park to play at. Afterward, I usually begin making dinner and my lunch for the next day, which I really enjoy since I love to cook! After dinner, I just relax and read, knit or chat with my roommates. Since I wake up so early and I LOVE sleep, I go to bed around 9 pm every night.

What is your secret to a good class?

mint-studios-san-francisco-12Elaine: I truly believe that the instructor’s energy and attitude set the tone for the class. No matter what kind of day I’m having, I always take the time to get amped up and ready before teaching a class. It’s hard enough to get motivated to go work out, so the last thing you need is for your instructor to be dragging once you get there. A positive attitude and a smile go very far in helping everyone get in the right mindset. And of course, a killer playlist and creative moves never hurt!

Carlie: My secret is energy. Some people have a hard time just getting up and getting into class, so as the instructor I think energy is really important to keep everyone motivated. Plus, fun choreography and music always add to the experience for a good class.

*Image courtesy of Mint Studio. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work? What’s not so great?

Elaine: There are two things that make me happiest: The first is when I see a client transform how she/he feels about his/herself through the supportive community that is MINT. When you see someone become more confident, body aware, and energized it’s truly the best feeling knowing you had a role in that. The second is coaching and mentoring a new instructor through our teacher training program and seeing her/him blossom and develop her/his own following. It’s truly the best feeling. The not-so-great aspect of my work is the paperwork. There’s a lot of paperwork you have to do as a business owner, and it can at times feel overwhelming. I used to think I had to do everything on my own, but I learned after a couple of years to ask for help, which has made a huge difference!

Carlie: One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is when clients start to notice a change from working out both mental and physical. It’s such a great feeling when someone you have been working with sees and feels the benefits of regular exercise within themselves. A not so great aspect is that I don’t own a lot of regular clothes since I’m always in fitness clothes; so going out is always a struggle to find a cute outfit.

Sometimes the hunger just hits at 12am, what is the best midnight snack…

Carlie: When it’s late, and I’m hungry that’s usually when my bad cravings kick in because I’m also tired and have no self-control. My craving at night is always PIZZA! I have discovered that if I keep baby carrots and ranch dressing in the house, that usually satisfies my craving for pizza. I think the ranch tricks my brain, but I never feel terrible after eating it and I feel full from the carrots pretty quickly.

Best post-workout snack?

Elaine: I love having an apple with almond butter. It’s super satisfying, has just enough sweetness, and provides the protein your body needs after a good workout.

What advice would you give someone who struggles to get into the workout routine and keep it up?

Elaine: Baby steps. We often feel that we need to kill ourselves when we’re trying to get in shape, but that’s not sustainable. Taking a moderate approach helps you feel like you’ve succeeded, and then you can slowly increase your goals as you achieve small milestones. For example, if you’re currently not working out at all, start with committing to taking one class a week, and going for one walk a week. After a few weeks of that, perhaps then add another class or a second walk. Continue slowly adding in classes and activities you enjoy, until you reach a point where it feels like a part of your lifestyle. Also, pick classes/workouts that feel challenging but not discouraging. Find an instructor you connect with, let them know of your goals. Having a support system makes a world of difference.

Carlie: Find something you love. If you enjoy the workout, you will continue to go, even on the days your feel a little lazy.

You can only pick one fitness gadget, what is it?

Elaine: I love my Apple Watch. It motivates me to get those extra steps in and to hit my daily “move” goals. Plus, I love being able to time my workouts, so I know exactly how much time I’ve put in.

Carlie: I actually don’t use any fitness gadgets. I try just to listen to my body and see what I need, based on how I feel.

Your fitness motto…

Elaine: Working out should be fun, enjoyable, and sustainable. I don’t believe in the “no pain, no gain” motto. At MINT, we work you hard but make sure you always feel like you’ve been able to achieve something.

Carlie: Strive for progress, not perfection. Everyone is at different levels and has different bodies, so don’t compare yourself to others.

And now onto the Wake Up Pilates routine…
MOVE #1 :: The Roll Up

Exercise 1, Image A;

Exercise 1, Image B;


  • Begin lying on your back with you feet hip distance apart, feet flexed, arms reaching straight up towards the ceiling. Engage your core and pull your ribs and abdominals down towards your mat.
  • Inhale to prepare, exhale as you nod your chin towards your chest and roll yourself all the way up, reaching past your toes. Imagine like you’re curling up and over a ball.
  • Inhale in the stretch, and as you exhale, slowly roll back down to the starting position.
  • Notes on Form: Keep your shoulders away from your ears, and make sure not to kick your feet up or use momentum to move your body. Breathe deeply to help engage your abdominal muscles.
  • Repeat 6 times.
Move #2 :: Double Leg Lift

Exercise 2, Image A;

Exercise 2, Image B;


  • Begin lying on your back with your hands interlaced behind your head, and your legs turned out and pointing straight up.
  • Inhale to lower your leg down towards the mat. As you exhale, bring your legs back up towards the ceiling.
  • Notes on Form: Keep your shoulder blades off the mat the whole time. Never let your legs go so low that your back arches.
  • Repeat 10-12 times.


Move #3 :: Frogs

Exercise 3, Image A;

Exercise 3, Image B;


  • Begin lying on your back with your hands interlaced behind your head, legs in a frog position, knees as wide as your shoulders.
  • Inhale to stretch your legs forward, exhale to bring your legs back into your frog.
  • Notes on Form: Keep your shoulder blades off the mat the whole time. Never let your legs go so low that your back arches.
  • Repeat 10-12 times.


Move #4 :: Saw

Exercise 4, Image A;

Exercise 4, Image B;


  • Begin sitting up tall with your legs outstretched and feet flexed a little wider than your mat. Arms in a ‘T’ position with the palms facing forwards.
  • Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, twist from your waist to your right and reach across towards your right foot with your left hand. Imagine like you’re sawing off your pinkie toe. Simultaneously reach back with your right hand and imagine high-fiving the ceiling.
  • Inhale to return to your starting position, sitting up as tall as you can.
  • Notes on Form: As you reach forward, imagine reaching up and over a big beach ball. Really pull your navel to your spine and scoop out your belly. Remember to keep your shoulders away from your ears!
  • Repeat 3 times on each side.


Move #5 :: Kneeling Push-Ups

Exercise 5, Image A;

Exercise 5, Image B;


  • Begin in a kneeling plank, with your hands shoulder-width apart, feet pulled up towards your seat, and hips slightly curled under.
  • Inhale to bend your elbows, keeping the elbows narrow. Exhale to lift back up to your starting position.
  • Notes on Form: Remember to lead with your chest, and not let your head droop. If you want more challenge, come up onto your toes instead.
  • Repeat 20 times.


Move #6 :: Four-Point Kneeling Seat Work

Exercise 6, Image A;

Exercise 6, Image B;

Exercise 6, Image C;


  • Begin on all-fours, with your knees under your hips, and your hands directly under your shoulders. Engage your core and lift the space between your shoulder blades. Reach your right leg straight back at hip-height.
  • Begin pulsing the lifted leg up towards the ceiling, squeezing your seat as you move. Repeat 10-20 times.
  • Then, bend your knee in half and flex your ankle. Inhale to lower your knee to the mat, exhale to press your leg back up towards the ceiling. Repeat 10-12 times.
  • Finally, keep your bent leg lifted and pulse it up towards the ceiling. Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the second side.
  • Notes on form: If your wrists bother you, you may come down to your forearms. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise so that you work your seat and not your lower back. For more challenge, lift the opposite arm as the leg you’re working and extend that arm forward at shoulder height.


Move #7 :: Cobra


(Exercise 7, Image A;)


  • Begin lying on your belly with your hands next to your ribcage and your legs stretched behind you and squeezed together in turnout, eyes on the mat below you. Make sure your pelvis is pressed into the mat.
  • Inhale to begin lifting your head and chest off the mat. Make sure the back of your neck remains crease-free.
  • Exhale to slowly return to your starting position.
  • Repeat 6 times.
  • Notes on Form: Make sure you press your pelvis into the mat at all times. Keep your core engaged so that you bend from your upper back and not your lower back.


Move #8 :: Child’s Pose


(Exercise 8)


  • Bring your feet together and open your knees as wide as your mat. Sit back on your heels and reach your arms forward. Relax.
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths.
And just because we worked so hard, Elaine & Carlie, are going to share with us their go to restaurants, best kept California secrets and what to do in SF if you have only 12 hrs…
Tell us your five favorite food spots in San Francisco…

Jane Cafe – I love their big salads. My current favorite is the Nicoise.

Green Heart Foods – Their quinoa bowls are to die for!

Darwin Cafe – I’m in love with their kale salad

Marlowe – You can’t beat the chic decor and delicious food.
The Mill – When I’m in a carby kind of mood, their whole wheat Josey Baker bread is a dream.

Plow – The best American comfort food for brunch. Totally worth the hour wait.

Magic Flute – Their lovely patio alone is to die for, but their food is also amazing.

The Brick House Café – They have the best Vegan and gluten-free burger!

Dinosaurs – This is the Vietnamese restaurant right by our studio. Their spring rolls are amazing. I love these for a quick lunch when I’m on the go.

The Baked Bear – This is my go-to when I have a serious sweet tooth.

Best destinations in CA for a girls weekend?

Elaine: I love Solage in Calistoga. It’s elegant yet relaxed, and I love being able to ride the cruiser bikes around town to wine taste and explore. Another great spot for a girls weekend is the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs. You can’t go wrong with mid-century modern décor, pool time, and gourmet cocktails!

Carlie: I love the beach, so my favorite girls weekend getaway spot is Santa Barbara. During the day you can relax at the beach go paddle boarding or even horseback riding in the hills. If you want to go out at night, you can hit the bars on State Street.

If we have only 12 hours in San Francisco, what should we do … Where do you take out-of-town friends?

Elaine: Start with brunch at Rose’s Cafe on Union Street, then walk down Union to explore the cute boutiques around Cow Hollow. Then, walk down the hill towards the water and take in the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field. From there, take an Uber to Fillmore Street and do a little window shopping. For lunch, grab a big salad at Jane Cafe, then satisfy your sweet tooth at Smitten with some nitrogen ice cream made to order. If you want some downtime afterward, walk down towards Japantown and check out the Kabuki Theater, where you can order a bottle of wine to share while you watch a movie. Finally, for dinner, head to SoMa for dinner at Marlowe for one of the best burgers around.

Carlie: I’m a tourist at heart, so to start out I would bring them to the Fort Baker Observation Deck on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is my favorite place to bring people so they can see the city and the beautiful place I live. After, we will hop over to the Magic Flute Garden Ristorante for some brunch in their garden patio – such a relaxing place to enjoy delicious food with friends. Then, we would go over to Washington Square Park, to let our food settle and maybe for a little rosé. After that, we would go to Pier 39, to grab some clam chowder for lunch and also to hit up The Fudgery for some divinity or caramel apples. Afterward, we will jump onto a cable car (because everyone needs to at least once) and ride to Union Square. Union Square is a great place to get a little shopping done. Then, we would take a Lyft over to The Brick House Café for dinner to end the day.

Best kept California secret…

The Yuba River at the 49 Bridge in the summer. It’s absolutely stunning, and you can hike, swim, and sunbathe. It’s like being at the beach but with giant rocks instead of sand!

What do you love most about California?

I love the open-mindedness of the culture. Here (or at least in San Francisco), there is no “norm.” You can be who you want to be, and that’s just fine. That’s hard to find in other areas of the United States and is something I truly appreciate and admire about the California culture. Elaine

I love that within a few hours you can be relaxing on the beach, snowboarding in the mountains or hiking through redwoods. I enjoy being outside, so having different outdoor activities during every season makes living in California so amazing. Truly anyone can find a way to be active outside in California! – Carlie

-as told to California Weekend
* Workout photography by Ana Kamin

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