Niche Pilates:
Men’s Cycling

by Valentin
As see in the Fall 2006 Balanced Body Pilates COREterly

Niche or segmented group sessions are a great way to get members or clients with similar interests into a Pilates workout. Bikers, tennis players, skiers – the method can help any of them with their performance while decreasing the chance of injury. It also helps gather different member demographics together – seniors, women, pregnant women, and men.

But if you are going to have successful group sessions, you need to know how to get and keep them interested.

In this article I’ll examine how I started and marketed a Pilates for Men class.
I know what you’re saying. “Men? They’re the hardest demographic to attract.” At one time that may have been true. It’s no secret that the male population was initially a little behind women when it came to Pilates participation.

This is primarily because it was, for many decades, the popular “method” that female dancers employed for exercise and rehabilitation. Most men thought of it as a women’s exercise, even though that could not be further from the truth.

It is important to remember that the Pilates Method was made for a man, by a man – namely Joseph Pilates. He practiced various physical regimens such as body building, gymnastics, and diving. He also taught wrestling, boxing and self-defense classes.

Now, as length, flexibility and decreasing injury have become more important in many professional sports, the method has made a dramatic rise as an adjunct to strength and conditioning programs for many Pro male sports, including football, basketball, race-car driving and golf.

I make sure any man who is contemplating Pilates knows this. Nothing grabs a man’s attention more then telling them that you have something that can make them better at their sport and reduce the chance of getting hurt.

My opportunity to start a men’s program began when I offered my skills in a non-Pilates class at a health club. I started teaching a noontime cycling class that had many men, and it led to the formation of a Pilates Men’s Class for Cyclists. It has now been four years since the group started and word-of-mouth has taken over. Others have joined it simply because it IS a men’s class and they’ve heard from other male compatriots how fun it is.

From a marketing standpoint, I believe it is not only the promotion of a class outside the facility, but positioning a class internally to hit the “hot buttons” of the members to keep them coming back. During the cycle class, I stayed true to the original intent of the workout: aerobic conditioning. However, rather than lead the class through an imaginary ride up or down a mountain, I coached them through a visualization trail through their body using the principals of Pilates.

I offered detailed tips on abdominals, shoulder placement, and hip, knee and ankle alignment specific to the sport of cycling. While cycling, I also explained the reasons behind the particular exercise. These cues made them focus and concentrate on precise body parts and target movement patterns. I used several Pilates Guiding and Movement Principles to assist them in achieving their person goals, including: breathing, balanced muscle development, centering, and rhythm. Improved posture, body awareness, and efficiency of movement were areas of marked noticeable development.

We also did stretches at the end of the class that were again “Pilates-oriented” to contend with their specific areas of concern: tight hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and calves. In addition, the abdominals section that followed truly worked their core in non-traditional methods.

The members left the class with a total body workout, integration of the mind, body and spirit and, maybe most important to them, an enhanced indoor cycling experience.
The men who formed the group saw the benefits of my Pilates-style cycle class. Not only did their core conditioning improve, but endurance, posture and flexibility made dramatic progress.

Now the Pilates Men’s Class has developed into a group that takes their Pilates training very seriously. Most attendees arrive 20 minutes early for warm-up, prop distribution (using jumpboards, discs, rollers, rings, balls) and apparatus set-up. They even wear uniform shirts and cycle shorts.

The group has also formed a great camaraderie, each encouraging another to stretch the limits or “take it to the max”, as well as making sure everyone keeps coming back – (that ‘s the most important thing for me!).

If you currently work in a health-club setting as a group Pilates exercise instructor, carpe diem and make the most of it! It is a worthwhile and fulfilling endeavor.

Valentin is Founder of Pilates Body by Valentin, a full-service training studio in Dublin, California. Valentin’s 20-plus years of experience as a group exercise leader, IDEA International Presenter, and former ballet dancer has provided her with a strong foundation for creative Pilates group training for Reformer, Chair and circuit. Her emphasis on precision, technique and motivation has proved to be highly successful for her clients. She is also a member of Pilates Performance.