Pilates Instructors Shouldn't Learn From Online Sources and Magazines

Female student and teacher practicing pilates on trapeze table in pilates gym
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Becoming a bodyworker, personal trainer or fitness professional of any kind requires serious training. Learning to physically handle another person's body is not something that should be taken lightly. There are many quality programs that exist to become a comprehensive Pilates teacher. However, what happens after that initial training is largely unregulated. 

The challenges that new Pilates instructors face are legitimate. Continuing education is expensive. Often you have to travel to study. And without any guarantee that the content will apply to your real life clients, signing up for courses can be risky.

Because the cost of Pilates certification and continuing education can be very high, some instructors take short cuts and don't get training from highly qualified sources. Be aware that these instructors may not have the skills needed to manage your special circumstances if you need modifications or other help.

Learning how to teach from any of the below resources should be strictly off limits and asking for teaching advice from people you have never met is professionally irresponsible in my opinion.

Social Media Forums

As sites like Facebook grow in content and curation, groups of people gather online to share ideas. Pilates teachers are no exception. Inevitably, questions arise about teaching methodology, specific clientele, and teaching challenges. There is no shortage of opinions on right and wrong approaches and to be fair. there is also no shortage of quality teachers on these forums. This is not an issue of who is giving advice. Rather it's an issue of the medium. Pilates is a physical discipline. It is delivered in a physical realm and discussions online from experts or others without a physical or even visual exchange is simply inappropriate to this particular field. 

Example: A teacher posts a question to a group about her client with weak hips. If I see this question, I may be inspired to answer and list the exercises I have used for my own clients with weak hips. However, I haven't ever seen the client being discussed. Likely the teacher asking for assistance is new to the field and may not have shared relevant information that would invoke an entirely different response. Now I'm giving potentially dangerous advice to an inexperienced teacher for a client I know nothing about. Can you see where things can go awry here?

Newsstand Magazines

Pilates is exceptionally photogenic exercise system. No wonder that full routines on many different pieces of Pilates equipment are regularly published for the general public. Rarely is there a "don't try this at home notice". Quite the contrary, readers are encouraged to adopt all sorts of Pilates routines in the pages of a magazine. Pilates instructors are also drawn into this medium as a resource for teaching. But what happens when routines for certain people with certain modifications are not articulated on the printed page?

Example: An article runs on a Pilates Chair routine. In it, a student is shown unassisted. For photography's sake, an alternate spring setting is used. A new teacher with a Pilates Chair from another manufacturer attempts to deliver the routine to her client. With minimum information from the magazine on how to teach, spot or cue, the client is left to perform a potentially dangerous and inappropriate routine.

Online Subscription Sites

Professional Pilates teachers have access to the same online fitness portals that consumers and students use. Although the resources for online Pilates classes were initially created with the Pilates novice in mind, more and more professionals are utilizing these sites as a resource for teaching techniques. The problem with learning how to teach via video is that it is profoundly limited. You have limited perspective of the client's position. If you were there live, you would have 360-degree visual access. The hands on support and assist that teachers witness on camera simply can not be conveyed solely by observation.

Example: An online workout shows a teacher delivering a wonderful intermediate group class. What isn't stated is that the teacher on camera has had the luxury of deciding on a routine in advance and then casting the project. Meaning, the students have been selected for this routine. That is quite the opposite of what happens in the studio where a teacher has to make decisions on the fly for the clients that show up on a particular day.

Movement and exercise are experiential by definition. Instructors of any level can not truly learn to facilitate, spot, or properly teach a real live client from watching someone else do it on a screen. You can't learn how to instruct just by reading about it. And you certainly can't learn to teach by looking at pictures. The industry needs to clamp down on this practice and find new accessible ways to deliver quality education to Pilates professionals and protect the public at the same time.

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