Shouldn’t Teaching Pilates Be Easy?

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I received the email below last week and it made my heart skip a beat!

Dear Carrie,

I am a new instructor, and I'm really struggling with cueing and confidence. It all seems so hard for me, and I thought I would enjoy teaching Pilates. Not the case at all.  I am so nervous all the time and find it hard to manage.  Did you have the same experience in the beginning?


YES, YES. 100 TIMES YES!  Here’s what my early teaching experience looked like.   Two months after receiving my certification, I took over another instructor's entire schedule because she was unexpectedly put on bed rest in her 2nd trimester.  Overnight I was teaching 25 hours a week to clients who were used to a seasoned instructor.  I can remember feeling nervous every single session of every single day.  I also remember thinking I shouldn’t feel that way.  I thought I should just be able to walk into the studio, take control, and teach like my mentors.  After all, I had just spent over 450 hours immersing myself in Pilates that year and had memorized every single exercise, repetition, and breathing pattern.  Shouldn’t this be easy?  The answer is no.  Becoming a confident and proficient teacher takes time, not memorization skills.  Just like getting the exercises of Pilates in your body is a process so is your journey in teaching Pilates.  Be patient and trust the process, and know that even if you've been teaching for 17 years like me it doesn’t mean that you’re free from those feelings from the question above.  I still get nervous, make mistakes, and worry if I’m making the right choices for my client's bodies.  It does get easier though and I promise it happens sooner than you think it will.  Just keep showing up, doing your best, and if you have to “fake it ‘til you make it!”

My #1 Tip for studio owners and busy instructors

You're never going to do it perfectly.

I had the pleasure of teaching another instructor/studio owner who was visiting Wilmington last week. We met at a Pilates workshop last year, and I was so excited when I got her message that she was in town. She just wanted to come to In Balance to get a workout and be a student. Like so many of us, she teaches 30 hours a week and as a studio owner, she has a list of additional duties that never ends.  We laughed about doing the studio laundry, filling the cleaner bottles and running the vacuum on top of paper work, teaching our clients, and organizing the studio schedule.

She looked at me with desperation in her eyes and asked, "What advice do you have for me after owning your studio for 15 years?" My advice was profound. I said, "Girl, I've got nothing!"

After 15 years, I have finally realized that the best advice I can give is to accept that you're never going to do it perfectly. I don't know how I've finally come to realize AND accept this, but I have. You're always going to be 5 duties behind where you want to be, and that's OK. Granted it can be embarrassing sometimes when a client asks where the towels are and they're in your dryer at home, but it's OK!

To leave you with some reassurance that I am always behind, here is my to-do list that did not get completed from last week:

  1. Wash studio towels: They're washed and dried but smooshed in a bag behind the front desk.
  2. Fill the cleaner bottles: There's about 2 more days worth of cleaner in there...that can wait!
  3. Vacuum: I'll get that done after the workshop I'm doing at the studio today. (maybe!)
  4. Enter invoices into Quickbooks: Maybe Wednesday???
  5. Throw away the old printer and the new printers' box: Still sitting on the floor in the office.
  6. Change the studio chalkboard:  It still says 2017 Let's do this!  Sheesh!!!

Guys! I could go on and on but I won't. You get the idea. The point is I'm doing the very best I can, and I'm not beating myself up for all the things I have to get done but are still on the list.  I'll rewrite a list today, prioritize, and we'll just see what the week holds.

In conclusion, give yourself a break!



Why I post Pilates videos on Instagram and you should too.

Pilates Police

Over the past 2 years, I have come back into the social media world after getting off of it more 8 years ago.  To be truthful I was going through a very difficult time in my life back then, and even though I was 30 years old and the mother of 2 kids, I simply wasn't mature enough to handle it.  It's completely embarrassing to share this but one of the biggest things I struggled with was feeling left out.  Seeing posts of friends going to a lunch without me would make me feel like I wasn't cool enough to be invited.  Did I mention I was going through a tough time???  I would also find myself disliking (Okay hating) people who I very much liked in person because of a post they did.  I made the decision to get off social media and declared I'd NEVER do it again.

Fast forward to 2015.  One  of my friends kept sending me screenshots of cool Pilates posts from people she followed on Instagram.  She kept insisting that Instagram was different than other social media platforms and encouraged me to join, so I very reluctantly did so.  I immediately loved it!  I was blown-away when I saw well-respected instructors doing Pilates a bit differently (and sometimes not classically!). Their posts helped me feel the freedom and confidence to break the rules that were so ingrained in me from my training.  I timidly began to teach creative variations on the classical work and was amazed when the Pilates Police didn't storm through my studio door.  Is it crazy that a part of me honestly thought that could happen?  Watching very reputable instructors put themselves out there and take the risk of being judged by the haters of the Pilates world was so awesome.  I started to feel a new enthusiasm for my future as a Pilates instructor, and it was all because of Instagram.

I have been doing daily video posts for more than a year now.  I felt compelled to contribute to the community of Pilates instructors on Instagram who had inspired me and I'm so glad I did. My posts have also, and very unexpectedly, empowered me.  They've helped me to see myself in a much more positive way and hearing the kind words and grateful comments for a post I did makes me feel like I'm part of something that matters to people.  I've made great friends with Pilates instructors all over the world, and I message them with questions and support when I need it.  Posting on Instagram has honestly been life changing for me so I hope you'll join me!  You may be surprised what you'll get out of it.

What if you were your most important client?

What?!  While reading through one of my absolute favorite websites, I saw a line that read, "You are your most important asset" and I stopped. You hear things like this all the time. "You have to put your oxygen mask on first.", "If you're not taking care of yourself how can you take care of others?", etc. All of those concepts resonate with me but there was something about Maries' phrasing of "You are your most important asset" that stopped me in my tracks. Then I got to thinking about how this could apply to my work and my life. What if I were my most important client or better yet, my favorite? I teach for about 5-6 hours a day. While most of that time is fully focused on Pilates, some of it is spent listening to what my clients are going through that has nothing to do with Pilates, and I believe that time is very important. While I'm a Pilates instructor first, I believe the moments and conversations had before and after (and sometimes during) each session are incredibly powerful and important. During these times, I always have kind and gentle suggestions to offer. I encourage self-care, short walks, not being so hard on yourself, knowing that you're doing the best that you can and more. My hope is that by the time their session is over their bodies feel better and perhaps their hearts do as well. I'm not just trying to make them feel better, though. I genuinely believe that they need to give themselves a break. If I can do that for almost 30 hours a week for everyone else then surely I can do that for myself too, right??? The idea that it's possible to be as kind, forgiving and gentle with myself as I am with all of my clients is kind of huge to me. Do any other instructors struggle with this too? What about other professions? Surely I'm not alone, right???

Confession: I used to be a Pilates jerk

You may have seen my posts recently on Instagram and Facebook about an event I'm involved in called The Pilates Love Movement.  Anula Maiberg, Jessica Valant, Lesley Logan and I are teaching a Facebook Live mat class on February 12 at 3:30pm to celebrate love, diversity, and acceptance in the Pilates world and beyond.  Each one of us has a bit of a different reason why the event is particularly important to us and today I want to share mine.  For me it's about putting an end to all of the cranky, hater-like behavior that happens in the Pilates world.  Here's the hard part though.  I used to be a cranky hater.  I was trained classically and formed an opinion early on that all other forms of Pilates were rubbish.  I believed there was no other way than classical Pilates and when I opened my own studio and started teaching teachers I passed my opinions and attitudes down to them.  I never let my instructors teach outside of the classical method, EVER.  Then years later I started to see that incredibly reputable and classically trained teachers were doing non-classical exercises.  I started to think, "Oh my Gosh,  Joseph Pilates might not strike me down dead from the heavens above if I teach something new" and so it began.  Little by little I started getting inspired by the posts I was seeing.  I started trying new exercises when I worked out and then, oh my goodness, I started teaching them.  You know what happened?  I didn't get struck down dead.  I also started having a lot of fun and felt a bit more realxed.  I even started to post videos of myself doing creative things.  It was so great to get positive feedback from others for doing something that was pretty far out of my comfort zone.  Then one day I posted a video of myself doing a variation of the mermaid on the reformer and I got a grown-up.  Seriously!  It happened three more times before I finally put a stop to it by blocking her.  The hardest thing to admit though is that I understood her anger.  I used to be that person.  Ok, maybe not to her extreme but I kinda knew how she felt and I was so more grateful that ever that I was a reformed Pilates jerk.  Here's the bottom line though.  Do you!  Be classical, be contemporary, be whatever you want to be but be kind and consider the possibility that you may not know it all.

Please join Anula, Jessica, Lesley and I on February 12 at 3:30 eastern time for this extremely special event celebrating love, diversity and acceptance in the Pilates world and beyond.  Each one of us teaches on our own page then you'll jump to the next girls page.  Anula is at 3:30, I'm at 3:50, Lesley is at 4:10 and Jessica is at 4:30 followed by a Q&A session.



3 Tips To Fall In Love With Teaching Pilates Even More



As I've confessed to in the past, I'm an organization/office supply crazy person.  What's funny about that is I'm usually a completely unorganized, forgetful mess!   Hence the obsession with thinking that if I have all of the right organization tools, which of course also need to be super cute, then there may be hope for me to get my act together!  When it comes to planning my sessions I go through phases when I'm more detail-oriented than others. Please know that this is not something I do without fail, perfectly, or every single week.  Depending on what's going on in my life my written preparation for my sessions varies.  I'm always mentally prepared though and this is incredibly important.  Your clients can tell when you're fully invested in their Pilates process or just showing up and teaching exercises.  Whether you sit down and plan your sessions out on paper or just make the plan in your head, always respect your clients and be prepared for every session.  In my case, I've been teaching some of my clients for 16 years. I don't always need write their sessions out because their workouts and bodies are as familiar to me as the back of my hand.  I'm also a very intuitive teacher so once I read my clients energy when they walk through the door, the final decisions about the session are made.  That being said I love the way it feels when I have a plan.  I also want to mention how incredibly important I think this is when you start a brand new client.  One of my pet peeves is to hear a teacher ask a client if they've ever done an exercise before.  That should never be a conversation that happens in a session.  Just like it's our job to know how to set up the equipment, it's also our job to know which exercises they've learned.

Below are 3 ways I organize my teaching binder.  I think any version of this is fantastic.  Some people use regular spiral notebooks, or apps or their computers, but when it comes to planning out my sessions, I love old school pen and paper.  If you're looking for an electronic version of this check out Pilates Metrics.  Joseph Quinn has created new software that's dedicated to strengthening the Pilates industry through advanced analytics on your smart phone or tablet.  It's amazing!  There is an awesome interview with him on Jenna Zaffino's podcast Pilates Unfiltered.  Make sure you check it out!

Tip #1: My binder

I'm a little bit too excited about the new binder I found just before the new year.  I found it in the clearance section of Office Depot for less than $10.  It's a TŪL binder.  These binders don't snap open and closed but have special inserts that can be easily pulled out and in.  You can also wrap the cover all the way around, so it's more like a spiral bound notebook.   The design of the paper that it comes with is perfect for writing out a class plan.  My favorite thing about this binder above all else is the size.  It's standard paper size (they have the smaller size too) but the width is only 1 inch. It fits perfectly in my work bag without bulking it up.  I love, love, love this binder!


Tip #2:  The layout

The reason I like to use a binder rather than a notebook is because I can use dividers to keep it organized.  I have 5 sections: Private Lessons, Tower Classes, Reformer Classes, Mat Classes and Studio Notes.  Then there's just a chunk of paper in the back.


Tip #3:  My method

I usually sit down on Sundays and look at the few days ahead and plan then.  Then I do the same thing again on Wednesday evenings.  I'm never married to what I plan though, and I think that's super important.  One characteristic I see in teachers that concerns me is when the sessions become about what they want to accomplish instead of what the client needs that day.  Be mindful of that because it can make your client feel like they're disappointing you, and that's the last thing you want!  As far as my method, I think about what we did the session before and how we can build on it.  If I'm teaching a tower class I plan for making the fewest equipment changes as possible, so the lesson flows.  I also think about who's coming if it's a large group class.  If I have a tower class of 8 people and one person can't curl I plan ahead for what I can have them do while I'm teaching the stomach series to the rest of the group.

I hope these tips give you some ideas for being more prepared and organized for your clients.  All of these things help me be more focused and less distracted when I'm in a session, so the whole session is truly about the person (or group) in front of me.  Never forget that your students are putting their trust in you to be the expert.  Be professional and be prepared!


P.S. The best part of my  Sunday planning:  staying in my pajamas, wearing NO make-up snuggling with this little lady!  There's nothing like puppy love.



4 Pilates Studio Management Tips


I thought I'd share a few methods I use for managing the schedule, client accounts, and employee payroll.  I've had In Balance Pilates Studio for almost 15 years and have learned a lot throughout the years.  My studio is rather small with about 50 clients and I have 2 employees.  We don't have a front desk person or studio manager (other than me) so each instructor manages their own schedule and client payments.    I don't use expensive online software although I'm sure it's worth every penny!   I've definitely considered it but I just can't bite the bullet.  I know we would spend less time returning text messages and emails if we used that type of software, but I like the personal attention we can give each client by doing it ourselves.  I may move into another system one day but for now our current and FREE methods work well.

Client Accounts

I use Zoho Docs to keep up with our client accounts.  Zoho is a cloud-based spreadsheet designer that is free and works just like Excel. I started using Zoho rather than Excel when I started using a Google Chromebook a few years ago.  You have to use web based apps with a Chromebook and Zoho has been great.  When a client purchases a package we enter the amount in the spreadsheet and then use a simple subtraction formula so that each time the student comes in it deducts the amount of the class and voila...their new balance is updated.  The spreadsheet does the math for you so there are no math errors. We use a new tab at the bottom of the sheet for each student and place them in alphabetical order so it's  easy to navigate through the accounts.  When a client has one to two classes left on their account, we let them know they're ready for a new package.  One more plus with this system is the spreadsheet is easy to print if a client wants to look over their account details.


Employee Payroll

I also use Zoho for my employee payroll.  Basically, each employee has their own payroll spreadsheet and logs the name of the client, day and time of the session, and the amount the client pays.  Since my girls are independent contractors I just tally that amount by using a simple addition formula and figure out their commission from there.  Again the nice thing is that the spreadsheet does the math for you so you're eliminating math errors.


Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar for our schedule.  Each instructor has a different color and we can all see the schedule from our home computers or smart phones.  This is great for moments when you're not in the studio and a client texts to see if there's a spot in a class at the last minute.  It's also been a great way for everyone to have access to the schedule at any time but we have had a few issues.  There have been times that changes made from our phones don't get changed on the studio computer, so I usually just check-in with the schedule from my phone but rarely make schedule changes on it.  One thing I really like about Google Calendar is that we can make quick notes on the clients' appointment blocks or even communicate with one another about what a client is working on in these blocks. Google Calendar has been an awesome (and free) way to stay organized and connected.


Quickbooks and Online Banking

All of my employees have access to Zoho and Google Calendar but I keep my QuickBooks and Online Banking secure to only me.  Throughout the week we accept payments from clients but I enter the weekly sales receipts into QuickBooks only once per week.  I also use my bank's smart phone deposit app to enter checks so I don't even have to fill out deposit slips or drive through the bank anymore.  Having QuickBooks online has been a true life saver for me. For years I had to be at the studio or at my home computer to use QuickBooks and now I can do it from anywhere.  I do pay a monthly fee for QuickBooks online but it's totally worth it to me.  I usually enter the sales receipts while I'm in the carpool line or my son is at Gymnastics.  It's an excellent use of my down time.   I mean why just chill???  Ha!


The Communication Notebook

This is the simplest version of communication ever!  Old school pen and paper.  It's basically our backup system for all of the above.  Each time a client makes a payment we make a note of it so just in case a payment wasn't entered into Zoho we can look back and see that a payment was actually made.  This is also how we communicate non-urgent messages like subbing needs for the next month or days off needed which is nice because it often limits the amount of daily texts we're sending each other.


So there are a few of the ways I stay organized as a studio owner and full-time instructor.  I should mention that my employees are amazing which is the main reason all of the above works so well.  I honestly couldn't do it without them.  They make my job of managing the studio an absolute breeze so when I'm teaching I can be fully present and not distracted.  Which also makes my other job as Mom and kid chauffeur that starts at 3pm each day easier to manage.  Note that I said easier not EASY!

I hope this helps you with ideas for making your daily duties at your studio easier to handle.  Do you have any tips to share???  I'd really love to hear them so please post them in the comments below.


My 2017 Planner


It's December 26 and my excitement for 2017 is in full swing.  I thought I'd do a few blog posts about how I get organized as a regular person, Pilates instructor, studio owner, and Mom over the next few blog posts.  Today I'll share which planner I use and some of my favorite planner tools.  I've learned that I'm more likely to get excited and be committed to something if I can be creative along the way.  As a kid, I always decorated my loose leaf paper with pretty markers and somehow it made taking notes at school the next day more fun.  So now as an adult I have figured out an outlet for the Lisa Frank, sticker loving kid in me. I use a Passion Planner.  I've been doing so for 3 years and I love it.  The crisp black and white pages are like butter to write on, it has a place for personal and work to-do lists, and there are inspiring quotes throughout.  I use stickers and washi tape to decorate it each week which serves absolutely no purpose other than to make it pretty! I look forward to every Sunday when I sit down to get organized and I enjoy the chance to get a little crafty and creative.   Passion Planner is having a flash sale through 12/27/16 for $5 off a 2017 planner.  Get one now!

One way I have customized my planner is by gluing the monthly reflection sheets at the end of the month together and putting washi tape on the edges of it.  That way I now have monthly view pages that separate the 4 weeks of the each month.  They're very easy to flip to and the washi tape makes the planner super pretty from the side.  The monthly reflection sheets are awesome but I found after a couple of years that I wasn't taking the time to complete them, so I came up with this idea.   I also use washi tape and Create 365 stickers to decorate it each week.


On the front cover of my planner I stick small stacks of Post-It Notes (the super sticky ones work best for this) and this very cool Post It Notes pocket.  I have been able to reuse this pocket for 3 planners and the adhesive is still sticky.  I absolutely recommend it!


My most loved planner tools are my pens!  I use Pilot Frixion Pens, markers and highlighters.  They are AMAZING!!! These pens and markers are erasable and I mean it! They leave absolutely no trace once you've erased using the Frixion eraser.  A WARNING:  Don't leave any important documents in full/direct sunlight.  The ink will actually disappear.  I have never had anything terrible happen due to this but I am thoughtful about when I use these pens.  I definitely don't have clients use them when filling out their intake forms and I would never sign an important document with them.  As for my planner needs and lesson plan documentation: you can't beat these pens!


Another way I individualize my Passion Planner is by using these adorable holiday stickers by  Star City Designs.  You can instantly download them here.



So there's a little peak at how I get ready for my life each Sunday.  I also plan out my lessons for the week and have them organized in a cute binder but more on that in my next post!  I hope this gives you some ideas for getting ready for the new year.  Let's do this 2017!



Party time at In Balance

I was actually able to make one of my great ideas a reality this weekend and the outcome was amazing.  While the girls and I were in Phoenix at the PMA a new documentary was premiered called Tribute to Joseph Pilates.  Not only did I love the movie but I also got to know Glaucia Adriania, one of the producers, and knew that I needed to share her project with Pilates lovers back home.  The idea snow balled into a Sip and Shop Movie night and Carrie B., Kristen and I threw a pretty awesome party if I do say so myself!  Local businesses were there to sell their goods and Good Citizen and Pilates Nerd were also represented.  At 6:30pm we started the movie and it was awesome to hear everyone's reactions.  Thank you to all of you who came out.  We'll definitely do it again!




I’m getting excited!


I love this time of year.  I love the holidays but I really get excited about the weeks following the holidays more.  My mind starts to get very busy with all of the possibilities and opportunities a new year can present.  In my personal life I get motivated to set a new a cleaning schedule for my house.  Sounds silly but getting my house organized makes me feel like I have control and I've mentioned how much I like that feeling!  I set goals like actually looking through the kids notebooks every evening and doing meal prep every Sunday.  Usually I only stick with it for about 6 weeks but it feels so good to give it another try!  At work I love to reset with clients.  For some we decide on new goals like working on flexibility for back greater extensions or learning every Level III exercise.  For others the assessment is that we're on a perfect path and to simply continue with our focused and steady progress.  I also get excited about my teacher training program and workshop design.  I love working with teachers because it fuels my daily work.  Today I set the dates for my winter 2017 mat training.  SO exciting!  WARNING: Nerd alert:  I also love, probably more than anything, opening my fresh, crisp 2017 planner.  It makes me SO HAPPY.  I'm going to do a post closer to the new year about which planner I use.  I realize this seems completely silly to some but I know there is a whole culture of planner obsessed folks like me out there who love to see how other people use their planners. Just search the hashtag #planneraddict on Instagram.  You'll die!  So friends...enjoy your upcoming holidays and join me in getting PUMPED for a new year and new possibilities.



Daylight Savings Ends…

but my enthusiasm is just getting revved up.


I am home after the most amazing professional experience of my life.  It was a week I'll never forget and if it was my peak then I am satisfied.  It was unreal and if you'd like to see more about it click here .

I've spent just about all of my energy preparing for my trip over the past month (in a way over the past 37 years but that's another blog post) and I'm so full of enthusiasm for my future I could burst.   Add to my excitement that I get a whole extra hour in my day today and I'm feeling outright obnoxious.  I'm excited about anything and everything!  I'm excited about my life slowing down a bit. Now I can enjoy the little things again like self-care and weekly meal prep which make me feel like I have control.  I REALLY like that feeling!  I'm also excited about making plans for the near future.  Maybe I'll teach a summer workshop or hold another mat training in 2017?  I'm excited about setting long-term goals.  What could I aim for in 10 years when both kids are in college?   Usually, when I get inspired and enthusiastic I feel like it's time sensitive.  I feel like if I don't "act now" my moment will disappear.  Today it feels different.  I'm busting with enthusiasm but I am calm and here is why.  Last week I had the honor of being around some of the greatest and most experienced Pilates instructors in the world.  I had the opportunity to sit down and have lunch with Kathy Corey and listen to her talk about new opportunities coming her way after 35 years of teaching.  It reminded me that if you're invested fully in your passion then opportunities will always present themselves.  I also had dinner with Alan Herdman who's been teaching Pilates for 45 years.  When he talked about travel, teaching, and mentoring students I was reminded that when you love what you do you'll always be bright eyed and excited about it.  Just watching Kathy and Alan move and interact with people reminded me that when you live what you love, you glow. They were both full of enthusiasm for their own lives and enhancing the lives of others with Pilates and I realized their journeys are what I wish for myself.  My sister reminded me when I called her last week so full of joy that I was weeping that "timing is everything".  If I had had this experience 5 years ago or even last year it wouldn't have been the same.  I was ready for it last week.  I was able to wring every last drop out of each and every moment and it was glorious.  For someone who is really good at working so hard for something that I can't enjoy the result, this was a major success!  The timing was right.  So as I make lists and set goals for what I'd love to see happen in my future I will also sit tight and embrace the journey.  I'll try not to forget that where I am in 20 years is not necessarily what I'm striving for but it's fully feeling and being present in the experiences along the way.  I will simply (yet enthusiastically) pass down my love for Pilates one person at a time, one day at a time just like any good Pilates Nerd would.

So cheers to a day of goal setting, meal prep, an afternoon walk, laundry, cleaning out the fridge and unpacking my suitcases!  I think I may need more than just one extra hour.

#carryonnerds #lovewhatyoudo #yourenthusiamisscaringeveryone




Why doesn’t Pilates get easier?


This is a question I hear a lot. At some point in a student's first month of Pilates, they’ll say, “Why isn’t this getting easier?” They tend to think that once they’ve done an exercise for a few weeks they should be able to do it without effort. To help them understand my view of the Pilates process I always compare Pilates to dance and music. With dance and music after a certain point in your training, you're no longer learning new movements or notes but you refining your performance of them. You begin to put the movements or notes together in ways that make them more challenging. You may learn to execute more turns or hold notes longer but the fundamentals remain the same, therefore the process doesn’t get easier you just get better. For me, Pilates is like a dance or symphony that flows from one movement to the next and I love to experience how each workout feels different. I try to perform the movements with more precision and control concentrating on how I can move more effortlessly and focused. I never get bored. If anything I find myself falling more in love with Pilates year after year.