Tutorial #3242

Teacher Tool Kit

15 min - Tutorial


There are a few common issues that most Pilates teachers face at some point in their careers, and in this tutorial, Carrie Macy offers a few tips that can help minimize them. She talks about burnout, teaching people with conditions that are new to us, practicing what we preach, and more. This is a great way to get inspiration so that we can continue to teach while taking care of ourselves.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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(Pace N/A)
Nov 17, 2017
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Hi everybody, my name is Carrie Macy Samper, and I'm here, today, to really talk to you as a fellow teacher, but also somebody who works every day with teachers, too. I mostly, now, work with instructors. My role, currently, is at Equinox, I am the National Pilates Training Manager, so that means that I created the Pilates teacher training program, I oversee it, all of the operations, I train the teacher-trainers, and then, I also work with our regular instructors that all of our, about 80 clubs now, indirectly. And so, I know what we all go through. I mean, I go through it myself after teaching for so long, but also I just see everybody dealing with things.

And one of the main topics that comes around a lot is one of burnout, and how do you deal with it, how do you not let it happen. I think that we need to talk about it. It's one of those things that, as teachers, we're like, "Oh, don't admit you're burned out. "You have to be inspired." Right? You always need to be there for your clients.

But it's a real thing and it's definitely something I've gone through at different stages of my career, and we all do. So, I think a couple of tips that I've really realized over the years, and saw work for other people, too, to keep it at bay and to not let it happen, or to minimize it when it does happen, is to, first of all, to acknowledge where your limits are, and know that, "Can I teach? "What's the maximum number of clients I can teach in a row? "Is it five? "Is it six?

"Is it four?" And really be honest with yourself about that and don't let that next client come in. And I'm a really nice person. People would always say, "Oh, but can't I have that 12 o'clock?" And I know in my head, "No, that's when I have my lunch," or, "That's when I do my own workout." You have to own it and just keep that, "Unfortunately, I'm sorry, I don't have 12 o'clock. "Let's get you in at 9:00 tomorrow." And also, one of the things we do a lot, especially when we're first building our business, is something like a split shift, where you work the morning time, you have your break in the middle of the day, which is a lot of hours, it's not just an hour break, four hours, five hours, and you come back again later. And then, you do that every day.

So, what that starts to feel like is you have no down time, even though you technically have those hours in the middle of the day, you wake up early, you get home late, and so you really don't have relaxing time at home. Day after day of that will get you burned out. So, while sometimes it's necessary to teach morning and night, make sure it's not every day that you're doing that. Choose your morning days. Choose some evening days.

And to the best of your ability, start to work your schedule as the years go by to fit what you really want as opposed to what your clients really want. So those are a couple of things to think about in keeping burnout away, but the reality is that it does happen. So, when it does, how do you get yourself out of it? One thing that's been really important for me over the years, personally, is to make sure that I do other things, physically, besides Pilates. I love Pilates; I am totally committed to it.

I do Pilates myself, but I also enjoy other things. Over the years, dance, martial arts, acrobatics, different, like par core. I like to try lots of different things, especially things that challenge me in a way that Pilates has prepared me for. And so, while taking part in these other elements, and it could just be as simple as walking on the beach, you're still aware of what Pilates has done to make you better at doing it. Or, you realize some cues if you're in a class, listening to a teacher.

They're teaching you yoga, or something totally different, but you're like, "Oh, that's what I can use "for getting people to understand short spine," rather than just drilling Pilates, Pilates, Pilates, just get some other inspiration from other places. So, that's a really important aspect. Also, take sessions with people you respect, with other Pilates teachers who can instill some other interesting things into your practice and into your life. You learn things from them. You get re-inspired.

As one of my clients tells me, sometimes, someone else is touching you, someone else is giving you a stretch, you're actually kind of getting nurtured, which is what you do every day to all of your clients. So, that's really important to give that back to yourself. And it can be in other ways, too. It can be getting a massage, it can be meditating, it can be any kind of what people are calling self care, in that sense. We're givers, as teachers, and we have to allow ourselves that rejuvenation time.

And I know it's hard. I have a child, now, and that's sort of what goes away, is that self-care time. And I feel it when it happens. So, it's just something like, it's kind of like eating, you gotta do it in order to be able to perform in your profession. So, another thing that us teachers go through a lot, is getting clients, or getting referrals, which is wonderful, that intimidate us a little bit.

Or maybe, we've never worked with somebody with osteoporosis before, we've never worked with somebody who has multiple sclerosis, some issue that the client has that we've never actually dealt with. One thing I want to tell you guys is: Be better to yourselves, know that you went through a very long education program, you did learn a lot of things about how to keep people safe, in the realm of Pilates. So, give yourself more credit and believe that you could at least take a new client with some issue you haven't worked with, through a safe session. And with that said, then, go do some research about it. There's so many resources online, Pilates Anytime, and other teachers, go into your network and just ask a few questions.

And that first session you have with them will always be easier than you think it will be. And you do have a lot of knowledge already, that some of it, we just have to trust ourselves and go into it. I had a client when I was a very new teacher, she was given to me by the studio owner and she only had one leg. From birth, she didn't have from here, down. So, she normally walked around in life with the prosthetic leg, but when she came to Pilates, she had found, because she'd been taking Pilates from some other people, but she found that she couldn't use the prosthetic.

The knee bent in a different place, once, she puts her legs up and it fell off to the side, so, she came and walked in for her session with me with her crutches and no leg. And I was like, "Uh!" (laughing) And I was like, I said, a baby teacher, and, but she was so lovely, and such a nice person, so I said, "Okay," in my head, "What can she do? "Let's lie down; she can do footwork with one foot. "Here we go!" And I took her through the session and I realized how much she could do, that there was an amazing amount of work that I could just put her through. And after that first session, then I started to realize, "Oh, here's some of her imbalances," and then, I would get more creative as I went along.

But it was just that first time of trusting that I knew, at least, enough to get through a session. It might not be the most brilliant session, it might have been what Ramana would have taught her, but it was what I taught her and she was happy and safe, and we moved forward from that. Another common thing that arises, is really believing and owning, do we practice what we preach? We tell our clients, "You need to come in "two or three times a week "to really realize the benefits of Pilates," and I know that, because I've done this myself, I think, "Ah, but do I really do Pilates "two or three times a week (laughing)?" Ideally, I would, yes. So, I want to talk on that for a little bit and I think that, yes, we should aspire to practice what we preach, but can we really afford three private lessons a week?

Probably not. Our clients can, often, or some clients can. Maybe they can do a different mixture of Pilates every week. So, we need to look at, okay, I live Pilates, all the time, right? I may not be doing it, for all of these hours a day, but I'm in it for six, seven, eight hours a day, sometimes.

I bring it into my body in different ways. Do you need to workout every week? Yes. Can it be in different ways? Absolutely.

Can it be 20 minutes before your morning clients come, just to kind of wake you up a little bit? Yes. Can it be 30 minutes, a little bit later in the week, when you just tried some things on the wunda chair? It can. So, I think, while we do need to practice what we preach, we can also realize that our practice is different, as teachers.

And can we also be doing Pilates while we're taking that yoga class? Absolutely, right? That's why I can get through a 90-minute yoga class because of all the Pilates that I work on every day. So, I think the important thing to realize is you are practicing what you preach. It's in different ways.

And unless you're just not working out, which sometimes we just go through that, and then let yourself do it for a couple of months and realize, "Ah, it doesn't feel very good. "I need to put myself back together. "I know how to do it. "I have the tools and I'm gonna get back "on my reformer, I'm gonna get back in to the studio." So, I think, partly, we just kind of need to be a little easier on ourselves, realize we're gonna get it in different ways, don't think we have to do three hour-long workouts every week in order to be practicing what we preach. But sometimes it feels really good to get that great workout in.

Our personal practice, as I was just talking about, I find it's really helpful to, if you do carve out that hour and give yourself an hour in the week. What does that look like? And how can you get the most out of that time? Recently, now that I'm in my 40s and have a child, I've re-evaluated what I've, how I put pressure on myself to do my workouts, and I also see this in other teachers and in the studios, as well, that instead of saying, "I've got to workout "really hard and just go through my normal orders," and whatever you used to kind of bang yourself with, it's more about, "How can I get a deeper understanding "of this method in my own body? "I want to feel it more.

"I want to really understand. "Like, when I'm doing footwork, "how can I make footwork feel really good, "rather than just pushing out-in, out-in, out-in," or whatever the exercise is. So, being really conscious and in the moment with yourself during your personal practice, I highly advise it. While you're doing the motions, feel what's going on. Do I feel out of whack?

Do I feel the same thing on both sides? Am I symmetrical? How deep can I get the sensation to run in my body? And so that's definitely one thing, is just being really present and really conscious of what's happening inside and the sensations you have in your own body. I also find it's really fun to take, instead of just doing a mat workout, do the mat workout on the spine corrector.

Instead of doing a reformer workout, do the reformer on the tower. Try to be, obviously, safe, but this is on yourself so you can be a little more adventurous. I'm trying to figure out, "How could I do "semi-circle on the reformer, on the cadillac? "What is that like? "Are there some other exercises that are kind of like it "and could I mix them together a little bit "and add something else to it?" I find that to be fun (laughs) because I have that creative side.

I see lots of teachers doing creative things in the studio, but I often wish they would take it from a more thoughtful perspective, rather than, "What can I do with this push-through bar?" To, "Okay, what are some other principles in the methods "say, on the reformer, that I could now translate "to doing on the push-through bar?" That's where the intelligence and creativity happens, is the through line of the method. So, that's a fun thing, and I think, a really useful tool in your sessions that can also speak back to the burnout situation to help you come out of the burnout, is to re-inspire yourself about the true Pilates method and not just getting caught up in, "Oh, okay, short box, again." Right? (laughs) So, anyways, I hope some of these tips helped and thank you for listening. I'd love to hear some comments and see if we can all work together as teachers.


2 people like this.
Thank you Carrie...... Iv been going through similar experiences and it’s taken me quiet a few years of teaching Yoga and Pilates to get the work / life balance right..... came very close after 11 years of teaching to packing it in due to burn out .... now much better and as you say I have a self care routine including massage ...other disaplines..time to myself.... walks on the beach.... thank you again is all so familiar but good to hear it from another teacher....
Hello Carrie from the UK. Really enjoyed this, especially as a recently qualified Pilates teacher at 49yrs. I'm combining this with my work in Higher Education (where I also teach teachers!) I have been practicing Pilates myself for 6 yrs and have found it so beneficial. I have a few classes that are filling fast and so I am at already at the stage of reminding myself 'what did I want from this?' Very easy to get swept away...As I've witnessed through my Mom (who taught 'keep fit) if you start a class it can often be going 30yrs later!!!Any thoughts on the online market (as in Pilates anytime;) as being one way of avoiding burnout? With very best wishes, Sarahx
Hi Sarah Edwards at Positive Pilates Solihull , YES! Online resources, especially Pilates Anytime, are great things we have access to in order to assist with avoiding burnout. It is easy to get stuck in your regular routine, orders, etc. Watching teachers from other lineages on Pilates Anytime (or even your lineage) always gives great ideas and inspiration. Or makes you think about things slightly differently :)
Thank you, Samantha !
Jennifer D
1 person likes this.
Great tutorial Carrie! Thank you as always!
Maggie L
5 people like this.
I book self-care activities on split shift days. Filling what I call my “soon to be interrupted downtime” with activities that nurture me gets me through that lag and I don’t feel as drained at the end of the day. Not only is it really difficult to conquer a TO DO list with time-constraints, it often makes it that much harder to go back to being a nurturer. If I attend a Pilates class during my break, I come back to working with clients as someone who believes in and practices the method.

So often I find people book appointments like massage and private sessions on their days OFF. While that can work, the appointment can disrupt something that one would actually prefer to stick with like exploring new exercises, or getting lost in podcasts while taking a walk, cooking, cleaning, gardening, chores and errands that are unpredictable in terms of how long they will take.
1 person likes this.
That was great! You hit on some things we probably know but need to be reminded. I always look forward to your classes and would love for you to do a mat class modifying moves on the apparatus, with bands, balls, gliders.
1 person likes this.
Thank you for this tutorial!!!!!!
1 person likes this.
Thank you Carrie Macy . You are one of my favorite teachers on her. I love your cueing, corrections, pace and even flow into the next exercise. I wish you would teach more classes! One thing that has helped me with burnout is to find something new to learn that can actually help my clients get better work. This past year I have certified in 2 levels of NeuroKinetic Therapy. It helps me discover what is over and under working when clients have pain and help get them better through Pilates. I can't imagine teaching without this anymore!!
2 people like this.
Thank you Carrie I live on the east coast of Canada no support from other instructors except when I do workshops In Alberta your comments were inspirational for me and validated what is good for me my space my time and my client I love pilates anytime have gained so much from classes on this site
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