This Montgomery native majored in business at Mississippi State University and then set off for Washington, D.C., where she served as the executive assistant for an Alabama Congresswoman. Then, just as Margaret Virden’s career journey began, it took a sharp turn, leading her back to her passion: Pilates. So, she dove head-first into intense, comprehensive Pilates training, followed by teaching classes and even creating Accelerate, her own low-impact, high-intensity circuit class suited to all fitness levels. Not long after, this fitness whiz moved to Birmingham and opened her own studio in the heart of downtown Homewood — and she is only 25! We are delighted to announce that not only does Provision Studio open TODAY, but this talented master instructor on all Pilates apparatuses is also today’s FACE of Birmingham!
Tell us a bit about your professional journey and how you got into Pilates.
I started taking Pilates my freshman year at Mississippi State University after my sister, Mille, heard of someone opening a small mat Pilates studio. The owner, Lacy Arant, trained us that year. I was active in high school, but I never really exercised in a non-sport way. But in that first year of taking Pilates, I started to enjoy exercising. Lacy soon opened a larger Reformer studio, where I fell in love with the Reformer. I was taking classes more than four times a week and actually looking forward to it. I continued until I graduated in May 2014.
After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., and started a job working for a U.S. Congresswoman serving Alabama. I served as her scheduler and executive assistant. I loved living in D.C., and I loved working for someone I greatly respected and who was doing great work for my home district. But, I just didn’t like sitting at a desk. I worked long hours, and I wasn’t making time for exercise or a healthy lifestyle. There were also no Pilates studios close by, so I tried other forms of exercise, but none of them really stuck. All of this led to weight gain and just being emotionally not happy with the stage of life I was in.
In trying to figure out my life, one thought I continued to come back to was that I really missed the way I felt when I was consistently practicing Pilates. So, I soon made the jump to Pilates training in fall of 2015. I began riding the train on weekends from D.C. to Pilates Academy International in New York City. Over the course of the next two years, I got trained in Anatomy, Biomechanics, Mat and Reformer. I moved back to Starkville, MS, in January of 2017 and began working at Midtown Pilates, where I first fell in love with Pilates. I taught mainly Reformer classes and continued my education getting trained in Chair, Barrels and the Cadillac apparatuses. I also completed the Pink Ribbon Program, educating myself of exercise guidelines and protocols to work with breast cancer survivors to gain post-operative movement and range.
You also co-created an exercise program called Accelerate. Tell us about that.
Midtown Pilates owner Lacy Arant and I wanted to create a low-impact, high-intensity workout that was safe for any age group and any fitness level. We believed there was a need for safe cardio and strength-building, without the high-impact you find in other methods. Accelerate was created as a circuit class that incorporated a treadmill, rebounder (small trampoline) and strength section.
Each piece of equipment was carefully researched and chosen for the benefits they bring to the class. The Woodway treadmills are designed to the ideal softness to eliminate the harmful shock to connective tissue you might get by running outside or on other treadmills. The Bellicon rebounders strengthen your heart, build lung capacity and prevent bones from losing density. You’ll burn fat and help your body stay strong, aligned and balanced. Rebounding also helps your immune system flush toxins, bacteria and waste. Our strength circuit is based on Pilates principles and designed to incorporate all ranges of the body.
We believe in modifying and enhancing the circuit and exercises based on each individual person. It is a fun, high-energy class that anyone can do and enjoy, and I am really excited to have the opportunity to share this new class with the Birmingham market.
Tell us about the soon-to-open Provision Studio in downtown Homewood!
After several months of searching, I found a location I love! We will be located right next to Little Donkey, Sweet Jon’s Cafe, Steel City Pops and Red Hills Brewery. Provision Studio is a smaller boutique fitness studio where you can get both cardio and Pilates classes as well as wellness products and tips.
Provision is the act of providing or supplying something for use, and I love the idea that through Provision Studio, my clients will be supplied with the strength, flexibility and muscle to build a stronger body for everyday life. We will offer two low-impact classes that, when taken together, create a healthy combination of cardio and toning to create the perfect fitness balance.
What made you decide to start your own business?
I was a business major in college, and the desire to start my own business has always been in the back of my mind. My dad started his own businesses, so I always grew up admiring his work and the dream of being your own boss.
Has it been scary? Exhilarating?
All of the above! I’ve learned a lot — taxes, permits, paint colors — and I know I only have that much more to learn. As the time has passed, I’ve definitely grown more confident in it. I am very excited, but also the nerves will come in every once in a while, and I’ll say some prayers for people to show up!
Based on your journey launching your own business thus far, what advice would you give other women who might want to do the same?
Be your own advocate. I stole that from my mom. You will encounter all different types of people in the process, and while other people might have good intentions, you have to stand your ground, be your own advocate and get things done how you would like them to be done.
If you don’t know what something means, ask questions. That is the only way you learn.
And confidence — at first, I hated telling people I was opening my own business, because the idea was so new, and it generated so many questions that I really didn’t have the answers to. But the confidence slowly comes, and you do find the answers. Be confident in your decision.
What brings you the most professional joy?
I love when clients have victories in everyday life because of the work they have put in at the studio. Easier time playing with kids or grandkids, doing yard work or picking up water jugs at the grocery store. That is the main goal: To enhance your everyday life.
Do you have a mentor or role model, and if so, what have they taught you or why do you admire them?
My mom and dad have always been my role models and mentors, but especially so in this new season. They have been my sounding board for all the things I need to talk through or discuss. They have both spent countless hours helping me bring the studio to life, and I’ve admired their wisdom, judgment and knowledge.
Rep. Martha Roby, my boss in Washington, D.C. is also a mentor. During my time in her office, I got to see, firsthand, a strong woman succeeding in an occupation full of men. I got the opportunity to learn from and experience what that looks like and what that can be like. I also saw her standing up for what she believed in and always taking the high road, even when it was not easy.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, name three things you cannot live without?
The beach, Capri Blue Volcano candle and red wine
Thank you, Margaret! To learn more about Provision Studio, to view the class schedule and to sign up for classes, call (205) 613-1378 or visit provisionstudio.com.
Thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for today’s awesome photography of Margaret at Provision Studio.
Meet more amazing Birmingham women in our FACES archives. Prepare to be inspired!