by Andrea Nichols
If you are a Pilates instructor who teaches group classes, you know the feeling of looking at your upcoming mixed level group class roster and there is a moment of panic! The self-doubt starts to creep in and you wonder…how are you going to teach a class that gives each student what they need at their appropriate level? How are you going to decide which skill level you will cater to? How are you going to help every participant feel better walking out of class than when they walked in if you can’t even decide where to start?
If you have ever felt that way I can promise you one thing, you are a good teacher who cares deeply about your students and who understands the positive impact Pilates can have on its participants. Don’t get caught up in self-doubt but take it for what it is, a sign that you care about what you do as a Pilates teacher. That alone is huge and that is a skill that can’t be taught!
Don’t get stuck in that imposter syndrome though! Mixed level group classes are tricky to teach and require a different kind of energy from you as the leader of that type of session versus a one on one session, or even a different type of group class. There is a learning curve on how to prepare for a mixed level group class, manage the participants, and deliver the content so that you feel as if you are making a positive impact on everyone registered and that the class goes smoothly with everyone leaving feeling better than when they walked in. After years of teaching fitness and Pilates as well as owning my own business and helping my teachers navigate and plan for their classes, I have a much better way of approaching a mixed level group class that I wish I had learned sooner.
1. Understand Your Role
Your role as the teacher of a group Pilates class is not the same as your role in a private Pilates session. Of course you are teaching Pilates in both, but a group class and one on one sessions are different types of sessions with different levels of expectations, education and energy put into them. Of course you want to give your best in all session types, and you will, but you have to let go of the ambition of wanting to teach private training concepts in a group class setting. It’s just not realistic and leads to you feeling defeated before you even really get started.
2. Prepare for the Class
Instead of preparing for your class by thinking about what specific movements you want to teach and possibly getting frustrated because every move is not accessible or appropriate to everyone, shift your focus to what you want to teach about. What do you want your class to take away with them when they leave? With this approach it will be easier to develop an impactful class flow and be able to expand on the topic to reach all participants with appropriate progressions and regressions of the movements.
3. Own the room
Don’t underestimate the power of confidence and self-esteem when it comes to managing a room full of people with different personalities, skill levels and comprehension of Pilates. It can sometimes feel intimidating and that is normal, but you are the professional in the room. Your actions, body language and words need to convey that. Don’t be afraid to take control of the room and set the tone for the class as you are welcoming them into the room.
4. Delivery of content
Not everyone learns the same so you must be prepared to concisely communicate what you are looking for in movement setup, safety, and execution clearly and concisely. And probably multiple times. The reality is you can’t solely rely on one sense to get the job done, you will probably end up using verbal, tactile and visual cues. The important thing to know is if you take too long in your explanation, or over-cue for set up, safety or execution, your clients will mentally check out and you will have to find a way to reel them back in!
5. Anchor it all together
The biggest compliment as a Pilates professional is when your clients start to take ownership of their movement and their body and apply Pilates to all their daily activity. More typically, at the end of a Pilates session the client knows they feel better, which is awesome, but as the professional it can be powerful to help them start to identify the “why” and “hows” even in a group class setting. Going beyond the cues of set up, safety and execution, talk about the reason you are teaching what you are teaching. What are the transformations and take-aways you want each client to get in the time you spend together? Tell them. Tell them before class, tell them during class, and ask them after class to see if they can feel the difference in their body. Teach them like you want to be taught and anchor it in.
Teaching a mixed level group class used to really stress me out and leave me questioning if everyone was able to get what they needed from the class and if I was really making an impact at all. I left the studio feeling like an imposter and unsure of myself. It took years of teaching and experimenting to find a better way. Don’t waste your time on self doubt and feelings of stress and struggle. Try these five tips when writing out your next mixed level group class and let me know how it goes! If you want to dive deeper into these five concepts with me I will be teaching a Master Class on Feb. 27th at 1:30pm via zoom where we will really get into the nitty gritty of each of these topics (click here to view the master class details.) The MasterClass, Impact, will be recorded and all participants, whether they attend live or not, will receive access to the recording. I hope to see you there!
Connect with Andrea
- Follow Andrea on Instagram @andrea_nichols
- View Upcoming Teacher Workshop Events
About the Author
Andrea is a second generation Pilates instructor, studio owner and certified personal trainer who loves all things fitness and wellness. She believes movement with intention is vital for all active lifestyles at any age and that being an entrepreneur should provide freedom of time and money within a scalable business.
Andrea still teaches in her brick and mortar Pilates studio in Fort Mill SC, The Pilates Cure, on a weekly basis training professional athletes to actively aging seniors and everyone in between. She also offers a variety of online courses from Pilates and fitness, to mindset and lifestyle geared toward prioritizing health and wellness. When Andrea is not teaching, she is mentoring other studio owners and fitness professionals helping them build a thriving, impactful business they love utilizing their own unique passions.
Andrea is a second generation Pilates instructor studying directly under Pilates Elder Lolita San Miguel. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine with specializations in sports nutrition, corrective exercise and mindset coaching.