“It all begins and ends with movement: but it’s about more than what you do in the Studio.”
Instructor Care and You
Let’s call it what it is: a commitment to lifestyle choices that enhance health, manage stress and sustain positive mental and physical health in the long term.
Joseph Pilates was a “Physical Culturalist”; influential in the three-wave Physical Culture Movement originating in Europe in the 19th Century and including European Gymnast- (Germany, 1800s), Strongman- (England, 1914), and Somatic Physical Culturalists (New York, 1926 onward).
Physical Culturalists were the ultimate advocates of self-care, and we see many of these ideas woven through the Pilates Method, see: Return to Life Through Contrology.
1. Proper diet and sleep must accompany exercise.
“Always have food on hand, but only refuel when nutrients are needed.”
The energy exchange associated with caring for and working with clients all day is taxing on the body and mind. So, it’s important to properly nourish your body for endurance.
- Pre-prepare meals and snacks for work.
- Have healthy, wholesome foods handy at home, work and in the car.
- See an accredited Dietician for advice if needed.
Pilates said, “guide your eating habits with all due respect to the required amount of food you need to keep yourself physically fit…” (Return to Life Through Contrology, p37.) He was ahead of his time with mindful/intuitive eating!
With tightly scheduled and often long, physical days, restorative sleep is important. Audit your sleep habits:
- How many hours do you sleep each night?
- Are you getting enough?
- How can it be improved?
2. Fresh air and sunshine daily.
Breathe fresh air to free your blood of the “debris” of fatigue. (Love that image.) But it’s about more than the physiological act: Pilates talks about letting the skin breathe through exposure to the outdoors and sunshine.
“By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air that you can. Remember too, that your body also “breathes” through the pores of your skin as well as through your mouth, nose, and lungs” (p18).
Take breaks whenever you can and:
- Go outside! Take a walk around the block.
- Sit in the sunshine: “embrace the sun’s rays” (safely).
- Fill your lungs with air.
Pilates also talked about wearing loose fitting clothing. Archival footage and photographs suggest he didn’t wear much of anything, but this was never about ego, but health – allowing the skin to breathe.
While workplace standards today might not allow for Jo-level threads (or lack of), it’s worth questioning your fashion choices.
Modern activewear is typically form fitting which is great because it allows Pilates Instructors to see the body in motion and assess alignment in our clients: however, wearing tight leggings day-in day-out can be oppressive and negatively impact digestive health and reproductive hygiene (especially in women!)
- Incorporate some looser fitting (workplace appropriate) fashion choices into your teaching wardrobe.
- Bring an alternative outfit to work so you have the option to change into something looser during the day between clients.
3. Good hygiene.
Pilates was a bath-guy: cold for a tonic, hot for cleanliness. He also loved daily dry brushing with the open hands, brush or towel to “bend, stretch and refresh” the skin.
Cleanliness is again linked to “breathing”: bathe to stimulate circulation, and keep your pores open and free of toxins.
Beyond the therapeutic benefits, personal hygiene is an important feature of workplace health and safety in a public-facing industry, especially one where we engage physically and often closely with other people.
- Bathe or shower regularly.
- Have a bath at the end of your working week to relax – you deserve it, and Joe would want it that way.
- Try dry brushing!
- Experiment with cold immersion or heat therapy.
4. Move your body.
People assume that Instructors do Pilates all the time. The reality is rosters and client load means most struggle to find the time or opportunity to schedule their own work outs! (aka “The Instructor Curse”.)
But it doesn’t have to be this way! It’s one of those “make time” scenarios: you spend all day making other people feel good, carve out some time for yourself too! (We know it is this is easier said than done, but try to make it happen.)
Side note: doing Pilates isn’t just good for Instructors’ health, it is also essential for ongoing Self-Mastery. We are always learning in all ways, and commitment to progression in our own practise is important for career longevity and daily inspiration.
Pilates stressed the importance of consistently doing exercise that worked the complete musculature of the body, aka full-body workouts and encouraged people to seek diversity in movement because it makes you a better mover. (And time away from the Method is sometimes good for you too!)
- Schedule weekly self-mastery: try for two to three classes or sessions each week as a minimum.
- Put yourself “back together” at the end of every shift: find three exercises to release and realign your body and complete before you go home.
- Do other things! Take up other fitness formats and sports.
- Listen to your body.
Let’s talk mental health. How you manage it is up to you, but in the context of the workplace we recommend being mindful of:
- Boundaries. Be realistic about how much you can give to clients (shifts, time, energy, communication).
- Don’t over-extend yourself and don’t be afraid to pull back if you do.
- Find support from your colleagues, friends and family when things get too much.
- Seek professional help if you need it.
Self-care isn’t self-ish. It’s about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, so we can then be our best selves for others – at work and home. So, go and invest in you!