One of the most important pieces of the teaching puzzle is programming. A program is targeted and specific to an individual’s postural needs and training goals.
During teacher training courses, we discuss programming. You’re given the tools to begin to understand how a program can be developed for an individual’s needs and goals. As a class we discuss sample client profiles in the Support Materials Manual. Reviewing your notes and the programming sections in your manual is a perfect way to start understanding programming. But before you accept your first paying clients, spend a little extra time “workshopping” programming with these real-life scenarios.
Let’s pretend you’ve got a brand-new client on your schedule. Say the client has been pre-screened by the receptionist and has no acute injuries. You’re told the client is looking for general conditioning. This is the perfect client for you because general conditioning is exactly what your foundational training has prepared you for. Your new client shows up a few minutes before their scheduled appointment to fill out the registration or intake form. They hand you their completed form. You decide not to perform a static postural assessment, and must quickly assess the starting point for a session based on their intake form and a few questions.
Key points of the intake form that help you assess a programming entry point:
Prior Injuries or Aches & Pains
Look to see if the client has any old aches, pains, or minor injuries that you might want to either address or avoid.
Get a sense of what the client’s goals are. Your program will need to connect to the client’s goal. If the client wants to have more tone in her arms for her wedding, you will need to address this goal in your session. Review in your head exercises that will help them feel the parts of their body that they want to work on.
Look at the client’s daily activities and physical demands. If your client is a baker, think of all the habitual motions i.e. carrying heavy flour and butter, mixing, standing for long periods. Brainstorm exercises and modifications that both help train their bodies to support these repetitive movements as well as getting them moving in new ways.
Ask Clarification Questions
If there are any partial answers or points you need clarified, just ask.
Look at Their Posture While Chatting
Take notice of their posture as you talk to them and start to warm them up. Are there any postural issues that they didn’t mention that you need to address?
Check out these sample intake forms based on real clients (PDF):
Every client is unique and should therefore have a personalized session that address their needs. Your first session is a great opportunity to start forming a program to meet these needs. These strategies for the first session program launch are key to ensuring programming success. Of course your program will evolve over subsequent sessions, however, a client is more likely to re-book with you if they feel the session addressed their goals through a program unique to their posture, strength, and lifestyle.
Additional focus should be placed on infusing the Basic Principles into every exercise, highlighting the benefits of Pilates, and maybe even mentioning a bit about Joseph Pilates’ life. For more general goals for your first session, check out the article Eight Rules for Successful Sessions. A good session will seamlessly blend a program with our eight general goals for introductory sessions.