By Chelsea Streifeneder
Let’s face it! Sometimes we Pilates teachers get sick, life happens, we need to get to the beach or we just need a break. So do we just cancel classes and shut down the studios? Or do we ask for help? I know that when I’m not able to be in the studio, train clients or teach classes, I leave my clients in the hands of my trustworthy teachers so my clients can still have their workouts.
Substitutes are a super-important part of the Pilates/fitness/wellness community. I know we all have clients who love us and only us. We know that clients maybe weren’t expecting “the substitute teacher,” or maybe they were. We know that some days start off with spilt coffee and everything gets worse as the day progresses and by 5 pm we know Joe can’t wait to get the studio to take class with his favorite cheerleader who makes everything better. We know that her regular teacher knows how much Sally loves to stretch her hamstrings on Saturdays. But sometimes, just having a substitute walk into the room can make clients snarl, inform the sub that something isn’t how their “favorite teacher” does things or even have clients leave the class or not even show up!
So after talking with a few frustrated Pilates, spin and yoga teachers about how they were all having common problems about getting subs, getting clients to come to class when they were not there and also just not feeling guilty about taking a day off I decided to come up with some tips and ideas to make times like this at the studio a little better for everyone.
COMMUNICATE. It’s ok that you are not Jenna or Bob. You are you and that is what makes your teaching so special. We all have our own style, cues or ways to guide clients safely and effectively through a session and/or class. Communicate with clients and urge them to be open to a new experience and/or teacher. Yes, we know this can be scary, but your clients aren’t going to leave you. They might even love you more because they learned something with the substitute who covered for you. They finally might understand what you have been telling them for years about “opening up their collarbone”! Clients can easily get used to a certain teacher’s style of teaching and let their minds and bodies become lazy as they fall into a routine. By taking a class with the substitute, they get to switch it up and also get their workout in since you didn’t have to cancel class. They might like it, or hate it. Either way, it’s valuable information to see what does or doesn’t work for them.
TRAIN YOUR CLIENTS…LITERALLY. From the moment they walk through your door, you are training your clients. What rules do you want to instill (without sounding like your third-grade teacher)? How do you make your policies sound nice and fluffy like a bunny without offending anyone, and letting them know that you’re not Sally, but that you love Sally and sometimes she will be here instead of you. If your clients know you support and work with other teachers, they will be less hesitant to take with someone else when you are not there.
STOP BEING MEAN. We teach fitness to make our clients feel good, so why not make our fellow teachers and peers feel just as awesome? One of my “fitness friends” told me that every time she went to sub for a class at the gym, the teacher whom she was subbing for would send texts and emails out to her regulars to let them know that she would not be there so they shouldn’t go to class. Really? How is that beneficial for anyone? So when you need to take some time off and you’ve found a sub, get your class excited about trying the new teacher and letting them know that the sub is doing you, and them, a favor. The reality is there will be clients who don’t love certain teachers’ classes, their sequencing, their style and maybe even their hair or spandex, but you don’t have to ruin the class for someone that might like them. The fitness business is not a one-size-fits-all deal. Let clients decide what they like best.
So the next time you need a sub or sub yourself, please remember these three tips before, during and after class to help you appreciate yourself and your sub.
» Chelsea Streifeneder is a recognized Pilates Method Alliance® Certified Pilates Teacher, speaker, pilatespreneur and the proud owner of Body Be Well Pilates in Red Hook and Catskill, NY. Chelsea began her career as a Pilates teacher in Los Angeles after graduating from Bard College with a B.A. in Writing and Dance. With more than a decade of experience in her field, Chelsea has been featured in Prevention, Women’s Health and on the cover of Pilates Style. She is the author of Studio Shape Up.