Pilates instructors come from all different walks of life. Many have transitioned from dance or some other discipline of movement. Athletes, gymnasts, fitness trainers. Others come with an academic background: kinesiology, physiotherapy, exercise science. And then there is me. The 9-to-5er who after years of sitting at a desk, complaining about not having time to exercise, decides to embark on a second career and ‘live the dream’.

There are surprisingly many out there like me. We enter the field uneducated in anatomy and wide-eyed about the magic of Pilates as if we have just discovered a magic youth potion. A little fed up feeling like a cog in the corporate wheel, we enter the field in search of a better work life balance. It seems like a good career to get into. You get to work out on the job, craft your own schedule and most importantly, do what you love. Isn’t that the dream? Getting paid for what you love! The prospects seem promising. Fitness and wellness are front page and centre with baby boomers getting older, living longer and now tipping the demographics as Seniors. An abundance of employment opportunities lie ahead.

No more 9 to 5. I’m going to make a living in leggings!

And so you embark on the journey of launching a new career. You sign up for the training and plough through the hours of class time, self practice and practice teaching. You attend classes with a secret notepad and pen and study sequences and cues. You follow other instructors on Instagram. You download anatomy apps on your cell phone. The learning curve is steep and like a roller coaster ride, it can be exhilarating and scary at the same time. Each time you teach feels like your first time on stage at Carnegie Hall. There is constant self-doubt. Will I ever instantly know what to do for an anterior vs posterior tilted pelvis?! Am I supposed to feel my psoas? Your mantra-covered Lululemon bag becomes your daily inspiration. “Do something every day that scares you.” Subbing a new class for the first time? Great. You get to tick that box again.

Anyone who has transitioned careers can relate: being at the bottom end of the learning curve is difficult.

In your previous profession, each day you went into work, you had years of experience to draw upon. Now, you are back to learning the basics. Yes, it’s not 9 to 5, which definitely has its perks, but that often means work is speckled across your week, in the early morning, evenings and weekends when your clients who are working 9 to 5 are available. And your free time is filled with more training, attending classes, practicing and class planning. When you add up all the time you are putting into your new job, you realize it’s not unlike the 40-hour week of your previous career, but with a fraction of the pay.

This is living the dream?!

Embarking on a second journey takes a lot of determination, patience and faith. Even when you love what you are doing, learning new skills in another discipline can be overwhelming.

It’s important to not lose sight of what skills you bring with you from your previous profession.

Below are your core competencies – the transferable skills that we hear about in job retraining. It’s not the ‘what you know’ skills that make the day-to-day part of your job easy. It’s the ‘how you shine’ skills that fulfill you in the long run.

Core Competencies

Do you remember your core competencies from performance evaluations? Well those same strengths from corporate are just as relevant in your new role as a Pilates instructor. See if you recognize any from this list.

  • Accountability
  • Decision making
  • Planning/Prioritization
  • Initiative
  • Organization
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Management
  • Flexibility
  • Emotional Control
  • Teamwork
  • Motivation
  • Innovation
  • Communication
  • Knowledge

Sure, there may be some that are your ‘areas of development’: Knowledge, for instance. Maybe you don’t know the names of the deep 6 rotators of the hip. But as current strategies for employee performance development say, ‘Rock what you are good at’ and don’t stress about the other stuff. It will come.

So take heart, you bring a lot to your new role in ways you may not have even thought. And don’t forget about the good practices in management that you learned in corporate. They apply to your new career as well. Here are a few that come to mind:

Have a strategic plan

Just like any successful business, your career needs to have a roadmap. I often remind myself what my long-term goal is, and what steps I need to take to get to that goal in the short and mid-term. Visit your strategic plan regularly. It helps to keep you on track.

Keep an eye on ROI

There is a Return on Investment with each workshop you attend or piece of equipment you buy. Training costs money, and often, money you aren’t yet making, but the ‘long tail’ effect of education is worth it and the hard work you invest in yourself pays off in dividends.

Stay true to your brand

We all have an individual style, a personal brand. This plays just as important a role in our instructing as the exercises we teach. Knowing your core competencies helps build your confidence and ultimately expand your client list. Remember to rock what you are good at, and the rest will come.

Know your audience

In corporate, you wouldn’t prepare a report or give a presentation without knowing who is receiving the information, or what it’s being used for. Same with teaching Pilates. Tuning in to your clients’ abilities, needs, goals helps you choose your approach and which exercises to do. It will make the experience more relevant for them and ultimately less stressful for you.

Learning new skills. Applying old skills in new ways. It’s all part of the journey. For me, it’s been a year since I left the desk job to teach Pilates. I still have a long way to go but I know I’m on the right path. Am I living the dream? Well, according to my Lululemon bag I am. I’m doing what I love, and inspiring others to feel great. And yes, I am making a living while wearing leggings.


Author: Jackie Pardy

Jackie Pardy PilatesJackie is a Pilates & Movement teacher. In addition to holding a Bachelor of Arts, Jackie has the following diplomas: Body Harmonics Mat & Reformer, Body Harmonics Anatomy & Biomechanics Specialist diploma and Balanced Body Mat & Reformer Pilates diploma.

“There’s nothing more rewarding to me than helping someone feel good. Whatever your shape or size, whether you’re conquering a physical goal or overcoming an injury, a positive relationship with your body leads to a better quality of life, both physically and mentally.”