Less Talk, More Pilates

By: Carla Ricalis

(working with unfocused clients – Part 1 of 3)

As Pilates instructors, we fill a specific niche in personal training. We’re working both body and mind, but also strengthening our clients’ self-awareness, spatial control and coordination with a variety of learning techniques.

Verbal cues can help clients learn to listen better while mental imagery and visualization are skills that will circle back to help them move well and connect with their bodies.

But what to do about the client that would rather talk than listen or focus on movement?

Or those that come in distracted and very much outside of their bodies? This is a common challenge, and one that needs to be tackled differently for each of those clients that aren’t present (mindfully speaking) at the beginning of class.

Check out these tips in this 3 part post and see if any might resonate with you – and don’t forget our Studio3 Better Self-Awareness 3 weeks series starting March 1 where we’ll go over some great programming to help you get your clients back into the session and bringing some awareness into their workout.

Because even though it’s great to get caught up with your regulars, if a session is guided by their inability to focus, it’s going to be a long one and chances are it won’t feel as rewarding to you when it ends.

The right starting position

Getting your clients to focus on what’s going on in their session instead of outside of it means figuring out some subtle ways to increase their self-awareness.

Choose a starting exercise that requires some control of an external force. Whether that’s springs, the floor, pedals, carriage, bands or weights, an outside resistance can ground them and be a quick physical and mental stimulation that will increase their focus.

Secondly, start with exercises that have simple movements or minimal joint involvement. Instead of an exercise that requires a ton of movement cues from you, pick one where the movement is fairly self explanatory (ie: push and pull) so that you can emphasize mental imagery and visualization. This can promote better self-awareness and start to get their minds back into the space and their session.

Additionally, consider starting with an exercise that is simple in its movement so it matches the level of focus your client has coming into the session.

For example, if they seem chatty or stressed and disconnected, the Roll Down on the Cadillac might not rein in their attention; there’s just too many moving parts both in the body and equipment.

But Lat Pull Standing with alternating foot lifts taught with strong cues and subtle corrections that encourage a grounding stance, their eye gaze, the doming of the feet, the movement initiation and intent could be a great way to pull them back into their mind and body.

Spark focus with simplicity, continuity and nuance.

Once you’re into the workout and have established what position helped them to focus, keep it going.

So, if they began standing, get them activated in a standing position and incorporate balance and endurance exercises for the duration of the workout before adding supine and prone positions near the end.

This doesn’t mean keep them standing for 45 minutes but rather programming a sequence of exercises that move between 2 positions of stability/instability using simplistic changes, continuity and nuance to focus their attention.

As an example, alternate between arm work seated on the Stability Ball with standing arm work at the Spring Wall. This can spark a focus of transferring movement awareness and information from one exercise to the next but keep the movement information similar enough that it holds their attention.

Read the second part of this post on March 8 as we go over a few more tips on how to refocus your unfocused clients and make the time with them more rewarding.