Motivation and the Client

Kathryn Ross-Nash is all about spreading “positive Pilates power” for her new blog series that explores the teacher-client relationship exclusively for

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How to inspire from the beginning of the session till the happy ending

Running a Pilates studio and motivating different people is not an easy task, but a necessary one. In one day, you have to address so many personalities, body types, movement constraints and issues. I have run a Pilates studio for some 25 years now, and through trial and error (yes—a lot of that!) have discovered some simple motivational tactics to keep students engaged, involved and looking forward to their next lesson.

Allow for pre- post-workout time in the studio.
I often suggest to my students a few exercises they can do prior to their workout. This accomplishes many things. It brings their mind to the work before the lesson. We all have the client who rushes in with cell phone in hand, frantically gathering himself/herself while spouting excuses why he/she is late. It takes them 10 minutes on the Reformer before you can even get them into the workout. Giving them work to do before their workout time will get them there, focused and ready to move when it is lesson time.

Create independence.
At the end of the workout, I will often ask my students what they felt was the easiest exercise (most say none! LOL!), and what the most difficult one was. Then I will guide them in selecting exercises that are safe for them to do alone, to challenge the “easy” exercise and build for the most difficult. This will not only bring awareness to their own bodies and workouts, but also create a sense of independence and responsibility for themselves in the studio.

Offer private workshops with a specific focus.
Teach a workshop for your students that will enhance their workout. This will bring more depth and understanding to the work without sacrificing the flow of their weekly trainings. Pick a subject that will be universally beneficial for the group. One I love to teach is a transitions workshop. This helps their flow and engagement during weekly lessons and offers greater understanding in an efficient way.

Keep the energy positive in the studio.
I do not believe that every student is for every teacher. Over the years, there have been many times when I sent students to other teachers in the area. I know you have bills to pay and need to teach, especially when you first begin, and sending people away is a scary thing to do, but it is more necessary than you think. Teaching someone whose personality does not mesh with yours will not only drain you for your other students, it will bring a negative vibe into your studio. Your studio is a place where people come to get away from negativity, to free their minds for an hour, to care for themselves and improve their quality of life. If you wake up in the morning dreading that Mary Ellen on your roster, you can’t help but have that energy enter into your day and affect your teaching. Pass her on! Your studio will be a happier place, and your happy students will refer you more clients.

Track your students’ progress.
This will create personal responsibility for you as a teacher. I LOVE to do this. I always make a mental note of an exercise a client struggles with and then leave that exercise alone. For example, the Roll-Up on the mat. During a few weeks of training, I will allow them to do the Roll-Back instead during the mat portion of their work, while secretly working with them on the exercises on the apparatus that will build what is needed for their particular body to execute the Roll-Up. Then, when I know they are ready—at the end of their workout—I will bring them back to the mat and ask them to do Roll-Up. If I have done my job, the miracle happens, and they see the change and personal growth. What is better than that?!

Pick one focus for the workout.
No one likes to be nagged! I use the example of when I ask my husband to take out the trash, pick up the kids, walk the dog, go to the store for almond milk and empty the dishwasher; all he hears is “wah, wah, wah.” I sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons (yes, I am dating myself) or the speakers on the Subway in New York City. I have to pick one thing to be heard. So I say, Honey, my sweet love, please take out the trash. After he does that, THEN I ask him to pick up the kids. The same works for your clients. During their workout, pick one point of focus, maybe where the breath is for each exercise one day, the flow the next and so on. This will help keep them focused but not overwhelmed.

Give them a happy ending.
My ballet mistress always said that the audience remembers the first and the last thing they see—so always make your bows the best! I always end a lesson with an exercise that a student loves to do. They don’t have to be the best at it—some like a challenge!—but it has to be something that puts a smile on their face and on yours, so they want to come back and you want to see them again.

Kathryn Ross-Nash is a Certified Romana’s Pilates Level 2 Trainer and the owner of American Body Tech Pilates in Allendale, NJ. She is the creator of The Add on Mat® and The Red Thread® as well as the author of the original Fix Your Feet – Using the Pilates Method © and The Red Thread of Pilates © series.

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