Teaching Pilates doesn't need to be more complicated than it already is. From streamlining your teaching schedule, getting to the good stuff in your programming, and saying less when you cue, hear are my top three ways to simplify your Pilates teaching. Tune in!
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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
[00:00:56] Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we're [00:01:00] diving right into three ways to make teaching Pilates simpler, and I think it's gonna be a hoot and a half, whether you're a new teacher or an experienced teacher. These are some of my top tips to not get bogged down in the small stuff and really focus on what matters, what moves the needle and what, uh, really makes our clients love us and appreciate the work that we do.
[00:01:29] As always, I like to give you the TL; DR version right at the beginning in case you only have less than a minute to listen to the podcast and you're like, let's get in, let's get what's good, and let's get outta here. The short answer to how can we make teaching Pilates simpler is you can simplify your schedule, you can simplify your programming, and you can simplify your cuing.
[00:01:54] Well, there's a lot to unpack there, but that is the short of it, is those are the three things we're looking at [00:02:00] simplifying. Let's dive into what that means.
[00:02:03] One of the things I think that happens in teacher training is of course they're training you to be a teacher. They're training you to teach exercises, and that is all well and good. You are gonna have to do that. But when it comes to being a Pilates teacher, there's a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes, and a lot of times you are your own business. Like if you're working as an independent contractor, you are technically your own business that is being employed by studios, right?
[00:02:35] So when you're looking at your schedule, it's not just, oh, I teach three hours a week, or I teach 20 hours a week, or I teach 40 hours a week. It's not that cut and dry because unlike an office job, you aren't commuting in in the morning, sitting down, working for eight hours, hopefully getting to have some lunch, and then, you know, peacing out in the afternoon. That's not what teaching Pilates is like.
[00:02:59] [00:03:00] So when it comes to simplifying your schedule, first, look at what your schedule really is. We wanna consider the big picture that includes the travel time, getting to and from the places that you teach, the cost of that travel, whether you're paying for parking, whether you're paying for public transportation, or taking an Uber or a Lyft.
[00:03:23] We wanna look at where you're teaching, how much time does it take to get between places, between your house and those places, between one place and another place. And really looking at swaps you can make in your schedule to simplify that travel time especially.
[00:03:45] So I can tell you that for my schedule, I have a couple days where I teach exclusively, virtually.
[00:03:54] I don't leave the house. I mean, I could leave the house, but I don't leave the house to work. And all of my appointments on those [00:04:00] days are online. I have a couple days where I go out and about in the wild in my neighborhood, and I teach in clients' homes, and then I have a couple days where I go out to a studio and teach classes in a studio.
[00:04:19] Our schedules are constantly changing, constantly evolving. You can't really pin it down. And it's not always the same, even week to week, even if you wish it was, especially if you teach, uh, private clients, you know, everyone's traveling. And now after Memorial Day, it's like travel season for US friends. And so people aren't always there at the same time or they need a different time, things like that.
[00:04:42] But if you can begin to nudge your schedule in a way, and you can nudge it forcefully by saying, you know, I can't teach here on this day anymore. Um, or you can nudge it gently that when a client says, oh, you know, this Monday time isn't gonna work. If you know [00:05:00] that there is a time where you're teaching in the area at someone else's house, you can suggest times that are actually a better fit for your schedule as well.
[00:05:09] Because I think one of the pitfalls of being a teacher and saying yes to everything, especially when you're new, is you can end up running back and forth across town a lot and it's just exhausting and it doesn't make you a better teacher to be tired and not have eaten for six hours and you know, it's just, nah, not great.
[00:05:31] So finding ways to simplify your schedule and move your schedule into a direction where maybe you're just in this one neighborhood in the morning, and then if you travel somewhere in the afternoon, it's fine, but you just travel once. Or like I said, I've got a few days where I'm totally virtual, I don't travel at all, and you know, I've very intentionally manipulated my schedule so that it goes that way. Um, it does take a lot of conscious effort.
[00:05:59] Another [00:06:00] point to simplifying your schedule is putting really firm boundaries on your time and then enforcing those boundaries, which is of course the hardest part. Studios will always want you to teach more and teach at times that they have identified that clients want to take classes.
[00:06:19] But those times, and just because the studio wants it, doesn't mean that that's a good fit for you. And as your own little mini business, whether or not you're incorporated, you have to stick up for you and what you need and what you want. So a lot of times, especially when clients are like, oh, I can't come on Tuesday. Can you do Wednesday at such and such time? In the moment you can be like, oh yeah, that's fine. And then you look at your calendar and you're like, ah, no, that was not fine. I don't like that at all.
[00:06:53] So getting comfortable saying no when it's not a good fit, and then not feeling guilty about it, which is [00:07:00] another process, but saying no when it really isn't gonna work for you. Or saying, oh, let me check my calendar so that you have a little bit of space. You don't have to give an answer right in that moment. And then if it is a good fit, awesome, then definitely do it. But if you're like, oh man, I've already gone to three studios that day, like maybe you don't go to a fourth studio. You know, like, keep it simple for yourself so that you can spend more energy teaching and less energy getting there.
[00:07:29] The next thing I'll say is when you're teaching, simplify how you cue the exercises. I know that there's a big emphasis on imagery and you know, painting a picture and you always wanna say things lots of different ways so that lots of people can connect with it and then execute whatever movement you're looking for, whatever exercise you're telling them about.
[00:07:54] But if you can be simple with your cues, A) you can [00:08:00] breathe more, which is excellent. You can have a sip of water occasionally. And B) you can give yourself the time and space to actually be a teacher and look at what people are doing and then give them refinements, give them that personalized attention that we love in our Pilates class where our teacher really sees what we're doing and then gives us a suggestion based on that.
[00:08:25] I would say whenever possible, use direct and actionable cues that tell people what you want them to do. Doesn't really matter what they're thinking about. It doesn't really matter- I was gonna say, it doesn't really matter how it feels or where they feel it necessarily, but of course we're gonna take that with a grain of salt. We don't want anyone to be an excruciating, unbearable pain, but that doesn't happen too frequently in Pilates, I would hope if you can just get them going, get them doing something.
[00:08:56] So for something like footwork, if you can just say [00:09:00] feet on the foot bar, push the carriage out. And then they start doing that. Then you can say, oh, I want you on your toes, or I want you on your heels. Or you can say from the beginning, you know, heels on the foot bar, press the carriage out. But you don't have to paint this beautiful picture that involves you talking for a long time and them not moving. Because once they start pushing the carriage out, pulling the carriage in, then you can look and maybe you give adjustments about their shoulders or their spine, or how fast they're going or where their feet are.
[00:09:31] Like the emphasis should be getting people moving and then we can refine from there. And you don't need to be absolutely bare bones with your cuing and have no personality or anything. I'm not saying that, but get people moving .And instead of continuing to say the same thing over and over in different ways, say what you were gonna say, look to see what people are doing. Did they understand it? Are they getting it? Oh, that person's a little confused. Then I'll say it a different way.
[00:09:59] [00:10:00] But don't think that you have to say every exercise every single way, especially when people are already doing it. Like give yourself a chance to take a breath and enjoy leading a class that you don't have to talk constantly in while you're teaching.
[00:10:15] I know that I felt, especially as a new teacher, that I had to be talking or I wasn't teaching. But I found the more that I teach that the space in between my talking, where I'm really observing and seeing what people are doing, and then going up to that person, Hey, could you straighten your arms a little more? Hey, could you push the carriage out a little slower? That those little refinements are really the teaching, you know?
[00:10:42] Simplifying your programming is a big adventure, so I'm gonna cover that in the second part here. So stay tuned. That's coming up next.
[00:10:57] Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's [00:11:00] chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There, you can make a one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.
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[00:11:54] Now we've simplified our schedule so that we spend time in each [00:12:00] place in a meaningful way. That could mean that you add more classes around the classes you already teach in the same place, or, I know when I go to teach privates, I wanna make sure that I put all of those privates together.
[00:12:13] So if someone comes in and they say they wanna meet on Thursday, I say, actually, I teach privates on Wednesdays. If that doesn't work in your schedule, that's fine. We'll find another teacher that's a good fit for you. But I'm gonna really hold true to the time that I'm at the studio, make the most of my time while I'm there.
[00:12:31] We've simplified our cues by giving people tasks to do and emphasizing what we want them to do, not what we want them to not do. It's very hard to not do something. It is much easier to do a different thing. And cuing in a way that people can get moving quickly, and then we can refine from there.
[00:12:50] In my opinion, I don't think that Pilates is about getting the exercise perfect all at once. I think it's about giving it your best effort, and your best effort [00:13:00] changes and what you're able to do, what you're able to notice, what you're able to control changes the more you do it, but you have to do it. And if we're still, we aren't doing it, so let's move, I think.
[00:13:14] This whole bit is gonna be about how to simplify your programming, and this is great for all types of group classes. I do know that privates or one-on-one sessions can kind of be their own animal because everyone has their own program, but there is a lot of crossover between programs. Um, and sometimes you can choose something that would be right for the person's program that would make your life easier, and that's a win-win in my opinion.
[00:13:43] So one tip that I would give you is to make more happen in each body position that you're teaching in. So if you're doing a reformer class and you start lying down on the reformer, let's do a lot of stuff lying down on the reformer.
[00:13:57] Yeah, we'll do footwork. Yeah, we'll [00:14:00] do bridging. Yeah. We'll do some ab thing that doesn't involve even moving the carriage potentially, because that allows everyone to stay in that same body position and do a bunch of things. Um, I find that transitions tend to eat up time, especially for people who are new to the class because they're already a little bit confused and unsure going into it.
[00:14:22] And so getting people into a body position once they're there, make the most of it. Spend some serious time there, see how much you can do there. That maximizes flow for sure.
[00:14:34] Along those same lines, if you can reduce the equipment changes that you do, whether that's spring changes, whether that's grabbing props, whether that's going to other parts of the studio or using different pieces of equipment.
[00:14:50] You are on the reformer, now you're on the chair, now you're on the springboard, now you're on the reformer again. Um, the more you can stay on the thing that you're on and do more stuff [00:15:00] there, that again just helps in terms of that transition time. And when you're teaching a bunch of classes in a row, like at Club Pilates, right now I'm teaching five classes in a row on Monday nights.
[00:15:14] I don't wanna be grabbing the box every single class and putting it in a different place. If I've got the box set up as a short box situation on the mat, then I'm gonna try to keep it there or have maybe the students move the box. Like there's lots of ways to still flow with the prop. But if I'm teaching a class that uses the box, the springboard, and the reformer, the next class I teach is not going to be the bosu, the TRX and the reformer. And then the third class I teach is not going to be magic circle and stability ball and chair. Like that sounds horrendous, but I might teach those three pieces of equipment for the whole night. So also [00:16:00] reducing the equipment changes between your classes if you can.
[00:16:03] Sometimes if you're teaching a class like cardio sculpt and you have to set up the jump board, like, yeah, that comes with the territory, but you can still keep the same equipment set up for more than one class or more than one private. You know, maybe we're all working on the chair in my privates tonight. Like we know we can do every Pilates exercise on every piece of equipment. So now we're playing the chair version because I've got the chair in the private studio. So simplify for yourself, for your brain in terms of remembering choreography and also for like your arm muscles, schlepping equipment across the place. Right?
[00:16:37] This is a really great thing, I think. When you're teaching several group classes in a row, again, privates kind of their own bag, but several group classes in a row. I will share with you a secret. When I teach those five classes in a row, I teach the same class. What? No way. But you're teaching a flow one, and then you're teaching an intermediate [00:17:00] class, it's a 1.5, and then you've got a cardio sculpt. To be fair, the fifth class is an intro and I do teach the same intro week to week. Because if you're taking an intro, you only take it once and then you take regular classes. So I have my super amazing perfected intro class that I teach whenever I teach an intro.
[00:17:18] But for those other classes, cardio sculpt included, I teach the same class, I use the same pieces of equipment, and I dial the exercises up or down based on the level of the class and based on if it's cardio or not. So, what? It takes some practice. It takes some practice, but it's amazing and I seriously recommend it.
[00:17:40] So this week I did the Rolldown Bar at the Springboard. So we attached the bar to the Springboard. It would be the same way as using the Rolldown bar on the Cadillac or on the tower. And I was like, we're gonna practice our Rollups and we're gonna use spring assisted to help us come down. Awesome. So we can do that in the beginning [00:18:00] level class and it stays pretty simple and we find, you know, cat shape and we roll in and out.
[00:18:05] Well then for the intermediate class, I assume that you know how to make the cat shape. So now we're doing stuff. Can you do it with single arm holding the bar or can we add a little bit of a twist as we go? Or can we do a side bend like you add stuff in that way? Can we? You know, make it more intermediate, but still using the same equipment set up.
[00:18:24] We get to cardio. Awesome. Can we do this Ballistically? Can we use the Rolldown bar in a way that is still cardio, but it's like still the same piece of equipment? You know what I mean? So once I have that set up, I will dial it up or down classes in club Pilates classes specifically. But also I would argue in any class you're gonna have a similar structure, whether it's warm up, all the stuff in the middle, cool down, whether it's, you know, we always start with footwork, bridging, and abs, and then [00:19:00] you're on your own to do everything else, but then we end the same. Or whether it's a more rigid structure, like you're following the classical order.
[00:19:07] You can teach a class that is level appropriate, that still offers options to the people who are in the class so that they feel individually challenged in the exercises without having to do a totally new setup for everything.
[00:19:23] Because this is another great thing about teaching Pilates. You don't have to do it all in one day. You know, you will teach a class the following week and you will get to explore other things. So I think when I was younger, an exuberant, more exuberant, I'm still pretty exuberant, but when I was younger and I had more energy, I thought that, oh my gosh, if I'm teaching 20 classes, which I used to do 20 group classes a week, I have to plan 20 different classes, and you don't.
[00:19:52] When I was teaching four or five days a week, I would have like a class of the day. So it would still change day to [00:20:00] day, but you bet your bottom dollar that if I'm teaching for those four or five classes, that it's gonna be the same class, but in a way that you may not even know it was the same class because you're still offering those options and those challenges and reading the room and making sure that it fits.
[00:20:17] But if you can, in addition to simplifying your programming so you spend more time in each body position, to reducing the equipment changes both between classes and within the class, and then also whenever possible teaching the same class, but different. And maybe even people taking the class don't notice, but you know, you're like, oh yeah, man, we're definitely doing, this is the ab thing that we're doing, or this is the arm thing that we're doing. We're all doing springboard arms today. You know what I mean?
[00:20:47] Um, something like that, it just frees up a lot of mental bandwidth for you so that you can focus on, again, the art of teaching and really helping people find the shapes in newer, deeper, [00:21:00] more interesting ways, and not worrying about, oh my gosh, what comes next? Oh my gosh, I've gotta move this thing, I've gotta change these springs like, getting your clients involved in the spring changing and the equipment setup is awesome, and also just being minimal in that way I think is really, really great. There you have it. Three ways to simplify your Pilates teaching. I hope that that helps.
[00:21:23] Huge thank you to all the supporters on Buy Me a Coffee, whether you've been supporting for a long time or you did a one-time donation or you're part of the recurring membership. I am really grateful to have you along on this journey with me. I look forward to meeting you and having a coffee chat coming soon. Have a great couple weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.
[00:21:53] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. [00:22:00] Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual available, everywhere you listen to podcasts. The adventure continues. Until next time.