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Fit4Real is a resource for inspiring and seasoned Pilates pros to learn skills and strategies for building a more successful Pilates career. I’ve been studying Pilates for over two decades. And I absolutely love helping teachers and entrepreneurs reach their potential.

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I Teach Pilates Everyday.

In the wake of recent events, I’m taking stock.

Everyday I teach Pilates.

Yes, it’s “just” exercise. But in these uncertain times, I’m realizing it goes beyond fitness. Let me start with a little background.

About ten years ago I set out to open a Pilates studio in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Both the location and the name of my business were no coincidence. I came up with the name “Blue Sparrow Pilates” out of the idea that the sparrow is a symbol of love, freedom, integrity, and commitment. I also connected to the idea of the sparrow symbolizing journey and homecoming as I pondered, what would it feel like to to be completely at home in one’s own body?

Fast forward to today, I still aspire to embody these “sparrow” characteristics, as well as help to bring them out of everyone who walks through my studio doors. I see these ideals demonstrated in this studio community through small acts of love and mutual support.

As Pilates teachers, we don’t often impact the world through big acts. It’s really years of teeny, tiny acts that positively affect how people feel.

And for me that’s as good as gold.

I help people to feel freedom in their bodies. Freedom from limitations and pain has a huge impact on how people exist in their lives, as well as how fully one can engage in life. I see firsthand how pain and fear are closely tied. The freedom from pain allows people to stretch their wings.

I train bodies that are vulnerable, those that are exceptional, and everyone in between. Feeling vulnerable leaves a person scared to do things, mostly out of fear of pain. Helping someone to feel stronger in their own body allows people the ability to better experience all the happiness and pleasures in life — like the simple joys of picking up a grandchild or laughing at dinner with friends.

I teach people to endure, to push a little bit harder, and always reach for more. Time and time again, I see amazing “Ah-ha” moments where people experience the satisfaction of knowing they’re capable of more than they ever believed. How incredible it is to witness someone exploding their notions of their own capabilities.

I train all bodies. We have a body. I teach these bodies regardless of the color of their skin, faith, ability, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, or ethnicity. I believe the body needs to be cared for because it houses who we each are.

I teach a fitness method that not only spans our differences but celebrates them. From the very first time I took a Pilates lesson, it was made clear that my body was as unique as the person on the mat next to me  — everything from the shape of my bones and muscles, to my alignment, and even how my brain interprets and signals movement. I was not only instructed to notice these special aspects of being in my body, but to love them. Not in a far out woo woo way, but in the way that is rooted in a growth or journey mindset.

From the very beginning, the Pilates Method was built on innovation, systematic development, and practical application. Joseph Pilates experimented with exercising outdoors to cure his childhood ailments (asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever). He rigged springs to wounded soldiers hospital beds, and even taught systematic exercises to internment campers.

I know that sometimes we must regress in order to progress. I meet people where they are today, and progress people from a starting point toward where they want to be. We may “zig and zag” along the way but we keep charging forward.

I teach women leadership skills. I feel proud and fortunate to be a female business owner. When I began teaching I was shy, maybe even scared of people. Through teaching I learned how to speak with confidence to many different kinds of people. I learned how to be a strong, capable leader. I found that I had a voice in my field. And as a result, I learned I had a voice in the world.

Never would I have believed that I would go on to employ and encourage so many women over the last decade. These women also have became leaders through their teaching, and together we continue to demonstrate how women have the capacity to lead.

iteachpilates_hollyfurgason

Yes, I just teach exercise. But Pilates can have a profound impact not just on someone’s body, but on their life. In my opinion, the body is a great place to begin to make change.  Looking back at the mission statement I wrote so many years ago, it still rings true today: freedom to move, confidence with your body, physical integrity, and mind-body revitalization.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not silly enough to think that Pilates can ‘heal the world.’ I’m not under the illusion that somehow Pilates could fix all the challenges we currently face. But as a female entrepreneur, I feel compelled to share my voice. In part, as a way to look at my life for a way to make a little sense out of it all, to reevaluate my priorities and existence, and to reflect on how my career engages in the larger conversation.

Thank you so much for all you have taught me. Thank you for your support. Thank you for the kindness you have shared with me. Thank you for the love spread through our community.

Thank you for connecting with me and helping me to know that I am not alone on this journey. I’m truly grateful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

With all my love and gratitude,

XO

Holy Furgason

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How to Capture Clients & Intensify Your Core Message

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Estimated reading time 6:00 minutes

Let’s talk messaging.

During a Pilates session, what is the most important message you aim to communicate to your clients? Or to say it in a different way: What are the key points about Pilates you want your clients to be thinking about during the session (and perhaps outside of the session later on)?

Seriously, take a second and write down a few ideas. I’ll wait…

So, I asked this same question to a few Pilates instructors. They said:

The function of transversus abdominis;
The benefits of core strength;
Understanding what is proper alignment;
The importance of training the smaller muscles;
Stability vs. mobility;
The Basic Principles of Pilates;
Creating balance in the body or balancing out habitual motions.

And so forth. You probably have a few additional ideas to offer. Please share them with us in the comments below.

As a Pilates instructor it’s extremely important to stay on message. To stay on message means to be persistent in getting your key points about Pilates across. It also means promoting the studio you work at and keeping clients coming back for more.

To stay on message means to be persistent in getting your key points about Pilates across.

It’s very easy to go off-message during session. Fit4Real Teach On-message Pilates Holly FurgasonBut when you go off-message you have allowed yourself to become distracted from your purpose. More importantly, when you go off-message the client is left to connect the work you’re doing during the session to their daily lives, their personal fitness goals, etc.

I believe as Pilates teachers, our purpose is to teach Pilates. To teach means to help someone to learn or understand. So, during a session I’m not just cueing a bunch of exercises. I’m listening, responding in a conversation aimed at improving how the individual functions, moves, and understand their bodies. This is easy to do if you stay on message.

Don’t dilute your Pilates message by allowing the client to become distracted. It reduces the value and impact of your Pilates message when clients get lost in their personal lives (or in yours), over share, or focus on unrelated small talk.

The best Pilates teachers stay on message. Not just some of the time but almost all of the time.

I believe that you can still be friendly and have strong relationships with client without reducing the effectiveness of your message.

There are more subtle ways you can get pulled from your message. The first example that comes to mind I’ve heard many times over the years. A client asks, “What do you do for fitness?” To which the instructor usually answers something like, “I do elliptical at 24-Hour Fitness a few days per week, I run a couple times per week, and I take yoga once per week.”

The instructor doesn’t realize the client is actually saying, “You look really fit. I want to look like you. What do I need to do to look like you?” The instructor assumes that doing Pilates in implied or obvious. It isn’t. So now based on this interaction, regardless of how great their session was, the client leaves thinking they should do more cardio and maybe try yoga.

Of course I would never suggest you lie. But tell the truth in a way that highlights the benefits you enjoy from Pilates. This very same instructor could have said, “I love Pilates because it does X, Y, and Z for my body. Pilates is my go-to workout which I try to do almost everyday. Then in addition to Pilates, I run, do elliptical, and sometimes take a yoga class.” This way the client leaves thinking about Pilates.

As a small business employee or owner, every minute with a client needs to count. Always be closing sounds like a cheesy, old school sales motto. But the sentiment is essential for success. Every minute you have with a client is an opportunity to educate them about the benefits of Pilates, and a chance for you to help them better understand why they should continue to do Pilates. Use every second as an opportunity by staying on message.

And always-be-closing is how we can compete with the big boys of fitness. The big-box fitness places have sales people selling their messaging. They have entire teams of marketing professionals hammering one message into the minds of prospective clients. Typically Pilates studios do not have the resources for sales and marketing teams. So, this means as the Pilates instructor you’re an integral part of the sales team.

Good news:  If you do this properly, you will never have to do a huge sale pitch at the end of a session. If you have stayed on message, by the time the session is over the client will know if they want to continue with more sessions.

Top that!

Lastly, let’s not forget that this is how word of mouth spreads, literally by word of mouth.

The lesson? Be consistent with your messaging while teaching. Put a stop to allowing yourself to be pulled away from your target message. Constantly refer back to your mental list of message points, both general to Pilates and specific to each individual client.

If you force yourself to stay on message you will present clear and consistent reasons for each client to continue their sessions with you. Your classes and schedule will be more consistently full, and word will spread that you are the teacher who delivers results.

Now, get out there and share your “core” (LOL) message!

And as always, share your thoughts and comments. The more you share the more we all will learn through your experiences.

With my support and love,

Holy Furgason

 

 

 

Pro Cyclist Katie Hall Does Pilates

https://youtu.be/X1_9B5g4nGc

American professional cyclist Katie Hall is a fierce competitor with an infectious positive attitude. I met Katie in the off season, while she was preparing for a series of races in Europe as part of the brand-new Women’s World Tour, which culminates in the La Course race in Paris, France.

Katie heard about Pilates from a teammate and wanted to see how adding it to her training regimen could boost her performance on the bike. When Katie came into the studio she knew exactly what she wanted from Pilates and told me with a huge smile, “I’ve heard Pilates can improve my core strength, strengthen my small, deep muscles, give me greater mobility, and overall more power on the bike.”  And with then we got down to business.

Katie agreed to sit down and talk to us about the benefits of Pilates.

Check out this video of Katie Hall doing Pilates with Blue Sparrow Pilates studio owner Holly Furgason.  When we were filming Katie, we literally had a hard time keeping up with her — in a car!  Her speed and power on the bike is simply astounding. Read More

Pilates Teachers Must Learn Flow (and How to Teach It)

When it comes to group instruction, exercise selection is one of the most noticed components of the class.  Program design plays the defining role in how a workout is perceived, and therefore, how successful the class will be.Fit4Real_headingLayout_Flow

But coming up with a class design that has flow is often a challenge for many otherwise highly-trained instructors.  They may be indecisive about which exercises to choose, or by how many equipment setups to include, or they may second-guess how to sequence one exercise into the next, or how to make their class distinct from others.

Do these challenges sound familiar? If so, I have some great news for you.

When you focus on creating flow, your classes will dramatically improve.  Attendance will grow.  Your students will feel challenged without sacrificing quality.  And you will feel the confidence to lead.

 

Designing a class with flow in mind doesn’t require any special skills.  

All you need is a basic understanding of flow, a bit of creativity, and these 5 strategies to get started.

Read More

HOW CRITICISM CAN MAKE YOU GROW (WHY I BELIEVE FUTURE GREAT PILATES TEACHERS SHOULD AGGRESSIVELY SEEK IT OUT)

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Estimated reading time 5:00 minutes

Fit4Real_HowCriticumCanMakeYouGrowIgnorance. We all have it. And I’m going to tell you how you can overcome your own ignorance, not only by learning to deal with criticism, but by hungrily seeking it out. And not just in your first year or two of your teaching career — for your entire career.

Boom. That’s a mic drop kind of statement.

So, let me say it again: I’m encouraging you to seek out opportunities to be evaluated and re-evaluated as a Pilates instructor, no matter how long you have been teaching.  

To shed some light on this subject, let’s talk about ignorance.

Ignorance is the opposite of competence. Ignorance is being uninformed or lacking knowledge. The kind of ignorance I’m talking about is well intentioned, not deliberate or willful.

This week, I had the pleasure to be introduced to something called the Dunning–Kruger effect (it was in reference to the current American presidential race). The Dunning–Kruger effect demonstrates that unskilled individuals are nevertheless prone to overestimation of their superiority. Dunning and Kruger attributed this phenomenon to an inability of the unskilled to evaluate their own ability accurately.  

And what’s really fascinating about their research is that it suggests that highly skilled people tend to underestimate their competence. So the effect results in delusional thinking on both sides.

What’s scary about this is that at any time you really don’t know if you’re the highly skilled or the unskilled. Yikes! Read More