One beautiful day after a morning Pilates class, my client told me that since I knew a lot about Pilates, I needed to register in Quora – world question bank with answers- and start answering various Pilates-related questions to share my passion and help other people. So, after classes that day, I actually did it: registered in Quora, filled in my credentials and started looking for Pilates questions, ready to serve. The next minute, Quora joyfully informed me that the question of a perfect match had found me instead. Whohoo! The next minute or so, I laughed so hard my perfect core was aching because the question that popped out was “How many calories one burns while pooping?”
… if you want to know the best answer so far, scroll to the end of this article.
Ok, there were a lot of more Pilates-related questions: benefits of Pilates, why men should do Pilates, the best Pilates exercise, etc. And even philosophic questions such as the one in the title. I liked it. It sounds meaningful and the one I really would love to answer. So, in this article, I will try actually to answer what is it like being a Pilates instructor. Please keep in mind that I share my own experience and do not pretend to cover it all or to create some universal manifesto… Just telling my story here.
First, you actually bring the value. You do change other people’s life for the better. The beauty of Pilates is that it is not only about the body image but also about health and quality of life: Pilates exercises prevent lower back pain, beat the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and relieve stress. What’s not to love?
About a year ago, I got a two-minute phone call from a mother of my client who thanked me for saving her daughter from an (unnecessary) plastic surgery: prior to our classes, the girl was convinced that a surgical intervention was the only way to fix her body image problems. Our regular Pilates classes completely changed her outlook over a short period. After that call, I felt like I won a billion dollar court case. She became healthier and eventually – happier.
And you know, this fact of adding value matters for your motivation. Researches show that the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their sake. The drive to do things because they matter. And being a Pilates instructor is simply perfect in every sense.
Second, being a Pilates instructor makes you feel complete. You never have to choose whether to earn for living (read – sit in the office till midnight working on some project) or to go to the nearest gym to burn off those pizza calories, or to the doctor to treat scoliosis: you practice what you preach. Moreover, you are proud of what you do for a living.
As a Pilates instructor, You live a life you can be proud of
Third, it is kind of quirky No one tells an accountant “Oh, your math’s skills are great!” or admires out loud the lawyer’s logic. But, now and then someone tells me what a great posture I have or how toned up my arms look That’s fun.
Also, being a full-time Pilates instructor means you have crafted to perfection your “elevator pitch” on how Pilates is different from yoga*
*What do you do when you find yourself face-to-face in an elevator with the CEO of your dream company? – The name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was the editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin.
Pilates instructor never sleeps. Well, perhaps, she does sleep sometimes, but for sure, doesn’t take much “time off.” Seriously, most Pilates instructors don’t make a fortune; so, they look at time off as part of the perks of the job. It is not a kind of paid vacation scenario. Usually, if you do not teach classes, you do not get paid.
And studio owners face even more challenges: your clients may not be eager to wait for you and will go to the studio nearby, or the instructors you counted on tell you the last moment they need a cover, or you are afraid that while you are gone no one will take care of the studio as much as you do… So, you really need to calculate the alternative cost of your vacation every time. I just calculate how much money I’m losing into the cost of what a vacation will cost me.
There are three possible methods to deal with this issue. My fave is “let it go.” Not to be rude, but clients will always be there. My priority is always my health and well-being. Then, I have something of quality to give. If you feel that you need a vacation – probably, you are right. And it is worth keeping in mind that your clients who promised you to stay there for all holidays may take a last minute deal to Hawaii and you just will be stuck with no income and no vacation.
Another solution could be taking continuing education workshops and attending professional conferences and counting that as a vacation. This way you leave your clients, but add points to your brand and teaching style. Considering the fact those conferences are often held at resorts and other nice places, it helps you to refresh and feel pampered.
Moreover, the way it works for studio owners: you may organize the teaching process the way you do not teach yourself too much, will get paid during your vacation.
You have your favorite Pilates pose to do selfie or something – that’s how people may differentiate you from dancer and fitness trainers. In fact, just recently quota challenged me with another question: Why do most Pilates instructors advertise by displaying themselves performing the Teaser? Love this!
Well, this pose – The Teaser – is very distinctive and challenging to perform.
Being a Pilates instructor, I believe it is not easy to find the different Pilates exercise to show off now and then, because Pilates is not about performance for others or about a body image for its own sake. Pilates is about health, strong core muscles, and healthy spine: how are you going to present those? Pilates is such a natural, practical way to strengthen all the muscle groups, nurture the joints and take care of a complete body, that when you think about Pilates body, you imagine a healthy body in general meaning of this world (I love to write about Pilates benefits in detail). There is nothing to show explicitly for public, as there is no need to parade your common sense or literacy.
However, since Pilates instructors usually advertise their services among other alternatives, such as gym workouts, yoga, cardio or dance classes, there is some pressure to show the results clients will achieve or should aim to. Second, there is still the “no pain no gain” myth about good workouts; so, perhaps, Pilates trainers want to entice potential clients this way…Because, yes, The Teaser IS challenging – you should give it a try, without rolling onto your back the next second:)
Pilates instructors are freaky weirdos. That’s because we know mysterious terminologies like the Core, belly-button-close-to-spine and Fifty verbal clues to relax your shoulders during the Roll Down.
Pilates instructors are usually some posture geeks: when entering any room, they scan everyone for “bad signs” of improper spinal alignment, decide who has the worst posture that evening and make a mental note of possible workouts to correct that person’s posture. Check out this cool Non-Yawn Inducing Posture Guide to find out what it takes to get a correct posture).
Also, it is interesting to know that Pilates instructors have a code of ethics! I feel like the knight in an ancient romance as, wrapped in his shining armor, fighting against slouched shoulders and computer posture…I adore the first command of this code: “do not harm,” which is also among UNICEF’s Humanitarian Principles. There is something noble about it, you know… Something about adding value as I described above. And of course, the code of ethics gives us the guidelines of professional behavior in daily situations. If you are interested, browse the Pilates Method Alliance’s site to read it.
And the last but not least, being a Pilates instructor is like being a Superman or Catwoman: everything is easy when you are core-crazy. Seriously, all-day walking and sightseeing? With pleasure! No sore legs or aching back. Want to try a new sport such as cycling, running, golf and tennis, sailing? Perhaps, it is not going to be easy, but super strong deep abdominals, all muscle groups being in the balance and a habit to pay attention to details will make a learning process simpler. Always dreamed of dancing in a non-visually offensive way? Pilates has already made your moves coordinated! I believe it takes a lifetime to discover all Pilates benefits.
Everything is easy when you are Core-crazy
Obviously, the life of Pilates instructor is not about compliments and day dreaming only. We have our profession-related issues to solve and philosophical questions to think about (such as the one I have tried to address in the article “Confessions of a Personal Trainer: What I Really Think about Your Last-Minute Class Cancellation”). But this only highlights what an incredible, inspiring journey being a Pilates instructor is.
Oh, as promised: the best answer to the first question in this article so far is “it depends on how hard it is for you.”