Finding the Right Instructor

We’ve all been there including myself.  A teacher you’ve been working out with for what seems like forever is leaving the studio or gym you train at.  You go into a panic thinking to yourself, “oh my, what am I going to do now?  No one will ever know my body like this person did.”

Do not panic.  You will find another teacher that understands you and your body and your needs.  Pilates Instructors and Personal Trainers all move on for various reasons as do most employees of any industry.

As a former professional dancer I’ve had many teachers over the years.  When I was younger in high school and college I wasn’t able to choose my teachers.  After graduating from college I was attending open dance classes here in New York City, mostly at Peridance Center, Steps on Broadway, Pilates at Drago’s Gym (now known as True Pilates) and The Pilates Studio NY.  I found myself trying every teacher on the schedule that worked with times I was available.  I really enjoyed this process.  I worked with so many different teachers and tried out many different class levels.

I found a core group of teachers that I really enjoyed taking class and privates with.  After speaking with friends we all had different opinions of the same teachers.  Teachers I loved, some of my friends didn’t.  Friends that I danced with for years adored a specific teacher that I really didn’t enjoy taking ballet from.

As a business owner, I hire and fire instructors.  It is a very difficult process.  When interviewing an instructor not only am I looking for knowledge and high level instruction, but I have to keep in mind all the different personalities that are at the studio.  Not every student will enjoy working with every instructor.  We all have different personalities and bond with different types of people.

How do you find the right instructor for you?

1.  Does the instructor know the subject they are teaching you?  This is very important.  I can say that all of my employees are very knowledgeable in The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning but that may not be the case in other facilities.  If you are a new student, it may be difficult for you to determine if they know the subject, as you do not know the subject.  However, if you are a long time student,  you can tell within the first 5 minutes if someone knows what they are doing.

2.  Did the instructor speak to you about how you are and how your body is feeling today?  Our bodies are different each day.  Some clients get annoyed when I ask them how they are feeling in their bodies.  A common response is “I don’t know” or “It’s too early, I just woke up”, or “It’s the same”.  Those 3 statements are given to me by 90% of my clients.  When I take a session (and I do on a regular basis), and a teacher asks me that, I can go into great detail about how my body is doing.  It is very helpful to communicate with your instructors about the things you are feeling in your body.  Something you think is minor, such as you wore high heels all night last night and your low back is achy, is something we need to know.  People are afraid that we will give them a lighter workout if they mention anything they are feeling, when in fact we will adjust the program to make it safe.  Instructors can not read your mind, although we try to read your body and your energy, we can not know what you are thinking or feeling without asking and without you telling us.

3.  Do you like the person?  Do you get along on a personal level?  Can you communicate easily with the person and do you feel at ease with this person?  Sometimes, personalities clash and that is okay.  Not everyone gets along.  It would be nice if we lived in a world where we all got along and we all liked each other, but the truth is we do not.  You should work out with someone you like.  Someone you want to show up for, someone you want to do well for, someone you respect.  If you do not feel those things, then find a new teacher.

4.  How do you switch instructors?  Maybe you’ve had the same instructor for years, but you are now going through a life changing event and you believe that a new teacher would benefit you more.  Changing your schedule and switching teachers can feel like a big problem to most students.  It is not.  Instructors are fully aware that students need different things at different points in their lives and need to hear different opinions.  We encourage clients to workout with others.  Yes, it is a business, but the majority of us really care about the students progress and what is best for them and if switching teachers is best for them, we support it.

If you want to switch instructors, speak with the manager of the facility or the owner and discuss what it is you are looking for and why you’d like to change.  They can help point you in the right direction, but ultimately you will make the final decision by trying out different people and seeing who works best for you.

Jennifer RuggieroFinding the Right Instructor
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