There is a fast growing trend in personal and Pilates teacher training towards a completely virtual experience. Technology has certainly made it possible for us to see and hear all types of educational content, but what of those skills that are meant to be “felt”? In a field that is rooted in physicality, I am genuinely afraid that our next generation of instructors will be critically unprepared and potentially dangerous.
When I was programming our Continuing education this Winter, I had several goals in mind. We have the advantage of being an intimate studio with a small program so attention is always available. But I wanted to buck the trend and make sure that any one taking a course at my studio got actual practice time with a real student as a body, (as opposed to another teacher pretending to be a student). Having bodies to practice new techniques is a critical missing piece of continuing education in the industry.
Real life training prepares you for real life clients. On a recent early morning in midtown Manhattan I found myself teaching a class. My voice was pounding in my ears. I could hear each breath amplified even as I struggled to make sure my waving arms and tapping feet would not disrupt the wires and microphone directly in front of me. I could see the muscles of my student tensing, feel her fight for her coordination and balance and begin to get frustrated. Her shoulders were tensing and I quickly commanded, “Shoulders relaxed”. Then I opened my eyes. There was no one in the room but me. I was teaching to an imaginary client while recording a series of audio workouts. If I hadn’t handled thousands of bodies, I would never be able to “sense” what my students need.
I marvel at the fact that after 20 years of teaching I’m able to not just see, but genuinely “feel” the student in front of me – real or imagined. Laying hands on bodies day after day develops your tactile perception, sensory intuition and your instincts to an almost preternatural level. Most of my colleagues possess similar abilities having trained to teach in the days before video technology became a substitute for a living breathing mentor. Developing your ability to control the session, the client and your results are skills that only come with human interaction.
Don’t get me wrong. I love gadgets and I believe in spreading good information as far and wide as possible thru whatever means. But how can you train someone to handle another human being without actually having them use their hands? Learning to “sense” what a body needs is a skill that requires you to log in an inordinate amount of time manually manipulating a variety of body types and an equal amount of personality types.
Virtual training, webinars books, and other materials must come second or third to the actual teaching experience in personal and Pilates training. Using these mediums as review or back up system is a great idea but the foundations for personal training require person-to-person time and a distinctly hands on approach.
If you plan to be a trainer who doesn’t actually meet with clients or provide a one on one experience then by all means, a virtual training may be a first step in the right direction. But if your career path involves working with actual bodies, you will need much more than a series of videos to prepare you. As a trainer already working in the field, your continuing education opportunities tend to come few and far between. Be sure to choose wisely and whenever possible step away from the screen and into the studio.
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