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Getting Your Instructors Certified

By Nico Gonzalez, Mercy Healthplex, Cincinnati, OH
As seen in our 2009 catalog

Your club owner approaches you with a new initiative: create a successful revenue-generating Pilates program within the club! This exact same situation happened to me about 5 years ago. After the panic dissipated and reality set in, I realized I had no choice but to make it all work! With only two certified Pilates trainers on staff my first goal was to recruit.

Although we recruited highly skilled Pilates professionals from the Cincinnati area, I needed more. Being a Balanced Body (BB) Master Instructor myself, I quickly scheduled an onsite Reformer Level 1 training within the following 60 days. Between the great online marketing that BBU has and word of mouth, I gathered a group of 10 interested individuals for the training. Among the registrants were personal trainers, physical therapists, and group fitness trainers. Potentially all great candidates for teaching Pilates!

Starting the training

During the Reformer Level 1 weekend training, I reviewed the certification process and the BB philosophy of teaching with the participants. Many registrants come to a Level 1 training with different expectations for the weekend. BB welcomes all registrants to take Reformer (or Mat) Level 1 trainings with required prerequisites. Many of the prerequisites are standard requirements throughout the Pilates community. At the beginning of the training I told all participants that Reformer 1 is simply one of multiple modules a registrant must complete before being considered a fully certified Pilates professional. BB understands that there are multiple reasons for taking trainings; one of which is to start teaching or assisting right away.

I explained to each participant that after a weekend training BB considers each participant a “student teacher”. Some facilities allow student teachers to actively teach in programs while they continue their education. I have also acquired this philosophy when my facility needed additional Pilates teachers. To accommodate the student teacher and clients, I matches the “apparently healthy, no limitations” client with the new student teachers. With continued supervision, practice, and further BB trainings, these student teachers became wonderful additions to my staff.

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Working with time and budget issues

For those individuals looking to have a comprehensive training in Pilates, BB offers a 450 hour training spanning eight weekend modules, practical hours, personal hours, and examinations. Proudly, all of my trainers at Mercy HealthPlex have completed or are in the process of being fully trained through the BB Pilates training. I’ve had a few trainers complete the entire training in about one year, but others have paced themselves over three years. The entire process requires dedication but also a financial investment. Each module is priced between $250 to $450, depending on the topic covered.

However, the reward of gaining invaluable knowledge and recognize far surpass the financial commitment. And BBU does recognize the financial investment involved and allows registrants to take as much time needed to complete all the modules. Additionally, BBU provides specified certifications that require less investment and modules to complete. For example, mat certification requires only completion of Mat Level 1 and 2 – which is only a total investment of roughly $600.

The benefit of student teachers

Student teachers are a great addition to any staff as they are full of excitement and want to learn! Many BBU student teachers at Mercy HealthPlex have created “mock” group classes where they sharpen their skills on staff members. Through this method, they accumulate practical hours. More importantly they are exposed to group training which can be daunting at first. At Mercy HealthPlex we allow the student teachers to observe and participate in group sessions with another fully trained Pilates professional. Not only experience is gained, but the new student teacher gets exposure to members for future referrals.

We recuperated our capital investment of Pilates equipment in six months. We focused on providing more group sessions as opposed to privates. Because of the manner in which we priced our program, revenue was exponentially higher when groups were being conducted as opposed to private sessions. We still offered private sessions for special cases, but only with our experienced Pilates professionals.

The program has been grown tremendously since our first year. When we started we had only 5 Allegro® Reformers. We then purchased 5 Tower units to be attached to our existing machines. Our third year and fourth year of growth allowed us to purchase 5 Combo Chairs, a Cadillac, a Ladder Barrel, and 10 Pilates Arcs. Needless to say BBU trainings have been a blessing for our growth and client retention. Many thanks to the dedicated trainers who see the value in education!

Nico is a Balanced Body master instructor trainer and the Area Wellness Manager for Mercy HealthPlex, a hospital based wellness facility. At Mercy he manages the Pilates program, Group Fitness staff, and Wellness program.