Marci Clark, education director for SPIN Pilates, a Mad Dogg Athletics educational program, is an international presenter on fitness and wellness programming with more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Clark’s business and industry experience have made her a sought-after consultant. She is widely published in the areas of Pilates and fitness programming. She can be reached at marci@spinfitness.com.

You know that instructors make or break the programming at your fitness facility. So how do you find—and keep—the most dynamic and qualified instructors around?

The key to building and maintaining a successful Pilates staff is smart hiring and regular instructor evaluations.

The Hiring Process

The best place to start when looking for great instructors is in your own facility. Extend the opportunity for your staff members to become certified Pilates instructors. Chose reliable staff members who are strategic and business-minded enough to communicate what is going well and what needs work within your program.

For new hires, follow the steps and questions provided in the following three phases: the phone interview, the live interview and the audition. It will ensure you have effectively screened your candidates and will be able to choose a qualified instructor who fits into your company’s culture.

Phase One: The Phone Interview

The phone interview is an effective way for you to get a feel for the candidate’s personality and communication skills, and can save you time during the interview process by helping you to eliminate certain prospects.

Here are some questions to ask during the phone interview:

  • Why do you want to be part of our team?
  • What new skills can you bring to the team?
  • What is your personal fitness routine?

You should look for a well-rounded leader who can expand into other areas of the facility, such as someone who is also a certified personal trainer. Most clients do more than just Pilates, and instructors must be able to see the benefits of the other exercises and be able to advise their clients.

Phase Two: The Live Interview

During a live interview, determine the candidate’s level of knowledge of Pilates and ability to think on his or her feet.

Here are some questions to ask during the live interview:

  • Explain neutral spine in layman’s terms for a client.
  • When performing supine exercises, such as the hundred, is your spine completely in neutral alignment?
  • If someone in your class complains of low-back pain during any of the supine exercises, what would be your solution to this problem?
  • Explain how the breath in Pilates can help someone improve the function of his or her daily activities.
  • On the leg circles exercise, is it safe to circle the leg in internal rotation? Why or why not?
  • Can exercises, such as the teaser or rollover, be performed safely and effectively in a group class setting? Explain how and why.
  • Why do you use bony landmarks in the body to assess neutral alignment?

If candidates cannot answer these questions competently and with conviction, then you won’t want to bring them in for phase three.

Phase Three: The Audition
Screen for technique and capability during the audition. Use a Pilates instructor evaluation form (for tips on developing one, see below) to assess the candidate’s ability to successfully teach a Pilates class.

Here are the things to look for in a candidate during an audition:

  • A Pilates style that matches your facility’s mission.
  • An ability to explain how Pilates fits into an overall fitness regimen and how it complements other types of exercise.
  • Enthusiasm and charisma.
  • Ability to interact well with fellow instructors, staff and members.
  • Inclusion of modifications and progressions where applicable.
  • Understanding of when, how and why to make modifications.
  • Ability to create classes that flow seamlessly with minimal transitions.
  • Pleasant vocal quality.
  • Eye contact.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of biomechanics and kinesthesiology.

Keep Growing with a Successful Staff

Once your program is up and running, resist the temptation to put it on autopilot. Allow your staff members to learn from each other by holding instructor meetings and offering a mentoring program for new instructors. Your Pilates program will also benefit from adding new equipment. If you started with a mat program, add small accessories such as rings and rollers. As your program grows, consider adding reformers, towers and chairs. This not only can add to your program, but it can also considerably add to your revenue.

Keep your Pilates program strong by evaluating instructors on a regular basis. Prior to the evaluation, give the instructor a list of exercises that must be included in their workout. You want to make sure that the instructor knows your expectations and how they will be evaluated. This can be accomplished by developing an instructor evaluation form.

The evaluation form should contain the following six categories:

1. Pre-class. Do the instructors greet the class and introduce themselves? Do they ask if anyone is new to Pilates so they can give additional help to this person?
2. Neutral alignment and breathing. Do they explain neutral alignment and breathing in the first few minutes of class? Do they reiterate the alignment and breath throughout the class?
3. Supine exercises. Regardless if this is a Pilates mat class or equipment class, the instructor should start the group in supine to properly warm up. This also helps the instructor to evaluate who may need more help during class.
4. Exercise programming. The instructor doesn’t have to adhere to an ordered group of exercises. However, you would not want to see him or her placing a prone exercise within the first 10 minutes of the workout. Prone exercises should be done when the spine is sufficiently warmed up, and, usually in a group setting, it works best to add these exercises about 20 minutes to 30 minutes into a 60-minute workout.
5. Exercise modifications/progression. Does the instructor show or verbally explain or demonstrate modifications and progressions for each exercise?
6. Contraindications. Did the instructor note any contraindications for certain exercises before beginning the exercise setup? One example of this would be osteoporosis of the spine in the rolling exercise series.
For additional instructor and facility resources, go to spinfitness.com.