Get quality instructor education.

Arguably, education is the number one challenge facing health clubs today who are looking to create a successful, long-term Pilates program. Whether hiring a Pilates instructor or arranging trainings for your staff, the key to a successful program is having knowledgeable instructors. The current demand for Pilates instructors has resulted in 'fast track' programs that simply teach too much, too fast. Until recently, the only means of being certified in Pilates was through comprehensive training programs requiring 400 to 600 hours of lecture, teaching and observation. Today, there are many training organizations certifying instructors after as little as eight hours of instruction. The result is a 'watered down' Pilates instructor that teaches choreographed versions of an exercise they don't truly understand. To build a long-term Pilates program that will withstand the scrutiny of sophisticated club members, use only instructors that have completed an extensive Pilates education program.

Getting started.

Identify the needs of your staff and determine how you will train them. It is important for all of your instructors to have the same (or very similar) training backgrounds, in order to maintain consistency within your facility, as well as increase employee retention.

Hiring experienced trainers:

One option to pursue is hiring certified Pilates instructors who have completed a comprehensive education program (400-600 hours of training in a nationally recognized program with a good reputation). An instructor of this caliber can set the tone for your program and act as a mentor to those with less training. Depending on their background, they may also serve a dual role as coordinator for the program, interfacing with the Group Fitness Director on program development, fee structures, etc...

Train existing staff:

While hiring experienced instructors from the outside is an obvious choice, it is not always possible, because they are in high demand. Alternatively, you can create a highly educated staff by choosing a training provider wisely. Whether hosting a program at your site or sending staff to a regional facility for training, look for providers that offer a progressive educational path with a solid foundational program to start. Keep in mind that programming both group classes and private sessions is imperative to maximizing revenue. Private sessions require instructors to have a base of knowledge that allows them to specifically address a clients individual needs, while progressing them both safely and effectively.

National Certification

There are a wide variety of Pilates teacher training providers, varying greatly in terms of quality and content, which have sprung up to meet the increasing demand for instructors. It is important that you take it upon yourself to research what providers meet your goals. The Pilates Method Alliance is the professional association and certifying agency for Pilates teachers and is also a good resource for Pilates teachers. Visit them at www.pilatesmethodalliance.org or call (866)-573-4945.

When evaluating a training program, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Ask for the credentials of the program developer(s) and the Teacher Trainers to ensure that the program is credible. You may want to ask for references and talk with others who have recently completed the course.
  • Assess the total time commitment, including class work, homework, observation hours, apprenticeships, etc. When comparing programs, be sure to review all content covered.
  • Determine how the program is delivered and assess the convenience for you or your staff.
  • Don't get hung up on the word "Certification," as this term is misleading. There are programs that offer a certification after as little as 15 hours, while other programs that require 150 hours or more offer Certificates of Completion. The transferable skills your instructors come away with is the important part.

Identify your Goals

You will want to match your training choice with the long term goals of your program. Common categories include:

  • Comprehensive Training
    Until approximately five years ago, Comprehensive Training was the only instruction available in Pilates. Comprehensive programs cover training on all primary equipment including the Reformer, Mat, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel and other accessories. Typically, these programs take 6–12 months to complete and require 400–600 hours of study and observation, written and practical tests, prerequisite training in Pilates and continuing education requirements.
  • Condensed Training Programs
    A viable alternative and well suited for clubs training their own instructors. Look for programs that focus strongly on the foundational principles and teach a reasonable amount of material in the timeframe allotted for the course. Programs that teach beginner to advanced exercises in a few weekends are not recommended. Look for a progressive educational path in order to build instructor skills over time. An integrated approach that focuses on teaching new instructors a more complete approach incorporating the Mat, Reformer and other essential Pilates equipment in one compact course is an excellent option.
  • Mat Training
    Mat Training is the foundation of the entire Pilates Method and can be offered with or without small accessories. The mat is an ideal entry into Pilates. Training programs vary in quality and time commitments, so be sure to check carefully. Students of mat training can opt to teach mat classes only, or can move on to more integrated equipment training classes.

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