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Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Dana Auriemma, Featured, Freelance, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

What It Really Takes To Teach With Class

What It Really Takes To Teach With Class

By Dana Auriemma

I took my first aerobics class 14 years ago and since then, I’ve had more fitness instructors than I can remember. And I’ve seen some very un-classy behavior that ranged from annoying to no-way-I’m-going-to- return-for-this. But on the flip side, I’ve also had a few incredible instructors. Instructors that were great not just for what they taught, but how they taught. They taught in a way that made my entire experience with them amazing. They truly taught with class.

So let’s talk about what it really means to teach with class.

1. The basics should be a no-brainer.

Be at the studio before your clients arrive and pleasant to get close to! (Be clean, covered, groomed and smelling fresh.) Plan what you want to work on with your clients that day and arrange all equipment and props as best you can prior to starting. And always, always start and end on time. This is Teaching 101 but many instructors still fail to do these things consistently.

2. Be awesome with your attitude.

You should look happy, calm and focused. Leave your personal stories, your moods and your issues at home. Clients pay for time that is about them, not you. Be generous with your smiles and laughter and make it clear that you love your job. Under no circumstances should you talk about what’s going on with other instructors, clients, the owner or private studio business. This makes the studio and you look bad.

3. Check-in before diving in.

Check on how your client or class is physically and mentally feeling every day. See what they might be in the mood for in terms of exercises as well as teaching style. If they are craving a big physical challenge then pull out some extra energy and motivating skills. If they’ve had a horrible day and look like they need a hug, dial into your soothing voice and offer extra support and compliments during the session. Take time to see what your clients need most and be prepared to deliver it.

4. Aim for the sweet spot with corrections and critiques.

Studios and instructors vary greatly when it comes to how much they correct and critique. Ideally, there is a sweet spot but the tough truth is that it varies by client…and it even changes for each client over time. Some clients have a more difficult time hearing comments about their body and being told what is ‘wrong’ or needs to be ‘fixed.’ Other clients enjoy it and embrace it in a positive manner. And sometimes, a client who once embraced corrections and critiques is now less tolerant or vice versa. The best approach is to overall aim for balance but also get to know your clients and read their reactions to determine if you should dial it up or tone it down each time you work with them. Be ready to quickly swap a correction for a compliment or the other way around.

5. Watch your language.

I’ve heard teachers say things that sometimes make me cringe. It’s a slippery slope as instructors develop close relationships with their clients and discussions about the body can get a little personal. It’s easy to let the language get too casual. But don’t. Have pride in your education and your profession. Speak as clearly, professionally and intelligently as you can and use language that earns you the respect of everyone around you.

6. Be confident when you’re hands-on.

Teachers provide hands-on help for their clients in many different ways. Whether it’s guiding them into a position or helping them find and fire a specific muscle. This aspect of teaching should of course be explained during the very first session so expectations are set. But to help clients feel totally comfortable with hands-on help, teachers need to touch with confidence. This means knowing exactly what and how you are using your hands to guide them and applying the right amount of pressure (not too much, but not too little). If you’re not yet confident with this part of teaching, reach out for help from your fellow instructors or find a workshop to strengthen this skill.

7. Have the memory of an elephant…or take good notes!

To show clients they are important and always teach the best session you can, remember the previous one! Nothing feels more cold or impersonal to the client than having to remind their instructor that they have an injury or what they worked on the week before. So if you are teaching a lot of clients and it becomes too much to remember, start taking notes. Scheduling software programs like MindBody® have built-in note capabilities or just use notebooks and folders. Take 2 minutes after each session or the end of the day to jot down highlights of what you worked on and any special issues. Glance at it when the client comes in next and you’ll be good to go!

I’d love to hear from you! What does it mean to you to teach with class?

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Pilates, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

Guide to REPs for Pilates Teachers Part 3

Guide to REPs for Pilates Teachers Part 3

REPs Uncovered

You may have heard of REPs, seen some advertising from REPs, but what exactly is it?  I’ll start at the top with the company that owns it – SkillsActive.

What is SkillsActive?

SkillsActive is the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Wellbeing.  It works with employers to develop and deliver a framework of qualifications to meet the skills that provide a properly trained workforce.  These are called National Occupational Standards.  SkillsActive works to define these frameworks within the sport, fitness, outdoors, playwork and caravan industries

Training providers wishing to offer courses meeting these National Occupational Standards and therefore be endorsed by SkillsActive have to meet certain criteria and are assessed accordingly.  Once they have been successful their course can be listed on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) website and successful candidates of their courses can be listed on the REPs register.

What is REPs? 

In a nutshell, and taken directly from their website is the following:

REPs is an independent public Register which recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK. One of our key functions is to provide a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed national occupational standards.

So anyone who has attended a course from a SkillsActive training provider and who has successfully passed the appropriate exams or coursework can apply to be entered on the Register which is maintained by REPs.

The levels of REPs

At the moment there are four levels on REPS.  Level one is a student, those learning their trade. Level two is for aerobics instructors, keep fit instructors and so on. Level three is for those people who need advanced qualifications, personal trainers, yoga teachers and this is where Pilates teachers also fit in.  Level 4 instructors must have more than 150 hours of relevant professional practice at level 3. These level 4 qualifications are in specific areas where it is recognised that the instructor needs greater understanding. At the moment these areas include cancer rehab, low back pain, cardiac rehab, falls prevention, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, mental health, obesity/diabetes, long term neurological conditions.

For Pilates teachers especially, the low back pain level 4 is entirely appropriate and I took the course as soon as it was offered by my training company.  I will say that it was hard work but very rewarding and I particularly found the psychological impact of back pain and its effect on rehabilitation to be very interesting and it gave me a greater insight into the whole subject and it certainly changed my teaching methods.


Again, I’ve taken this directly from the REPS website:

REPs was established in 2002 to:

Provide clarification and recognition of qualifications that meet agreed national standards available in the fitness industry

Provide confidence in the quality of services provided by fitness professionals

To protect the public from individuals who do not meet nationally recognised standards.

When I did my initial training in 2004 REPS was still in its early stages, there was no level 3 Pilates, in fact Pilates was at level 2.  The training mainly covered the breakdowns of about 12 of the ‘Classical Pilates’ exercises.  I actually retrained in 2006 and the course that I took was a level 3 accredited course and at some point after that I remember that my Level 2 Pilates turned into a Level 2 ‘Exercise and Movement’ as it was obviously decided that the knowledge covered in the original courses was insufficient for people who should call themselves Pilates instructors.

The pros and cons of being a member  

Discounts and magazines – It’s not overly cheap at £38 per year but of course we can put that against business expenses and REPs offers discounts for buying products through certain companies such as BUPA and Physiosupplies.  In this litigious society in which we live, we can buy insurance cover through REPs and we also have access to a legal helpline if the worst should happen.  I rather enjoy the quarterly magazine that drops through my letterbox and I’ve found some useful and interesting articles and I always peruse the yearly survey to see how my income compares!

Transferrable internationally – REPs membership is also recognised in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe so it may be handy to have in place if you’re intending on working abroad at any point.

Condition of employment – Many gyms are now only employing instructors who are on REPs and if that’s an area where you would be interested in working then it’s highly likely that you will need to sign up, however, you may be lucky enough to be employed by one of the gyms that will pay for your membership.

But – However, if you are intending to work in the community there is no requirement to be a member of REPs.  Indeed, as far as I can tell, there is no requirement to have a qualification or indeed insurance in order to call yourself a Pilates instructor.

Links with other health professionals – The General Medical Council (GMC) and the Department of Health (DH) recognise REPs as the professional body for the health and fitness industry and it will also be interesting to watch the development of the links between exercise professionals and health professionals as there is increasing recognition of the part that we can play in improving the health of the nation, not just in exercise but in rehabilitation.  Already there is a Level 3 course in GP referral which is going to be a pre-requisite for the Level 4 area specific modules and there is already a certain overlap between the work done in hospitals and gyms in areas such as cardiac rehabilitation etc.

Chaos theory – On the downside, REPs is notorious for being disorganised and for passing you from pillar to post whenever you ring them with a question.  A colleague of mine (who had already posted in a copy of her Pilates certificate) ended up sending a photograph of said certificate to a REPs employee whilst on the phone just to ensure that they actually updated her record correctly.

Training Providers – As members of REPs, we all need to have a certain number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points per year to remain on the register.  As with everything these days we all have a limited amount of time and money to spend on our training each year and I find that I tend to pick courses that have REPs CPD points associated with them, rather than picking what may be excellent courses without any CPD points.

Not all qualifications are the same – As we work in the industry we all know of very good Pilates training courses that are not REPs Level 3 and yet there are other courses that are Level 3 that arguably may not produce teachers of such high quality.

Benefits for clients

As I have already said, anybody can call themselves a Pilates Instructor without any qualifications and without any insurance.  So how would the average person on the street know?  I think the answer at the moment, is that they don’t.  Has anyone ever asked you for your qualification certificates?  I have only been asked about once or twice in over 8 years.

Selecting a REPs instructor should give the client the expectation that the instructor is suitably qualified with knowledge, competence and has the skills necessary to teach them.  Alongside that, the instructor will have had to undergo continuous professional development to keep their skills up to date and will hold public liability insurance.  In addition REPs members are bound by a Code of Ethical Conduct.

How to get registered

You’ll need to email or post copies of your certificates, insurance, industry cv and other appropriate qualifications to REPs along with a fee of £38.

I hadn’t realised until researching this article that qualifications from the following Pilates training schools do not meet the REPS level 3 requirements per se:

Pilates Institute

Pilates Foundation

STOTT Pilates

There are also other training companies, such as Body Control who run ‘conversion’ courses for those with qualifications close or equivalent to a level 3 which will allow the successful candidate to register with REPS and it has the added benefit of opening up the huge range of courses offered by Body Control including the Level 4 low back pain and large equipment courses which are often not available from the smaller training companies.

Pilates level 4 and the future

In 2012 Skills Active recognised the need for a Level 4 in non-medical areas where instructors could demonstrate a considerably greater knowledge and competence than that required by Level 3.  At the moment the only training company which is able to offer this qualification is Body Control, although there is nothing to stop other companies offering this in the future.

In order to achieve the Level 4 candidates must have passed a total of 18 credits.  There are mandatory components of the qualification focussing on movements and adaptations (11 credits).  After that you need to obtain at least 3 credits from a special populations series of courses.  These are pregnancy, older person, children and/or bone health.  Then there are other courses on topics such as repertoire (i.e. standing Pilates, small equipment) and client specific which covers sports specific courses.

Further information about the requirements for the Level 4 Certificate in Instructing Applied Pilates Matwork can be found on OfQual’s website here:



Ultimately the decision as to whether to join REPs rests with the individual and it may be that as time goes on, it becomes more difficult to be an exercise instructor without being a member of REPs which would benefit us and the general public.

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