I am sure every Pilates Instructor has heard this at one point or another from a potential student. At times it’s the student’s spouse or parent or friend who is making this observation for them. Agreed – Pilates is not cheap and it shouldn’t be! If you simply want to burn calories there are cheaper ways to do that.
Gyms offer group classes or other exercise facilities offer non- equipment based large group workouts and you can find these options for nothing more than your monthly membership or maybe as low as $10-$15 a class. That’s cheap. But are you really comparing apples to apples here? No.
Let’s dive a little deeper here. I recently received an invite to attend a Barre training program. The invite said, “Learn everything you need in one day and you’ll be teaching tomorrow!” For $225 I could be a certified Barre teacher!! Do you think it’s possible in that one day I would learn about special considerations for special populations such as pregnant women, knee replacement, scoliosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc? Doubtful. Would I learn all the anatomy I could need to assess a student and realize their weak serratus anterior is why they keep hiking up their shoulders? Probably not. I’m sure I’d learn some fun choreography and how to teach it to an average population. There is nothing wrong with that – but let’s not for a minute compare this to a Pilates training program.
To be a PMA Certified Pilates Instructor, you need to have a minimum of 450 hours of practice (compared to 8 for the above Barre program). You need to demonstrate that you are proficient on all of the equipment, have a working knowledge of anatomy as well as special populations, and sit for a lengthy exam. That’s the minimum. Many instructors like myself seek out continuing education as well to specialize in areas of interest like prenatal and post-partum Pilates or Pilates for neurological conditions. The above Barre program boasted “no on-going licensing fees or requirements”. What that means is no upkeep of your education required. PMA Certified Pilates Instructors are required to accrue 16 hours of approved continuing education every 2 years. Why – because the Pilates industry wants to guarantee their instructors keep learning and continue to be at the highest level.
A few years ago I did a two day Yoga training. I knew at the time this would not, in my opinion, make me qualified to teach yoga. The gym hosting believed otherwise! For me, I had a desire to know more for my own personal practice. The dump of information in two days and the speed with which we moved from pose to pose was overwhelming. I took lots of quick, rushed notes that later didn’t quite make sense. I had a manual I could refer back to but by no means did I feel ready to teach yoga. How could I?? In my opinion, you need to practice for yourself. Feel the work in your body, make your own discoveries and also practice communicating with different people who may learn very differently. That last bit is the component that is lacking in many 1 or 2 day teaching programs. Not only do you need to know how to do the exercise, you need to know how to teach to visual learners and tactile learners because not everyone can ‘hear’ a cue and translate that to a movement.
Let’s also consider what you get in a Pilates class versus a group fitness class. For starters, classes tend to be small. For my studio – no more than 4 students. You have the use of specialized and very expensive Pilates apparatuses. You can’t hide in the back. You can’t go through the motions and skip the hard parts – I’ll see you! Don’t get it? Ask without feeling embarrassed or like you are holding up the class. Have a specific ache you need addressed – a certified Pilates instructor is not teaching a set choreographed class and will modify the workout to your needs. She will, before you even arrive, consider who is in her class and what she thinks they need, what they are ready for, and what may be too challenging.
Pilates is credited with relieving back pain, rehabbing post-surgery or injury, building strength in weak cores and muscles, developing balance, improving posture, helping eliminate IT Band issues, and so much more. A private Pilates session is sort of like going to a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor to work on your specific issues and help find your specific solutions. On average a private Pilates session costs about half of what an appointment with a PT or Chiro costs for double or triple the time with the instructor. Kind of a bargain if you ask me! To be clear – this is not to say a Pilates instructor can do everything a PT or Chiro can do and these professions are certainly necessary. But it’s worth trying Pilates if you have a chronic ache or issue. Pilates can be done every week or several times a week … whereas you can not likely go to your PT long term on such a regular basis. Once the diagnosis is made (something a PT or Chiro can do and a Pilates instructor cannot do) the treatment can often be handled a number of ways including with regular Pilates. Often times PT and chiro’s refer their patients to Pilates Instructors. Or try Pilates first if your symptoms are not severe … you just may save an expensive Doctor’s visit. Of course, consult with your Pilates instructor first and she can tell you if this is recommended or not given your symptoms. A qualified instructor will refer you out if she feels Pilates may not be safe in your given state.
At the end of the day – you get what you pay for and with Pilates, you may pay a bit more but you also get a whole lot more! By no means is this meant to bash other group classes or barre classes but please don’t compare them to Pilates classes with a PMA Certified Pilates Instructor. They are just not the same! You can get a good workout many ways. Pilates, however, offers so much more than just a good workout!