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Help! I Need a Pilates Instructor

How to find and train the right Pilates instructor for your facility.

It's no secret that group Pilates programming has become a huge revenue source for many fitness centers. But, building a successful program requires solid planning. In the past, the challenges were equipment investment, floor space and marketing. Now, fitness centers are dealing with a new issue: finding a qualified instructor to teach classes. The increasing demand for Pilates has caused an instructor shortage. And, having a qualified instructor will greatly affect your ability to develop a successful Pilates program. "Your Pilates instructor is representing your club, and is responsible for helping your members attain their wellness goals," says Christine Romani-Ruby, co-founder of PHI Pilates, a Pilates-based instruction and training center. But because of the variety of exercises that target specific muscle groups, a qualified - and quality - instructor becomes doubly important. "These instructors are going to have someone else's body in their hands, and the last thing you want is an injury in your center," Romani-Ruby says.

Although a shortage of instructors may exist, several routes, depending on your facility's business model, can help you bring qualified Pilates instructors on board at your fitness center.

Looking externally

For fitness centers that want to get their programs launched right away, recruiting externally is probably the best scenario. Where should you look? One tip is to call a local Pilates studio or instructor training program. Many studio instructors also teach at local fitness centers, or they may know other instructors who are looking for openings. Another resource is the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) website (www.pilatesmethodalliance.com), which has an online national instructor locator. The benefit of hiring instructors from studios or through PMA is that most have taken rigorous training courses and are fully certified to teach Pilates. If you choose to look outside your fitness center for an instructor, make sure that the candidates agree with your corporate philosophy, and that they have a personality that will click with your members. It is also good if instructors have prior group exercise experience. They'll be dealing with class participants who have varying levels of conditioning, and will need to know how to modify the exercises to best meet the needs of everyone. Instructors with previous experience teaching group exercise classes should be able to handle this comfortably.

Training your existing staff

For many, providing Pilates training to existing staff members is the most desirable route. "I'd much rather hire from my existing staff and then train them," says Adrienne Straub, regional program director for several of Club One's California facilities. "They know your club, membership and philosophy better than an external person. You are also already familiar with their work habits." Romani-Ruby agrees: "You already know the people, and you know that they have a group fitness background, which, in some cases, may be more important than having a Pilates background." Where to get training for your staff. If you decide to use your internal staff, you need to choose where and how to get them trained. Where do you start? Call local studios to learn where they were certified, and see what programs those organizations offer. Your Pilates equipment vendor is also a good resource, as they have relationships with many instructors. For instance, Balanced Body's website at www.pilates.com lists a wide variety of established educators, including several that will come to your facility and train your staff. This can save traveling expenses, as well as reduce the time an instructor is away from your facility. There are also several multi-weekend courses for instructors. Type "weekend Pilates certification courses" in an Internet search engine, and you're almost guaranteed to find something in your area. But be wary of programs that offer certification in as little as one or two weekends. More than a few days is required to truly qualify an instructor to teach group Pilates sessions. After completing a certification course, your instructors should practice on friends or coworkers before teaching a class of paying members. Also, stress to them that it is important to pursue continuing education. As they increase their repertoire, they will keep the sessions fresh for your members, and will also improve their skills in tailoring Pilates to meet individual requirements.

Quality instructors equal good returns

Whether hiring internally or externally, it is important to recognize that a Pilates instructor is an investment. It may take a while to get rolling, but the payoff to your Pilates programming can be huge. As an example, Straub, a certified Pilates instructor, was hired in 2004 to help Club One resuscitate a struggling program. Straub hired from her existing Pilates teachers, and also brought in other group exercise instructors, training them to meet the style of the new Pilates program she wanted. "Personality was the most important trait I looked for," Straub says. "Then I spent two months training each director - and retraining in some instances - on the reformer." Straub also provided training on marketing, room set-up, even basic accounting. The result? In less than one year, the program went from losing money to generating a 33 percent quarterly profit margin. "Right now, the program is on cruise control," says Straub. "Our customers are happy and we're making a profit. The investment in time and education has totally paid off."

Get Certified!

Several companies specialize in certifying Pilates instructors. Below are some of the more well-known organizations: • Balanced Body, www.pilates.com, 800-745-2837 • Physicalmind Institute, www.themethodpilates.com, 800-505-1990 • Pilates Institute of America, www.pilatesinstituteofamerica.com, 877-422-8726 • Pilates Method Alliance, www.pilatesmethodalliance.com, 866-573-4945 • Polestar Pilates Education, www.polestarpilates.com, 800-387-3651 • Stott Pilates, www.stottpilates.com, 800-910-0001
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