Entries in Teaching Strategies (62)
By Julie Poplawski
You all know the drill: a new client comes in and looks around the studio, intrigued yet uneasy in our dominatrix-looking den. The newbie has heard about how Pilates helps to create long, lean muscles, and she wants that! As an instructor you are excited to aid in her success, hoping she will become a long-term client.
Often, achieving that long, lean body may mean the client ultimately needs to lose weight. That is where every Pilates teacher I know encounters the delicate dilemma of balancing education with expectation. A new client doesn’t understand that an articulating spine feels amazing. She hasn’t discovered that a balanced gait can let her run and walk for hours pain-free or that scapular stabilization just might cure her chronic afternoon headache. She just wants to look lean!
Facing an eager student seeking weight loss, it’s tough to deliver the message right off the bat that although Pilates is a movement modality, it (and probably any exercise for that matter) will not produce weight loss if a person’s diet isn’t appropriate for their goals—if they eat too much.
In my mind I used to justify that postural muscle development would eventually let my weight-loss-seeking clients’ bodies work more efficiently to burn fat. I would further justify that some movement is better than no movement. Sometimes I’d get downright self-righteous and think: Well, even though they don’t want the real benefits of Pilates I can still make their bodies work better. No matter how vigorously I asked my clients to perform the Hundred or flow through the Pilates postures, I knew I couldn’t help them lose all the weight they needed for that lean look using Pilates alone.
I searched through weight-loss books and talked to everyone who had either short- or long-term success with weight loss in hopes of finding a straightforward, no-guilt handbook to give to my clients. I couldn’t find one. So I developed my own approach to take with these clients, and even wrote a book, called Fill Your Cup, as a guide for them. You might not be motivated to go that far, but there are many things you can do—in addition to providing a great workout—to help support their weight-loss goals. It doesn’t take a degree in nutrition or an entire Pilates session to talk healthy habits for weight loss. Here are some ideas:
By Madeline Black
It is not uncommon to see Pilates teachers use props during a session. The intention is to enable the client to move in optimal alignment. But, is it appropriate to use a prop? Yes, when there is an understanding of why the prop is being used and it facilitates the intended response. But too many times, props are used out of habit.
One common prop habit is placing a ball between the thighs (or knees) while performing Footwork on the Reformer. The ball brings the legs together and/or holds them in place, preventing a client from splaying open her thighs when pressing the carriage out and knocking her knees when returning the carriage home. This can actually hinder the healthy movement sequence intended in this exercise, and I would suggest that we break this habit. Our goal is to encourage optimal leg alignment while executing Pilates in a dynamic and functional way, not in a held position. Here’s a closer look at why it doesn’t serve the client to use a ball during Footwork.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we thought we’d spread the word about “Passionately Pink! Pilates,” a free Pilates resource for breast cancer survivors. This hour-long video was produced through a collaboration between Peak Pilates Master Trainer Clare Dunphy and Naomi Aaronson, an occupational therapist, certified cancer exercise trainer and Pilates instructor. The video is divided into two sections (seated and supine) and is appropriate for women 6-8 weeks post surgery. “Clare, the model [Lissa Silk] and I all donated our time, energy, and spirit,” said Aaronson. “We put a lot of effort into making it safe and effective.”
Feel free to share the link to this video with clients or anyone recovering from breast cancer, or watch and get some tips for your own teaching.
By Kristen Matthews
I made the decision to become a Pilates instructor because I wanted to help people. I fell in love with Pilates the moment I was introduced to it, and felt like I’d found the most ideal job when I made the decision to teach. I never could picture myself sitting behind a desk at a corporate job. With movement-based activities being a big part of my childhood, Pilates seemed to fit perfectly into my life. I truly felt that I had found my calling. What I didn’t expect were the thoughts that surfaced one day of “I’m only just a Pilates instructor.”
After eight years of teaching I found myself wanting more. I kept thinking to myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I making a difference?” After 20 sessions with a client who still was not able to set up for footwork, I would wonder, “Am I getting through?” “Are they learning anything from me?”
By Rebekah Rotstein
One in two women and one in four men over 50 are expected to experience a fracture from osteoporosis in their lives. These stats can be a wake-up call to those middle-aged and older. Yet did you know that osteoporosis can occur at any age? We reach our peak bone mass in our early 30s, making prevention of bone loss a relevant topic for younger people as well. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness & Prevention Month—a good time for everyone to pay attention to bone health.
You can help raise awareness on the importance of bone health by starting with your clients. If they’re doing Pilates, they’ve got a great start on a healthy lifestyle, which is key to building and preserving bone strength. Here are my top 5 important tips for bone health:
By Pat Guyton
Sooner or later someone is going to run into your studio, looking for information that will improve speed, endurance and efficient breathing. They may or may not understand how Pilates can complement running. Whether the student is a competitive athlete or an individual who runs for health and fitness, distance and speed become much easier and less stressful on the body if a runner is free from pain and injury. A requirement for any sport or exercise program involves the development of a comprehensive exercise program that works all of the muscles in every range of motion. As a teacher, you are instrumental not only in introducing the exercise technique, but in the development of the individual program. If the runner can gain some immediate results, they will have the optimum motivation to continue Pilates work.
It is a good idea to understand the psychology of runners when they come to Pilates. Most of them simply tied on shoes and started to run, but did not consider learning how.
By Maria Leone
Recently, my mother made me watch “The Biggest Loser” with her. I had never seen this show before and I was immediately in awe—in awe of how hard the trainers pushed the contestants and how mean they could be. I know that the contestants are monitored to some extent to prevent heart attacks, and other medical emergencies, yet even with these precautions, a New York Times article published late last year revealed that the contestants are often dehydrated and are not losing weight in a healthy fashion. The trainers push the contestants far past what I would consider a safe exertion zone for exercise. The whole thing made me wonder: What about the contestants’ joints, in particular the knees and back? How do those trainers have any idea when a disc is about to blow or a meniscus is about to give out?
I also wondered how the weight results would change if they didn’t push the envelope so hard on the physical exertion. For years, weight loss has been the big sell for the fitness industry. The harder and longer you work out the more you lose, right?
By Kim Gibilisco
Often, people believe that the more directions you are drawn in, the weaker your focus and level of mastery. Like many Pilates instructors, my work takes me beyond the walls of the Pilates studio. I am also a choreographer. Over the years, I have found that the more I pursue developing my choreography for my own dance company, Kim Gibilisco Dances, the stronger my understanding, teaching and self-practice of the Pilates method becomes. Likewise, the more I study and train in Pilates, the more my choreography evolves. One discipline greatly informs the other, as they have several commonalities.
For both disciplines you need to be a creative thinker; a problem you’ve seen many times might require a fresh approach now and then. Puzzles you solve in choreography are not unlike the body riddles you find when training a Pilates client. So if you are a Pilates trainer who pursues more than one passion in life, ask yourself how this passion can inform and transform your Pilates practice and teaching. Here are six techniques I use in my dance-making that have improved my teaching of Pilates:
By Dianne Wise
The Foot Corrector is that small, saddle-like piece of equipment you’ve probably seen on the floor in Pilates studios. It was designed by Joseph Pilates himself, just like the rest of the Pilates apparatus, yet it seems not to be used as frequently. After all, how many of our clients ask us to work out…their feet?
Developing a “foot program” for your clients, however, can yield many benefits. A lot of people don’t realize that our bodies’ joint-alignment begins with the feet, which act much like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is not properly laid down, the rest of the structure does not have a stable base of support. To compensate, some parts of the structure might take on more weight than they’re designed to hold and can become damaged, or simply buckle. As the foundation for our bodies, our feet do a lot of work supporting our body weight. They also endure the abuse of walking on hard surfaces all day long. It’s very important to keep them healthy and happy— too often they are ignored.
There are many excellent options for working the feet in Pilates: apparatus exercises such as Footwork on the Reformer or Parakeet on the Cadillac mobilize and strengthen, while props like small hard balls (for tissue release) and Therabands (for spot-strengthening) are excellent for detailed work. The Foot Corrector, however, is the only piece of Pilates apparatus that works the feet in a weight-bearing, and therefore functional, position.
Back in November, when we were working on Pilates Equipment Circuit Classes, we had the chance to talk at length with Margy Verba, who runs FlowMotion Pilates in Bishop, California, and discovered that she had worked with members of the 2006 U.S. Olympic ski team. In the spirit of Vancouver 2010 Olympic fever, we invited her to share a behind-the-scenes look at the Pilates program she designed for skiers training for the 2006 Winter games in Torino.
By Margy Verba
In the spring of 2005, I was pondering the next step in my Pilates career. I had been working in the mountain resort town of Mammoth Lakes, California, and was in between studios. Then I got a very interesting call. Both the men’s and women’s U.S. ski teams were coming to do some training at Mammoth Mountain: Did I have time to work with them? Could I start the following week? After reflecting for about half a second, I accepted. I had already put together a Pilates program for skiers; when you work in a ski town, most of your clients are skiers, after all.