Build your Pilates career

If you’re a new instructor, one of the best ways to start working and building your hours is to sub classes. The wonderful thing about our industry is that there is always someone somewhere who needs a class covered.

When I first started teaching, the thought of building my schedule up from 1 hour a week to 20 hours a week seemed like a daunting and overwhelming task.  Now, a year and a half later, I have an almost consistently full schedule and regularly have to turn down subbing opportunities. This is solely thanks to my openness and eagerness to work early on, and several important steps I took to make sure that subbing work would come my way.

What are my secrets to getting busy and filling my schedule?

The first and most important thing I did was to make sure that all of my colleagues knew that I was available to sub — not only for them, but for anyone else they knew in the industry that might need help. Send out mass emails to every teacher you know, and make sure you mention it in person too. If people know you are available, they will ask! I was lucky early in my teaching to have other instructors who trusted me and gave me opportunities to get my feet wet by teaching classes or subbing privates. To any established instructors reading this I would say: remember that newer instructors need those opportunities, and are grateful for the work and learning opportunities they provide!

How do I prepare to sub for a class?

Once I started to get subbing work, I followed 4 simple guidelines that ensured that clients gave positive feedback and instructors asked me back again.

#1 – Do your homework.

Whenever possible, whether you’ve got weeks, days or hours to prepare for your subbing experience, speak to the instructor about the class you are about to cover. If you can, go to the class to get a sense of the teacher’s style, pacing, cues and exercise choices.

Ask them about clients to watch out for, like people with injuries or issues that might need special attention. This goes a long way, not only in ensuring the trust of the instructor, but also of the clients you are about to see. If you don’t have time to take the class, then ask for tips or advice from the teacher in an email – this way you have it written down for last minute prep!

#2 – Always show up early.

We’ve all heard this over and over and over, but when you are subbing a class it can make the difference between an awesome experience and a horrible one. Every studio/gym/or wherever you go is different; the physical space is different, the staff are different, the availability of a room or props or music might be different.

Make sure that you arrive early to orient yourself to the space and prepare as much as possible — whether that means checking you have the right props, or dropping off your stuff and taking 5 minutes for yourself, especially if you are new and nervous!

#3 – Introduce yourself!

No brainer, right? I can’t tell you how many times early on my nerves got the best of me, and I jumped right into pelvic tilts without telling anyone who I was or why I was there!

Whenever you sub a class, always start by having everyone standing. That way you’re all on the same level (quite literally), everyone can see you, and you can address them clearly and easily. Introduce yourself by saying your first and last name like so: “Hi, my name is Lucie, Lucie Pinto.” That way, they hear your first name twice, and will make more of a personal connection with you.

#4 In Two Parts! – a) Assure people of your relationship with or knowledge of their regular instructor, and b) stick around after the class for questions and feedback.

I find this puts people at ease and makes them more comfortable with the sudden switch. You’re never going to completely fill the shoes of whoever’s class you are subbing, so you should expect that some people won’t be happy with the change. Keep it light, and don’t try to be anyone or adopt any style that doesn’t feel natural. You’ll be surprised how people might appreciate your fresh approach. After the class, make sure you stay in the room. People may want to ask your name or where else you teach — these are good signs! It means they may give feedback to the current location’s staff, or may want to take more classes with you!

Feedback is your best friend

The more people are talking about you, the more work you’re going to get! If you take the time to follow some of these easy and straightforward steps, you will be invited back again and again, and you will see your schedule explode in no time! Remember; Do Your Homework, Show Up Early, Introduce Yourself, Assure People about their regular instructor and Listen for Feedback!

Please share the following in the comments section below:

Tell us about a time when your subbing went really wrong.
Or, share your secrets for subbing success!

Good luck!


Lucie trained as a dancer before becoming a Pilates instructor, and it was her love of movement and the need for strength and alignment in her own body that led her to Pilates and then to teaching. She now works full time at Body Harmonics. Check out her schedule to take a class with her!