Pilates – How to Chose an Instructor and/or Studio

When looking for a new Pilates studio and instructor, the choices can be overwhelming. You may be trying Pilates for the first time, or you may have recently moved and are looking for a new studio to replace your favorite one back home. There are some simple questions you can ask and things you can look for to help make the search a little more simple. (These tips can also help when looking for any kind of new fitness facility or instructor!).

What are your top priorities?
Is it most important that the studio is close to your house?  Do you need a class time that fits with your work schedule? Do you want mat classes or equipment options or both?  Do you want a studio that has experience with prenatal clients or top level athletes?  Make sure you know what you need out of a studio and use that as the first way to weed out studios. You might fall in love with a certain studio and go through all the introductory sessions, only to realize they don’t offer any class times that work for you. Streamline the process by knowing what you need first and foremost.

What type of environment do YOU want to work out in?
This is important because you need to WANT to go to your Pilates session.  If the environment is stressful, negative, dirty, difficult or just kind of weird, you won’t want to go.  Believe me, I’ve been in studios that fit all those descriptions!  Due your due diligence in looking through different websites and possibly visiting studios before choosing what’s right for you. Many people offer studios out of their homes, but don’t clarify this on the website.  This isn’t a problem unless someone comes expecting a large facility and they have to instead walk through a garage to get to the one person training room. On the flip side, some people come in feeling very vulnerable and wanting some privacy in their sessions, and having to work in a large studio feels daunting.  As a studio owner, I welcome people to email or call if they have specific questions! It’s the best way for me to feel out their needs and place them in the right class/session for them.  One red flag I personally always look for is studios bad mouthing other instructors or trainings.  If the website has any negativity or I hear of a studio owner telling a client that previous classes they’ve taken are “wrong”, I tend to steer away from that studio.  If they don’t respect their peers in the industry, they may not respect you as a client.

What training/education background does the studio or instructor have?
There is no right or wrong here, as I think all true Pilates teacher training programs have something to offer.  You don’t need to see the words “master teacher” or “Pilates elder” for you to get a good class.  There are some things you may want to keep in mind, though: Is the studio a teacher training facility?  If so, this means they most likely hire instructors only from that discipline/background, so the classes all might be similar.  This is great if you like that specific style, and not so great if you don’t.  Do you have a current or recent injury? You may want to find a facility that offers Pilates taught by physical therapists, and/or check the background of the instructors that they can work within your modifications and understand what your body has been through.  Does the studio support the Pilates Method Alliance and is the instructor PMA certified?  This is not a deal breaker at all for me, but it is a great jumping off point if you want a vetted instructor and don’t know where to start.  If the instructor has passed the PMA test, you know they have a certain level of competency and are supported by our industry group.  If they haven’t passed the test, they can still be AMAZING instructors!  It doesn’t change their ability to teach at all.  Some of my favorite instructors haven’t taken the optional test.  It’s just an extra checkmark on your list if you are comparing instructors.  You can check the national registry of PMA instructors here.

Is it really Pilates?
I love trying new studios when I travel and recently visited a studio that had the word “Pilates” in the business name. I had read the website and knew it was a type of Pilates I hadn’t tried before, so I didn’t have any expectations except that it would be new for me.  When I walked in, they asked if I had experience and I said, while I hadn’t been to this specific studio before, I was an instructor and assumed I could follow along. I was told, “Well, this isn’t Pilates. You can stay but please don’t expect it to be Pilates, because it’s not anything like that.”  The entire name of the business was “Pilates”! It was a good workout, but had no Pilates components at all. I had no problem with it except that it should not have been called Pilates.  Pilates is unbelievably popular, and with that comes people wanting to capitalize on this popularity.  If you are really looking for Pilates, make sure that is what you are getting.

How does it make YOU feel?
This is the most important question of all!  Ultimately, all that matters is that YOU, the student, enjoy yourself.  Do you likeHarmony_Physical Therapy_Pilates the class?  Do you feel important and motived and supported and safe when you are in session?  Does it make you enjoy moving and feel better about yourself?  Do you see results and a step towards your own personal goals?  Are you glad you’ve gone at the end of the session?  Is it fun?  These are the intangibles that only you can answer.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter if an instructor has one year or ten years of experience, if they are PMA or not.  What matters is how you feel when you leave.

Joseph Pilates said “The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.” That is what we want you to feel when you do Pilates! If you haven’t found that place yet, keep searching until you do.

Please do not hesitate to comment below with any questions you may have on finding a good Pilates fit for you. If you have any personal stories on finding the right place to work out, I would love to hear about it!

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