Having taught Pilates for nearly 10 years, I often face the dilemma of how to keep my classes fresh and therefore retain my clients. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching 1 or 10 classes per week - you will see the same faces weekly and sometimes more than once a week. So keeping the classes exciting and renewed can be a daunting task. I often face a class at the beginning of the set-up and observe a sea of expectant faces, each one wondering what’s in store for them, which leaves me worrying in case they are disappointed! Therefore I have noted below some of the measures that I use to ensure my classes stay interesting, which ultimately ensures my client-base doesn’t dwindle.
- Change your visuals and teaching points regularly. Using the same ones year after year can give the impression of laziness and repetition. Throwing in a different teaching point or visual keeps your clients on their toes and also gives them a different interpretation of the exercise.
- Teaching Positions - If possible do not always start teaching from the same side of the room. Start from somewhere different. This gives the start of the class a feel of being different and new!
- Relax - now and again finish the class with a longer relaxation section than usual (particularly with the hot weather we have been experiencing). This gives a completely different feel to the class. It’s worth investigating alternative relaxation techniques to the ones you would normally use.
- Participate yourself - if you have any instructor friends, cover a class for each other once every couple of weeks and join in the class with your participants. This gives your clients a completely different teaching style and allows you to pick up new ideas whilst you are joining in! Have a taste of what it feels like as a participant; what engages you within the class, how does the flow feel, how do you feel at the end of the class.
- Opinions count - ask your class to complete feedback forms on a quarterly basis. Try and change the class accordingly, if possible.
- Take it slow - there are 34 exercises in Joseph Pilates’ repertoire, and after years of teaching, as much as you try, you cannot magic new exercises out of thin air! The obvious answer to this is not to teach the full exercise in week 1 but to teach different sections of it every week and then put them together gradually. Of course you will at some point be teaching the full exercise and at this point there are different options you could use to get further mileage out of the exercise, e.g. numbers of repetitions, lever lengths, increasing range of movement or adding small equipment.
- Pilates principles - each week focus on a different principle. For example one week you could focus on lateral thoracic breathing another week concentrate on centring. This way you can even use a sequence of the same exercises but focusing on a different principle. This puts a completely different emphasis on the same exercise.
- Add equipment - the use of small equipment is a really good way to ensure your class stays fresh and interesting. Small balls, weighted balls, fitness circles, foam rollers and bands are all easily transportable and add a massive amount of variety to most Pilates exercises. There are plenty of books to help you with ideas on using small equipment and the School of Pilates offers a small mat equipment course packed with ideas on how to use equipment effectively within your classes. You will then be able to practice and share ideas with other students.
Finally, my experience has taught me that generally your clients are investing in you as a teacher and that’s what brings them back week after week. Whilst it is important to remain professional at all times, there are definitely times when we can use our personalities to ensure our clients return week after week. Perhaps arrange Christmas drinks or after-class coffee once in a while, as this makes your clients feel part of a social group - a group they don’t want to miss out on!