Meet a Pilates Instructor

Interviews with real people in real roles across our industry.

Name:Catherine Neal
Role: Pilates Instructor
Qualifications: Diploma of Pilates, Bachelor of Arts in Dance, Certificate IV in Education, ASCA Strength and Conditioning.

Interested in finding out more about a career as a Pilates Instructor? Read our Career Guide.

Q&A with Catherine Neal

Before I started, I wanted to combine my interests in health, helping people, anatomy, and biomechanics with my background in dancing. I really liked that Pilates had a lot of joy and movement, as well as an opportunity to be creative. 

The fact that Pilates could pull together a lot of different interests seemed appealing to me.

I originally started training as a physiotherapist. I then decided to follow my passion for dance by becoming a dance teacher. I fell into Pilates thinking it was something I could teach alongside dance, but once I started the training, I realised how much more depth it had to it and that there was potential for a career as an instructor.

Pilates wasn’t well recognised within the industry when I first gained my qualifications. It was a qualification that was only taught in a handful of places. I only came across it because the place I was training to become a qualified dance teacher offered Pilates training. 

20 years ago, pathways in Pilates didn’t exist. It’s only in recent history that pathways have begun to open. For me, I just had to take the opportunity from the training and discover the career as it evolved.

I completed a Certificate IV in Pilates (non-current) as soon as it became available. I then moved this training on to complete a Diploma of Pilates. You can now complete an Advanced Diploma in Pilates

Going straight to the Diploma is generally the way to go for instructors coming through now. It is considered the entry-level requirement for all instructors, whereas the Advanced Diploma is for those who are looking to coach special populations and elite athletes. 

My other qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in Dance, a Certificate IV in Education, and a Strength and Conditioning course through the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA).

I have also continued to build my knowledge of the Pilates industry by attending conferences and workshops and taking smaller courses to refine certain skills. 

There are a lot of people in the industry who instruct Pilates as a full-time career and have no intention of moving into something else. The job has so much to offer if you commit to it as your primary role. 

The industry is changing and growing over time, so full-time opportunities are becoming more readily available. 

It is a very important element of the job, particularly in studio environments where you are working with clients who have been in pain, are new to exercising, or have had negative experiences with certain exercises. Often there is a lot of fear around new movements so they don’t trust their bodies or sometimes even the instructor. 

We generally work with Pilates to build pain-free experiences where we slowly introduce new movement patterns so clients can build trust in their bodies. This will then allow them to build trust with the instructor. 

It can be very rewarding and powerful for both the client and instructor to watch someone go from a place of being fearful or restricted back to a condition where they can get up off the floor without pain.  

Every day in the industry looks different. Most of my days begin with a combination of notes and preparing programs. This then leads to lots of 1-on-1, group, or virtual classes that I instruct. 

By the end of the day, I’m taking more notes, answering emails, coordinating with clients for bookings, and communicating with other instructors or health professionals about a client and how to manage them.

The biggest surprise about the job is that there is a real social connection that comes with Pilates, whether it’s between clients or instructors. There is often a big sense of community that develops amongst our clients. There’s time between classes and exercises to talk, so clients get to know each other which builds a sense of belonging for everyone involved.  

As an instructor, you realise you’re not just there for the physical side of things. You’re looking after a full person, which includes talking about their challenges and stresses in other parts of life.

My favourite part of the job is seeing people feel better at the end of a session compared to the beginning of it. 

Clients will come in with different challenges, restrictions, or even a bad mood. When they get to the end of a session and say, “I feel so much better than I did an hour ago”, that never gets old. It is always wonderful to hear that. 

The most important thing is to get out there and try different styles of classes and teachers when you begin your training. People are only just finding out about the huge variety in the landscape of Pilates. There are mat-based, group reformer, and studio classes that all require different skills. There’s also a big variety in the way instructors teach their clients and train themselves. 

Experience the different styles of Pilates and then find something you enjoy. Talk to people in the industry to find out what their training or qualifications are, then you’ll have an idea of what to pursue for your training.

Gyms and Pilates studios are wanting candidates who can communicate well, be reliable and flexible. Being a responsible and committed employee is important. Feeling confident in your teaching and being willing to learn are attributes that create a great Pilates Instructor.

It keeps you active and on your feet. Instructing allows you to stay connected with both clients and other professionals.  The job is also quite flexible. If you need to work around family commitments, there is the ability to build a full-time role that doesn’t have to be the typical 9-5. It is also a profession where you are constantly stimulated and learning on the job.

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