Would you want to get in a car with someone who passed their driving test 20 years ago and has never refreshed their knowledge or learnt anything else since? Or would you rather travel with someone who passed their driving test 20 years ago, then took their advanced driving test, went on to pass their motorbike driving test including the new hazard perception theory test and then passed their minibus test? I would think it would probably be the latter. (Incidentally, that’s me and it’s all true!)
The point is that most car drivers on the roads only ever learn the bare minimum. When you passed your Pilates training, as hard as it was at the time, it was the bare minimum. Never stop learning as there is always more to take on board. Your participants want to achieve their goals and to do this you need the knowledge and skills to guide them there. You need to really understand the ‘nitty gritty’ of each exercise, what it makes a difference to and why.
This extra learning is what sets you apart from other instructors. Go the extra mile and learn, learn, learn. No knowledge is wasted and the more people trust you the more they will recommend you. The workshops and courses we offer Pilates instructors include common orthopaedic conditions, small equipment, vertical fusion, sports specific Pilates and pre and post natal exercise. If you are Exercise Referral qualified, there is also a lower back pain specialist course. If you are gym qualified you can attend suspension training and functional training workshops to add variety. This additional learning as well as some of your own research and teaching experience will make you a knowledgeable instructor. So would I send my mum to the instructor who qualified 4 years ago and has done nothing since or to the instructor who has done at least one course per year since qualifying and who is always turning up to teach with a new piece of equipment or phrase they have learnt to explain something better. I think we know the answer to that one.
This sounds easy but is the biggest challenge to a new instructor. I planned to go to London on the train recently but the delays were so bad that I got off the train and took a taxi instead. I changed my plan to suit the situation. Recently qualified instructors will often teach the exercises and levels they had planned to teach rather than adapting to the group of people they have in front of them. Practise, practise, practise. You need to teach your clients to recognise their level (usually by asking them to feel with their hands) and understand when it would be appropriate for them to progress, understanding the aim of the exercise and the focus today. Then when you offer the next layer, only the ones that can achieve it will be able to, meaning your class is both safe and effective for everyone in it and you have a range of levels going on at any one time to suit mixed ability classes. This may initially sound impossible but with your increased knowledge from your continued learning as well as some teaching experience, it will come.
I’m rubbish at admin and I have learnt that it doesn’t matter how good you are at teaching Pilates, if no-one knows you’re there, how to book a course or how to pay you, you’ll lose out to the instructor up the road who is rubbish at teaching Pilates but great at admin. You either need to improve your admin skills or find someone to do it for you. You need to be the whole package. Make sure everyone in the area where you teach knows there is a new Pilates class on (and what Pilates is). Run a free taster, get in the local paper, stick posters up in the post office and hairdressers, put an advert in the local handyman booklet, start a Facebook page, design a website and give out free passes. Once you have clients make it easy for them to book and pay to encourage retention. The easier it is for them, the more they will come back to you. Create a network between you, an osteopath, a physiotherapist, a midwife and a chiropractor.
Invite them for a free session so they know what you do and hopefully you can refer people to each other, giving you a network of experts to ask questions to as well as continually delivering to more clients. Make sure you have the email addresses of everyone you teach. Set this up as a group and email them once a week (on the same day and roughly the same time). It doesn’t have to be much. It could just be a simple ‘top tip’ or video of you performing an exercise they will be doing this week, or news on new classes, maybe a nutrition tip or posture advice. They will get used to receiving this and it being part of their week. This will help them to remember their posture advice and to turn up to your class, both of which will help them get results and ultimately spread the word.
Written by Heather Oakes