How to maximize your Pilates personal training and group class revenue during a recession

During this tough economic climate, Pilates instructors find themselves with a smaller client base than they did two, even three years ago.  For instance, at our New York studio, Pilates on Fifth, our numbers are still down about 30% from what they were two years ago.  Ouch!!  But we are not alone.  We are fortunate to know Pilates studio, Yoga studio, and even spa owners around the country, and most are experiencing a similar situation.

So then, the big question is “how do we Pilates instructors retain our clients and thus maximize our revenue?”

Let’s start with what NOT to do!

1)  Take your discouragement with your personal financial situation with you to the studio, the home of your clients, the gym, etc.  After all, it’s PERSONAL training, and your personality is a large part of what helped you retain the client in the first place!  So remember, it’s your personality that could lose them as well.

2)  Talk about yourself and your personal life.  Now is the time to make sure that you are focused entirely on your client or the students in your class in their hour.  Phoning it in will not gain you clients or help you retain them either!!

3)  Raise prices unnecessarily in your attempt to make up for the decrease in clients.  While it might be necessary to raise prices due to increased costs you might be incurring, make sure you know exactly why you are raising the prices, and if you do, make sure that the service you are delivering eclipses the percentage increase tenfold!

That being said, let’s talk about the more positive side of what you SHOULD do!!

1)  Be completely invested in your clients’ progress in results.  If you don’t invest in them, how can you expect them to invest in you?  Take a moment to ask yourself if you’ve seen them make progress in the past two months.  If the answer is no, then think of what you can do to program more effectively.

2)  Mutually re-evaluate your clients’ goals.  Let them know that you want them to reach their goals, whatever they may be.  Additionally, by setting goals together, you can motivate your clients to make their appointments and show up both in body and mind to each and every lesson.  After all, we don’t want our clients phoning it in either!  Goal setting also allows you, the instructor, to create benchmarks which you can then use to chart your clients’ progress.  Once they see their own records of improvement, they’re more likely to keep at it.

3)  Bring your A++ game to the table every lesson or class, every time.  No excuses!  We recently had a conversation with our top instructors at Pilates on Fifth, and across the board, we noticed that regardless of teaching style, our best instructors are the ones who are excited about the hour, keep the energy up, and keep their clients moving.  Ironically, in doing so (and we all agreed on this!) the hour FLIES by… and that’s never a bad thing, right?

4)  Make it ENJOYABLE!!!  Exercise is one of the BEST forms of stress relief, so keep that in mind!

All in all, we’ve noticed that our best instructors have not only retained, but GAINED clients, even with this crazy economic climate.  Hopefully these tips we’ve provided will help others gain and retain lots of clients, both for group mat classes and for private lessons!!!

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March 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

POSTURE ANALYSIS AND PILATES

This past weekend the Pilates Academy International held its very popular Anatomy, Biomechanics and Posture Analysis course at the Instructor Training headquarters at Pilates on Fifth in New York City.  The course was taught by Katherine Corp and Anna Hillengas, and was well received by the participants, a great group comprised of Pilates instructors and people who wish to become a Pilates instructor from New York, Philadelphia, Japan, Sydney and Spain.

My favorite part of the course is the Posture Analysis, as this is the point in the course where the somewhat “rote” memorization of anatomy and biomechanics comes to life in three dimension.   Suddenly the students discover their own postural abnormalities and can link their own posture to a muscle/group of muscles that are tight or loose, too-strong or too weak, or over/under-developed.  …And then there’s the “EUREKA!” moment, in which students realize WHY they’ve been having problems with a certain exercise or group of exercises.

Natural Curves of a Healthy Spine

Take, for instance, the case of excessive kyphosis of the thoracic spine.  While the thoracic spine is supposed to have a slight curve posteriorly (see picture right), the curve can become excessive, as in the picture below (see picture below).  In this type of posture, the muscles in the FRONT of the shoulder, the pectoralis major, minor, and anterior deltoids are usually tight, while the muscle in the back of the shoulder girdle, the middle & lower traps and the rhomboids, are usually long and weak as well.   The muscles in the back of the neck, the cervical extensors, however, will usually be tight.  While every case is unique, just by looking at the posture, you can assume that exercises like Breast Stroke and Swimming will be very difficult, if not impossible to perform with a great deal of success IN THEIR ORIGINAL PILATES FORM!  It is the job of the Pilates Instructor to find a way to work around the initial postural stumbling blocks so that clients can perform Pilates safely  (click here for our safety videos on Ultimate Pilates Workouts.com).  We suggest modifying exercises to start upright, or lying at the edge of a bed (or a Cadillac) to work the extensors just to bring the spine into a more neutral alignment.

Kyphosis

Curvature of the Lumbar Spine

Another example is the case of excessive lordosis of the lumbar spine.  Similar to kyphosis, the lumbar spine has a natural curve, but its curve is anterior (see picture right).  However, the curve can be excessive, as seen in the picture.  For these individuals, oftentimes the external obliques are usually weak, while the hip flexors are very tight.  In the back of the body, the hamstrings are relatively long while the erector spinae are short and tight.  People with lordosis who do Pilates have to be very careful with exercises like The Hundreds, Double Leg Stretch and Teaser, as it will be difficult for them to maintain a strong connection in their abdominal muscles against the weight of the legs.  We suggest starting with seated exercises like Half Roll Down or Obliques Roll Down, and doing supine exercises with the legs in the air with the legs in Table Top, or knees bent.  For more suggestions about Pilates exercises for Lordosis, we suggest you check out one of our Pilates Instruction Manuals or our training videos on Ultimate Pilates Workouts.com.

Vertical, Posterior Tilt and Anterior Tilt of the Pelvis

And finally, just not to leave any postural deviation out, there are those with the flat back posture.  These individuals distinctly do not have curvature in the lumbar spine, and the pelvis is in a posterior tilt as well (see picture left).   In terms of muscles, tight hamstrings are usually rampant, so don’t expect your client (or yourself, for that matter), to be able to sit right up on the sits bones with the legs outstretched in front…. It might not be possible!!  Be prepared to modify the start positions of all Pilates exercises that start seated with the legs straight, such as Spine Twist, Spine Stretch Forward, Saw, etc.  Additionally, the abs may be a little short and tight, so exercises such as Swan Dive, which involve full extension of the spine and lengthening of the abdominal muscles, may be challenging.

It’s actually easy to do a postural assessment on most people, but keep in mind that our abnormalities or affectations are not so big that it’s the first thing noticed.  Don’t try to make yourself (or your friends, for that matter), “fit” into one of the scenarios that we’ve included here.  We’ve mainly included them because it’s oftentimes much easier to understand something when you think of it in terms of extremes, and that’s what these cases are.  For example, Kimberly and I both have scoliosis (but our spines curve in opposite directions…), but it’s not so severe that it’s ever kept us from doing anything.  It merely explains why Katherine tends to roll to the right while doing Rolling Like a Ball, while Kimberly rolls to the left!

You, too can do a quick postural assessment that will help with your Pilates prowess.  In our search for pictures of different postural abnormalities/affectations, we came across a site that gave a how-to for postural assessments, and it’s quite thorough!  As we are not big fans of re-inventing the wheel, we just thought that we’d link to it!  Here is the link for “How do to a Standing Postural Assessment”: http://mindbodyfitness.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_do_a_standing_static_postural_assessment.

In a final note, learning Posture Analysis gives people watching a whole new meaning!!  Try sitting at a Starbucks and doing a quick posture analysis on by passersby, or even a postural analysis on the person standing in front of you at the bank or at the supermarket……  Happy watching!

January 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Tired of your Exercise Routine?? TRY SOMETHING NEW!!!!

stretchAt our Pilates Studio, we hear people complain often about being sick and tired of their workout regime.  There is actually a really easy remedy to this problem:  quit your typical workout regime for  a week or two, and try new things!!  With the beautiful weather comes the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, so why not take a walk, ride a bike, etc?  Better yet, why not try something you’ve never tried before?

Trying new things not only refreshes your mind, but also gives your overworked muscles a break, while introducing movement and stimuli to often dormant muscles.  Moving the body in planes of motion different than what you typically do can reap lots of benefits, including balancing out muscle groups as well as exposing you to a weakness that you may have not known that you had.  With that knowledge, you’ll have something new to target when you return to your regular fitness routine.

You will be amazed with the outcome if you give your mind and body a necessary break.  You’ll come back to your usual Pilates routine refreshed, revived, and invigorated!!

May 28, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Watch Ultimate Pilates Workouts on television!

tvUltimate Pilates Workouts is today’s leading internet resource for instructional Pilates exercises and full-length workouts. The website was designed to promote cost-effective Pilates with convenience. Ultimate Pilates Workouts offers an ever-growing library of full-length, well-rounded workouts accessible to a variety of levels of Pilates lovers. Since membership accounts exist online, users can login from any computer and pick the perfect workout for their day. Enjoy professional Pilates instruction from the convenience of your own laptop or desktop computer! Or, better yet… enjoy Ultimate Pilates Workouts on your own television screen!

Laptop and desktop computers come in all shapes and sizes these days. In fact, it has become increasingly more impressive just how skinny, compact, lightweight, etc, etc… (you name it!) computer designs have evolved. However, as a do computer screens. Compact computers are excellent for those of us on the go! It’s easy on the back and shoulders, and paired with wireless internet it brings modern convenience quite literally to our fingertips. However, all of us at Ultimate Pilates Workouts understand that this can bring extra challenge to your Pilates workout. The Pilates method is already difficult, with a myriad of details to recount while supporting our pelvis, circling our arms, softening our ribs, connecting our inner thighs and relaxing our shoulders down. We’re not interested in exercising your vision. Why add extra challenge with a miniature computer screen to follow along with for your favorite Pilates mat workouts?

Forget the inner thighs! Well, not entirely… Rather, let’s also connect our laptops! Let’s connect our laptops and desktop computers to our televisions to make Ultimate Pilates Workouts come to life in our living rooms! Connecting computers to television screens is quick and easy! Follow these simple steps:

1. First you need a video cable for making the physically connection.

Most computers have an S-Video port that can be connected to the S-Video input of your TV screen using a very cheap S-Video cable (it’s round with 4 or 7 pins).

For better picture quality, you should connect the computer to the TV using standard VGA ports or via the DVI to HDMI cable provided your TV supports these ports.

2. Open the “display settings” in your Vista computer and activate output to the TV screen. You can either mirror content of your computer on the TV or extend the display just like a dual monitor screen.

3. Pick up your TV remote and switch to “External Inputs” from the menu. You will need to change the default “Video 1” to a different selection which may be “HDMI 1” or “Video 2” depending on how you have made the connection.

Important: Make sure you connect the cable to the TV before turning on the computer as sometimes it may fail to recognize external display.

For easy-to-follow instructional videos on how to connect your laptop to your computer, check out these two fabulous clips!

Click here for laptops!

Click here for desktops!

May 11, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Shape Up for Summer – Legs

summer-legsWe had a glimpse of warm summer weather just ten days ago, and shorts, shorter skirts, and even bathing suits suddenly popped out of storage and onto people’s unsuspecting bodies.  Were your legs ready???  Here are some tried and true classical Pilates exercises, as well as a few new Pilates exercise variations to get your legs ready to meet summer head on.

Let’s start with the outer thighs.  For this area, we LOVE the Side Leg Lift Series.  It’s simple and easy, but oh so effective!!  For maximum results, keep your knee cap pointing straight forward so that you are targeting the outer thighs and not the front of the leg.  We feature this amazing leg series in many of our mat workouts, and even in our Bosu workouts too!  For some variety, try doing the series with an Exercise Band, as we demonstrate in our Stretch and Strengthen Workout

Next, let’s move to the inner thighs.  These little suckers are hard to tone, but they do respond VERY well to exercise, when we remember to use them.  One big hint for the inner thighs……  KEEP THEM ENGAGED IN ALMOST ALL YOUR PILATES EXERCISES!!  Truly, if you do Hundreds, Roll Up, Rolling Like a Ball, Side Leg Lift Series, Breast Stroke, etc. etc., concentrating on keeping your inner thighs engaged throughout, you will hardly feel the need to do a separate exercise just for them.  As we are all built differently, it is often helpful to think of squeezing a ping pong ball between the upper inner thighs rather than squeezing the knees or ankles together, as this may often take the femurs (thigh bones) out of optimal alignment.  If you love Pilates equipment like we do, try incorporating a small ball or a Pilates Ring into your workout to experience firsthand the wonders they can do for your adductors.  We recommend our Small Ball Workout, and our Sculpt and Shape Workout!!

And last, but certainly not least, we have the tops of the backs of the thighs, undoubtedly the hardest part to tone.  Exercises to tone the upper hamstrings will inevitably involve the gluteus maximus as well, so performing these exercises regularly will help your butt defy gravity too!  From our arsenal of classical Pilates exercises, we have Swan Dive, Swimming, One Leg Kick and Double Leg Kick to name a few.  For maximum effectiveness, make sure that you keep your knees straight when they are supposed to be straight!  It may help to imagine your leg growing longer as you lift the leg.  Additionally, for this hard to target area, incorporating an exercise band into your routine can reap rewards tenfold!!  The exercise band can provide extra resistance and create increased awareness to that stubborn little area.  Two suggestions:  Try our Strong, Svelte & Savvy Sculpt Lean, Lithe Legs Workout or our Strong, Svelte & Savvy Legs and Butt with Band Workout and you will see for yourself.

May 6, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Shape Up for Summer: Get the most out of your Cardio!!

woman-runningSo we’ve talked so far about shaping your arms, your abs and waistline for summer, but the main ingredient to this Shape Up for Summer Recipe is CARDIO!!!!  Despite the hours you may put in toning your body and sculpting your muscles, if you do not burn the fat that might surround them, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE YOUR BEAUTIFUL MUSCLES!!!!  At our Pilates studio, we encourage our clients to cross train with cardio, to the extent that we have cardio equipment in the studio and offer CARDIOLATES® classes so that more cardiosvascular exercise may be integrated into a Pilates workout routine.  However, success with cardio exercise depends on many factors other than the type of cardio fitness plan that you choose.

cardio-dvdSuccess with a cardio routine depends on three factors:  frequency (how many times per week), duration (how many minutes) and intensity (degree of difficulty), and they are all interrelated.  For example, a cardio routine that is of super high intensity may be sustainable for as long a duration as something that is of moderate intensity.  And there is also the enjoyment factor!  For example, something like climbing stairs is VERY intense, burning up to 150 calories in ten minutes for someone my size (click here for more information); however, if you loathe climbing stairs and cringe at the sight of a stairmaster, you may not be likely to stay on the stairmaster for a sufficient duration to see great results.  On top of that, torturing yourself with cardio you hate will likely make you feel justified in skipping your workout the next day (frequency).  However, if you love walking, even though it burns less calories when compared with that of other, more high intensity choices, you will most likely increase both the frequency and duration of your workouts, burning more calories over the long term.  Some of our clients over the years who are the tiniest are the ones who walk all the time!!!

Plan your cardio routines over a week, not each day, so that you give yourself some leeway.  Don’t worry about having to burn 500 calories in a single workout session, especially if you know that you typically can only squeeze that killer workout in twice a week.  Wouldn’t it be better to do something that burns only 300 calories, but actually has you doing it 4-5 times per week?  That’s a net gain of 200-500 calories per week.  And everything adds up.  EVERYTHING!  So, find a form of cardio that you love to do, because then you’ll do it!!

Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured, and that goes for cardio, too!!!

New CARDIOLATES® workouts will be up on www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com next week!!!

May 4, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates and posture, part two

watchdogIn addition to maintaining the three natural curves of the spine, head placement is important for ideal posture. Because we as a population spend most of our time leaning over a desk, driving or propped up on pillows in bed watching TV, a common postural flaw in this country is forward head posture.

Ideally, the head is centered over the body with the ear lobe aligned with the midpoint of the shoulder (and the shoulders should not be rounded forward, but more on that tomorrow!) But most of us look down when we walk, read a book, write, use the computer, cook, etc., so our heavy heads pull us out of ideal alignment. Soon, the forward head posture feels normal and if we align our heads over our shoulders, we feel like we will fall backwards!

Here’s a good exercise to try: assume the “all 4″s” position and feel how gravity wants to pull your head closer to the ground. Don’t let that happen! Think of pulling the backs of your ears up towards the ceiling to bring your head in line with your spine. Do NOT think of jamming the chin into the chest as this usually creates tension and poor alignment.

Remember, your head weighs about 12 to 15 pounds, and every inch it sits forward of ideal alignment on top of the shoulder means another ten pounds of weight is added to your head from your body’s perspective. This can lead to muscle strains in the upper back, a rounding of the upper spine and cause neck and shoulder tension as well.

April 21, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates and posture, part one

posture“Stand up straight!”  “Pull your shoulders back!”  “Don’t slouch!”  How many of us heard this as kids?

Good posture conveys self confidence, poise, leadership and many other positive attributes.  But posture is important not only for aesthetics, but also — and most importantly — for proper biomechanics, alignment and weight distribution throughout the body.

This week we will dissect the various aspects of good posture and the most common obstacles to achieving it.  As the spine is the center of the body, we will begin with a description of the spine and a definition of “neutral spine,” which is important for achieving proper posture.

First of all, the spine is comprised of 24 vertebrae that articulate with one another and another nine vertebrae in the sacrum — the bony triangle at the base of the spine with five fused vertebrae — and the tailbone consisting of four fused vertebrae.  The 24 vertebrae which articulate with one another are flexible enough to give us the movement we require to complete our daily functions.

The neck — or cervical spine — contains seven vertebrae and has the most flexibility of any part of the spine.  The rib cage area — or thoracic spine — contains twelve vertebrae and has the least amount of flexibility because of the limitation (and thus the protection) imposed by the ribs.  Finally, the lower back — or lumbar spine — contains five vertebrae with a fairly large degree of flexibility naturally, though many find limitation as they age due to muscle tightness.

Contrary to the common command, “stand up straight!” the spine is not naturally straight!  The spine has three curves which should be maintained for proper biomechanics.  The cervical spine (neck) curves slightly forward, the thoracic spine (rib cage) curves slightly backwards and the lumbar spine (lower back) curves slightly forward again.  These curves give the spine resiliency and aid in the absorption of impact and stress to the body.

Pilates seeks to preserve the natural curves of the spine, which is why you may have heard the terms “neutral spine” and “neutral pelvis” in your Pilates class.  The spine in its neutral alignment facilitates proper breathing, proper functioning of the bodily organs (as nothing is compressed) and as mentioned, proper transfer of weight through the joints.

Want to learn more about good posture?  Check back the rest of the week for more on head placement, pelvic placement and more!

April 17, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 2

power-golf-pilates-1Yesterday we showed you “ideal” alignment in the set-up of the golf swing.  Today, we’ll discuss one of the most common errors that negatively impact the success of the swing:  rounding the shoulders and the spine.

“Most golfers bend from the waist instead of the hip sockets due to lack of body awareness and the inability to physically do it,” says our favorite Golf and Pilates expert Rick Nielsen.  “The hip girdle and spine should be tilted forward about 25 degrees to allow the arms to hang freely and the club to move around the spine in a predictable manner.”

Rick suggests holding a golf club at your back to keep the spine straight before and then leaning forward from the hip socket.  “Of course your entire spine will not stay in contact with the club due to the spine’s natural curves,” says Rick, “but doing this can tell you if you are rounding your spine.”

The below picture shows proper set-up:

power-golf-pilates-2Not only does setting up with rounded shoulders and a rounded spine take the body out of the optimal alignment needed for a good swing, it could also lead to injury.  Rotating the spine abruptly with the spine flexed (rounded) instead of straight is more damaging to the discs and the surrounding musculature.

To build body awareness and strengthen appropriate muscle groups, try the following exercises:

1.    The Spine Twist:  This original Pilates exercise will teach you to keep your hips completely still and just rotate the spine. This will strengthen the deep muscles that stabilize the spine and build awareness of the ribcage and the hips as independently moving parts.

2.    The Spine Stretch Forward:  This original Pilates exercise takes you from a straight spine to a flexed spine and then back to a straight spine again…all using the abdominal muscles instead of gravity!  This is a great choice for those of you who may not know your spine is rounded to begin with!

3.    The Saw:  This original Pilates exercise combines flexion (rounding) of the spine with rotation, building abdominal strength and body awareness.

For all of the above exercises, it may be necessary to sit up on a cushion or pad if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight.  The most important part of these exercises is to perform them from an optimal starting position, which means the spine should be as straight as possible.  It is ok to perform these exercises sitting in a chair as well!  (Hint….you could probably sneak some of these in at work!)

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “My First Pilates Workout” or “Technique and Fundamentals” workout from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1. Leave a comment.

Pilates and breathing, part 1

diaphragm-upwIn Pilates, breath is integrated into the movement to bring the mind into focus, aid in relaxation, facilitate proper execution of the exercise and of course, oxygenate the body.  Before we delve into the role of the breath in Pilates, we will discuss the muscles involved in respiration.

The chief muscle of respiration is the diaphragm.  The diaphragm looks like a giant shiitake mushroom and originates on the xiphoid process and the inner surface of the lower six ribs, and its central tendon and smaller tendons (known as “crura”) attach to the vertebral column at the lumbar spine.  On an inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves down, acting as a suction to pull air into the lungs.  On the exhale, the diaphragm moves up to expel the air.

Between the ribs lie the intercostal muscles, comprised of internal intercostal muscles and external intercostal muscles.  The external intercostals assist the inhale, and the internal intercostal muscles assist the exhale.

external_intercostals

internal_intercostals

The intercostals:  for picture credit, click here.

At the end of a forced exhale, the abdominal muscles engage to help expire all the air — just think of blowing out many candles on a birthday cake.  On the other hand, at the end range of a forced inhale, the scalenes — muscles that originate on both sides of the vertebrae of the neck and insert on the first two ribs on each side — help “pick up” the ribs to allow greater capacity for air.

Check back for more articles this week on the role of the breath in Pilates!  In the meantime, please enjoy our podcasts and lots of great FREE workouts on UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!

March 31, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

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