How to Choose a Pilates Studio

Story by Meredith Knight

You’ve probably heard of Pilates. But aside from the fact that your favorite celebrity with the killer arms does it religiously, you might not know much about it. Pilates (pronounced pee-la-teas) was developed by German fitness specialist Joseph Pilates, initially for use by patients injured during World War I to help them restore mobility and health using the frame and springs of their hospital bed.  Modern Pilates is popular because it’s known to relieve stress, build longer, leaner muscles, develop core strength, enhance flexibility and balance, and correct posture — making you stand taller and look slimmer. It’s even healthy during pregnancy and is easy to fit into most schedules. There’s a reason it’s become so widely acclaimed.

Begin your search by making a list of the studios a reasonable distance from your home or work. Don’t give yourself an easy excuse not to exercise by choosing one that’s too far away. Before you visit a studio, go to their website and learn a little bit about the instructors. Can you find someone who seems to emphasize goals similar to the ones you have? If you can’t find bios online, ask about the instructors on the phone before heading out for a visit. How comprehensive was the instructors’ training? A reputable Pilates training program often consists of 600 hours of study and teaching. Extensive training can be well over 900 hours, with 250 hours of teaching.

Contact each studio and inquire about free introductory classes, trial offers, or starter memberships to get a feel for how things operate. Most will offer you one or more free classes to make sure the facility, instructor, and class are a good fit for you. Ask for one-on-one time with either an owner or upper-level instructor to discuss your needs and goals. They should offer you a tour and introduce you to some of the instructors.

Pilates is an expansive system that uses several different pieces of equipment (ex. Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Mat, and Barrels), each with its own strengths. Ask whether trainers have been certified on all the equipment or if they specialize in a couple of them uniquely. Ask about ongoing instructor training and continuing education courses or seminars. A reputable instructor will be registered and certified and have logged at least 16 hours a year of continuing education credits.

Talk to potential instructors. They should take some time to talk with you and learn about your expectations, needs, and concerns. You want an instructor who is eager to accommodate you, help you find the exercises that serve you best, and is willing to adapt their class according to your needs. Does the instructor relate to you and give you instructions that you understand? Or do you find yourself continually wondering if you’re doing things correctly? Do they offer follow-up exercises you can do at home? A good instructor is clear, concise, and knows how to explain things, so you understand.

Keep in mind that even the best instructor may not be the right fit for you. If you’re just not finding the right chemistry, that’s okay. Keep your head held high, and don’t stop looking until you find the instructor and the studio that’s perfect for you and your Pilates experience.

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