We recently published a blog post titled, Why Men Do Pilates, which shared 9 reasons why it is beneficial for men. We received a wonderful response from Joseph Quinn, the creator of Pilates Metrics who has been teaching Pilates for over a decade and has taught many men over the years, including the football team at the University of California, Berkeley. In his response, he explains why many men don't do Pilates and he also gives insight into what we can do to make it more appealing to them. We encourage you to read the original post first before reading this response for better understanding.
Great post and with unarguable points. I have been teaching men Pilates for 15 years, including the Cal Football Team for 7 seasons. I also ran a successful studio where men comprised of nearly 50% of the clientele. I have some experience in the matter.
One of the important questions that deserves more attention is not just why men SHOULD do Pilates but also why men DON’T do Pilates.
Everyone is aware of that silly psychological thing called the MALE EGO. It’s a candy-covered shell of "toughness" with all kinds of frailty inside.
Do you know what the male ego is terrified of? Embarrassment. Especially in front of a large group of women! (Sometimes junior high school never leaves us.) Dudes are just not about getting shown up in public.
Private intros or men’s only classes create a better environment for men to explore the method. They are easy to market, too, as they can be Men’s Golf Class or Men’s Back Pain class. Give them a destination.
You’ve probably heard, “it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.”
Yeah, well that sh*t won’t play with most men.
Frame Pilates as a vehicle for where they want to go. This isn’t exactly revolutionary either as Joseph Pilates first book was entitled Return to Life. Pilates is fundamentally about getting that “zest” back into your daily activities.
I would tell my players, “all I want is for you to not get injured on Saturday. I also want you to win your one-on-one battles so we win the game. Pilates can help with all of that. Let’s go.”
Now let’s pivot this convo, shall we?
Check YOUR ego. We as teachers love the work and are very defensive when anyone criticizes it or questions it. (You’re reading this on Facebook so I’m sure you’ve seen the FB groups where things go sideways in the comments. Bless Pilates Anytime for keeping it dignified.)
Too often teachers take the wonderful opportunity of having a man in their class as their own personal moment to PROVE Pilates.
“I must BREAK them!”
Of course you can. That’s easy.
Before I was a full-time teacher I was a full-time student. I took classes all over the Bay Area. 99% of the time I was the only male in the class. Often times I’d see a glint in a teachers eye that read, “I’m gonna F this guy up.” And they would and I enjoyed it but that’s just me. I was already hooked on Pilates.
As a professional I found that if I went that route then my retention rate with men was far lower.
Let’s face it, going to the gym sucks. Beating yourself up sucks. Making yourself or someone else miserable isn’t cool. Why the hell would you want to recreate the gym vibe in the Pilates studio?
The joy of Pilates is that it feels so damn good. So accentuate the joy! That doesn’t mean don’t challenge them and find their weaknesses. That’s a critical element.
There is just a vast difference in exploiting the weakness versus making it a point of education and motivation.
“Doing the Saw on the Mat is clearly challenging for you with your tight hammys. Think of how much your golf swing will improve when you can rotate more easily! Let’s get you on the Reformer with feet in straps and get the best hamstring stretch ever. You will be crushing the ball in no time.”
If you’re gonna teach a kid piano do you start with Chopin or do you start with Hot Crossed Buns? Give them success, give them happiness, and they will progress to the good stuff.
Give men a “safe place” where they are not getting embarrassed. Give them a relevant destination. Celebrate Pilates as it should be and they’ll be junkies for life.
I hope these insights are actionable for you!