Embracing Online Pilates

Online Pilates

I don’t know about you, but I always feel September is the start of the year for me, rather than January, which I know sounds slightly odd as we head into autumn, but it always feels as though it is a new beginning, a clean slate, after the indulgences of summer and the lack of routine that accompanies these last couple of months.

This time last year, was a very new beginning for me as it was when I launched my website and really started to up my online presence, because even though I had been teaching Pilates for 10 years, I had never felt the need to be on social media.  The pandemic changed all that and as with so many businesses, I had to adapt and change to what is still now an ever-evolving world.

Reflecting on this last year, which included two lockdowns and so much disruption, it has definitely made me aware that change is now inevitable and trying to embrace it has definitely been a unique experience.  Before the start of the pandemic, I ran 18 classes in my studio each week. All my classes were full and I always had a waiting list, which is a nice problem to have, but always difficult because one of the best parts of being a Pilates Instructor is helping people, so I often had to disappoint people as I didn’t have the space.  Then on March 23rd, Boris announced we were going into Lockdown.

As I have already talked about this in a previous blog, all I will say is I was devastated.  I then made the decision to take my business online, teaching classes on zoom.  The first few months were a huge learning curve for both me and my clients, but then it all started to come together.  Clients started to tell their friends and family about my classes and I started to work with a fantastic lady called Lisa Vassallo of One to Three Marketing and she began to help me gain an online presence in the social media world.  Suddenly, I was on Google, or the Google as my mum calls it and I had my own Facebook Business page and a YouTube presence, I began reaching more people and as well as teaching clients in the local area, I gained clients from other parts of the country and overseas.   I also got nominated for Best Yoga/Pilates Studio in Berkshire and due to all the wonderful support from my clients, I made it to the last 5.  I didn’t win, but as a one-man band, I was so proud to have made it to the final and again without an online presence, I know that would not have happened.  It helped me realise that I can still teach a high standard of Pilates online.  It was a great boost to my confidence.

I can honestly say I absolutely love teaching online classes, I have always prided myself on knowing all of my clients and this hasn’t changed, as all new clients meet with me first.  If the clients are local, this can be done face to face in my studio or online, if they live too far away.  This allows me to teach the basics of Pilates and show modifications if any clients have injuries or other issues.  After 5 weeks, we then have another session so that I can make sure that no bad habits have been picked up and I always make it clear that they will get quite a few name checks in the first few weeks, so that I can make sure they know exactly what they are doing.  I have also had potential new clients join a class to watch how I teach just to see if online is for them. I could never have done that before, as there would have been nowhere for them to sit!!

When I taught in my studio, I always did short videos for my clients.  My son would help by videoing me using my phone.  It was a bit amateur, but it meant my clients had some exercises to do in their own time.  Once I set up my website, I decided I wanted to put together a video library so that my clients could access videos of varying lengths and difficulties, so should they not be able to come to a live class, they could still do some Pilates.  I had no idea, it would be so successful.  Over the summer, I had 1,000 views and only this week, I received a message from Vimeo, which is the platform I use to upload the videos to say I have recorded 141 videos this year.  My clients love them and I received feedback from one of my clients who told me that whilst she was away on holiday, she was able to use the library before going out for the day.  In her words, it was sooo good to be able to access the video library when away on holiday.

Talking of holidays, a lot of my clients have taken me with them over the last year, I have been to Israel, Greece, Yorkshire, Devon, Guernsey, Portugal, a campsite in Northumberland and many other locations.  It still blows me away to think clients can still attend their classes when they are travelling, another plus of online classes.

Other clients have told me how it’s so much easier to come online during their lunch break, or before work and they don’t need to worry about childcare.  I appreciate it can also be difficult if you are used to going out for a class, but I help my clients to schedule the classes into their week and make a commitment as if they were going out to attend a class.  Not always easy, but once clients are in a routine, it does work and on those cold, dark days in January and February, when you don’t want to leave the house, you just need to turn on your laptop and there I am ready to teach a class.

One of my clients lives in Yorkshire and he told me the other week, that whilst the pandemic has been difficult and challenging, one of the best things to have come from this time is attending my classes online.  That to me summed up this year completely, yes it has been a tough time, but the fact that I have been able to continue to a job I love to my both my existing clients and now many new clients from all over the country via a zoom link is something quite special.

I plan to continue with my online classes as they offer so much flexibility to a much wider audience. If you’d like to find out more or if you have any questions, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  If you know somebody who you think might benefit, then please do send them my details.  Thanks to all of my gorgeous clients for their continued support. I couldn’t have done all of this without you!


Getting into a Routine Online

Routine online, online pilates

So here we are, nearly a year into a global pandemic and our whole world has changed and as I write this, we are in our third lockdown. It’s not a great place to be to be honest, but like with everything, there is always some good that comes out of bad times. In this blog, I’d like to consider how we can focus on the good and build positivity into our lives with some routine online.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, when we went into lockdown number 1 last March, the whole world was turned on its head and I had to think differently if I wanted to continue to run my Pilates classes. I made the decision to go online and although it has been an interesting and at times rocky road, I think I am now seeing the benefits of teaching an online Pilates class.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still good to see people face to face, but this is not an option at the moment and won’t be for some time to come and I believe movement is so important and being online works. Online, I can see all my clients and make sure they are doing what they should be doing and sometimes, doing what they shouldn’t be doing. 😀  Nothing gets past me!

With my online classes. I know all my clients and if they have any injuries or can’t do certain exercises for any reason, they all know, there is always an alternative. My clients have also become professionals at getting their screens in the correct place and I don’t even have to tell them to make adjustments, they just do it so now I very rarely see a ceiling or the occasional leg or arm!

So how do you get into a routine online?
It can be a challenge I know, because there is something about having a commitment of being at a class in my studio at a set time each week. That’s the routine element of it, so you need to apply the same mentality to an online class. One of my clients recently said to me, “I pencil my online classes in my diary each week and I don’t book anything else in as I know that’s the time I do my Pilates.” I could have kissed her, when she said that, obviously not possible on screen or in these Covid times, but I was so pleased when she said that, because really, that’s it in a nutshell. You have to give the same priority to doing a class online as if you were getting in your car and driving to a class, but how great that you don’t need to sit in traffic and you can wear your pyjamas if you want to.

It has been proven that it takes 6-8 weeks to make or break a habit, so once you get into the habit of doing a class online, it should be no different to joining a class in my studio, creating a routine online. There is also the convenience factor of joining another class, if for whatever reason the class you were planning on joining, doesn’t happen, because you needed to sort out your kids or the phone rang at the wrong time.

It’s also not a problem if a client does join late, as there is no disruption to the rest of the class. I’m sure some of my clients join late on purpose, so they can get out of doing a plank or another exercise, they maybe don’t like!

I know quite often some clients have hopped on to a class as they were feeling tight or stressed and an hour class has made them feel so much better.

One of the challenges of getting into a routine online is consistency and this doesn’t change, even when we are in a pandemic. To help my clients become consistent with their Pilates practice, they also have access to a video library with over 25 videos available, which can be used at a time that suits them. What I’ve realised from my own experience, is finding the time in the day to fit in some Pilates, so I have recorded lots of 15 minute videos, this makes it more achievable for them to find the time to add Pilates into their day, therefore making it a routine. Win win as far as I’m concerned.

It has never been more important to move with most of us sitting at our desks far too much and not walking as much in a day as we should do, so having the opportunity to come to an online Pilates class where we spend a lot of time doing strength and mobility exercises and stretches can counter balance all that sitting.

What my clients say about a routine online
I did ask some of my clients, what do you enjoy about the online classes? One of my clients said being virtual has enabled her to keep moving, when she would have struggled to come to a class in my studio as she can’t drive at the moment.

Another client said, “It’s so convenient, I don’t need to have to add an extra 30 minutes to my day to get to your class and it’s been great not coming out in the cold in the winter.” Always a bonus.

Another client is so happy she can now do more classes in a week and is really feeling the benefits of extra movement and stretching and I have to say that I have seen great improvements in my client’s posture as they are able to do multiple classes in the week.

Another client always struggled to come to class due to childcare and can now join the classes whilst her toddler is asleep or if she is awake, she quite often joins in. I love watching her get involved and it has meant her mum and dad have been able to keep up their Pilates classes.

It hasn’t been the easiest time for everyone over the past year, but I am so proud of my clients’ commitment and now they are reaping the benefits of regular online classes. I think it would be fair to say, that now they are in a routine online, I think it would be difficult for them to now stop. Also, they’d have me nagging them, asking where they are!

So, if you are thinking, I’ll just wait until life returns to normal, then maybe think again, because the online world isn’t that scary and the benefits far outweigh the negatives. If you’re still not sure, ask some of my clients, who were sceptical at the beginning, but now are loving their online Pilates classes. Please do get in touch if you have any questions at all.

My Personal Journey into Pilates

Lisa Hill

As my first time writing a blog, I thought I would share my journey of how I became a Pilates Instructor and the changes I have made to my business over the years, which has resulted in me running virtual Pilates classes due to a global pandemic.

Back in 2010, after having been a Personal Trainer for 10 years, I was constantly noticing that although my clients wanted to lose weight and build muscle, sometimes this was proving difficult due to injuries, imbalances in the body and lack of flexibility. I wanted to give my clients more, so I made the decision to train to become a Pilates Instructor and this is when I realised I had found an exercise regime that worked for me and my clients. I fell in love with Pilates and how it could change your body.

I began to build my business, working in halls around Wokingham, lugging my equipment in and out after each session. Summer wasn’t too bad, but in the winter, it was a very different story, it was dark and cold and I had huge admiration for my clients coming out in all weathers to stretch and improve their bodies.

After 4 years, I decided to move my business in-house to my home in Wokingham Berkshire. We’d moved to a bigger house and I now had the space to work in my lounge. I still can’t quite believe my clients came each week to lie on my lounge floor surrounded by my furniture, but somehow I made it work. My business grew and grew, all through recommendations. The class sizes were small due to space, but it worked.

My passion for Pilates grew and seeing the difference it made to my client’s everyday lives was both inspirational and motivating.  I knew that long term working in my lounge wasn’t sustainable for a healthy home life, so my husband and a friend built me a wooden studio in our garden. It was a dream of mine to have my own premises and there I was with my own Pilates studio in the centre of Wokingham.

I loved it and so did my clients.  Again, my business grew and I was teaching 18 classes a week.  A lot of clients as well as improving their posture and alleviating their back issues, were also able to socialise and friendships grew from my classes. I know it’s a cliché, but I loved my job and knowing I was changing people’s lives was very rewarding.

Then on a cold rainy day at the end of March, Boris Johnson told us that due to a global pandemic, we would need to go into lockdown.  I was both heartbroken and devastated.  How was I going to teach Pilates? Would I lose my business that I had spent 10 years building? I know it was same for lots of people with their own business. It was a time of total panic.

I spent time on Pilates Forums talking to other Pilates Instructors, how do we sustain a business where we see and touch people? Can Pilates be taught online? Well, yes of course you can as there are a lot of very successful Pilates and fitness instructors teaching to an online community, but the question is could I do it?

There was only one way to find out, so on Monday 16th March, I ran my first virtual class via zoom for my clients.  I have never felt more nervous, I felt as though I was on stage. I was used to feedback from my clients, the odd joke and some banter, but it was just me, talking to a screen, chatting away, giving instruction and hoping someone was listening.

It took some time for my clients to position their screens so I didn’t see their ceilings or lampshades (as lovely as some of them were), the odd leg and arm and the occasional pet walking across the screen, but as the weeks have turned into months, I’ve adapted to teaching online. Teaching online is very different to teaching live, I’ve learnt that I need to give more teaching points and demonstrate more moves, so more work for me :).

Obviously, some of my clients were very hesitant to try an online class, preferring to wait until I was back teaching face to face, but the reality is this isn’t really an option at the moment, so although some clients haven’t continued, a lot have returned and embraced our new way of working. I have also gained a new customer base as my clients encouraged their partners to try a class.  They were at home and it was easy to put another mat down in their lounge.  They told their friends, some of them who live all over the country.  Some of my clients who had moved away came back. It was incredible, suddenly I was teaching to old (not in age by the way), existing and new clients.

I pride myself on knowing all my clients, understanding their individual needs and knowing what exercises suit them.  This doesn’t change online.  Quite often, my clients will see me peering at the screen, (at nearly 50, my eyesight is not as good as it once was). It means I can adjust them and make sure they are doing their exercises correctly.

There are so many benefits of attending a virtual Pilates class. No traffic to get to my studio, not feeling intimated by someone else in the class, joining a class to fit in with my client’s diary.  My classes were always full so it was always difficult for clients to make up classes as I was limited on space, but now they can make up their classes by hopping onto a class. Being able to do classes even when they are away. Recently, I’ve been in the Lake District, Northern Ireland and Portugal.  I do like a change of scenery.

My client base is growing as clients no longer need to live in a 5-mile radius of my house, they literally can live anywhere and there are no longer any geographic limits.

It has been a huge adaption and with a world that is constantly changing, so am I.  As we are now allowed to do outdoor sessions, I am now running classes in my garden, following all the social distance rules and for those clients who crave social interaction and need more help, it has been perfect.  At the time of writing this we are in the middle of summer and being outside is perfect.  In fact, I don’t think there is anything better than being outside and exercising, but summer will turn into autumn and then winter and being outside will unfortunately not be an option.  I’m hoping I will be able to return to my studio at some point, but I know it will be very different and my numbers will be small, but hopefully I will be able to do, but as our lives seem to be changing on an almost daily basis, it’s very hard to plan.

If someone had said to me in January, by August, you will have been running an online Pilates business for 5 months, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’d never even heard of Zoom and I don’t think my clients had either. My clients range in age from 16 to 79 and a lot of them have embraced this new world and log in each week for their classes.

Do I miss my old life? Yes of course, I miss physically seeing my clients and catching up with their lives, but I do believe the positives outweigh the negatives.  I have always told my clients that a regular Pilates routine will make all the difference.  Once a week is great, but Pilates can be and should be done on a regular basis and virtual classes have enabled my clients to see this for themselves, by attending more classes each week. It makes me so proud to see how my clients have improved before my eyes.

Life is still busy for most of my clients, so sometimes attending weekly classes can still prove difficult, this has not changed, but I can now also offer my clients videos of the weekly sessions, which they can do in their own time, so there really is no excuse.

If you think you’d like to try a virtual Pilates zoom class, please get in touch. I always ask new clients to do a 1-2-1 first, if you are local to me, this can be done in person, if not, it will be via zoom.

I’ve realised that to keep my clients healthy and happy, I’ve got to continually adapt to an ever-changing world. It’s scary, but also exciting.  I always tell my clients what doesn’t challenge you, won’t change you. In 2020, never has that been a more truer statement

Pilates for Beginners

Pilates for beginners

Pilates for Beginners and What to Expect

So you're looking for Pilates for beginners and you've been encouraged to get started, but this is totally new to you.  Maybe by your doctor, physio, chiropractor, friend or partner. Usually if it is your partner, in my experience you’ve probably been voluntold (you’ve been told but you have volunteered to give it a try for a quiet life). Whatever your reason, you are probably wondering what is this Pilates thing or Pilots as it’s sometimes called and is Pilates for beginners for me?

Pilates is often recommended if you have back pain, poor posture or generally stressed, which with the way the world is at the moment, that’s most of us. In my honest opinion, I believe that everyone should do Pilates, but then I’m biased.

Pilates for beginners can be overwhelming when you start, all this talk of neutral alignment, core engagement, pelvic floor, deep tummy muscles. It sounds like another language.

So how do we make it less confusing? For any new client that wants to start a Pilates class with me, be it virtually or in person, they must have at least one 1-2-1 with me. It can sometimes be more, depending on their medical history, injuries and how in tune they are with their bodies.

That first session is an opportunity for me to find out more about my new client. I take them through the basics of neutral spinal alignment, breathing and centring (finding the muscles that make up the core).  Which can all be very overwhelming.

Firstly, what is neutral spinal alignment? It’s when the skull, rib cage and pelvis are in alignment with each other. This means that any tension in the ligaments and joints of the spine are decreased and there is no added pressure applied. By being in a neutral spine alignment, the spine is at its strongest when sitting or standing.

I always start by doing a postural analysis on my client asking them to stand facing me, sideways and with their back to me. This allows me to see my client’s posture from all positions and it is usually at this point, they tell me about any injuries they have had or where they are currently experiencing pain. Being a Pilates Instructor is sometimes like being Sherlock Holmes as it is often only through conversation that I can start to understand why a client might have a pain in their shoulder or hip. “What do you mean my handbag is heavy, I need to carry all that stuff around with me”. Well carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder day in and day out could eventually cause an injury, but that doesn’t always resonate with them.

Once I’ve looked at their posture, I then help them find neutral spinal alignment. This can be challenging for some clients, especially if they have been standing in a certain way for a long period of time.  It can take time to change old habits, but once clients realise how they should be standing and I give them exercises and stretches to help them, it then becomes more natural to them.  Pilates is a process and it takes time to change bad habits, but overtime it can be achieved.

Then we discuss breathing. Well that’s easy, isn’t it? We all breathe otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Of course, but in Pilates we ask our clients to use lateral thoracic breath. This type of breathing requires the client to laterally expand the rib cage whilst maintaining a connection with the deep tummy muscles and pelvic floor. In Pilates, we use a lot of imagery to help clients understand the concepts and so I would often ask clients to think of their rib cage as a pair of bellows. It a very different type of breathing and it takes time for beginners to understand the breath pattern, but like everything it comes with practice. The Pilates breath is so important, but I always tell beginners just to breath as eventually they will understand the breath pattern.

Then we move on to understanding what the core muscles are. Some beginners get this concept straight away, others it takes a bit longer. I have had some male clients insist they don’t have a pelvic floor, but once I’ve explained the anatomy, they soon realise they have this very important muscle.  As my clients, will testify, I could talk about the pelvic floor for hours. It is such an important muscle in the body and Pilates will help you find your pelvic floor if you feel as though you have lost yours.

Once I’ve done what can feel like a lot of talking, we then go through the same sequence lying down. I’m then ready to teach my beginner some basic Pilates exercises. I truly believe that investing in the time at the beginning is so important because there is nothing more daunting then joining a Pilates class and not having a clue what the Instructor is talking about.  You wouldn’t build a house without a good foundation. The same applies to a Pilates class.

I would then take my client through all the different positions we use in Pilates, on our side known as side lying, on the tummy, prone, on all fours and seated. It is important that a beginner understands what neutral alignment feels like in all those different positions.

Once I feel confident that they understand the basics, they are ready to join a class. I always know exactly what each of my clients issues are and will always make sure that once they are in a class environment, they are given alternatives and modifications if needed to make sure they get the most benefit from all the exercises.

I believe that a good Pilates Instructor should understand their clients capabilities and restrictions as this will mean they don’t injure themselves, which is so important, particularly if they came to me because they had an existing injury or issue.

Pilates for beginners does not need to be confusing, you just need to take the time to understand the concept.  You don’t stay a beginner for ever and everyone will go at their own pace.

One of my favourite quotes by Joseph Pilates (the founder of Pilates) is “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a new body”.

This is absolutely true and I have seen it happen before my eyes as clients progress and become stronger and learn to love the magic of Pilates. If you’d like to find out more or book in for a free 1-2-1 session with me. I would love to hear from you.

You can view some of my introductory videos here.

Back Pain and Posture

Pilates for Back Pain

How many times have you been told to sit up straight and keep your shoulders down. Probably quite a few, or even if you haven’t, maybe in your head, you know that’s what you should be doing as you rub your neck for the umpteenth time because it’s feeling sore after staring at a computer screen for the last 6 hours.

As a Pilates Instructor, I’m always telling my clients to follow these instructions.  Over the last 10 years, our way of working has been changing and this has sped up significantly in the last 5 months due to a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. As we all went into lockdown, we were told to work from home if we could, so people did what they were told and worked from home.  Often on a laptop at the kitchen table, hunched over a screen, or in a makeshift study. For hours and hours, people have been staring at computer screens with little or no breaks.

What is this doing to our posture? Well we are creating a huge amount of problems for ourselves by placing extra strain on muscles which are already tight and overused. We don’t usually think about our posture until something hurts or goes ping.

Sitting for long periods of time has also been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We must keep moving, our bodies don’t like to be sat or stood for long periods of time.

Having good posture is essential for a healthy lifestyle. It can be difficult to do this by yourself, which is why Pilates is such a good form of exercise to help with this ever increasing problem.

To improve your posture, you must strengthen the deep core muscles, sometimes known as the “powerhouse”, (the abdominals, back muscles and pelvic floor), as this then allows your shoulders to relax, your neck and head to move more easily and this will then alleviate stress and strain on your hips and back muscles, which can cause back pain.

By following a Pilates exercise regime, you can help increase your range of movement in your joints and keep both your joints and muscles supple and strong.

Having been a Pilates Instructor for over 10 years, I have seen lots of different postures and more and more clients now have what we call a kyphotic posture, which is a fancy way to say rounded shoulders. As we spend more and more of our times, hunched over a desk, iPad or phone, this posture is common place in today’s society.

Pilates can help with all of these issues by strengthening the muscles that have become neglected and underused.  In fact, whenever I meet a client for the first time, I always tell them they will have muscles they use, muscles they underuse and muscles they abuse.

A good example of an underused muscle is your gluteal (your bottom).  Due to our sedentary lifestyles, we spend most of our time sitting, which means our gluteal spend a lot of time being lazy and underused. Then we decide to go for a walk. One of the main muscles needed for walking are our glutes. Well surprise surprise they won’t have a lot of strength, so are likely to give up easily and then the body recruits other muscles to work to allow the body to continue with the job in hand.  Hello, back muscles and hip flexors. They are then the abused and overused muscles, suddenly your back starts hurting, feet, shoulders and all because your glutes aren’t strong enough for the job in hand.

The glute muscles are such an important muscle in our body. Ironically it is the largest muscle in the body, but often the weakest. I always make sure in my Pilates classes, that there is a huge focus on strengthing the gluteal muscles, because without strong gluteal muscles our body can’t function properly and amongst other things our posture suffers.

Once my clients start to do Pilates, they quickly become more aware of their posture, not only in class, but in their everyday lives and this is where it really makes a difference.  It’s the work my clients put in on a daily basis that allows their bodies to get stronger and improve their posture.

You might not know this, but our head weighs 12 lbs when a person is standing in neutral alignment, i.e. standing up straight with all the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments where they should be.  If someone sits at their desk all day, peering at a computer screen, the load can increase to 42 lbs. Think of that extra weight through your neck, spine and lower back

This then creates a chain reaction through the body and we then up with possible neck pain, shoulder pain and back pain. By doing Pilates regularly we can counteract this by strengthing the muscles that are weak and stretching the muscles that are tight.

I always recommend my clients try to do Pilates on a daily basis, this is often a challenge with our busy lifestyles, but even 10 minutes a day can make all the difference. I provide videos for my clients so they can keep up their practice and I’ve also found that with my clients doing my virtual classes, it has really made a difference as they are able to come online and do as many classes as they like and I can really see the difference in my clients who have been doing regular online classes.  Their posture has improved, they are able to do more challenging exercises and it is so rewarding to see their improvement.

It can take time to change your posture, particularly if you have spent years hunched over a desk, but you can help yourself by taking regular breaks from your desk. This is more challenging when you work from home as your mind-set is possibly different, but it’s so important to keep moving.

Also look at your desk ergonomics.  In the office, you might have your computer at the right height and have a proper chair, but at home it could be a different story if as I was saying you are sat on a dining room chair, peering at a laptop all day. Your desk set up is so important and then finally participating in a regular Pilates regime.

If you would like to join one of my classes and find out more about how Pilates can improve back pain and posture, please get in touch.

Seeing the changes in my client’s posture makes my job so worthwhile and knowing that a client can now do things they couldn’t do before is so inspirational.  An example of this is one of my clients who is in their 70’s.  She wanted to be able to still do up her shoe laces and put her socks on, not only can she do this, but she can also hold a plank for 30 seconds.  If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is!!