Today we explore the good, the bad, and method of teaching blocks of classes, or multiple classes in a row. I teach the majority of my classes in blocks, and I want to share with you what I've learned in three years of marathon 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.
Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today, we're going to be talking about my tips and tricks for teaching multiple classes in a row. And this is for group classes, private classes, in-person and virtual, so whatever teaching you may find yourself doing, this is what I've learned from teaching anywhere from two to six classes in a row, one right after another.
It is definitely something that I have actually done by design. And so I want to share with you a little bit about that. There's a little bit of method to the madness of teaching multiple classes. There's also some method to the madness of taking multiple classes in a row, especially if you're going to be attending something like Momentum Fest, which is coming up literally next month.
Pilates teachers manual podcast is sponsoring Momentum Fest this year and I definitely have my schedule [00:02:00] for Momentum Fest, even though I'm attending virtually, there's also in-person options, but there's a little bit of planning that can go into like how many mat classes can I actually handle in one day? And you do have to prioritize and kind of go from there. Momentum Fest is coming up on June 25th through June 27th. As I said, in-person, it's also happening virtually. You can get tickets, check out the schedule, and sign up for everything online at momentumfest.com. I hope to see you there.
When you're teaching multiple classes, there are definitely some considerations you want to take. I didn't start teaching multiple classes in a row. The first studios I taught at, I was teaching a class a week or maybe two classes a week. I was going back and forth between maybe five or six different places. That was fine and it worked for me [00:03:00] at the time. But I realized that I was spending a lot of time traveling. And if you're going to a studio to teach a single group class, and you're getting paid, you know, 20, 25, $30 for that class, but you're also traveling for an additional hour and you can't be teaching during that hour because you're going from place to place. Like, it didn't make sense for me to continue teaching just that one or two classes a week.
And so I made a very conscious shift towards teaching a group of group classes or a group of privates or a hybrid of group and privates as long as it was at the same place, because it made sense for my schedule, it made sense financially, and it just worked for me. I live in Chicago and I live on the South Side in Hyde Park and I don't teach in Hyde park, so every studio that I go to is either in the Loop or West [00:04:00] Loop or in River North. And so I'm commuting to those places.
I also don't have a car. So transportation costs of both time and money is a definite consideration. So in order for it to be worth my while to go teach, I can't go for a one-off at noon. I've really got to kind of plan schedule a bit more strategically so that I'm not wasting time or money when I'm teaching.
I teach at a couple places that allow me to teach in blocks. One is Club Pilates, and one is Kinexology. So Club Pilates is in-person classes. Although they do offer virtual classes, I'm not teaching any of those on the regular. I do teach a couple in-person blocks each week. And then Kinexology I teach as part of their virtual studio and I only make myself available during certain blocks of time each week.
But one of the reasons I chose [00:05:00] to teach in both of those places, in addition to seeing myself aligned with their philosophy and their goals as studios and you know, what they kind of stand for, the services that they're providing. Like, I feel strongly about both places and really enjoy working at both places. But the other consideration was that this allows me to create a schedule that supports me and allows me to support myself as a, what I would consider a full-time teacher. That I'm teaching about 30 plus classes a week.
I'd say when I first started teaching in blocks, it required some adapting on my part. I've been doing it for about three years now. And I just want to share with you what I've learned and also whether blocking out your schedule and kind of chunks of teaching is going to be a good fit for you because it may not be a good fit for you. If you have a different job that you're working full-time or part-time, and you're only teaching a few [00:06:00] classes a week, you might be fine to go in on Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday to teach for an hour. Especially if you have a car or the studio is close. But you could also teach all of those classes on one day and then you would have, you know, six more days of jumping around, doing whatever you want.
Mostly, I just want to share with you what I've learned so that you can go forth and if block schedule is the way to go for you, here's some things that might make it a little bit easier.
My previous schedule before I taught in blocks was definitely really spread out. I might be teaching a class at 8:00 AM at 10:00 AM at like one, and then maybe two classes in the evening at like six and seven 30. I look at that schedule now and I'm like, Oh my gosh, what a nightmare? There's so much empty space. I could combine all of those morning classes and just teach in a chunk and then have a ton of downtime in between the evening classes. Or can I stack everything around the evening classes, things like that.
So when I first made the switch to teaching three or four [00:07:00] hours in a row, it felt a lot to me like when I first started teaching kindergarten, where even though I consider myself a talkative person, I wasn't talking for four hours straight. And then I was, and I was like, Oh my gosh, my throat is sore. And I'm tired from walking around all the time while I'm teaching, because you know, you're not really sitting still when you're teaching, you're going around, giving corrections and pacing if you're me.
I used to have a Fitbit and I was clocking about six to 7,000 steps in four hours of teaching with just like a lot of walking around. So I did an episode previously on the podcast of everything you need to teach, and I'm going to echo some of those things. If you're interested in learning more there's definitely another episode about that.
What I need, if I'm going to be teaching an in-person block of classes for three or more hours, I need studio shoes, for sure. And you will see on my personal Instagram at @OliviaBioniWellness that in a lot of my videos and pictures, I'm wearing [00:08:00] sneakers. They're not outdoor sneakers. They're studio shoes that I only wear in the studio. They're like the cleanest shoes in the world. Non-marking soles and all that. I wear them because I'm going to be walking around for four hours. And like, you could also wear grip socks, but you know, I need to wear shoes. It's much more comfortable and I feel better when I do that. So definitely have my sneakers with me.
I'm going to have snacks and I'm going to have coffee or tea or something, but definitely something caffeinated for the first part of my block, whether it's in the morning or in the afternoon, evening. Just because I know that I need to keep my blood sugar up. So I'm going to be eating, especially like the night block at Club Pilates is like a4:30, 5:30. 6:30, 7:30 class. Like that's dinner time. Like I need to eat something. So I'm going to have a bunch of bars or food that's really quick and easy for me to snack on or eat between classes and I'm just going to feel better and be a better teacher and be less dizzy and unfocused.
[00:09:00] If I'm going to have coffee for the afternoon blocks, I'll have it about, you know, an hour before I start teaching so that I'm nice and alert. Is that an unhealthy reliance on caffeine? I don't know. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I think I'm doing okay.
Tea is also a really great beverage to drink because you are talking a lot and it's soothing to your throat. So you might choose to have tea as well, or at least water, just because again, you're going to be talking. Even if you're taking the advice that I gave in the previous episode about improving your cuing and talking a little bit less, you're still going to be talking a lot for several hours.
I want to make sure that I've got masks that I can talk in. That was like the first day back from pandemic shutdown, I had just like one of those cotton masks, that's just like one sheet. It wasn't pleated or anything. It was just like one piece of fabric and your jaw is going to be going up and down while you're talking. So you definitely want a mask that you can talk [00:10:00] comfortably in, whether it's a surgical mask or like a pleated cotton mask, but you want to be able to open your mouth and talk without your mask pulling down your nose or riding up on your chin or whatever.
When I first started teaching in a block and my throat was really sore, I kept cough drops with me because it soothes my throat a little bit more than even just drinking the tea. Or like right now we've got seasonal allergy time for me. Cough drops can definitely help with that itchy throat so that you can keep talking, especially if you're talking really loudly and talking over music or anything like that.
Coming up after the break, I've got some more tips on teaching group classes in person for teaching group classes virtually, and private sessions, both in-person and virtual. That's coming up next.
I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after [00:11:00] 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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All righty. So when I first started teaching at Club Pilates, there's definitely like a trial by fire kind of thing because when just started teaching in a block and it just [00:12:00] feels like everyone is constantly coming to your class, it's like a parade of people and it can be kind of overwhelming. And so these are some things that I do to make it more manageable and to save some of my own energy.
I have a single equipment set up for all of the classes that I'm going to teach in the block. If we're using like the box and gliders and the reformer, we're using the box, the gliders and the reformer in all of my classes, whether it's a flow one or a flow, 1.5 or a flow two, we're going to use the same equipment. Because a) we're really heavy duty, deep cleaning, all of the equipment that we use. So it's going to save you time at the end of your block when you are giving everything a final wipe down. Even though it's being wiped down before and after each class, it's gonna be easier to clean if you have less things to clean.
It's going to save you a lot of brain power because you [00:13:00] won't be juggling multiple pieces of equipment in your brain beyond the three that you've chosen. You're just going to stick with those three and be creative within the confines of those pieces of equipment. And if you're constantly, you know, taking the box out and then taking the TRX out and then resetting the springboard and then changing the springs on the chair, like that's a lot. That's a lot. You don't need to do that. You can definitely just use those three pieces of equipment.
I would also say for group classes, I'm teaching almost the same class the whole night, and you may have some people who stay for two classes. Like I teach like a flow one followed by a center and balance, which is like a stretching class. So people might stay from the one to the center and balance. And guess what you're going to be using the same pieces of equipment and it's okay. Like you're okay.
I might, or I would say I'm definitely going to change the level of difficulty [00:14:00] in all of the classes. So if I'm teaching lunges, like scooter lunges on the reformer in a flow 1.0, where they're standing one foot on the ground, one foot on the shoulder block, knee resting on the carriage. Excellent. Maybe in a 1.5, we're doing that and incorporating free weights into it, or we're having the back knee lifted off of the carriage, or maybe they're standing on the box with their foot against the shoulder block on the carriage, you know, the box like right next to the reformer if it's a strong group of 1.5 friends. And then for an advanced class or a flow 2.0, maybe we're doing those lunges with, they're standing on the reformer, or maybe they're doing lunges, but they're standing on the reformer facing the other direction. Maybe we're playing with hand weights. Maybe we're keeping our hands available to help us balance. If I know that I'm going to teach lunges, like that's going to be my leg and glute section of [00:15:00] class, I'm going to teach lunges for everyone's legs and glutes and I'll make it more or less challenging. Or maybe the 1.0 is, are doing lunges with the gliders if I'm sticking with that glider box reformer set up.
There are so many ways to do every single exercise. It's kind of fun to play within this box you've created for yourself.
So I do a single equipment setup, I teach a single class and then just level it up or down, just also great for offering challenge and options within each class, because you know, you can give them another option really easily and you're already thinking about that. That's great.
I definitely pick a focus for my classes. And then I let it evolve based on what I'm seeing from the bodies in front of me. People are really struggling with that lunge on the gliders, like standing at the bar or something like that. Maybe I'm going to break that down a little bit more in the class, and that will be what it looks like in the 1.0.
And if at the one point fives are just coasting through it, like [00:16:00] it's easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Then maybe I'm going to give them some other options, but you're going to let what you see from the students really shape where you go.
Very important: start your class on time and end your class on time. I know there's so many deep dives we can go into and we're really feeling it. But part of your job as a teacher is to time manage and you want to respect your time and you also want to respect your students' time. And give them time to clean afterwards, and to leave the studio before the next class comes in. Don't be that person. End your classes on time. If you were right in the thick of something and it was so great, amazing. Save it for next class and end your class on time.
For your private sessions, you can be a little bit more flexible. I think with the equipment changes in the equipment setup because you're only working with one body and you're only working with one set of equipment. You're not changing the springs for 10 [00:17:00] people on reformers. You're changing the springs for one. So you can be a little bit more loosey goosey, I guess, with the equipment that you're using.
And of course, for your private sessions, it's going to be tailored to each person's goals, but they're still gonna do a warmup. They're still gonna do a cool-down. There will be overlap in some exercises. So if you can double dip some of the exercises you've planned, it would be silly not to. Like save yourself some time and some brain energy. Right.
Also important for privates: start and end on time. If the person shows up late for the appointment, whether it's virtual or in person, you end on time because your time is valuable and their time is valuable and you don't know what they've got right after it. They don't know what you've got right after it. You should definitely end on time.
And again, if you were working on something and it was just so great and you just want to keep going, you can. Next session, whether you're teaching group or private sessions virtually, again, [00:18:00] time. Start on it and on it.
Make sure that you're comfortable where you're teaching, if you are doing private sessions and you're able to sit and teach for the majority of the session, make sure that you're in a comfortable place. Do not demo everything unless you have to demo everything. I do teach a few group classes where I am doing the class as I'm teaching it. It's exhausting and it's really hard on your body.
So the recommendation I would give you for those virtual group classes is don't teach a bunch of those in a row, actually spread those out and do maybe virtual private, then virtual group, and then more virtual privates, if possible, just because it's- it's a lot on your body to have to do a full body workout even when your body doesn't necessarily want to do a full body workout. So really be gentle with yourself for that.
Give yourself a short break between your classes or appointments, whether it's five minutes or 10 minutes so that you can go to the bathroom and eat something or drink something or anything like that.
Take advantage [00:19:00] on virtual classes, especially for virtual privates, that you can mute yourself and like blow your nose or cough or have a drink of tea. Like you can do those things during your private. You can take advantage of that.
When you're going to be teaching in a block, and there's definitely like a learning curve and an adjustment period, but know your limits and know how many classes you can take on in a row. I would say for in-person group classes, my limit is five. Could do a sixth. Maybe if it was a private or if one of them was an intro, because it's only like a 30 minute class. And even though I'm still talking with people, I don't have to be like teaching, teaching. There's an opportunity to go to the bathroom there.
And know what your limits are virtual teaching. I get a little bit tired after four of those in a row. So I could probably do five, but know your limits and know where you want people to be added to your schedule. So if someone's like, Oh my gosh, I would love to do a private session with you. You're like, great. I'm available at Tuesday at 3:30 [00:20:00] because I start teaching at 4:30. And if you want to come in, I'm coming into the studio on that day and I can be there an hour earlier to see you, if you'd like. You know, like you need to be really specific about when you're available so that you can make those blocks happen.
Know how many hours you want to teach in a day. Um, my schedule is like heavy, medium, light. Medium medium. I'd say, um, where I'm teaching maybe eight classes on one day. And then the following day, I'm teaching six and it's like a later start in the morning. And then the next day is like four or five, but they're all in one chunk. So I have like a really long morning break, but you just want to know what works for you.
And so if you're like, I love blocks, but I can't do two of them in one day. Just like, know that, right? Don't create a schedule that makes you miserable, really create a schedule that gives you time to decompress and be excited about what you're doing and not feel drained. Like would you rather teach two days [00:21:00] for eight hours and then have a bunch of days where you don't teach, or would you rather teach six days where you're teaching fewer hours each day?
And that is that personal question there isn't really one that's better, but there's one that's better for you. But as I was saying, whenever possible, make it a block. When you're adding a new person, when you're changing your schedule, if you know that blocks work for you, then make those blocks happen.
Even when I was teaching at studios where I was only teaching maybe two classes in a row. As I was adding private sessions, I was like, okay, well, I can see you before those two classes or I could see after that class, but I'm not going to see you on a separate day where I have to come in totally separately just for this one hour. Like that is not worth it to me. And you got to have those boundaries. You've got to set those boundaries. I hope that helps you think about block scheduling and things that you might need to be successful teaching your blocks.
Big thank you to all my supporters [00:22:00] on Buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate your contributions. I'm actually going to be starting a little bit of a campaign on Buy Me a Coffee as I'm working to make some changes to my space so that I can record both classes and podcasts a little bit more cleanly. So there'll be more about that in the future. And I hope you have a great week and I'll talk to you again soon.
Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. 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.