Choosing Your Pilates Teacher
A Guide To Pilates Teachers/Instructors And Qualifications For Clients Part 1
Do you want to do Pilates? Have you seen numerous people in your local area advertising their services? How do you choose between them? In this article I’m going to look at qualifications. This is only one aspect of your choice, but it’s a good place to start.
Pilates can be taught purely as matwork using just a mat and other small equipment such as foam rollers, gym balls and bands. There is also studio Pilates where you will be taught using big equipment such as a reformer, Cadillac, ladder barrel and Pilates chair. In most cases someone wanting to train as a Pilates instructor will learn how to teach matwork first and then learn how to teach on the big equipment. In this article I will just be covering matwork training.
Did you know that in the UK anyone could call himself or herself a Pilates instructor? It is not a legally defined term so, as a worst case scenario, someone could go to classes to learn the exercises and then set up their own classes. It is unlikely that the classes would be very safe and the ‘instructor’ would almost certainly not be insured if they should injure a client.
There are short Pilates Instructor training courses, often held over a weekend, so maybe 14 hours of lectures, sometimes followed by a short exam at a later date (or submission of a video of themselves teaching a class) and some coursework. These courses often attract previously qualified gym and aerobics instructors working within the gym chains or independents who already have fitness qualifications, including anatomy knowledge who are interested in increasing their range of fitness skills.
Then there are the ‘level 3 REPs’ course qualified instructors. Please see the separate article about REPs but, in a sentence, a national body has produced a definition of what a Pilates instructor at this level should know in terms of knowledge, skills and competence and someone holding a qualification at this level will have demonstrated their ability against this national standard. REPs level 3 can be achieved from courses with about 21 hours of lectures, followed by producing a video of themselves teaching, taking maybe a couple of months to achieve, although there are also much longer courses with 100 plus hours of lectures, numerous written exams, 50 hours supervised teaching (working with qualified, experienced instructors) and teaching exams taking many months of work.
Following on from this are the instructors who have completed and passed an intensive training course, often lasting 14 months to several years but whose course is not recognised by REPs. Within the Pilates community these courses are often well regarded, producing excellent instructors but they may not have covered the entire curriculum as defined by REPs (for example, there may not be any teaching of nutrition). This was the original way that Pilates teachers were trained, i.e. as an apprentice.
I have also noticed that there seems to be an increasing trend for ‘trained with’ instructors. This seems to be those instructors who have perhaps qualified with a short course and who have then attended a course from a more highly regarded training company. It can be misleading for clients as it may be that the instructor hasn’t actually achieved the standard required by the training company so if, as a client, you see this, you should make sure that you ask your prospective instructor who they actually qualified with.
As you can imagine, the graduates from each of these types of courses will provide very different qualities of teaching and you would consequently expect to pay considerably more for a certified teacher from one of the extended courses. You should also look into class sizes. Many teachers pride themselves on their small class sizes (12 or fewer participants) where they can spend time with each individual ensuring that the client is doing each exercise correctly, whereas many community and gym classes don’t restrict numbers and you may find yourself not being corrected. Again, you would expect to pay considerably more for being in a small class.
If you have no illnesses/injuries/medical conditions and are used to exercise then choose any instructor. If you are seeing a practitioner (chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath) or have been recommended to do Pilates by your GP or consultant or you have other medical issues (osteoporosis, stenosis, Spondylolisthesis etc etc etc) you would be better advised to choose an instructor who has been certified by one of the more intensive training courses, running small classes.
(c) Julia Crossman 2013