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