I love teaching pilates and especially the reformer. I love introducing new people to the reformer. I always hope they will walk away just as excited about it and wanting more as I did.
But let’s take a step back. When I started practicing pilates- I was only taking mat pilates classes. I had been a runner through high school, college and after and taught spinning for several years. I was looking for something else to teach. I tried various classes with the mindset- would I want to teach this? While classes like Body Pump and Body Glide were a decent workout – I didn’t walk away feeling they would give me the results I wanted. I wasn’t hooked. I knew I couldn’t ‘push’ something if I didn’t believe in it too. Then I tried pilates. I was skeptical walking into the class. I wore my heart rate monitor so I could see how many calories I was burning during the class. There’s your first clue- I had no idea what I was doing!
In my first class the regular instructor had called in sick and the gal teaching was not a pilates instructor normally I don’t think. There were about 30 of us in the room … translation … we weren’t getting any hands on help or attention. I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong. I held my breath, my stomach was puffed out most of the class. I focused on making sure my arms and legs were moving in the right direction. That’s what people were going to notice right?? I got very little out of that class. Per my watch/heart-rate monitor I burned less than 90 calories. And I thought what a complete waste of time.
A girlfriend convinced me to give it one more try when the regular instructor was back. And I did. What a difference it made! The instructor started off by explaining how important the breath was and how important it was to keep my core contracted and my belly button pulling up and in towards my spine. She explained what neutral spine was. I learned that having my legs in the perfect position was secondary to my core and my breath. And boy did I feel it in my core when I left that class!!
I like things that challenge me and there were moves I struggled with in mat pilates. So I kept coming back with the mindset of conquering those moves and getting stronger. I started to see muscles develop in ways they never had with years of lifting weights. I became leaner while building strength. I had had a couple major abdominal surgeries some years before and my abs never really recovered from the trauma of being cut and stitched back together twice. After just a few weeks of doing pilates – I saw my abs coming back together and looking better than they had in years! After doing thousands of crunches, I had given up hope this could happen. This was a result I never expected! I was hooked and I was a ‘believer’.
At that point – I knew I wanted to not only keep doing pilates but I wanted to study to become an instructor. I had a desire to understand pilates better and I could see the benefit it would bring to others. I did my research and there were weekend pilates training programs and also one much more intense program: 4 months, everyday, requiring a minimum of 200 hours of accumulated practice time and a test out teaching class to a group of experienced instructors. I didn’t think I could possibly learn enough to feel qualified in a weekend so I chose the latter. That’s a decision I am grateful I made. It was a wonderful experience with about 10 other women from all walks of life seeking a better understanding of their bodies and desiring the skills to be an excellent teacher. I find it unfortunate that weekend programs exist – they not only do a disservice to the potential instructor but also future students. The level of knowledge needed to be a good Pilates Instructor is too great to master, remember and learn how to teach in 16 hours. I can only assume my first pilates class was taught by a ‘weekender’. But stepping off my soap box about pilates training and back to the point of this entry!
The program that I choose was for both mat and reformer pilates. I was really only interested in mat pilates but it was not an option to do just one. I went into my first reformer class with the mindset that I would do it but I really knew it would never compare to mat class. I was so wrong. I gained flexibility, arm strength, range of motion beyond what I could have expected from the reformer.
So today when I talk to potential students and I see the doubt and question on their faces when I bring up the reformer- I know how they are feeling. I was just like them! I know that sometimes it takes a few reformer classes to illustrate the benefits. I’m not surprised when my newbies want more spring weights and don’t think it’s “working” for them… because I know they will feel differently the next day! Pilates is sneaky like that!
Last night I had a newbie. She came to me and said “I know I need to lose some weight, my midsection has gotten out of control, my low back hurts and my hip flexors have become so tight. Someone said I should try pilates but I’m not sure it will help. I’m frustrated and have tried other things so I figured I’d give this a try.” People like that get me excited! I got her on the reformer after explaining the basics and the machine and we being to do some work. It did not take her long to say “Wow- I’m feeling muscles I haven’t felt in a long time – and my hip flexors already feel like they are getting stretched out”. In one class she was able to see an answer to her problems and had found hope.
That’s why I do what I do!