If you’re teaching your first Pilates class, congratulations! It is quite an accomplishment, and you are probably very excited but also nervous. Luckily, there are some tips to help you succeed as a new Pilates instructor.
The best way to prepare for your first Pilates class is to have a plan, teach what you know, and practice it ahead of time. Be authentic and present to build rapport with your students. While you should arrive early and set up, don’t be afraid to go with the flow and adapt to the students’ needs.
Any new job can be daunting, and first-day jitters are entirely normal. Whether you’re anxious or just plain excited, these tips can help your first Pilates class go smoothly.
1. Have a Plan
Teaching doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It requires careful planning ahead of time.
Create a lesson plan with the moves and sequences you will do in class – and roughly how long each portion will take. Make sure you have enough material to fill the time without rushing or dragging things out.
Bring your lesson plan with you. You can write it on a sheet of paper or have it written down on your phone. Don’t get too attached to the plan – but feel free to reference it now and then if you forget what to do next.
Keep your lesson plan well-balanced with various exercises, poses, and stretches. Check out this article on What Happens in a Typical Pilates Session to get some ideas.
It’s also a good idea to create a lesson plan with some flexibility. Have backup ideas if you end up ploughing through the moves and need to fill extra time.
Having a plan to fall back on can also make you more relaxed. Rather than focusing on what to do in class, you can focus on how the students are doing and build stronger connections.
2. Teach What You Know
You want to feel comfortable and confident in your first few classes as a teacher. Stick with what you know best. If there are moves you excel at or sequences you know inside-out, choose those!
Your first Pilates lesson doesn’t have to be super fancy. You are learning to teach as you go, so choose the material you’re comfortable with, so you can focus on the actual teaching part.
3. Practice Ahead of Time
Practice makes perfect!
Although it might seem silly, practising what you’ll do in class can help you feel more at ease when the time comes. Plus, you can work out any kinks and understand time management.
One way to do this is to create a mock teaching environment. Either rehearse it at home on your own or make an evening of it by inviting some friends over for a trial run-through. In return, have your friends give you feedback and suggestions to apply towards the real thing.
4. Eat & Sleep Enough Before Class
There’s nothing worse than showing up hungry or tired when you need to perform. It can distract you and prevent you from thinking clearly.
Make sure to get enough sleep and food leading up to your first class. You want to feel as energized and refreshed as possible to set yourself up for success!
5. Bring Water
This tip seems like a given, but people often need a reminder.
You might already drink water during Pilates classes. However, you’ll probably need it even more while teaching.
You’ll be doing the exercises and moving around the class to assist students. It might be surprising how much energy you’ll exert!
Plus, thirst is a typical response to being nervous. There’s nothing worse than a dry mouth while trying to direct a class of students. Save yourself the trouble and come prepared.
6. Dress the Part
Like any job, you want to look the part. Wear Pilates-appropriate clothing, something you can easily move in. Make sure whatever you’re wearing is clean and presentable.
As an extra tip, choose something you’ll feel extra confident wearing. While you want to be comfortable and professional, you also feel like a boss.
My go-to outfits are by Contur (link to website, use Donna15 to get 15% off your order), the fit is very comfortable, and I always get complimented on the look.
So if you have a favourite go-to workout outfit, make sure it’s washed and ready to go on your first day.
7. Arrive Early
You might be nervous or excited on your first day. Arriving early can help you calm that energy and feel more prepared. It’ll give you time to assess the space and make any necessary adjustments.
It’ll also give you time to breathe. Rushing is stressful, and you don’t want to show up all flustered to your first class.
Plus, it just looks good! Showing up late on your first date is not professional. Start off right by being early and prepared.
8. Prep the Room
Good teachers come prepared. Setting up the room will make you look and feel more professional.
Every studio has a slightly different setup. Familiarize yourself with the space and where the equipment is. Test the stereo and set up blocks, bands, and any other accessories you’ll be using.
If you’re expecting a larger class, lay out mats with appropriate spacing, so your students can just show up and choose a mat.
9. Introduce Yourself
Don’t forget to introduce yourself at the beginning of class! While students come for Pilates, it’s essential to add a personal element to the lesson.
Building rapport with your students immediately makes them feel more comfortable. Teaching isn’t just about going through the motions. It’s also about creating relationships.
10. Be Genuine
While in a professional role, it’s important to be yourself!
No need to put on airs or an overly professional persona. Students want to feel like they’re engaging authentically.
Remember, you are their teacher, but you’re also a human being. Let your personality come out. If you’re warm, silly, or energetic, let those qualities shine.
11. Remember the Names of Your Students
Remembering the names of your students can help you teach. If you want to adjust a student or acknowledge them, you’ll be able to call them by name.
However, it can be hard to remember names. As a teacher, you’re juggling a lot!
If your class is large, it might not be realistic. But if it’s more intimate, ask students their names as they come in or at the start of class. Make a point to say their name immediately after meeting them, so you can engrain it in your memory.
12. Go With the Flow
You can do all the planning in the world, but you still can’t predict what will happen during class!
There will inevitably be things that don’t go as planned in your Pilates class, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the process.
You might have to veer off course to adapt to students. Learning to think on your feet is a big part of teaching. Don’t stress if something goes wrong…just keep calm and Pilates on.
13. Keep Your Explanations Simple and Clear
Students will come from all backgrounds and levels. The best way to guide them is to keep your explanations simple and straightforward. You want everyone to understand what to do without thinking too hard.
One handy acronym is KISS: Keep It Stupid Simple. Don’t overcomplicate your explanations with fancy jargon. The more concise you can be, the better.
Remember, even if you know how to perform a specific Pilates exercise well, it doesn’t always mean you can teach it well. Think of how you’ll explain these things to people who might be new.
Also, keep those transitions fluid. Part of the enjoyment of Pilates classes is how fluid they can be. Describe each Pilates transition, so students can gracefully move from one position to another.
14. Adjust for Individual Needs
Everyone has a different body. What’s easy for one person may be challenging for the next. As such, you should plan and adjust for individual needs.
You don’t want anyone to feel inadequate. Have some variations and alternatives for less advanced students.
If you’re teaching a beginner’s move in Pilates but notice it looks too easy for someone, give them a similar but more advanced option. Vice versa, always be prepared with a simpler option for those with different movement restrictions.
15. Be Sensitive to Touching Others
You might need to touch the students when you’re moving around the room and correcting postures. However, not everyone is comfortable being touched.
Be sensitive to the needs of everyone. It’s a good idea to ask the person if you can touch them before doing so. If they say no, simply give them verbal pointers going forward.
Asking for consent before touching a student respects their boundaries and helps establish trust between the parties.
16. Don’t Rush
A sign of a good Pilates teacher is one that doesn’t come across as stressed throughout class. It can be easy to rush through everything because you’re a bit nervous. However, rushing might not be enjoyable, and students won’t get as much from each posture or stretch.
Try taking a deep breath and slowing down. Be present by focusing on each move in a sequence. Pay attention to the room and notice the students.
17. Be Mindful of the Time
Time management is an integral part of Pilates classes. You likely have a set schedule and don’t want to go under or over time.
While time management is a learned skill that will develop in time, there are some tricks to stay on top of it as a beginning Pilates instructor.
- Add estimated time frames to your lesson plan for each Pilates sequence. This will help you understand roughly how much time to spend on each.
- Keep a clock or watch handy. You don’t want to be scrambling to check the time in the middle of class.
- Check in every 5-10 minutes to make sure you’re on target.
- Adjust accordingly. If you’re under time, slow down or add more moves. If you’re over time, speed up or cut something from your plan.
18. Remember You Are the Teacher
You are the teacher! It’s your job to command the room– own that power and responsibility. Operate under the assumption that the students trust you and that you deserve to be in that position. But more importantly, trust yourself.
One thing new instructors often do is apologize for little things. Don’t apologize unless it’s actually necessary. It can make you lose confidence in yourself.
While it’s normal to have imposter syndrome in your first Pilates class, you are the teacher for a reason. So take a deep breath, exhale, and remember– you are qualified. Lean into your new role and enjoy it!
19. Ask for Feedback
Remember you don’t need to be perfect in your first lesson and probably never will be as a teacher. Teaching is a constant learning process and should be treated as such.
Let the students know you are new to teaching Pilates and welcome their feedback and suggestions. The best teachers learn from their failures and know how to put their egos aside to become even better instructors.
The best feedback you’ll receive is from the students themselves. So listen to what they have to say and apply it going forward.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone will connect with your personality or teaching style. This is entirely normal and why there are so many teachers out there! However, as long as you’re genuine and can take constructive feedback, you will attract the right students with time.
20. Build Relationships With Studios and Students
Pilates is not just an exercise but also a community. Reputation and word of mouth are essential in this business.
Building genuine relationships with studios and students can help you make a name for yourself. In turn, it can help you get more classes in the future.
Don’t be shy to talk to people at your place of work. Connect with the staff and engage with the students in your class.
Students may come for Pilates, but they’ll stay for the teacher.