South Charlotte

Cancer survivor finds a reprieve in Pilates

Julie Harrington uses the Ladder Barrel equipment.
Julie Harrington uses the Ladder Barrel equipment.

Serious health issues and major surgeries haven’t stopped Julie Harrington from powering through.

“I don’t want to be my disease,” Harrington said. “I want to live.”

Harrington recently opened a Pilates studio in Matthews on Sept. 11. Within a week, she had 100 members. And she wants to help others.

She was diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome, a genetic cancer syndrome that can develop into numerous types of cancers. Harrington found herself with colon cancer at the age of 40. A year later she developed ovarian cancer and eights later another colon cancer diagnosis. Harrington said Lynch Syndrome affects every cell in your body. Her colon was removed after the second diagnosis and she said she was back at her desk in two weeks. Harrington believes she bounced back quickly because she was fit, especially her core area, from practicing Pilates.

“Two major surgeries were traumatic to my body,” she said. “Fitness was a vehicle for me to get back into my body. For me, Pilates on the equipment was a successful way to get back.”

Other forms of exercise had not worked for her. She had tried water aerobics, personal training sessions and yoga. Pilates with equipment has similar benefits to Pilates on the mat but is a different type of practice. On the mat uses body weight to do the exercise without equipment. Pilates with equipment involves a Reformer apparatus that uses springs and pulleys for alignment, stretching and exercise.

A year ago while practicing in another studio, Harrington noticed some challenges in the exercise. That’s when it dawned on her that she could help others. “Twelve months ago I fell for Pilates in a big way,” she said. “It’s really about passion.”

With a background in medical publishing, she took a leap of faith for a whole new career at the age of 62. “I’ve always been awed by people who started a small business,” she said. “This is humbling. I’m thrilled to be here.”

Although she lives in Myers Park, she brought the studio to the Matthews community. She feels there’s so much going on in Matthews and the business leaders supported her efforts.

The instructors at her studio, Club Pilates, receive 500 hours of training. “Instructors have all been trained in special situations, like tightness from surgery or if a muscle has been removed,” Harrington said. “Exercises can be modified.”

Currently, the studio has a group classroom with 12 Reformer stations and a private training room for one on one. Thirty classes are being offered, but she plans to expand to 40 or 50 as membership grows. All fitness levels participate. “We’ve all suffered the effects of gravity and life and civilization,” Harrington said. “So Pilates helps counter that.”

Learn more

Club Pilates is located at 2211 Matthews Township Parkway in Sycamore Commons. Details:, call 704-594-5670, or email at