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How are Pilates instructors responding to lockdown and reopening in April 2021?

Working alongside a UK Pilates Apparatus manufacturer, whilst both running an instructor training academy and providing business support to several UK Pilates studios, provides interesting industry insights.

Current expectations are for class sizes to include fewer people in line with social distancing measures. In turn, those running the sessions must demand higher session charges. This may seem counterintuitive given declining household disposable income and economic fears but it is economic reality. Instructors and studio owners are recognising that re-opening with a similar timetable to pre-Covid times is a recipe for disaster. The idea of spreading a smaller number of clients across the same number of classes is a recipe for poor profitability and a lack of atmosphere in poorly attended classes. It seems wiser to reduce the timetable dramatically and fill a smaller number of face-to-face sessions before further opening the in-person timetable. Simultaneously, many will offer pre-recorded/live virtual classes to a wider audience at a lower price to replace lost revenue in the studio.

Meanwhile, a small proportion of Apparatus studios have taken the decision to expand to create more socially distanced space to maintain client numbers in the studios. There has been a visible shift away from ‘circuit’ classes, in which people rotate from one Pilates apparatus to another. Instead programming is focussing on one or at most two pieces of apparatus per class – Reformer only, Reformer & Tower, and Reformer & Chair are popular themes. There is a move away from fixed stations on the floor (for example a Reformer-Tower combo) towards versatile spaces with towers mounted on walls and Reformers than can stand on end next to them to open up floor space for other activities.

During lockdown, literally thousands of more affluent Pilates customers have been purchasing Reformers for their own homes and they have joined the Covid-19 Buzz around ‘staying fit to stay alive’. A feeling that the GP and hospitals are no longer a first port of call during the pandemic has led to an increased adoption of Clinical Pilates. As such, this is seen as a likely large growth area for 2021 and beyond. Currently it is noted in the ‘virtual’ activity of Medically trained Pilates Instructors but is expected to be a theme for Pilates Instructors confident in their abilities to specialise in post rehab and work one on one or in themed small groups.

Entrepreneurial Pilates Teachers who previously only offered matwork are now signing up in large numbers to train on Reformer & Tower courses. The move to Apparatus training is more heavily focussed in the NW or UK with Liverpool & Manchester notable areas. Courses which offer Virtual learning options are proving more popular than waiting for the market to reopen for face to face instructor training.

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