Pilates class. Photo from flickr user heraldpost.
1) The Cult of the Personality is a Dangerous, but Effective Tool
My favorite Pilates teacher at the RSF is very popular. She’s so popular that if for some reason she does not appear at class and a substitute is sent in, more than 50% of the class shamelessly gets up, rolls up their mats, and leaves the room in disdain.
She starts off the class with a warning that the style of Pilates we are about to be guided through is a perfected blend of classical moves and scientifically updated exercises. She warns that any other class might cause unalterable damage to our delicate bodies. Throughout the hour she makes snide remarks about yoga, aerobics, and abs & back, letting any doubters know that if they don’t like her way of doing things they are welcome to leave and head to the inferior options.
The problem is that, over the three years I’ve been a disciple of this teacher, she has slowly but surely cut her hours at the RSF. She used to teach three mornings and two afternoons, then cut back to mornings only. This semester she hung us out to dry on Friday mornings, so that we only have two precious hours per week with her. Her indoctrination has been so effective that rather than go to other classes on those days I would rather do nothing, which is definitely counterproductive for my transversus abdominis.
Lesson: Romancing your students a bit with your special expertise can get them hooked on your subject matter—but also on you. Use your powers wisely.
2) No Business like Show Business
The same teacher I mention above is not only an extremely knowledgeable and gifted instructor, but also a magnificent showman. She trills her “R’s”, alternatingly sings and barks instructions, and uses her mesmerizing voice to talk us through all 55 minutes of exercise without missing a beat or checking notes. And the memorization of her routines doesn’t imply boring repetition—she switches things up every class, changing orders of exercises or introducing new moves or equipment to keep us on our toes. She can make a crowd of huffing and puffing exercisers giggle mid-abdominal crunch. And her predictions of bone and muscle decay as the aging process takes its toll is enough to make an 18-year-old work even harder to do her future self a favor.
Lesson: No, we’re not there to entertain our students. But since we have a captive audience, we might as well present our subject with panache.
3) Energy Begets Energy
I’ve tried Group Cycling classes at the RSF at all hours of the day. I have dragged myself to 6:15AM sessions, snuck in pre-dinner evening classes, and skipped lunch to make a noon meeting. The instructor’s energy level, and their soundtrack selection, is always the deciding factor in whether the sacrifice was worth it. If the instructor seems more exhausted or hung-over than the students at the beginning fo the class, there is a good chance they will end the class by complaining about how lazy and slow the spinners were. If, however, the class starts off speeding to blaring Scissor Sisters tunes and the friendly-yet-sadistic instructor smiles as he screams “Get uncomfortable,” chances are the sweat and compliments will fly, and everyone will leave happy.
Lesson: Your students take cues from you. So grab that extra espresso on your way to class and slap a smile on your face. If all else fails, try playing “Filthy/Gorgeous” before an especially drudging grammar lesson. Your class will thank you.