What's It Like to be a Pilates Instructor


Andrea O’Dell has been teaching Pilates for almost a decade and has owned her own studio, Club Pilates, for two years. She’s a master of the curl, the teaser, the plank and the Pilates One Hundred.

   “When I had my first child, I was introduced to reformer Pilates and started taking classes with an instructor. I just became addicted, and when it was time for me to go back to work, I didn’t want to go. I ended up taking a nine-month course and received my Pilates certification, I have been teaching ever since.”

   In the 1920s, Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer and elite athlete, created a series of exercises he called Contrology. It was first used as physical therapy to help WWI soldiers recover from injuries. While Contrology gained an avid following with dancers like Martha Graham and George Balanchine, the name did not, and people began calling it Pilates.

   “One of my favorite stories from when I first started, I had this client who was a grandmother. Her goal was to go to her grandson’s band concert, and the reason she could not go was because she wasn’t able to walk up stairs. She was afraid that if she sat on a bleacher she wouldn’t be able to get back up and that she might embarrass her grandson. We worked really hard on balance, mobility, and strengthening her core and quads to be able to get up from those bleachers. She was able to do it!”

   The reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment that looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys.

   “We have a level 2.5 that clients can come to if they have been coming to Pilates for at least six months and have no injuries. We will do splits on the reformer, standing lunges on the chair and sometimes we get as crazy as doing a backbend on the reformer.”

   Pilates focuses on the core muscles in the “powerhouse” (abs, pelvic floor, lower back), proper alignment of the spine, and awareness of breath.

   “The most difficult part is when someone falls off of their program, and you just know you would love to get them back on and show them that they can do it.”

   One of the biggest misconceptions about Pilates is that it’s a form of yoga. It’s not. Pilates is a physical fitness system.

   “Some people, as soon as we meet, begin to confide in me. It is important for me to establish a good relationship with a client where they can trust me and they can be 100 percent real. I need to know about them and what their limitations are for their safety, and also just so I know where they want to go with their goals.”

   “One of my clients had her grown daughters home for Thanksgiving and they asked their mom if she got a new bra and she said, ‘No, it’s Pilates.’”