Retaining Clients

One of the greatest challenges for Pilates instructors is how to keep things new and exciting for long term clients. This is particularly true at the beginning of a new year, when many clients are looking to mix up their weekly workouts by adding variety or perhaps by integrating a new workout regime into their schedule. Quite simply put, while the beginning of a new year can introduce new clients to your Pilates studio, it can also be a time when old clients may stray if their workouts in the Pilates studio become boring or stagnant.
However, by plugging in some or all of the suggestions below, not only will you retain clients, but the physical results of their workout might prove to be even more rewarding and apparent than ever before. After all, variety is the spice of life and while a fully certified Pilates instructor has a large bag of Pilates exercises, variations and modifications to pull from, what is done with the exercises and how they are put together is the secret ingredient to innovative programming that will draw and keep clients committed to you year after year.

Create a circuit
Many instructors rely on set workouts that focus primarily on 1 or 2 pieces of the Pilates equipment. Additionally, Pilates has always mandated that the focus is quality over quantity and therefore, the number of repetitions are limited to around 8-10. But, why not mix things up a little bit by including a rotation through 4 – 5 exercises after you’ve properly warmed up your client? A smart way to select the exercises is to think about what you want to focus on and then find several exercises that target it. And there’s nothing stopping you from increasing the intensity during round two if you feel your client is up for it. For example, let’s suppose I want to emphasize the gluts and hamstrings. I might do the following exercises in a circuit:

  • Four Point Kneeling: kick backs with one leg using flex-band (10 reps on each leg)
  • Knee Stretches on Reformer in Neutral: Knees Down (10 reps)
  • Squats at Cadillac with Arm Springs (10 reps)
  • Alternating Forward Lunges with 8-15 lb. Arm Weights (10 reps on each leg)
  • Forward Step Up on Stability Chair (5 reps on each leg)
  • To increase the second and third circuit, I might decide to:
  • After 10 reps of the kick backs, keep the leg straight and do lower and lift for 5 reps
  • Intensify the Knee Stretches by taking it to Knees Off (10 reps)
  • After the last repetition, stay at the bottom of the squat and add in 5 bicep curls
  • Start holding onto one weight with both hands. At the bottom of each squat rotate the torso over the front, bent leg
  • After the last repetition, step halfway down and transition into Backward Step Down for 5 reps

Don’t be afraid to do more with your Pilates tandems
It’s always been good practice to get your duets (2 person workouts) moving through the same exercises. The more the workout is identical for both, the quicker the pace is apt to be and the harder the workout. But, for those tandems who are familiar enough with the exercises and have a strong awareness of their body and alignment, you might decide to mix things up a bit by working both clients through a different exercise each and then switching them. The trick is to keep the exercise choice simple enough so that your cueing is clear and concise. However, simple needn’t be basic. Below are a few examples of exercises that might work well for your duet/tandem sessions:

  • Lat Pull Standing at Cadillac with Push Thru Bar/Long Stretch on Reformer
  • Knee Stretches with Round Back on Reformer/Elephant on Stability Chair
  • Torso Rotation Kneeling on Cadillac with Arm Springs/Side Bends on Ladder Barrel
  • Ports de Bras on Spine Corrector/Port de Bras on Cadillac with Roll Down Bar

Add in weights
Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a rack of light hand weights (at Studio³, we have 5 – 15 lbs.) can add in some traditional weight training moves that are complimented by the Pilates awareness and focus. Keep the weights light and make sure that you do a weight lifting exercise on its own rather than attempting to add weights into a Pilates exercise. So, one idea would be to go back to the circuit suggestion (see #1 above) and perhaps add in:

  • Shoulder Rows: with left knee and hand on Reformer carriage and right foot on floor hold weight in right hand. Keeping back straight and in neutral, begin with the arm long. Gently retract right scapulae and flex elbow to pull weight up to front of shoulder. Lengthen arm with control. Repeat 15 times on each arm.
  • 1 or 2 arm overhead press with biceps curl: Before you do this exercise, make sure your client has the biomechanics of it, without the weight. Select the appropriate weight for your client and having them stand in neutral with soft knees, start with a weight in each hand.
  • In: bend right elbow, palm facing shoulder
  • Ex: press arm overhead and rotate palm to face inward
  • In: bend elbow and lower weight to shoulder
  • Ex: lengthen elbow and lower arm to side
  • Repeat on opposite side and alternate for 10 reps or do both arms for a total of 5 reps.

Exercise of the day/week/month:
A great way to get yourself through a busy day and keep each workout fresh and creative, is to pick an exercise that can be broken down and adapted to most of your clientele. What about something like the Leg Pull Front? Here’s an exercise that could be done starting from four- point kneeling and just hovering the knees, progressing towards a plank and eventually the full exercise. For those clients who can’t bear weight on their wrists or don’t quite have the shoulder girdle endurance to hold the position, try propping their forearms on a long box, pressing the hands together to make a V with the lower arms. Use this position for either the prep or the full. And if you really want to get your clients and other instructors’ involved, why not post a weekly or monthly exercise that describes the goals and target muscles involved?

Commit to your own workouts:
For instructors, sometimes the hardest commitment can be to our own workouts. It’s important to remember that your own Pilates workouts are not a luxury, but a required staple of your weekly schedule. It is a requirement so that you can connect into exercises and gain some insight into different ways to cue, correct and guide clients to feel the more subtle connections that make a Pilates workout that much more rewarding. If you can’t find an instructor class (see for our monthly instructor classes and workshops), then work in time each week to bring yourself through a workout. One of the best ways to do this is to plan ahead not just with scheduling, but also with your workout. Rather than planning to go into the studio on your down time, plan on going into the studio on your down time with a specific workout routine that you’ve put together for yourself. Perhaps it’s just a classical mat workout. Or maybe it’s a series of exercises that you want to review so that you can add it into your clientele’s routines. Better yet, maybe you’re looking at ways to add in weights or develop a circuit and have created a routine that you’d like to try out!

Become inspired:
As instructors we are constantly giving to our clients. Sometimes the best way to access new ideas and approaches is by becoming the student. And this by no means is limited to being a Pilates student in another instructor’s class. Instead, think about things you’ve always wanted to do or learn and try to commit to taking that time for yourself. Maybe it’s learning a language, or taking a night class in philosophy or world issues. Or perhaps it’s exploring another form of fitness altogether such as karate, yoga or dance. Whatever works for you and your time, being a student and learning how to learn and listen is often the best way to develop and retain patience, communication skills and a greater appreciation of the dynamics that are so key between client and instructor within the Pilates studio.