Tips on Starting a Successful Pilates Program
By Ken Endelman, Balanced Body, Inc.
Thinking of starting a Pilates program? Fitness centers all over the world are realizing
substantial revenue increases by implementing profitable Pilates programs. However,
success does require some planning. Here are some things to think about before
1. Gauge member interest
Poll your members and see if there is enough interest to start a program. If
so, you will want to put together a business plan, which should include
answers to the following questions.
2. Gauge floor space
Do you have enough room for a mat class? Equipment class? Keep in mind
that the total footprint you’ll need will be more than the actual dimensions of
the equipment. For instance, an Allegro Reformer by itself requires around 24
square feet of space. However, the actual space required for the equipment,
when in use, is about 60 square feet.
Also, Pilates is a “mind-body” exercise. Your classroom needs a place where
members can focus on their movements. It shouldn’t be placed next to a
basketball court or a step class.
3. Hiring and training instructors
Train your existing staff? Hire externally? There are pros and cons to both.
Internally: If you’re willing to invest a little time, the benefits of hiring
existing staff are significant. Your instructors are already familiar with your
club membership, dynamic and philosophy. Many Pilates equipment
manufacturers now offer on-site instructor training packages, so it’s a good
idea to consult them for education tips.
Externally: Hiring new instructors who are already trained in Pilates is a good
alternative if you want to start your program quickly. However, as just
mentioned, your Pilates instructor needs to be in sync with your club’s
philosophy. Your hiring process should emphasize this point.
4. Establish a Pilates champion
Once you have your instructors, you need to select one who can “carry the
Pilates flag” for your club. This person should have a vested interest in the
success of the program. Charge them to maximize class participation and run
the program smoothly. You’ll need someone who is a certified instructor, with
strong organizational, marketing and leadership skills.
5. Choosing the right equipment
Get familiar with the various pieces of Pilates equipment. You’ll get a feel for
the exercise as well as what kind of equipment will be best for your center.
Choosing an actual equipment vendor is based on many variables, including
price, quality, and durability. You should also investigate what role that
company will take with your program. A good manufacturer shouldn’t just sell
equipment – they should want a role in helping your program to succeed and
grow. Check to see if they offer additional services like instructor training,
marketing, business planning, leasing and more.
6. Buying or leasing
Run the numbers to see which is best for your facility. Your vendor should be
able to assist.
Many facilities start with free mat classes, and transition those who are
interested into fee-based Reformer classes. However, keep in mind that
matwork is not an introductory form of the exercise. It is actually harder than
Reformer work, because it offers less assisted resistance.
Despite the popularity of Pilates, members aren’t just going to walk in
through the front door. Lots of simple ways exist to effectively market your
program to both your existing members and your community. Fliers, emails
and free demos are just some of the ways you can promote the program.
Plan for anywhere between 4-6 months from initially gauging membership
interest, to launching your program. Your launch date should be considered
the first training date if you are training existing staff, or the first day of your
classes if you hire external instructors.
Ken Endelman is the Founder and CEO of Balanced Body Inc. www.pilates.com.