I purchased a groupon type deal a while ago for two thirty minute pilates reformer sessions at a local facility I had never been too. I like to try other classes. I like to learn from other instructors. I like to continue to improve my form and the best way to do that is to have an expert watching and critiquing me. While I love teaching, I think it’s important to also be a student too!
I had my first appointment today. The instructor could not have been cuter or nicer. She was enthusiastic, friendly and made me feel very welcome. Unfortunately after that initial impression the rest was down hill.
She asked if I had tried the reformer before and I said yes. I’ve learned in these type of situations it is often better not reveal that I am an instructor until after the session is over or sometimes not at all. I’ve found some instructors are intimidated by having another instructor in their class. They may be hesitant to correct me – even if I need some correction. OR I’ve also had the experience that the instructor feels the need to overdue the intensity of the class in attempt to impress me I just want to take a normal class -and be a student sometimes.
At the beginning of the class the instructor did not ask me anything about my body or any potential issues I might have. That’s a big red flag for me. While pilates is performed in a safe neutral spine- if a student has shoulder issues, back issues, arthritis or any number of other issues – there are movements that should be avoided. I know what I can do – so I knew I could keep myself safe. We began with double leg work -with very heavy spring weight. I might as well have been doing the squat press. I was given no instruction about my form, breathing or why I was doing this exercise. I did about 20 repetitions of the same exercise – in complete silence with no instruction or encouragement. Each exercise I did was repeated at least 20 times. Pilates is based on the principal that when performed correctly an exercise does not need to be repeated numerous times. A few perfectly performed movements are better than multiple sloppy movements.
Next we moved on to ‘arm work’ as I was instructed – although I knew it was actually “lats and abs” work. The spring weight was so intense – I had to ask to have it reduced. And I do pilates regularly! During my first 20 reps – I realized the hand straps were not even at all and pointed this out. I could not figure out why I was struggling with the weight even after she had reduced it. I then realized the reformer was not set up properly. The ropes were significantly too short so they did not reach the hanging pegs – and I was having to seriously pull them to get them into the ‘starting’ position. Even after adjusting the straps to make them more even- they remained uneven. During legs in straps this was pretty apparent but my instructor did not notice one of my feet was an inch father out than the other!
As we were doing some work on the core, I mentioned my previous abdominal surgery and said I had worked to improve my core. My instructor simply said “Oh.” She did not inquire if I had limitations or how I felt with the exercise.
At no point during my session was I counseled on how to breath, about neutral spine, how I should feel the work or even why we were doing the work. Fortunately, these are things I know BUT for anyone who goes to this instructor and this is their first impression of the pilates reformer – I am frustrated.
While this instructor was a lovely gal and I know she truly liked pilates- she was not equipped with the right knowledge to teach pilates. She mentioned where she studied locally – and I know this consists of a weekend training program. Programs like this damage the reputation of pilates and turn clients away after a bad or ineffective experience. The Pilates Method Alliance only recognizes the PMA certification and asks that others do not refer to their training as a certification. It’s because they realize these abbreviated training programs exist – and they harm the industry. It is so difficult to convince a client who has a had a negative or ineffective experience with Pilates to try it again unfortunately. These type of programs leave clients believing Pilates is not very good and not for them.
Did you practice driving a car for just a weekend before you got your drivers license? Would you go to a hair stylist who studied for 16 hours? After a weekend learning photoshop would you be qualified to teach it? Would you go to a nutritionist who received his degree in a weekend? I wouldn’t! And with Pilates – we are talking about your BODY! The most valuable asset you have! Improper technique can lead to serious injuries and long range problems. While not as dangerous- improper form and instruction can lead to an ineffective workout. Why waste your time??
While I am confident the instructor I had this morning had the best intentions – I blame the program that sent her own her way to ‘teach’ pilates and told her she was qualified. She even admitted to me that she was new to teaching and wasn’t very comfortable yet!
I am very passionate about pilates and being the best teacher I can be. I want my student to understand and get the results they desire. I do not want to waste anyone’s time with an ineffective workout. I want to keep my clients safe and work within their limitations. I continue to educate myself. I am always learning more. I will always be a student as well a teacher. I want to help my students reach their goals and see results.
I know this post may not be popular with some but I stand by it. And I promise to do my best to make your private reformer or group session with me the best it can be. And if you take a class from me and don’t find it to be what it should- please let me know! I also hope if you have tried pilates and had a similar experience as the one described above – you will try again at a different location with a more qualified instructor.