Venus Brutnall

Venus Brutnall manager of Premier Pilates in the studio


“This time, rather than just doing the moves, I was learning the theory of movement.”

I am the Head Pilates Coordinator and Educator for Premier Sports & Spinal Medicine Injury Specialist. Along with my team I co-manage four Pilates studios in Melbourne.

From an early age I was quite a talented young athlete, especially in gymnastics. In those times there was no minimum age requirement to become a gymnastic coach in Queensland. So at the young age of 8 years I started a career in coaching gymnastics.

This would ultimately shape my eventual career path more than twenty years into the future. The idea of going through all of the proper channels in order to acquire the certifications required to become a coach should have been daunting for a little girl, but even then I was a glutton for a challenge and this personality trait has never changed to the present day!

Coaching gymnastics had just seemed to have fallen into my lap; there was a pressing need to teach young (difficult to handle) rambunctious boys, some of whom had mental health issues such as A.S.D and A.D.D.

I think that being a child myself helped me to be empathetic as I dished out discipline and made sportsmen out of little scoundrels, and the role of coaching the boys came naturally to me. I found I had a knack for teaching and ended up coaching gymnastics until I was 16 years old, teaching people from the smallest kids to adults.

Pilates instructor Venus Brutnall maintains her own regular pilates practice

At 14, I was also the first level 6 gymnast to have come from Hervey Bay. To receive recognition from the Australian Institute was an exciting time for me and the club. Our space was a rented hall with a few mats and the bare bones basics of equipment but I made it work both for my students and my own training.

The things that we achieved in those humble settings have resonated with me in my later pursuits. You don’t need all of the bells and whistles- you just need a goal and a fierce work ethic.

In high school I became a bigger, stronger and faster version of my younger self.  Along with gymnastics, I studied martial arts and was a state level long distance cross-country runner .

My older half sister, who I idolized, was on the Gold Coast at this time, working as a Stunt Action Person at Movie World. Later on I followed in her foot steps and pursued this exciting and fitting career that involved throwing myself off of buildings and out of crashing cars.

When school finished, so did the activities that I did to distract me from it! Sports and coaching made way for modeling and dancing. Travelling the world and having fun became my objective. I made it work by doing about three months of back-to-back modeling contracts, which left me free to travel for the rest of the year.

I did this for four amazing years. After spending many a birthday overseas I came back to Australia to see my family and thought:

”What’s next for me?” “Maybe I should invest in something or make an actual home?”

I settled in Melbourne – it’s a great city. I got into dancing and went back to doing stunt work as a profession. Working in stunts, it is important to keep up your muscle mass to protect your joints and muscle structures. Yes, stunt work can be a bit scary. But as long as you have a good stunt coordinator and a good team around you, you should be pretty safe.

Most of the injuries I sustained from this work happened during training rather than on the job.

It was also around this time that I co-founded Melbourne’s first pole dancing studio. At a local level we helped to popularize what became a huge trend in women’s fitness. Our clientele consisted of women young and old, career professionals, stay at home mums, fitness fanatics and professional showgirls – it was a wide and unbiased selection of the women of Melbourne.

Venus Brutnall in one of the Premier Pilates studios she manages

Pole Dancing became massive almost overnight and I was right in the thick of it. I competed in the various state and National pole competitions to help raise our studio’s profile.

I have to admit that my competitive spirit had never dulled and I was crowned Miss Pole Dance of whichever competition I was in more often than not.  I love the art form of the pole: it is such a physically demanding sport and requires a lot of training and dedication.

In 2004, I met the boy who has since grown up into a man, and is now my husband.

By February 2006 I gave birth to our first son, and that was the beginning of the end of my dancing and stunt career.

My first pregnancy was very complicated. It put a stop to a lot of the physical activity that I used to enjoy. I tried to continue dancing for a bit, while doing some work as a dance coordinator for local events.

During this time however, I got sick and suffered a bout of cervical cancer. At the time I kept it quiet, as I knew it was curable as long as I got the right treatment. I didn’t even really discuss this with my loving husband as hearing the word ‘cancer’ would upset and panic him, causing us both a lot of stress.

At the time we were dealing with a newborn baby, who at birth weighed 770grams at 36 weeks gestation. He was born with gastroschisis, and had a long stay in the NICU unit in the Royal children’s hospital. We were both feeling so blessed just to have him, I didn’t want to ruin our joy by sharing my cancer scare.

Pilates instructor Venus Brutnall adjusting one of the pilates machines in the studio

My second boy was born at the end of 2009. Unfortunately, almost immediately I experienced postnatal depression. During this time, I became void of emotion and as a result, ironically, I was a shining example of a mum. Well, in the eyes of others, anyway.

I was an automated robot – I cuddled the baby when he cried, I fed the boys when they were hungry, I pretended to be interested and I smiled when it was expected of me. All the housework got done like clockwork.

I wasn’t me though. I just wasn’t there. I wasn’t the exuberant, outgoing and eccentric person that I normally am. And my husband knew it.

One day he said, “We need to get you out of this house, away from the babies and doing something.” He signed me up for a Pilates instructors course which we couldn’t afford. But despite my objections he insisted that I’d be good at it and anything had to be better than seeing me disappearing right in front of his eyes.

He also added that he had walked into a Pilates studio once and I quote “All of the chicks in that place were super hot!” I wasn’t into that idea at all, but I went along with it to try and re-enter the real world.

I started my Pilates studies.  In addition to the physical exercise, it also involved studying biomechanics, anatomy and physiology.

I’d been involved in human movement throughout my whole life. But this time, rather than just doing the moves, I was learning the theory of movement.

It was a grown up and dare I say it, intellectual, version of the things that I had always been good at. And it was just what I needed!

I spent a good part of my 20’s injuring myself. It realized that I was at a point where I needed to learn new innovative ways to heal my body.

The study of Pilates helped me through the depression of being an old injured warrior.

I studied at “Breathe” Yoga & Pilates. I was learning what is known as the Stott approach, an internationally recognized certification.

While I was studying, I was mostly a housewife. It was a rough time, as my husband also changed careers to become a firefighter. He went through a lengthy recruitment and training process to do this.

We had a brand new mortgage, two cars, 1 newborn baby, a toddler – all on a single income, that was cut in half during the recruitment process.

We both went from earning decent money to being $8 dollars in the red every week. I remember very well feeling emotionally drained as I did our weekly finances.  We both remember this time and it’s a good reminder of the things we have to be grateful for these days.

Just before I did my final exam at Breathe, I got a position as a Clinical Pilates instructor here at Premier. This was five and a half years ago.

At work, I slowly came back to my old self. The directors were not daunted by my highly energetic personality and unorthodox manner, in fact they welcomed it.

At that time, Premier was a small business. Since then, we’ve expanded into 4 different practices, accumulating a team of staff and a network of allied health professionals.

So you can say that I have evolved with the company.

One thing I learnt about this industry that I find disappointing, is the role Health Insurance funds play in our business. Unfortunately, the health funds will recognize an allied health professional like a doctor, or a physiotherapist over a fully qualified Clinical Pilates professional; despite the fact that they have not been properly educated and trained in the Pilates method.

I think well-trained Pilates instructors need a better standing with the health funds. Although this is slowly changing and the Pilates method is progressing and gaining more recognition, which we hope will tie in with funds.

For now though, there is still a preference from the funds to favour more traditional health professions.

This creates a demand for specialized training geared towards these allied professionals, to help them be more fluent in the Pilates method and to develop their skills in teaching it to their clients.

As our company progressed, this demand opened up an opportunity for me to step into a specific role that catered to these clients. It became my job to oversee and teach the allied practitioners Pilates, to give them complete understanding of functional movement.

Over the years, I have become somewhat of a mentor for practitioners who need a bit of extra guidance or information on how to transfer pathology off the table and into a functional fitness setting. So part of my job is ensuring that our clients are receiving the most benefits from their hard work and their instructors, and that progression is occurring.

I also oversee the hiring of all new instructors and their training.

When I hire instructors, personality goes a long way. I look for someone who is happy, bubbly and a pleasure to be around.

A lot of people come here with chronic pain issues, which place a burden on their daily life, and they don’t want somebody who is dismal and adds to that burden. They want someone fun, who is motivating and has empathy.

Of course I also look at skills – ability to teach, manage time between administrative work and teaching, ability to ensure that the people’s symptoms are accounted for, a great bedside manner.

In a class, you need to make sure there is a continuous flow, that no one is sitting around waiting for the next exercise and that there is good progression and challenge for everyone.

The instructor has to be available to listen to other people’s needs. Because what the client is feeling is just as important as how they’re moving through the exercises.

We intentionally keep our classes to a four-person maximum. With all new clients, we do a Postural Analysis to figure out their pathologies, symptoms and muscle imbalances. Based on that, we tailor a program to suit individual needs.

Often people come to us with a specific problem that needs fixing, but then stay on to maintain their strength and fitness.

You cannot teach it if you don’t know what it feels like. That is the difference between a good instructor and a bad one. I reinforce this to all my instructors.

We meet every week and I oversee their training and make sure they are practicing the Pilates themselves and know what it feels like. Otherwise, how do you know what the client is going through and what level of load to give them? It’s extremely important.

I am also constantly evaluating myself to make sure I am current in the way I teach and train.

My favorite part of the job is helping people train in human movement. I feel that my life’s journey has always been in that direction. I may have gone off-track now and again, but I’ve always come back to it.

I am really enjoying what I do, and I have grown to really appreciate what I currently have, which is an excellent balance between work and family life.

I’m a mother of two boys, my husband works, but we both put a priority on work-life balance. My main goal is making sure my family and the people I have come to know and love are happy and healthy, rather than career progression. It’s important for me to enjoy what I do, career growth is just an added bonus.