What it takes to be a Pilates Instructor
By Cathleen Rodgers
I’ve had more than a few family members, friends, clients, and even curious strangers inquire about my training and life as a Pilates Instructor—regarding anything from how I learned all the material, to what exactly instructors do, to whether the apparatus is actually as scary as it looks (it isn’t!). While there is no singular path for Pilates instructors to follow, there are certain steps each one must take in order to achieve and uphold the credibility and skill that is required in the field. I’ll give a general outline of what exactly it takes to be a Pilates Instructor!
First and foremost comes training to become a fully certified comprehensive instructor. Before even beginning a teacher training course, one should have a handful of experience in the Pilates method and hold a general understanding of its principles and the apparatus. Given the amount of information that is covered in a condensed amount of time during teacher training, it’s almost imperative to have prior experience in Pilates. Most certification programs even require a minimum number of training hours as a prerequisite to the program.
The other big consideration before enrollment into a training program is the style of Pilates technique one wishes to study: classical or contemporary. I knew from the beginning I wanted to complete a classical training, since I am a bit of a traditionalist and I had previously trained in a classical method. But the decision isn’t always so easy. Both techniques have a lot to offer, so it really depends what direction someone wants to go…would he or she want to teach closer to the original Pilates material, or focus on newer movement patterns and concepts that have developed over time? After choosing a technique comes choosing a training program through a credible school: Peak Pilates® (offered here at Studio BE), Stott, BASI, Romana, Polestar, Power Pilates, or Balanced Body, to name a few.
Next, of course, comes the teacher training program itself. All comprehensive programs are 500+ hours worth of completed course time and independent self practice, observation, and student teaching. So not only are there intensive weekends to learn and practice in a class setting with a Master Instructor, there are also a set number of hours each apprentice must complete on their own time in order to graduate from the program. Each training program is also structured differently in how or when the material is learned. Some programs introduce one piece of equipment at a time; others introduce various equipment from the beginning and work in terms of difficulty level and progression, and so on. All programs will require students to study anatomy and teaching skills alongside the Pilates method itself. At the end of the training program, there is a thorough assessment that apprentices must take—there is a written test, a technical exam, and a teaching portion for the final “test out,” and each portion must be passed in order to achieve certification.
Even then, the work isn’t over. Every two years, instructors must complete a certain number of Continuing Education credit hours in order to keep their certification active. These include a variety of small, specialized workshops, or classes at larger fitness conventions where instructors can further their knowledge of health, bodies, and all things Pilates. This way, instructors stay up to date in the industry and continue to uphold the Pilates standard, providing the best training possible to their clientele. Instructors also continue practicing the method for themselves in the form of independent practice, under the guise of another instructor, or at the aforementioned workshops or conventions. Many of us even do research or planning for clients outside of the studio on our own time, particularly for special case individuals.
Pilates instructors may also hold various certifications in other Pilates techniques, yoga, personal training, and the like. Some even hold a full-time day job and teach Pilates part-time. There are a number of Physical Therapists who hold Pilates certifications so they can apply the method with their patients in the clinic. Ask any Pilates Instructor about their weekly schedule and you’re bound to hear something different from each one! As you can see, the life of a Pilates Instructor is busy and at times challenging. Not one week is ever the same. Teaching is strenuous work and we are always learning and evolving. And yet, it is such a rewarding job that we all LOVE. There is something so amazing and fun about sharing the Pilates technique with the world and passing it down for generations to follow!