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How to Become a Pilates Instructor

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Whether you're ready to break out of the grind of the 9-to-5 job or you just love Pilates, one of the first steps to becoming an official instructor is to attend an instructor training program. That said though, there's plenty of work to do before you set foot inside the instructor training studio, including honing your personal practice and finding the course that's right for you.

Get a Solid Foundation

Don't just jump right into instructor training, as chances are you won't be adequately prepared for the rigors of teaching. The IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends making sure you have a solid foundation in Pilates before you start. That includes taking Pilates classes in multiple settings, training at home with videos, and researching as much as you can about this fitness discipline. That will also help you decide whether you prefer to pursue certification in mat work, studio apparatus, or a comprehensive course that covers both.

Research Instructor Training Programs

Shop around before you choose your instructor training, as not every trainer is going to be a good fit for you. First off, look for accredited teacher-training programs, which are "gold standard" programs that offer a solid foundation in anatomy and physiology, first aid and marketing, as well as Pilates principles. With that covered, also look for instructors with whom you have a good rapport. Comprehensive courses can be 500 hours or more and take more than a year to complete, while a basic course will be around 40 hours -- but in either case you'll spend a lot of time with a particular trainer. Ask about the time frame for certification, the course schedules, daily homework and tuition to get a feel for what's out there.

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Becoming Certified

Once you've chosen a training program, treat it as seriously as you would any other educational program. That might include moving from a full-time to a part-time position to make more time for studying, or rearranging your schedule so you have fewer demands on your time at home. Depending on the length of your course, expect to pay between $2,000 and $10,000 on certification, as well as several hundred dollars on testing fees. For your efforts, you'll be able to earn a livable wage; according to IDEA, Pilates instructors earned an average hourly rate of $32.50 per hour as of 2013.

Finding a Job

The most obvious place to find work as a Pilates instructor is in a gym or fitness center, so start putting your resume out to all local outlets. Even with your newly gained credentials though, you'll probably have to work your way up to your ideal shifts and classes. Expect to work nights and weekends, says instructor Lisa Johnson, since the choice shifts are often taken by more experienced instructors. Even with your training, it's going to take some time to figure out how best to work with each individual client. As you gain experience, another option is to develop a private practice. If you're teaching mat work, that's relatively easy to do by securing a workout space and obtaining insurance. If you're planning to teach studio apparatus classes, expect to make a significant investment in equipment.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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