Sarah MannersPilates on Tap is the creation of Sarah Manners, whose training in Pilates, and her application of it to her own life to over-come her own health challenges, gave her a unique insight when creating the app.

Sarah has a background in media production, both in front and behind the camera; this gave Sarah an understanding of high quality content and an aesthetic of excellence. With media training, Sarah guides each video with simple, accessible terms without confusing those new to Pilates, particularly when some of the more technical concepts arise.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I did all the usual GCSE and A-levels but had no intention of going to University. I knew I wanted to go to drama school and be an actress. Fortunately, I auditioned and was offered a place at 2 schools – The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Mountview Theatre School. I chose Central. Being an actress is a tough job, but it’s great fun when you’re younger, but if you want to settle down and have a family, it means long stretches away from them, and that wasn’t something I wanted to do. I happened upon Pilates and couldn’t believe the muscles it switched on that I hadn’t felt before in all my years of weight training in the gym. I was hooked and soon trained to be an instructor. I always loved human biology at school, and so the written anatomy and physiology element of the course was as super enjoyable as the practical elements. Having had my daughter, it was natural that I turned my focus to creating a Pilates product rather than be shipped off all over the country acting.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t. I was very fortunate that I was as successful as I was in acting, but for me it had a time limit. I have had a few pitfalls in the quest to create Pilates content – so I’ve drawn upon the resilience that you need as an actress to tough it out and see it through.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes! When I first thought about creating a Pilates product, I was creating a Pilates during pregnancy DVD (I was pregnant at the time). I was mid writing the content, finding a location and striking up a deal with a distributor when I became unwell with acute vestibular neuritis. It’s an inner ear issue which left me with little to no balance. I had to crawl rather than walk for the first couple weeks of recovery. My husband was away with work, and I was 6 months pregnant, but luckily I have the most amazing parents who jumped in the car and came to live with me for a few weeks. Clearly a complete loss of balance means no DVD, so the idea was put on hold until Feb 2020.

Cut to Feb 2020 and I’m ready to pick up the Pilates again. But I wanted to try something a bit more interactive – apps are where it’s at. I looked at what was out there and as a consumer, and I didn’t feel drawn to them. They mainly followed the same model of having hundreds of exercise videos to choose from, but I wanted to create something that pieced together a class like I would do for a client depending on what we wanted to work on that specific day – abs, glutes, back etc. I wanted to create an intelligent app where the user’s needs informed the class they see.  I came up with the model for the app, where the user could input their experience, goals and time available to deliver a tailor-made class each time.

And then covid hit, which ground everything to a halt, but 12 months later I picked up again. However, I was to put off filming twice more because I developed a trapped nerve in my rectus abdominus which meant I couldn’t perform some of the advanced exercises. Having had the idea in Feb 2020, I eventually shot all my material in August 2021, 10 days before my 46th birthday!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Giving birth and being a mother.  It’s an amazing feat to push out a baby, sorry to be explicit, but I loved it! That and the creation of Pilates on Tap. I designed every aspect of it. I wrote all the scripts and voiced them, created all the metadata, wrote all the articles in the app, I commissioned anatomical drawings, I found the location, I designed the costume, hair and make-up, the camera angles, I had a hand in the final lighting, the camera moves, the editing and even the logo design. But I had a co-producer, Nic Alderton, without whom I couldn’t have done it. Nic’s an absolute genius of all things, and he’s has been with me every step of the way.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Resilience. You can’t succeed if you aren’t resilient. That applies to acting too. You get knock back after knock back. And the same can be said for my Pilates career. But I stuck with it. Which can be tough at times, especially when you’re a one-woman band. I’ve also had nice people around me. See the mentoring question below!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’ve been very lucky to have Nic as my mentor and go-to guy throughout this process. He’s so knowledgeable. I’ve said that I’m sure he has a team of people underground feeding him answers in an invisible earpiece, he just knows about EVERYTHING! And he’s such a great guy too. Aman Birdi, my app developer, has been wonderful in guiding me also. He’s a very generous soul. I feel very fortunate to have these guys to advise me with all things tech. I understood Pilates, and all things media production, but I was almost starting from scratch with the tech aspect. It’s been a wonderful learning curve. And continues to be so.  I must also mention Niki Ditrolio. She’s a very experienced classical Pilates teacher, and she stepped in for me at the last minute to demo the advanced exercises that I couldn’t do because of the trapped abdominal nerve, so you eagle eyed app users will notice it’s not me in a few of the exercises! She’s been a great support and sounding board too. And again, is a top person!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I think things are moving in the right direction at last, in this country at least. I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of discussing women’s hormones – elite athletes unveiling how they are affected by their menstrual cycle and the recent focus on helping women combat some of the negative effects of the menopause. Society needs to take women’s hormones seriously. Most of us are affected – every month. It can affect both our physical and mental health. Empathy and understanding are essential.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

There’s no such thing as perfect. Thank goodness I didn’t grow up in the Instagram world of today. The pressure is too much. Don’t compare yourself to other people. You’re wonderful just the way you are. As Mark Twain said, ‘Comparison is the death of joy’. Amen!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to expand the Pilates On Tap brand. I know exactly where I want to go with it, including creating clothing that women feel good in (NO TIGHT WAIST BANDS!), equipment and other apps focused on health and wellness.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

There is change afoot! Girls have long been excelling in subjects that were traditionally thought of as male, namely maths and the sciences. And now that coding is taught from a young age in schools, as those girls mature, there will be more females going into careers in tech.  And as any good boss knows, diversity brings enhanced creativity, so a more diverse workforce is a win-win for all industries, tech included.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

In my quest to find a development company for my app, I didn’t come across any female developers, so there’s a clear disparity in the tech world. Having said that, my app Pilates On tap is moving to a new product manager within the development agency, and she’s female, so I’m soon to have one of the 15%!