When she called and asked me if I wanted to learn to teach pilates, my first response was “no”. In my head I thought, those weird crazy machines with ropes, sliding mat and overly complicated springs. Um - no way! I teach fitness. Pilates is slow, boring and doesn’t seem effective. This was three years ago. I had just leased a room in a pilates studio to run my personal training business. I casually passed by those crazy machines while sauntering to the bathroom. I could hear the instructors talking nonstop to teach a class with no music. No music - another reason I had no interest in this discipline. But here’s the thing, when she asked me if I was interested, I had just lost my mother-in-law after a long battle with cancer
and we were all sad. My husband was mourning and I thought why not dive into something I can bury myself into and forget the pain and sadness.
With several books in hand, all the optimism in the world, off I went to pilates reformer training two weeks later. After an hour instructional class on the reformer and a grueling session of anatomy review, I thought “holy hell” what did I get myself into. The instructor was intense, most of the students were novices, and after the first weekend, we all wanted to quit. But we struggled through with lots of Starbucks, some giggles and lots of eye rolling on my part. After several weekends and 50+ hours of training, we learned over 100 exercises and strutted out as qualified pilates reformer instructors.
We finished in October and by December I was teaching. I had never taken a reformer class before going to training. I definitely was out of my element teaching the first few months. There were so many instructions, so many questions and so many pieces to that damn machine. Feet in straps. “Oh you have tight hips, let’s put you on a cushion. Let me grab that for you” “Oh you have a bum knee, let me fix your resistance springs” Exhausting! The whole teaching thing was exhausting! Let me clarify. When we teach a bootcamp class, we do the class partially with them, the other part of class we watch their form, look cool and cheer them on. When you teach reformer, you must tell them exactly how to get into position with precise words and gestures. Many times, they can’t see you because they are lying down on the reformer. It’s a challenge. But I muscled through - why? Because I do not give up. Did I mention I’m a Taurus. I hear we are stubborn. I don’t care if I’m not good at something, I’ll keep doing it till I'm good at it and maybe that is the key to pilates - persistence. Because it is hard! It’s hard to learn when you take a class and it’s even harder to teach it!
My first year of teaching was discouraging and frustrating. People favor instructors, they don’t like change (they definitely did not like my music), some people do not like to be challenged (they did not like my athletic style of teaching), and nobody wants to take the “new” girl’s class.
I continued with my personal training business and taught pilates on the side for almost two years. The more I taught pilates the more I saw myself becoming a more attentive trainer. I paid more attention to form. I gave better instruction and my cueing was spot on. And at some point, it all came together. I found my voice as a pilates instructor and I found myself more confident as a personal trainer. A more of flow of sorts. I also found that both practices can compliment each other. Once I found a different studio to teach in and I let go of the stringent rules of teaching pilates, I found my own style of teaching and so many of my clients loved my classes. It’s a difficult process but worth it in the end to find the confidence, flow, rhythm and inflection in your voice that it takes to run an amazing pilates class.
Pilates is a tough a world. It’s somewhat like the “cool girls” club. Instructors can be possessive of their clients, they have trouble seeing outside the box, and there is a certain snob factor. I’m going to catch grief for that one! But there it is! But the bottom line is all of us have our client’s best interest at heart. It’s not a cookie cutter field as many other fitness fads are. It’s a hard practice to learn and you must really enjoy it to stick with it. When you have a client come in with slumped shoulders from too much time on the phone or the computer, the best feeling in the world is to see them leave your class with relaxed shoulders and an open heart.
So it’s been a bumpy ride for me to reach the point of calling myself a pilates instructor. It’s been a challenge professionally as well as personally. I’m not a competitive person by nature so I’ve had to find my footing. I’ve also adopted the pilates practice as part of my regular workout routine. Since doing that, I engage my abdominal muscles in just about everything I do (especially in lifting) and as a result my overall strength is better.
As I was practicing teaser on the reformer the other day, I realized the teaching cues are parallel to the life lessons I’ve learned along my pilates journey. I will share:
Inhale through the nose, Exhale through pursed lips: Sometimes you just need to breath. Take a deep breath in, exhale the crazy out and move forward
Belly button to spine: You may need to bite your tongue so only kind words come out of your mouth.
Open your heart: Always keep an open heart.
Keep your shoulders in your pockets: Always have something up your back sleeve!
Lift your ribcage and grow taller: Always hold your head high in any circumstance.
Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing: Don’t worry about your competition, just stay in your own lane.
Relax Your Jaw: Let go! Just let that sh#$ go!
Don’t lock your knees: Don’t lock into one way of thinking, keep an open mind.
---- BREATH: Just breath!! ----