While I was in the process of becoming a Pilates teacher I wrote a couple of posts on what was needed to get there. The tests, anatomy modules, overcoming stage fright in front of a class, the good, the bad, everything!
While you’re learning and striving towards that final sign off there’s so much focus on “getting there” that you may forget about where you’re headed. What happens once you have that “Pilates-happily ever after”?
Having that sign off is amazing, and it’s up there with my most treasured moments. However it’s also kind of scary. You’re no longer under someone else’s wings. Classes, students, rent. It’s all up to you now.
Scouting for a studio.
Step 1 is to find a place to teach. I was incredibly lucky in that a studio had contacted me before I’d qualified to see if I would like to teach there, so I can’t give the best advise on what to do. However I will say this; be open to everything! Keep eyes open and ears trimmed for anything Pilates related and just go for it. Contact people. I was forwarded an email from another studio about a possible opening and I jumped on it. It’s lead me to a fantastic and incredibly inspiring contact who is mentoring me and guiding me towards taking over her classes eventually. Another contact came about when a mutual Facebook friend tagged me in their status update, and we’ve also been discussing setting up a couple of classes each week. Talk to everyone and somehow mention you’re a teacher. You never know what it may bring you.
You also have to be thankful for what you’re getting. Most definitely you won’t be getting those ideal hours straight off the bat. Most of my classes are in the evening at around 18.30, which means late dinners. However I am so happy to be teaching that it really doesn’t matter to me.
Getting the word out.
Step 2 is then to drum up a client base. This is hard. I’ve not yet fully figured out how to best go about this, but I’d say don’t underestimate the power of social media. Most people are now on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, and are not only using these for keeping in touch with friends but to find fitness classes around them. Set up a Pilates page for yourself and ask friends and family to like and share it too.
Not much of a social media person yourself? Don’t worry, the most powerful tool still is word of mouth. I’ve had a couple of clients come to me because their friends have recommended my classes. Be friendly, positive, and always carry a business card with you. Look professional but approachable. If you live in a small community like myself this is even more important because you never know who you may bump into.
Health shops, fitness stores, pubs, etc. These are all good places to leave a card too. I’d highly recommend getting on the good side of your local Sweaty Betty, Lululemon or other fitness clothing store. Many of these run classes for their members or frequently are asked about local instructors. Make sure that you’re someone they’d recommend!
Stage fright; or getting a case of “what on earth am I doing?!”
Okay, so you’ve got your location sorted and people have signed up to come along.
You’re freaking out.
Just take a couple of deep breaths in and relax. It may not feel like it but you do know what you’re doing. You wouldn’t have that laminated piece of paper if you didn’t. However, I cannot begin to count the times that I have felt that way too and after talking to those who have been teaching for years, it seems like that niggling never really fades. We’re all our worst critics.
One way to calm the nerves is by teaching friends and family and asking them to give you feedback. My mom is in a couple of my classes and no one can be as candid as her, but she’s also helped me relax and realise that actually, I’m not too bad.
Also, it’s worth remembering that most of the people you teach won’t know their flexion from their extension and will go all blank eyed if you tell them to “softly engage their center as they tuck their pelvis anteriorly”. Teaching “real” people is different. Many won’t be able to do a perfect curl up and few will have any idea of where their range of movement starts and ends. However don’t let this scare you because it is so much more fun and all part of the challenge to figure out cues that will help them get to where you want them.
The best advice I received before my first class was to just get them moving. Don’t worry too much about getting the correct alignment (provided everyone is safe!) and just make sure that they come away feeling satisfied and like they’ve had a work out. Perfection of movement will come but it’s a slow process. I mean, no way that I’m perfect yet and neither are those teachers of 10 years or more.
Another point worth remembering too is that most people look very serious when they’re concentrating. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve thought in the back of my mind “Oh my gosh this must be absolutely terribly because everyone looks like they want to murder me” only to then have those same people come up afterwards to say that it was absolutely fantastic and they loved it! I dare you to look in the mirror the next time you’re doing a class yourself and see what face your making. I can guarantee it won’t be a smiling one!
What I want any student or newly qualified teacher to take away from all of this though is this; it’s fantastic! There’s nothing greater than seeing the delight on people’s faces as they manage to do a certain exercise or when they come back the next week to tell you how amazing their back feels. It’s plain and purely awesome! Take it from someone who hated being the centre of attention or talking in front of a crowd and is now on a daily basis asking people to look at her and telling them what to do! It is terrifying, especially those first couple of ones, but it gets easier and easier as you get more used to it.
Keep calm and Pilates on!
Do you have any tips on what to do when you get started? What do you think is the best part of teaching? I’d love to hear your thoughts too, so please post your nuggets of wisdom below!