Pilates…a Profession?

May 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm 25 comments

Inspired by one interaction after another of poor business practice and a lot of frustration, I realize that I can either be frustrated and angry or work to make change.  So…I will work to make change.

Join me in working towards making Pilates more of a profession!

The world of Pilates is still very young.  Pilates as a business is still in its infancy, but we as Pilates practitioners are not.  Still, I am saddened by the lack of adult and professional practices within this very young business.  So much so that I feel it is barely a business yet.  Are you a hobbiest in Pilates or is this your job?  If you’re a hobbiest, then you are off the hook and may choose to not read on.  If you are enjoying instructing a bit of Pilates here and there and have little concern for the future of this burgeoning business, then keep at it and enjoy!  However, if you are not a hobbiest and instructing or even teaching Pilates is what you call you job or your business, then listen up:

There is a shameful lack of serious business protocol and attitude in the Pilates world.  It doesn’t show us in a good light.  It shows us as an amateurs.  Perhaps many are…but is that how you want to be seen?

Yes, you are reading a bit of anger and frustration in my writing.  Pilates is my profession.  It is not my hobby.  I came into it as a side-job and have made a career out of it.  There are many who say they are doing the same, but they do not behave as though they are.  Together, let’s raise Pilates up to a really respectable profession!

Here’s what we need…here’s what I encourage you to do to raise the level of professionalism in our business…you’ll still be friendly and warm and caring…but professional:

1 – Fees/Rates:  Set a rate and stick with it.  No discounts for this one or that one…just stick to your rate.  And don’t ask for discounts or trades from or with others.  Your time is precious.  Value yourself and your time.  Look at what the norm in your area is and set your rate accordingly.  Step beyond fear and ask for payment.  Remind clients when they need to pay you.  You work for it…you deserve to be paid.

2 – Cancellation Policy:  Set a 24-hour cancellation policy and stick to it.  No exceptions.  Your gynecologist doesn’t make exceptions for you.  Your orthopedist doesn’t make exceptions.  Your accountant doesn’t make exceptions.  Why do you diminish yourself by allowing people to schedule time with you and then not pay you because they “forgot” or “didn’t feel well this morning” or their “nanny didn’t show up this morning”.  It’s difficult at first, until you realize that your time is precious.  Value yourself.  Be very clear about your policy and then keep to it.  I tell my first time clients upon confirming their first session “I have a very strict 24-hour cancellation policy.  If you need to cancel your appointment, please do so no later than 24 hours before your appointed time or I will have to charge your for the session.  I apologize, but even 23 hours is not sufficient.  It must be at least 24 hours.  Thank you.”  And I stick to it.

Is it harsh?  Is it stiff?  No…it’s business.  There is a difference between friendship, family and business.  We must not run our businesses as though everyone is our friend or family member.  Within that 55 minutes, there is a great connection, but this is a business…and strong business practices must apply.

3 – Clients are not friends:  You may, of course, become friendly with clients, but they are not your friends.  They are your clients.  I tread a fine line since most of my clients are fellow teachers.  I have to make sure that in the studio, we have a business relationship and I follow strong business practices.  Outside of the studio, there I can be personal.  But when it comes to that session, scheduling, payment…it’s got to be business first.

How do we encourage respect if we do not respect ourselves?  When we teach, we “command with kindness”, I say.  When we do business, we must do the same.

With that, keep your personal issues to yourself.  You can lightly touch on that you are having a challenging day or week, but do not get into details with your clients.  They are not your friends or therapists.  They are there to get a specialized workout.  Why would they pay you to talk?  It might seem OK for a while…and they are still coming…but eventually they will leave you because they are not getting what they came for.  They adore you…and want  you to be their daughter or son…but you’ve got to be more professional than that…be their Pilates teacher!

4 – Banks Are For Loans…Clients Are For Sessions:  Do not accept loans from clients.  Do not let them fund your next studio, buy you a reformer or pay this month’s rent.  If you are having trouble, do not share that with your clients.  Go to a bank and get yourself a loan.  Keep business business.  Money is tricky stuff.  You will change your relationship with your client when you now “owe” them.  They are so sweet for offering, but you must decline.  You’ve got to draw the line.  Even if they give you this loan as a trade for sessions.  Instead, let them pay you for sessions and you take that money and put it into an account to save for whatever it is that you’re wanting.

5- Personal Presentation:  The Pilates studio is your workplace.  Dress for it.  Wear clean, well-fitting fitness clothing.  Please do not wear street clothes to teach Pilates.  Wear fitness clothing.  You may wear whatever you’d like to the studio, but change your clothing to teach sessions.  Wear clothing that allows you to move, doesn’t end up showing parts of your body that should remain hidden to other’s eyes (sportswear keep your breasts tucked away, your plumber’s crack safely hidden from sight).  Wear socks and shoes!  For safety’s sake wear sneakers!  No flip-flops or bare feet in the Pilates studios.  You need support.  You need security.  How can you brace a footbar or pedal with your feet if they are bare or poorly clad?  You will break a toe trying to save your client (which is your job, of course).  And should you take your shoes off…please have clean feet.  I cannot tell you how many dirty-footed teachers I have seen.  Wash your feet.  Wash your hands  Also, wear deodorant.  It can be totally natural, but wear deodorant.  Doesn’t need to be anti-perspirent.  Just stay clean-smelling.  Wash your hair (yes, I have worked with many teachers need to wash their hair and get the smelly “funk” out).  If your doctor smelled the way some of these teachers smell…you’d throw a fit.  Present yourself as a professional.

6 – Be organized and efficient:  Pilates is a very organized and efficient method…you must learn from it and practice Pilates in all areas of your life.  Every apparatus should be well set up at the beginning and end of each use.  All apparatus ought to be cleaned right after use…not at the end of the session…right after you use it.  Yes…even the pedal to the wunda chair.  I often wonder why so many wunda chair pedals are coated in dirt…have your client wipe it down.  Keep all accessories in set areas.  Clean your floors…often.  Clean your toilets in your studio.  Have enough spray bottles/cleaner.  Make sure all apparatus work…all of the time.  If something breaks…get it fixed…quickly.

7 – Continue Your Education:  Continue your education because you want to learn more so that you’re able to be a better teacher; so that you enrich yourself.  Don’t continue your education because some teacher training program tells you that you won’t be certified without credits that they “approve”.  Do it of your own accord.  And study beyond your own school of Pilates.  Study anatomy, business, mechanics, psychology…dig in and learn.  Enrich yourself and you will glow from the inside out.  You will really own the material.

Study beyond your well-informed intuition.  Intuition is lovely and a great place to start.  Natural talent is a starting place…not an end.  Educate yourself and really know what you’re talking about.  Your gut sense of something cannot compare to the reality of study and research.  Perhaps you’ll find that your gut and research are exactly aligned…excellent-well!  Let’s find out!

Let’s work to add greater respect to the world of Pilates.  Let’s make it more of a profession and less of a hobby…even if it is your hobby.  In that 55 minute session, the scheduling, the payment…be a Pilates Professional.

If you have questions about what to do in any given situation…ask me.  I’m here to help you.  It’s not easy being a practitioner who has a little or big business, now.  How do you go from friend to business person; from hobbiest to professional?  Ask.  I will help you. Let’s set great examples for each other and our community!

*****As always…please feel free to comment, ask questions, request a blog post/article topic, etc.  Whatever you need, relative to Pilates, please just ask and I will work to provide!  See below for workshop and session details!  Thank you for taking the time to further your Pilates education with me!******

Upcoming Workshops:

June 3, 4, 2011 – TBD – Stay tuned for a possible adventure across the pond!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Rhinebeck, NY

9-10am – Thematic Mat Class

I will pick a theme at the start of the class that will be focused on and sought after in each exercise.  There will be a strong through-line of that theme.  Everyone will leave class with a new set of muscles and an awareness of something special that wasn’t there an hour ago!


10:30am-1:30pm and 2:30-5:30am – The order hasn’t been set, yet. Please stay tuned to figured out which workshop will be when:

 

Archival Mat and Standing Exercises:

There are many more version of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today. Variations, modifications, combinations of multiple exercises in one! Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!

 

The World of The Chairs:  High Chair and Wunda Chair – Your Body’s Best Friends!

You didn’t know if you should invest in a high chair, but you did…and you hardly use it.  Or maybe you haven’t bought one and wonder if you ought to  It’s an amazing tool!  You deserve to learn how to use it to it’s fullest for you and your clients 0 from Session 1 to Session 4001.  Then there’s the wunda chair, the “home reformer”.  So many exercises, it’s almost overwhelming to pick and choose…and you pick the same 3 or 4 over and over again.  Let’s open the doors to the World of The Chairs!  Let’s work to understand the purpose of each exercise on each chair and make it come alive for you and your client!

 

For registration and pricing information, contact Elaine at Rhinebeck Pilateswww.RhinebeckPilates.com

   

Saturday, June 18, 2011
NYC – Real Pilates
Shoulder Girdle:  A Delicate Balance
3-6pm

The Shoulder Girdle is a complex system.  When I first started teaching, all I knew was “pull your wings down” and “crack a walnut”.  The more I study biomechanics, the more I know there’s very little down and no cracking.  It’s a delicate balance of bone, muscles, ligaments, tendons…and constant reassessing.  Dynamic Stability is what we’re looking for.  Let’s spend time studying where we’re going with the shoulder girdle and how to get there in Pilates. We’ll take time with anatomy and biomechanics, Pilates exercises, common ailments and all of your questions.  Take a moment to review what you already know before the workshop…then we can grow from there.

Register atwww.realpilatesnyc.com  Go to the option “Browse our classes” and then click on “Workshops”.  You’ll see it there!  If you prefer, you can just call 212.625.0777 .

 
***Please share this information and tell your Pilates teacher friends and colleagues to come on over for workouts and workshops that will get your Pilates-teaching-juices flowing.***
Again, these are not your typical workshops where you might get 1 useful tidbit.  You will leave full of new teaching skills and ways to look at Mr. Pilates work.  You will have a new perspective on Pilates that will enliven your teaching and your own workouts!
Shall we set up something at your studio or the one you work at?  Clearly, I travel to teach and enjoy it!  Read below for more info!

Workshops in Your Studio:
If you are interested in my teaching workshops and/or semi-private sessions for your teachers at your studio, please contact me atinfo@TheVerticalWorkshop.com
I’ll be thrilled to put together a program with you for your needs!

While my vocabulary is classical Pilates, the principles behind my teaching and workshops apply to every style of Pilates.

We have countless topics to play with within technique workshops of classical Pilates and teaching skills workshop that apply to all!

*******
Sessions:
If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

Workshops:
If you’d like a workshop and/or semi-privates at your studio, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I travel all over the world and would be thrilled to come to you!

Consultation:
If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about the teaching or building your business, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

Enjoy!- Shari

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Neutral Pelvis and Neutral Spine: What are they and why do we care?! Pilatespeak – Choose Your Words Carefully

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jenn  |  May 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Shari,

    I also wanted to point out that while it is important to uphold the 24-hour cancellation period for your clients, it’s also professional to have the same respect for your clients’ time and dedication to their practice. Too many instructors I know cancel appointments that day or ask another instructor to substitute teach at the last minute.

    As an instructor and client, myself, I know that emergencies do happen, but this shouldn’t be a monthly, or god forbid, a weekly occurrence.

    Respect and professionalism goes both ways.

    Reply
    • 2. theverticalworkshop  |  May 5, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      Jenn! It’s so great to hear from you here!
      I agree with you! I must admit, I wrote this piece at the airport…and was sure I wasn’t as thorough as I wanted to be…so I’m so glad you point that out! Indeed…teachers must not cancel day of without a darned good reason. And…teachers must show up to a session 10-15 minutes before a session. Never even “just on time”. They must never be late. If they are going to be late…they need to call the studio at least 10-15 minutes before and warn that they are late.
      Thank you, Jenn!
      All the best,
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 3. judy hudson  |  May 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Shari, well said and this blog couldn’t come at a better time for me. All of us in the Pilates industry must ban together and unite to be outstanding professionals. Currently I am reading the confusing opinions, arguements and mud slinging going on amongst teachers regarding the legitimacey of the PMA exam etc.on Linkenin and find it disturbing. You’re right! When are teachers going start respecting themselves and each other no matter what school of Pilates or background they come from. The public (our Pilates clients) can read these comments and I am horrified. What image are we presenting about Pilates and its teachers to the public? This is bad karma and unecessary. I appreciate your candidness and recognition of a systemic problem to one degree or another. I yearn for change in my choosen field of Pilates amongst teachers for greater collaboration, support and respect. Instead I find petty, mindless internet chatter and unfriendly competition? This is unfortunate both personally and professionally. It’s got to change!!

    Judy Hudson
    Easton Pilates

    Reply
    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  May 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Hi, Judy!

      Thank you! Let’s all work together to hold ourselves and our fellow teachers up to a higher standard.

      Thank you!

      All the best,
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 5. Jenny  |  May 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Shari – Thanks for this great article. This is a great guideline for new teachers and students in Pilates programs (like me!). Teacher Training programs touch on it, but don’t go into these points enough!

    There should be a business component/guidance in more certification programs. I understand that the focus is on creating good teachers, but good teachers don’t always make the best business people.

    -Jenny

    ps.. The Real Pilates website says that your shoulder girdle workshop is full! I guess I will have to get it the next time!

    Reply
  • 6. jodie  |  May 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I love this thanks. I especially like the point in #7 where say to study/ research psychology. I never thought of doing that. Thanks for the information.

    Reply
    • 7. theverticalworkshop  |  May 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Hi, Jodie,

      It’s good to hear from you!

      I’ve been in Spain for the past many days…and in my workshop on Saturday, we were talking about how to use psychology to aide our clients. Not as psychotherapists. No, no, no. But to understand how people learn, how we interact, what we need on a psychological level…it’s really important.

      Let me know what you end up digging into in this area!

      All the best!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 8. Gina Jackson  |  May 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I am a new studio owner, Shari, as you know. Yet I am a fitness business owner with 10 years experience and I have built my practice, reputation and client base on and with these very principles. Establishing expectations of quality and respect in all areas, as you have outlined, makes the difference between a “flying by the seat of your pants” practitioner and a holistic business owner.

    Kudos to you!

    Reply
    • 9. theverticalworkshop  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      Gina! Hello!

      You’ve got it right! “Flying by the seat of your pants” ain’t gonna make it happen…and weakens our business as a whole. It takes a lot of effort, as you well know, to have a business that really works. We have to plan ahead, come in early, stay late, clean more, take business workshops, work harder…It’s sooo not for everyone. And that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be for everyone. Even as an independent contractor and not the owner of the studio, it take effort to come early, dress well, educate yourself, help keep the studio in line. Life lived well takes effort. But it’s great effort! Respect of self and others is remarkably rewarding. I know you know this!

      Thank you for your professionalism! And thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      All the best!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 10. Jami  |  May 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    LOVE this blog. You are absolutely right. Pilates is a professional business serving the needs of clients. I started out as a client and started teaching on the side. After a few years I decided to change my career. I have never been happier in a job before becoming an instructor. In the fall I opened my own studio here in Michigan. I am on a new professional journey and I love it. Thanks for your blog, it confirmed how I feel about running my studio.

    Reply
    • 11. theverticalworkshop  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      Jami,

      Thank you for making time to read this blog and then the extra time to write a comment! It’s always special to me to receive comments and actually have a conversation of sorts!

      Congratulations on changing careers and opening your studio! Hooray! I hope you find it as fulfilling as I do! I see you’re in Rochester, MI. I went to school in Ann Arbor! I’m a big fan of your state!

      Please write again!

      All the best!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 12. Bonnie  |  May 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Shari,
    AMEN! I am so disheartened by the lack of professionalism I see in various studios. From inappropriate footwear/clothing, to spending the whole session “chatting” with your client(s), to not fixing the equipment when it breaks… all of these things drive me crazy, so I can only imagine how a paying client must feel. I just opened a small studio space in my home, and from Day One have been a stickler about enforcing the 24-hour cancellation policy, having ALL clients sign waivers, and teaching my clients to wipe down after EVERY use. I also strive to keep my studio clean and well-lit, organized and functional. Hopefully it will pay off in the long run! Thanks as always for your insight and spot-on analysis & commentary. All the best!

    Reply
    • 13. theverticalworkshop  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Hi, Bonnie! It’s so great to hear from you here! Thank you!!!

      Yes, indeed, it’s terribly disheartening to see the lack of professionalism. It starts from what studio the individual trained in as a client, then to studio they trained as teachers in and then to the psychology of the teacher…value she/he gives her/himself and client. It’s remarkable.

      Bonnie…the hard work and professionalism pays off in the long run, indeed…and…in the moment. It’s paid off already. You respect yourself and are respected.

      Thank you, as always, Bonnie!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 14. katherine t.  |  May 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I’m just starting out with my own home studio and appreciate this post. I think it’s all common sense, but in all the studios I’ve been in I see at least one or two of these points not being followed through on which takes away from the business in more than one way. Thank you for writing it all down for us all!

    Reply
    • 15. theverticalworkshop  |  May 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      Hi, Katherine,

      Thank you for both taking the time to read this blog and for commenting. I really appreciate it!

      Congratulations on your new home studio! Enjoy!

      With that…yes…you’d think it would be common sense, but it’s remarkable how many people apparently don’t have any. At a very respectable studio, I just had to encourage vacuuming the studio. I couldn’t believe it. The vacuum was broken and apparently the studio had not been cleaned for many months. We’re talking at least 4 months.

      So, let’s encourage each other to show up early for sessions, keep our studios clean, enforce cancellation policies, charge appropriately for sessions, teach rather than socialize, get loans rather than free-load off of our clients…let’s be professionals!

      Thank you, Katherine! Thank you!

      I look forward to hearing from you, again, in the future! Perhaps we’ll meet sometime, too!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 16. Kara  |  May 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you, Shari.

    Well said! Before transitioning to becoming a Pilates instructor & health coach, I was a CPA/Financial Analyst for over a decade with tons of hours logged for management and client service training. I have been stunned at times with what I have seen in terms of abysmal client service. Everyone has to do their part…every day. I think your tips are a great start.

    Reply
  • 17. Cyn  |  June 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Just discovered your blog! i LOVE it! Thank you for your insight. I do have exp. in managing the business side of a studio and i agree on all your points. I am always amazed at the clients who own their own businesses (and esp. those who are very successful) who can be the worst offenders of not paying for sessions or whining over the 24 hour rule! I have recently decided to make Pilates teaching my profession. I do not have a dance background or medical background so I read everything. I value the classical approach and want to share this. I have recently been told I am ready to start my own practice and I am very nervous. Blogs like yours really help me to gain confidence in myself. I look forward to reading your older posts! and your new ones!

    Reply
    • 18. theverticalworkshop  |  June 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Thank you very much for reading my articles and letting me know that they resonate with you!
      Neither a dance nor medical background are necessary to be a good or even great Pilates teacher. They can even get in the way. Just study, teach, learn, stay open…and do Pilates yourself!
      I encourage you to reach out whenever you need and hope that I can help if you have questions!

      All the best!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 19. Alex  |  June 16, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Sad as I am at the vanishing “Breast” situation encouraged by this blog I agree my “Plumbers crack” is of no value to anyone and shall remain out of harms way!

    That said I had a situation arise this week that is the second recently that has caught me by surprise! And I’d like some morals checkin, Shari!

    1st one is, a client has a very corperate lifestyle, and as such give aways are common, it was reletaively small, magazine subscription, if I had lied and said I wasn’t interested in the Magazine content she would have known, I was not bothered to be honest and struggled to wriggle away, not wanting to cause offence I sugested my Dad may like it as a gift and she accepted this and all is fine, but it got me a thinkin!

    Then this week a new client who is cock-a-hoop (very happy) with her Pilates health discovery, kindly offered me some tickets to a very well known event coming up, that she is the organiser for, when she broached the subject I thought Oh sugar, he we go! I am a bit slow so I couldn’t think quick enough, I looked in her eye’s and thought she is going to be really upset if I decline, again great event, not overly bothered about going, a lot of people would be, and it was another “give away” (I have a devil on each shoulder, can you tell?) anyway I have accepted, but I had another unrelated email on the event and saw the cost of the tickets!!!! Shocking, or I’m out of touch, anyway, looks as if I am in the hole as of now, and will, guilt ridden, have a nice day out, with Pops again!

    Am I bad? If so, how do I stop…..

    Reply
    • 20. theverticalworkshop  |  June 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Oh, Alex…you’re doing just fine! Really! You’re not bad…at least not in this way!

      How lovely that your clients give you lovely gifts like a magazine subscription or tickets to an event. That is really dear. You consider the weight of the gift and if it’s appropriate or not and then either graciously accept or graciously decline. You must be a good judge. I think these gifts seem lovely and must be out of appreciation for the work you do together.

      Now, the gift of apparatus or funding for a studio…that is what I caution. And, yes…I’ve seen it a lot. A lot. Or cars, jewelry, help paying the rent. Yes…i’ve seen these too. Or a room at your client’s house? Not a good idea. All of these things are often in exchange for Pilates sessions…and it’s always out of balance. Why not just give Pilates sessions and charge appropriately.

      While I’ve seen other teachers at studios other than my own have clients who buy them full studios full of apparatus, give rooms at their home, help paying rent, etc…I have never had a client who has offered me these things…and I’m glad. I don’t want to be or seem to be someone who is so helpless. I’ve had lovely gifts from clients like seat at the Dodgers game when my client couldn’t use his season tickets that night, a mirror or plants when I first opened my studio…but I’m so glad that even when life was difficult, I asked for help from appropriate people…not my clients.

      Enjoy your client-teacher relationships, of course. Take care of yourself and your clients. Know the line between appreciative gifts and gifts that now mean you owe them something more.

      Does that make sense?

      You’re not bad!
      – Shari

      Reply
  • 21. Alex  |  June 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Yep!
    Tickets okay! Porche not so okay!
    Got It!
    didn’t like that colour car anyway…..

    Reply
    • 22. theverticalworkshop  |  June 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

      Well…since I’m a particular fan of Porsches…I, myself, couldn’t turn one down…so I mustn’t stop you from accepting one. However…any other car…absolutely not. Tickets OK. Other stuff? Not so much!

      – Shari

      Reply
  • […] Pilates…a Profession?2011/05/04 […]

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  • 25. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    […] Pilates…a Profession?2011/05/04 […]

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The Vertical Workshop Pilates

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Would you like to be listed on the Pilates Teacher Blog like the links you see above in "Special Thanks"?
E-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com to find out how!


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