Pilates is a type of exercise programme that can initially be difficult to get used to. A common problem is that people feel there is too much to think about at once. Take this into account and coach with ease. Emphasise the technical aspects to ensure safe practice and then allow the timing of breath to come in later. Constantly consider the ability levels of the participants when offering preps, levels and progressions and instruct in a clear, concise manner. It would be beneficial to formulate a running order of instructional cues so that you can become accustomed to saying what is needed in a functional order and your client knows what to listen for. For example:
It is best to limit class sizes to allow more one-on-one attention and maximise effectiveness. The instructor must be clear with instructions and make smooth transitions between exercises. Personally, I like to make the flow of my class like a dance. It is precise and transcends one exercise to the next with grace, precision and ease. This takes practice in communicating effectively with people and learning the make-up of each exercise, it' purpose and its synergy with other exercises.
Teaching Pilates requires a great deal of personal knowledge about the work. Over time a teacher develops confidence and comfort in their teaching expertise and it almost becomes like a habit. Care should be taken not to stagnate. Keep pushing your own boundaries of knowledge that can then shine through your classes. Teach clients how to engage with and perform choreography by identifying individual learning styles and translating Pilates through that medium. For example, 3 main learning styles we try to accommodate in a Pilates class are:
An instructor who takes the time to accommodate their clients’ needs will be respected, trusted and followed.
Pilates places huge emphasis on the use of imagery. I'm sure we can all relate back to when we first had to adopt this practice and how strange it probably felt to be saying these things within a fitness class. From experience now I can appreciate the use of visuals and allowing clients to understand my directions if body awareness or lack of understanding is apparent. Not all learners will appreciate this though so remember to also be concise in your instruction so all clients are accommodated on an equal playing field. That way you are seen as easy to follow and accommodating.
Along with instruction comes control, the control an instructor has over the pace of the class. Sing to them to set the pace – not literally - but in Pilates we do not have the luxury of keeping clients working at the same pace with the beat of the music, for example. Instead we encourage working in time with the pace of their own breathing. This has pros and cons but a con that can interrupt the steady flow of your class is that people breathe at very different rates. Therefore half the class could have finished an exercise whilst half are still going. A way to try and control this is through the tone and pace of voice when instructing the first two repetitions. Keep a soothing tone with a mellifluous beat to encourage clients to still work from that beat throughout the exercises. Alternatively, with exercises such as swan dive advanced, an increase in the speed of voice is needed with the sound imitating the movement. For example shoot your arms forward (exaggerate and energise the word shoot in order to motivate them through the exercise). Your voice should therefore be dynamic and create a tempo that can be subconsciously followed to keep control over the pace of movement.
Overall remember that a Pilates instructor must be encouraging. Notice client achievements, however small, to give them confidence and knowledge to progress. This will make you a sought after instructor by creating a class that people look forward to and feel empowered from every time they attend. If you master that skill you will truly be appreciated and feel empowered yourself.
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Written by Katie Farnden