After I certified as a Pilates Teacher and Fitness Instructor I was anxiously seeking my first jobs in the industry. I was ready to teach Mat Pilates classes and looking forward to teach the Les Mills Body Balance program. I was happy to knock together a generic conditioning, aerobic or circuit class anywhere and for any price. I remember my excitement when I was given my first classes when the Royal Commonwealth Pool reopened in 2012.
Today I was surprised to realise that it has been only three years that I have been teaching my classes for Edinburgh Leisure. So much has changed in those three years. In those three years I have trained as a Personal Trainer, Specialist Biomechanics Coach, Remedial and Sports Massage Therapist and Polestar Pilates Practitioner working with Studio Apparatus, not to mention the buckets full of cpd workshops and my current Anatomy and Movement journey with the amazing Gary Carter. The obsession with human movement and anatomy has carried me away from teaching Fitness into working full time as a Movement and Manual Therapist.
(A new profession: Celebrating becoming an Exercise to Music Instructor, 2010)
While doing all that the classes I taught for various gyms and clubs where my main source of income. Sometimes they were difficult to teach because they are drop in classes and I found myself programming towards the participants that had been there the last few weeks, but all of a sudden a completely different group of people stood before me. Sometimes the environment was difficult to work in, especially for Pilates classes, because the studios in many clubs are set up to suit high intensity workouts with loud music. My participants ended up freezing because of the aircon blasting cold air at them or they couldn't hear the subtle cues because of background noise. Sometimes classes were difficult to teach because participants showed up spontaneously with severe physical problems and expected me to make the class suit them while other participants in the class still wanted a challenging core workout.
The more I learned and the more I focused on teaching Pilates the harder it got to teach gym based drop in Pilates classes. People come with very different expectations to these classes. One 3rd usually comes along expecting a tough abdominal workout, one 3rd comes along wanting a relaxing stretch class and one 3rd is injured and needs rehab. On top of that the nature of drop in classes means that there is very little progression possible. There is no sense of continuation. It has to be a one off experience every time.
I did struggle with all this until I realised that Pilates actually is a different thing to what most people believe it to be. It isn't an abs workout, it isn’t a stretch class and it is not rehab. I figured since everyone has a different understanding of what I offer I might as well just give them what I understand Pilates to be. To me Pilates is a body and mind focused movement method with elongation, stability and precision at its core. I decided that I want my Pilates classes to be inclusive for anyone who is willing to really try. I realised I like a mixed ability group because I don't like judging people based on their physical abilities. We can perform very differently from one exercise to another and just because we have been practising something a long time doesn’t mean we can forget the basics and just jump right in. So it became important to me to make sure less able or vulnerable clients will be looked after in my classes. Likewise I wanted those who are able to challenge themselves to do so. But I would never compromise on quality of movement, body awareness and safety. These elements are generally not cared for to the same level in the gym environment (and yes I am aware I am making a huge generalisation). This makes it again difficult to try teach quality Pilates in gym based classes. It is really hard to teach a room full of 18 people a very subtle and complex thing, when they all have a completely different idea of what they should be getting. It is even harder if they can't hear what you are saying and are uncomfortable because they are cold. I am not blaming the gym or anyone else. When I go to a gym class I expect a very different thing too. I simply believe that real quality Pilates unfortunately does not have a space in the gym environment, for the same reasons you do not see a lot of serious martial arts in gyms. Pilates is a different thing to Fitness it is a method that needs patience, calm, concentration and determination. Generally when we go to the gym we want to sweat and feel the burn. Those things just do not go together. I had found peace just going in and doing the thing I do, but I have realised the point has come to really move on.
(Digging deeper: Biomechanics Coach Diploma Course 2013.)
All of the training I have done in the last two years was geared towards working in depths with the individual. It was all about problem solving, physical issues and working on individual movement patterns. I have reduced my class timetable over this past year in order to make more space for the kind of work I have studied so hard to be able to take to my clients and to make a difference.
And today I finally gave myself the last push to make a big step forward. I gave my notice to give up my last Edinburgh Leisure classes, which also were among the first classes I ever taught.
I will miss the Commonwealth Pool and I will miss the members that regularly came to my classes.
I will not miss the fact that my in depths knowledge and skill, I studied very hard for, got diluted down in an environment that can't support me to give it my all. Classes are still a great format to let people have an affordable experience or to make maintainable possible. I just believe that the gym, as it generally exists these days, is not the ideal place for this.
This year I started my very own classes. I love having more control over these classes. For example health history forms, a chat on the phone and sometimes 1-1 sessions prior to signing up for class help me to be prepared to cater to my clients needs. I know their background and goals before they show up in class and I can make sure they have an idea of what my classes are like before they even come along. I have a cap of no more than eight people in a class. This means I get to know them better from the start and the environment is intimate enough for me to feel I can give the little bit extra here and there. The fact that most clients book a whole block of classes means that the groups get to know each other very well, which makes it a more comfortable and fun environment for everyone. I can choose a venue that is suitable for my classes and I can insure I have all the props I want for my classes as the gyms often lack the essentials for Pilates.
So I am moving on from the gym and fitness setting. It was a great platform to gain experience and to get started. It is a great place to work if you want to work in fitness. But I have outgrown the gym. I do not teach Fitness Pilates.
Thank you Edinburgh Leisure for helping me to get started on an intense, amazing and wonderful journey. I'm excited to move on.
All my clients and everyone else who seeks quality Pilates are very welcome to join me on the next level up! Sign up for my newsletter, like my facebook page or simply keep visiting my website to stay in touch for new classes and workshops coming up and lets challenge and change things together.
(Seeing the world from the Pilates Trapeze Table, 2015)