Progressive Bodyworks | Pilates Mastery with Clare Dunphy


Take Ownership!

June 1, 2011

Being a Pilates teacher is about:

  • teaching people to move better
  • developing both their mind & body so they can engage themselves
    in activities with greater vigor
  • stamina
  • strength
  • flexibility
  • and ease

Part of developing the mind is for them to learn the work; I mean teaching students to really own it. In Joseph Pilates’ studio, he required his students to learn the exercise names, springs, orders along with precise execution including rhythm, transitions and their own particular modifications. He encouraged — no, he demanded — that they learn the work. It was all part of the discipline of learning Contrology. The studio was a place students came to learn Contrology, plain and simple. And they saw tremendous results!

Students of Mr. Pilates were taught to be self-reliant, take responsibility for what they were learning and not depend on him to provide repeated reminders. Mr. Pilates understood discipline was a two- way commitment and his high expectations elevated students to realize higher levels of their potential.

Mr. Pilates was ahead of his time in many ways and his message of self-responsibility is as timely today as it was more than 60 years ago.

Filed under: Business Matters

Classical Pilates and Fusion – Can It Work In Your Studio?

May 18, 2011

Bring Pilates out into your life, sports and all activities.  Isn’t that what we teach?  We encourage clients to walk tall, move from their center and bring their Pilates alignment, strength and flexibility to enhance all their activities including cardio and resistance training as well as cycling, golf, skating, skiing and daily life.  When a person learns to move properly, everything changes for the better.  So as Pilates teachers or studio owners you might be wondering how classical Pilates and traditional fitness can thrive together without diluting authentic Pilates?

Current research shows that we need both cardio and resistances training to stay healthy, prevent osteoporosis, maintain or lose weight, and stave off the effects of aging.  Of course Pilates falls into the category of moderate strengthening and stretching, but in order to get the heart rate to climb high enough to have a training effect the session needs to move at a vigorous pace.  Also for new or weaker clients, advanced choreography or fast moving sessions may not be appropriate.  Why not offer more to your customers to target all their fitness needs?  There is great potential here for both the health of your clients and your studio. I look at classical Pilates as the foundation for every mode of movement we do. Most jazz musicians or dancers began by first developing a strong foundation; musicians learning scales and dancers studying movements at the barre for years before they branched out.  Likewise, a strong Pilates base forms the foundation for how we move during our cardio exercise or lift a weigh over our head.  The key is HOW we teach it!

Envision two tracks of programming in your studio.  The first track is strictly classical, working with the complete Pilates “system” on all apparatus. Be innovative in your offerings by considering not only mat and Tower classes, but also offer classes that combine different apparatus.  For example, mat combined with chair or small barrels and power circle; combine reformer, mat and Cadillac sessions.  Be creative with your class endings to include the arm weight series, standing power circle and the fabulous wall series. Educate your clients so they keep a classical class in their weekly routine.

The second “fusion” track builds on the classical track layering Pilates alignment and movement principles to each activity.  In this track you combine cardio and/or resistance training for a portion of the class with classical mat, chair, power circle, barrels, reformers or tower.

Design your class based on the following:

  1. Who is the class for and what are their fitness goals?  (weight loss, sport specific, general fitness)
  2. What is the level of the class?
  3. What apparatus is available? (Pilates tools: mat, reformer, chair, small barrels, power circle, 1-3 lb. weights Fitness tools:  5-15 lb weights, body bars, bosu, step, balls, indoor cycles, slides, jump ropes, therabands, medicine balls etc.)
  4. What format will meet their objective and level?  (classical, fusion, circuit, 20-20-20, 50-50)
  5. What is the purpose of each class segment?  (total body workout, upper body, lower body, core, cardio, etc.)
  6. What exercises will be included to reach the goal of each class segment?
  7. Will I use music or no music?  What kind of music and bpm will enhance the experience?

Sample Classes:

  1. Fusion Class:
    • 20 minute basic/intermediate mat
    • 15 minute resistance training (dumbbells, upper body focus)
    • 15 minute lo-impact cardio or step
    • 5 minute cool down/stretch
  2. Small group (4-6)
    • 20 minute mat
    • 20 minute chair
    • 15 minute resistance and balance (body bar and bosu)
  3. Fusion class (class size depending on # of chairs):
    • 30 minute Chair
    • 30 minute Yoga

3 Steps for Implementation:

  1. Educate your customers so they learn what they need to do to reach their goals. Reinforce that they need to exercise 3-5 times per week whether it is at home, outdoors or at your studio.  Make your message clear about the benefits of varied movement experiences and how to bring the lessons learned from Pilates into other workout modes.
  2. Create programming to suit the needs of your client base.  Make the movement matter!
  3. Guide students to take at least one classical class per week (or more) and bring what they learn in their body to the fusion classes. Steer them into the classes that cover all their fitness needs.

Innovative programming and value-oriented packages not only draws new customers but keeps them coming back for more.  Tap into your creative side and offer new classes that are interesting, compelling, effective and fun. You customers will be delighted and satisfied!

Filed under: Business Matters

Secrets To Growing In Your Teaching

May 2, 2011

It is easy to get stuck.  Stuck teaching in a similar fashion, seldom varying lessons, and working on the usual apparatus day after day.  In recent conversations with several teachers, I was curious to hear how they keep workouts fresh for their clients, how they planned and built progression into their sessions and if they truly worked with Pilates as a full “system”.  Remarkably, each person shared the tendency to shy away from equipment they didn’t understand well or didn’t personally practice on, or found they regularly got in a rut teaching the same way with the same tempo using the same cues and the same exercises with their clients.  Without a plan or a map, how can you get where you want to go?  It is no surprise they periodically felt “flat” and uninspired in their teaching.  I personally related to their stories as I been there before myself.  While workshops were inspiring and I got plenty of information and new ideas, it wasn’t until I did my own homework and applied what I learned that transformation ensued.  Here is what I did to develop a strategy for each client. 

First came an inventory of current Pilates goals along with a review and prioritization of current body issues, exercises or movement patterns currently challenging them, and what exercises I had given them on each piece of equipment.  Then I asked myself if they were progressing and if so, in what way and how that looked.  I wrote this for each person, using it as an opportunity to check in and reset goals as necessary.

I was amazed at the insight this process brought seeing everything written down in black and white.  It enabled me to create a plan and purposefully construct a workout strategy that targeted their needs.  I decided to zero in on one or two priority issues at a time.  I pulled out my exercise lists on all the apparatus and created a complete list of all the exercises that could help each issue, fully realizing that I would tackle each issue in stages.  At the top of the list were mat and reformer exercises.  Then I listed the remaining exercises on the cadillac, chairs, barrels, and accessories that could help my client.  Now I was ready to get creative.

My goal was to plan five different workouts that specifically addressed the areas I identified.  I developed a template with 7 columns and enough rows to list each exercise I planned to cover over the course of six sessions.  The first column listed the exercises either beginning with mat or reformer then 2-5 exercises on 2-3 other apparatus, and an ending.  The remaining six columns represented 6 sessions where I could take notes after the session.  I took care not to introduce more then 1-2 new exercises or variations per apparatus in a given session, indicating which exercises I would introduce each session.  This allowed me and my client to grow into the full program over six sessions.  I discovered it was much easier, with the full lists in front of me, to come up with five different workouts and created a theme for each session. 

By spending the time to invest in my client’s progress and success, I found I had invested in myself as well.  This process pushed me out of my comfort zone and re-opened my eyes to the beauty and vastness of the Pilates System.  I also realized how important it was for me to actively continue exploring the possibilities available within the Pilates system and keep on seeking greater depths of what it has to offer, remaining wide open to the unfolding its mysteries.  Romana was right when she said, “stay true to the system and the system will stay true to you.”

Filed under: Business Matters

Pilates Can Heal

April 21, 2011

My appreciation of the profound holistic healing benefits of the classical Pilates system in working with special populations has once again been renewed.

Whether the primary issue is:

  • a foot,
  • knee,
  • hip,
  • back,
  • shoulder,
  • ankle
  • or wrist,

…it is the consistent application of the classical format and exercise orders that positively address faulty movement patterns and compensatory patterns reverberating through the kinetic chain. After a simple assessment using the fundamentals (for new clients), and by addressing alignment issues throughout the session, the exercise order is maintained with exercises either modified or eliminated only as needed.

In the Individual needs section of the class format, numerous choices exist with the other apparatus allowing strong areas to work in conjunction with weaker areas, thereby impacting the entire body. Often the painful body part reflects an underlying issue somewhere else, usually closer in the core and responds well to a whole body approach.

The beauty of the Pilates system is that it recognizes that the whole body is greater then the sum of the individual parts. Pilates knew!

Filed under: Lifestyle Matters

Go For the Zone!

March 23, 2011

How do you get into the zone during your workouts? How do keep yourself true to the discipline of clean transitions, advancing your own practice and challenging your own personal ideal? Where do you give yourself slack?  One of the things I have learned over and over again in the years of my teaching is that the commitment to my own practice is directly related to the quality of my teaching.  When I keep my practice strong I find myself so much more engaged, focused, excited and energized not only in my teaching, but also in my daily life.  I realized early on the more I personally do Pilates, the more I have to share about it.  Romana once told me that if I stay true to the method, the method would reveal itself and stay true to me.  What did she mean by that? 

For me, it is simply a matter of working with three important factors.  First, I intentionally work full out every time I practice.  This means to go for quality and not to skimp when I don’t feel like it.  I challenge my personal best by maintaining awareness of extraneous movements and by focusing on precision and movement quality, reaching for the goal of the exercise.  By working with a balance of tempo and control with squeaky-clean transitions, a new world of discovery opens up for the one-hour I give myself.  I know the places in the workout where I have choices to include a variation or perhaps omit something, making instantaneous decisions about how and why to do so; always mindful of where I am going next.  I notice the nuances occurring in the moment and work get the feeling or purpose of the exercise starting with the first repetition and then carry it through to resolution in as few repetitions as possible.  Sounds like a tall order, but that is what goes on in my head.  Experience has taught me that by going deeper in my personal practice, gems of insight are a joyful reward. 

The second factor, which reliably draws me into the zone, is to breathe as full and deep as I can right from the first exercise, whether it is on the mat or reformer.  This works like a charm to clear my mind and begin the flow of the session.  I get in tune with the reformer springs and listen to my breath in time with the sound of the springs working with the movement. I can hear the quality of movement by the sounds I hear.  Immediately aware of tension or sluggishness in my body through the breath, I can control the way I feel.  Bad mood, good mood it doesn’t matter; after a few good oxygenated breaths in timing with the movement I am on my way to the zone.  Early connection with full breathing also creates a deeper powerhouse connection and helps set the rhythm for the entire session.

The third factor that keeps me on point is to keep the workout fresh, fun and varied.  Some of this is a matter of session design.  Will today’s workout be on the reformer, reformer mat, reformer on the cadillac, or will it be on the chair and barrels?  What kind of fun can I create for myself in this one hour of playtime?  What discoveries can I make?  How can I make this hour really matter to add value to my day? What can I do in this workout to make it feel worthwhile?  So a combination of what I bring to the experience is as important as it is deciding what workout design I choose.

Challenging my ideal for that particular day continues to mean honoring my body and at the same time reaching for my edge.  When I expect the best from myself, I feel confident asking the same from my clients.  We are role models for our clients and when our energy is bright and clear, our clients pick up on that and are uplifted as a result.  Energy begets energy.  Pilates is a practice, not a performance and there are always places I can improve.  That for me is part of the ongoing discovery into self-mastery that captured my imagination when I first began Pilates and what keeps me coming back for more.

Filed under: Movement Matters

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