Pilates Instructor Certification – My Experience

A couple months back my friend Chanda at IMX Pilates Santa Barbara invited me to attend her Pilates certification course. 40 hours, packed into two full weekends. I was a little worried about having to be there all day, but I anticipated it to be easy, no big deal, and it was something I’ve wanted to do for a while so I said yes.

IMX pilates instructor

It was actually ridiculously hard in so many ways…

What I found challenging about the IMX Pilates Course

  • Physically – We started our day off with an hour Pilates class. We then reviewed a bit of material and practiced all the exercises we learned on our classmates. We then finished off the day without another grueling workout. It was intense! My abs were so sore I couldn’t even laugh!

  • Mentally – There is a lot of material and a lot to remember. Luckily I have the anatomy portion down, but teaching programs like Pilates requires an immense amount of memorization and mental energy. My caffeine filled, sleep deprived brain was having a hard time repeating anything, including what was JUST taught. This reminded me that I should go back to school just for the mental exercise.
  • Emotionally –Surprisingly, this course had an emotional effect on me. It’s the first time I went two days without seeing my daughter! I also felt a little defeated. I’ve always been a “smart” student, I did well in school and pride myself on having a good memory. It seems that as I get older and have more responsibilities my brain absorbs less and my recall is a little slower. As your typical Type A student, this was a hard thing to swallow. I did however feel a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of the second weekend. I almost wanted to cry with happiness! Not exaggerating, I thought I might have to forfeit because of my sore abs!

What I loved about the IMX Pilates Course

All that being said I really LOVED everything about this course. I love that Pilates is the perfect fusion of exercise and therapy. So many of the exercises that we use in Pilates are also ones that I use with my clients with injuries. Pilates emphasizes the importance of core strength and stability and using the breath to engage the core in all that you do. These principles are so important in all styles of exercise and so often shadowed by bigger goals.

I also LOVED the passion that my instructor had for exercise and teaching. She was engaging, extremely knowledgeable and a tough but caring teacher. It’s so comforting being around someone else who truly loves what they do. When a person believes what they are saying and aren’t just selling you an idea or telling you what you want to hear to make quick money it’s extremely comforting. I also made some great friends and acquaintances in the class. These girls were all awesome to hang out with all day, and it was a great learning environment.

pilates instructor santa barbara

You are Only Cheating Yourself

I also learned that Pilates can be as hard as you decide you want it to be. On the reformers it’s pretty easy to ‘cheat’ and just go through the motions. If you are in a small group, you can probably get away with poor form and use major muscles to compensate for weaknesses. I’ve come to be much more aware of my own body, the position of my shoulders and scapula and the engagement of the ab muscles before beginning each exercise. It’s this added level of awareness that has helped me improve my fitness in the past couple months and probably contributes to how little pain I’ve had in my various ‘problem areas’. Check out my post on Healthline.com about the benefits of Pilates and Yoga and if it’s right for you.

Use Your Words

Lastly, instructor training taught me how to communicate. It is extremely challenging to get someone to do what you want them to do, without actually showing them. They say that tactile cues (touch) are 1000% more effective than verbal or visual. This made a lot of sense after going through this training. Depending on who you are working with, you can give verbal cues until the class is over and they will never do what you actually want them to do. It’s important to use the right words, and give the client real life examples so they can visualize how their body is meant to feel. My favorite being, “float your head to the sky”!

Next Steps

I look forward to all the practice hours I need to complete in order to finish my certification. Working with clients allows me to come alive and really practice my skills. During the training I was so focused on ‘getting it right’ that I lost what makes ME a good teacher, my personality. The more I practice the less I need to try to remember and the more I can let that shine

If you are ever thinking of doing a fitness certification like yoga or Pilates, think hard. It’s never as easy as you anticipate and it can be mentally and physically exhausting, but extremely rewarding.

I plan to do my 200 hour yoga certification sometime in the next few years (I’ve been putting it off for a while) and this course gave me the drive and passion that I needed to make this a realistic goal again.  We only get better by learning from others and lifelong learning is essential to constant growth. Plant your seeds and make it happen.

In fitness and good health,


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