What Characteristics Define Good or Mediocre Pilates Instruction?

Uniting the Industry: Pilates instructors share their experience with advanced education and the method.

In earlier issues of IDEA Pilates Today, quality of instruction has been cited as one of the most important factors—perhaps the most important factor—for maintaining true Pilates principles in the fitness setting.

Question: What characteristics define good versus mediocre Pilates instruction?

Good Instruction Takes Time

“There is no possible way for an instructor to attend a weekend [workshop] and be ready to teach. I believe a good program should incorporate a lengthy apprenticeship—no fewer than 100 teaching hours—to help blend the textbook and practical aspects of Pilates. An apprentice program also helps instructors develop their own specific teaching style. Once you connect the “why” and the “how” of Pilates, you reach that “Aha!” moment when you truly understand what you’re saying and doing, and you combine everything you’ve learned to complement your unique style.

“There is a big difference between knowing what you’re saying and just repeating information that was learned through a training process. That’s why it is extremely important for instructors to be diligent about their continuing education. Instructors who are resistant to the continual learning process are cheating themselves and their clients.”

—Michele Cohen, owner, Picchi's Pilates

Helping Clients Understand the Connections

“One of my first instructors, Stella Puttallez, told me something that stayed with me through the years. There are really only three exercises in Pilates—rolling like a ball, swan and twist are the primary movements of flexion, extension and rotation. Once you learn to truly perform each of these movements with skill and precision, utilizing your core, you begin to master all movements. Being able to transfer this concept to clients is a critical characteristic that defines a good versus a mediocre Pilates instructor.

“Instructors are only successful when they get each client’s body to respond to the brilliant principles of Joseph Pilates. This involves setting the context—creating a learning environment that makes connections between one exercise and another. Success comes when a student feels a similar physical response while performing different movements in several different planes.

“Good instructors are able to quickly ‘read’ the body in front of them and adapt to factors like gender, age, injury, experience and learning style to help each body respond. It’s a fluid approach. The exceptional instructor creates an experience that facilitates connections during each session. The beauty of the method is that there may be only three exercises, but the connections to these movements in each body are endless!”

—Maria Andresino, Mind 2 Body Fitness

The Consummate Pilates Professional

“A love for the work and a desire to help others top my list of what makes an instructor ‘good.’ A good Pilates instructor has a nationally recognized, high-quality, thorough Pilates education and takes the time to find out about his or her students—asking about injuries, illness or medications that might affect the workout—so that instruction can be tailored to each individual, even in a class setting.

“A good Pilates instructor is observant and notices if there are body imbalances or if someone seems ill or fatigued on any given day, and realizes that each day brings a different set of circumstances for each student. A good Pilates instructor must be intelligent, imaginative, intuitive, creative and able to think quickly. He or she is the consummate professional who always keeps a good attitude, makes learning fun, dresses neatly and appropriately, and is punctual, organized and encouraging.

“A mediocre Pilates instructor shows no passion in his or her teaching. Mr. or Ms. Mediocre may not have had high-quality training, is generally casual with regard to continuing education, and teaches as if he or she were reading from a script, rarely (if ever) looking around the room to see how these instructions are being carried out, and rarely noticing individual needs. A mediocre Pilates instructor is formulaic and casual with dress, attitude, punctuality and professionalism. This instructor talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk by going the extra mile to get the most out of students.”

—Susan Bronstein, owner, Pilates StudiOh!

Is there an “X” factor that makes the difference between brilliant and so-so Pilates instruction? What do you think determines whether a Pilates instructor is outstanding, average or simply unqualified? E-mail Senior Editor Joy Keller with your opinion: kellerj@ideafit.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Mary Monroe

IDEA Author/Presenter
Mary Monroe is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.
February 2011

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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