Do We Need to Motivate Pilates Clients


Episode 30:

Today on The Pilates Exchange Podcast, Hannah broaches a topic of discussion that has been popping up in a few different Facebook groups lately: do we need to motivate our clients?

Is it part of our job as Pilates instructors to make sure that they stay engaged and keep coming to classes? Or does our job description end with generously sharing our expertise?

Join the conversation to find out why Hannah believes, as part of her values, that it is a fundamental aspect of her job to motivate her clients. She delves into why she believes you can’t just show up and dump your expertise, how we can ignite and lend our passion, and some of the different forms that motivating clients can take.

You’ll also learn how to navigate seemingly low-motivation environments or behaviours and gain insights into mastering self-motivation and teaching clients how to tap into their intrinsic motivation. Tune in for all this and more!


Key Points From This Episode:


  • Why motivating her clients is part of Hannah’s set of values.
  • Reasons that it might not be enough to show up, teach your class, and be done with it.
  • Igniting passion for movement and the indispensability of the motivational aspect of teaching.
  • How motivating your clients can look like a bunch of different things.
  • Defining motivation and navigating an environment of seemingly low motivation. 
  • Why Hannah won’t adopt the “no pain no gain” method and the approach she takes instead.
  • Insights into mastering self-motivation to continue to do the hard things.
  • How Pilates teachers become role models of the mindset of their work.
  • Hannah shares a story about a client finding his way.
  • Considerations for how you are (or can be) a motivator to your clients and students. 
  • The importance of setting our expectations regarding motivation.



[0:00:00] HT: “– helper syndrome where you go out and you’re trying to help every single person and do the thing for them. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about something, I think that it feels different, at least in my mind. I think that’s where great coaching comes in. I think that’s where great business practices come in. I think that’s where the magic of teaching really finds its roots.”




[0:00:30] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We will be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity.


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. What I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. 


We, as movement teachers and coaches, have the power to help people experience this for themselves. Okay, everyone, let’s dive in exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time. This is The Pilates Exchange.




[0:01:28] HT: I just wanted to touch today on an interesting discussion that has happened in a couple of different Facebook groups lately about the question of is it our job as a Pilates instructor to motivate our clients, our students? So, is it part of our job to make sure that they stay engaged, stay motivated, and keep coming to classes? Or is our job description, does that end with sharing your expertise, sharing generously of your expertise, but is that where that ends? Like where’s the line for different instructors? And how do you feel about that personally?


Spoiler alert, I’m going to go right in and say that in my studio, and in my experience, part of my values are to motivate people. There’s no surprise there, where I’m going to be going with this. But I do understand that there are different reasons why you might not feel this way. But let me explain a little bit about how that is a value of ours and why I feel this is really important.


For some people, Pilates offers an alternative to other fitness realms, sometimes the fitness industry can be very, very intimidating, depending on where you’re starting from. There’s a lot of different body stereotypes that are going in there. There are a lot of different barriers to get through, whatever they may be for people’s particular situations.


We have this unique ability to, as a Pilates studio, or instructor to catch people wherever they are. Especially, because Pilates is such a great form, a way of – there’s so many different ways to be creative and to modify movement, to be able to meet people, wherever they are, whatever they’re going through in their bodies, whether they’re an elite athlete, or maybe they’re recovering from an injury, or anything in between. Never moved before in their life.


So, I think that is a very unique place in the fitness spectrum. That is one of the reasons why I think it is so important to work on our motivational skills, our coaching skills as teachers. Because maybe we’re getting people that are not in maybe a traditional space of fitness. What do I mean by that? I think there’s a stereotype of the gym junkies. Like the people that find it very easy to get up at 5 am, and then they go run on the treadmill, and then they do their whatever it is. Maybe there are a subset of people within your studio that feel like that all the time.


I know in our clientele, that is not in the beginning, where we generally find our new people. Generally, what we’re getting is people that are feeling like they don’t have a place in the fitness, a traditional fitness studio. They are maybe dealing with some physical issues where they feel like they need a little bit more help and guidance, a little bit more expertise, or maybe that they’ve feel like they need a little bit more coaching. Some more psychological safety nets that we are going to provide for them. So, with our personal intention, that is something that is easier to provide.


For this case, then helping people find the motivation to continue to come back helps them on their journey to wellness. It helps them on their journey to health. It helps them achieve the goals that they have set out to do. I don’t think that it is enough just to show up and teach your class and be done with it. I’m just going to be honest. I think, if we’re doing that, okay, fine, but make it a choice, and that is fine. Make that your choice and do it. But don’t be surprised if you don’t have the numbers of client repeats, and if your clients aren’t achieving the goals as quickly as they would like to. Again, personal opinion, I don’t have any statistics here to offer you for today.




I think that our unique role as a Pilates instructor is motivation. I think there’s an entertaining part of it the entertainment factor, which maybe I’ll go into on a different podcast, because I understand that that might not be where everyone’s value is. Maybe you don’t think that that is part of it and that I totally understand. That, I think is a that is 100% a personal choice if you want to be entertaining in your classes. But coming from my background, as an entertainer, as a dancer, and being on stage all the time, also, most of my instructors have also been in dancers, that is something that we take to pretty naturally. I think that’s what also what we’re known for. But I also recognise that that is not everyone’s strong point and that is absolutely fine. You can be a wonderful teacher, wonderfully effective, and motivating teacher without having a performative aspect to your teaching.


But the motivational aspect, I believe, is indispensable and here’s why. You became a Pilates instructor because you fell in love with movement at some way, at some point. Somewhere in there, you decided that your love for movement and the change that you saw in your life, whether it be physically, emotionally, psychologically, was so great that you decided to share your passion for movement in the form of teaching Pilates.


Now, you’re one of the lucky ones, right? So, you found that, that seed, that spark, that motivated you to continue, and then you became the instructor. I don’t think everyone needs to be an instructor. But you went, I’m assuming that most people that are listening to this podcast are Pilates teachers or at least some type of movement teacher. But you went the extra mile and you did more. You are an exception. You are exceptional. That is a wonderful place to be, that someone or something ignited in you that passion.


I think that’s where we need to concentrate — to concentrate is igniting the passion for movement in our students. Not only is this going to help your students achieve their goals faster, it will just be more effective. If they’re on board with it with whatever your program is, they will achieve their goals faster. You will be delivering on your promise of helping them faster more effectively. It is also good business practice, to help people motivate, and be motivated to come back and continue what they set out to do.


It is good business practice, you want people that are visiting your business, repeat people, you don’t want to just have someone come in and leave the next day. You want long-term committed students, committed clients that are coming back into your business, because not only do they love what you do, but they love the way that you make them feel in their bodies. In turn, that will help them ignite their own passion of finding the motivation for themselves. 


A lot of the times when people show up at our studio doors, it’s because they’re running away from something else, right? They are running away from a bad experience in a fitness studio, or maybe they’re running away from pain, physical pain. Maybe it is an injury, and they’re looking for the change. They come in and they know that they need change, but they don’t know how to get there. So, that’s where our job is, right? Lying out that path for them.


Motivation to get up. I don’t even know like what – what time are your classes? I don’t know. Motivation may be to get up early and go to a class is hard. But we, as the teachers, can create an environment that propels people to go further. Now, that can look like a whole bunch of different ways and I’m not talking about being a cheerleader all the time. So, you don’t need to rah-rah every single class. By the way, I was never a cheerleader. I was a mascot. So, that’s a whole another story, maybe a whole another podcast. I was the Golden Eagle.


Anyways, motivating your clients can look like a whole bunch of different things. So, it could be the way that you intake your clients into your studio. Do you have a survey? Do you have a way that you talk to them before they even enter a class? It is how do you structure your classes, because you could, just by subtle little differences within your structure, you could create wins within your structure in every single class, so that people feel that they are being propelled further, that they are gaining something, that they are learning something. That’s pretty easy to do within the structure of how you teach the exercises.




It is in our language of how we support our clients, how are we supporting them through that learning process. Motivation can look like the safety of the environment that we are providing them within the class, either your group classes or your personal training. Subtle differences, but basically, it’s the same that we’re looking for a psychologically safe place for them to be themselves. I think that is highly motivating. So, it is our cues, it’s our atmosphere that we’re creating. It’s the structure of the classes. It’s the way that we teach the exercises. I think that’s where the — you being a motivator, really comes into play.


Now, there’s other above and beyond, that you could celebrate your clients wins in different ways, and that’ll be totally unique to you. That’ll be unique to the studio setup. Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe it’s a text. Maybe it’s a social media shout-out. Maybe it’s, I don’t know. There are a thousand different ways to celebrate the wins that your clients, your students are achieving, and that can also play into the motivational environment that we’re setting up.


In the beginning, when Chris had joined me in the studio. I had been teaching for decades before. But at the beginning of this studio, this incarnation of studio in Nuremberg, Germany, I had retired from dance, he was still dancing, and then eventually, he trained to be a Pilates teacher. Then there he was. That first little bit of transition time for him, I remember it being really difficult, because he went from being in an environment of very, very highly motivated people. I mean, to be a professional athlete, you need to have this intrinsic motivation for everything you do, because it is really hard, and it’s oftentimes very painful.


So, your motivation to get up and do the hard thing, even though, especially in dance, there’s no real financial returns on what you’re doing. You’re doing it for the love of what you’re doing. For him, then transitioning to the normal population. Let’s say everyone else that’s not a dancer is probably the normal population. He was really taken aback at the beginning of what he felt was a lack of motivation for people. It took him a little while to get over that. So, we had a lot of conversations in the very beginning, like, well, what is motivation? What does it mean, to be motivated with within the class, or to keep on coming back? It’s super, super interesting. 


Because as dancers were taught to, for example, never finish. If you’ve learned a combination, say, in a dance class, you never stop in the middle. You go all the way to the very end, and then there’s a certain way that you end the combination, which has been choreographed, where he felt sometimes that because people were stopping in between exercises, he felt that was a lack of motivation. Now, he has definitely, since then changed his mind on this, and we’ve worked a long time together on defining what that is.


Now, we see that if someone stops in between the exercises, it is because we have given them permission to take care of their bodies, which is I think, a very, very different thing of, if someone is feeling defeated, and they stop, then that means that we’ve done something wrong with our structure. It has not been motivational. We have not taught well enough that they feel like they can achieve something, achieve whatever exercise it is. So, there’s that one thing that either we have brought them to a place where they feel defeated, that’s one thing. Maybe someone stops because we are training so much in a particular way, a certain muscle group, that they stopped because they are physically fatigued. That could be also something, but it doesn’t mean that that they are not motivated. It means that they are so motivated, that they have stopped to take a little breather, and there that we’ve pushed them past.




[0:15:09] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense. But I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers.


Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools, you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students. Gain access to the vault of our collective knowledge where you can learn everything we have to teach you, whether you are a freelance teacher, or a studio owner. Get constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers.




[0:15:57] HT: There’s the other alternative is that people have stopped. I’m talking within a class, within a training, okay? That they have stopped because we have given them the choice to take a pause when they feel like their body needs it, which is a different thing, because now we’ve given them autonomy to make the choices that they feel are right for them based on their energy and their psychological state on that day.


Now, that’s more where we go to in our studio, and I feel like this is also a very motivated place for people to work out in. Because what we’re doing is we’re teaching them the skills to recognise where their energy is on that day. It is not always, I think, very detrimental, no pain, no gain. I think that is, I cannot teach like that. I will not teach like that. I have in the past, pushed people way past their limits. But that is not where I’m at in my teaching career anymore. 


So, teaching people how to listen to their bodies, how to make that connection and make a good choice is a part of what we feel, a way of helping them learn what their body needs. I think, or what I have seen with our clients, is that is such a beautiful aha moment when they see the freedom that they have. The dedication of continuously showing up to do the Pilates training or whatever training you’re doing. That can be hard sometimes. But if we can teach people how it feels to recognise what your body needs, what we’re doing is we’re giving them a tool to find the intrinsic motivation that they need. That I don’t need to be a cheerleader at the front of the class all the time, although that is fun, and I do enjoy it. More importantly, is teaching them those skills.


That also means that people may need to rely on my intrinsic motivation as the teacher a little bit more sometimes. I’ve, in time – I come from a family of very, very highly motivated people. That is a gift. That was something that really changed my life, because that helped me stay motivated in my dance career, when things got hard. I had always role models around me, of people that are very dedicated, very consistent, and very – to a fault sometimes. But very, yes, that word again, very motivated to continue on when the going gets tough.


So, I was always able to look at that and model it and it’s something that is so embedded in the way that I do things that it has carried me throughout a very arduous career of becoming a professional dancer. You have to be really, really gritty, to get that far, and talent, and privilege, and, and, and. There are a lot of things that accompanied me through that that is not – it’s part just genetic lottery. It’s part situational lottery. Then, it’s part the grit that you put into it, and the work, and the dedication, and the motivation.


But what that does mean is that through those years, I have learned the skills that I need to motivate myself to continue to do the hard things. I feel like that is a very privileged place to get to learn those skills. So, there are times when I see, I understand that sometimes my clients, my students, are going to have to borrow some of my motivation, some of my energy that I put into it. They’ll borrow it to get them through that day. Maybe it’s get them through that hard week. Maybe it’s getting them through that hard period of time, right?




I allow them to lean on me and my intrinsic motivation. That dedication. I allow them to borrow it so that I can teach them the way that they could do it for themselves. Up until this point, I’ve taught thousands of people. It has always worked out. It has always worked out where it’s not forever, I’m not going to be calling them every morning like, “Hey, okay, buddy. Let’s get up. Maybe someone needs to do that.” But that’s not the type of motivation that I’m talking about. It could be part of your business model. Absolutely. Go ahead. Maybe that’s something that they do need and then you negotiate that at the very beginning of that business transaction.


But more what I’m talking about is that motivation for me, you become – as a Pilates teacher, you become the role model. I don’t mean that in a way of what does your body look like? What are your lifestyle choices? That’s not at all what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the mindset of your work, of the way that you approach your work, of the knowledge that how you are giving, how you are structured. How all of those things that we talked about before, that is where your motivational strength lies, and it is empowering for them to have a motivated – you don’t need to be a motivational speaker every time. But it is empowering to them to have a role model that is there and letting them lean on that. I can look a lot of different ways. But letting them lead on that is, I think, a key element to effective coaching.


That is a personal opinion. I understand if that feels for some people too much. I get that. I started by saying that this is like a, it was a Facebook thread. I think it was on Facebook. I don’t remember where I was reading through this. I understand that for the majority of the people that were on this thread, they said, “No, that is not in my job description. It is not my job to carry all these people through.” I get that. It’s tiring, sometimes. It’s frustrating, sometimes. It is many, many things. But if it is possible for you and you’re not doing psychological damage. There’s something totally different with this, like rescue. I don’t even know what they call that. Rescue syndrome? You’d have to find someone to explain that a little bit more. But that helper syndrome where you go out and you’re trying to help every single person and do the thing for them. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about something I think that it feels different, at least in my mind. I think that’s where great coaching comes in. I think that’s where great business practices come in. I think that’s where the magic of teaching really finds its roots.


I’m going to tell you a story about one of my near and dear client and friend, Andre. When we had started training, it was a way over a decade ago. He was at a different spot. And he would tell the story as well. He was in a totally different spot in his life. He was smoking. He paid very little attention to what he was eating. He had no movement, no fitness, no nothing in his life, and he was in a lot of pain all the time. Due to his work schedule, he didn’t feel like he was on top of any of that.


Over the years now that we had been training with each other, he completely – he laughs about it because he said, never in a million years he had seen himself where he is today. He’s quit smoking. He’s made wonderful changes to a healthier diet. He hasn’t had pain in years and years and years and his back anymore. He goes out running for fun. He loves biking. He does his Pilates all the time. He’s intrinsically motivated in a totally different way he does. We have a pretty extensive on – now we have this on-demand library, video training library. He picks out his workouts from there. I see what he does. I make suggestions of things what he can do. But he sets his time up and he does it all on his own. He does very – he needs very, very little from me, from Chris, anymore. Because he’s found his way.


At the beginning was not like that at all. Maybe it’s a little bit different because we have known him for a longer period of time. But there were times when I had to call and say, “Andre. All right, let’s go. Where are you? I’m waiting for you on the corner right now. We’re going to go work out in the park today and we’re going to do this and this and this.” In the beginning, maybe, I was maybe the cheerleader. Because I realised that he needed that. He needed to borrow a little bit of my passion, a little bit of my motivation to get him to that next point. But as soon as he realised what his potential was, that it had a life of his own.




It is so beautiful to watch the changes and to know that it’s not just about right now, but it’s about what his future life is going to look like, because of the health practices that he has right now. Andre is just one [of] many, many, many people that that we’ve experienced that in. And also, I’m sure that you, you as the Pilates teacher at home, or the listener, I’m sure that you’ve had those successes as well.


What we’re doing today is we’re bringing attention to this, I think, subtle part of the job description that isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Because I want to say that it is fundamental. I do believe that there’s different ways for it to look like, like I said before. But I think it is a fundamental part of being a teacher. So, I just want to, as I’m wrapping up, you know that I love to hear from you guys. So, please just send me a message. Tell me if I’ve forgotten some stuff in here.


As you’re thinking about how you are motivated, I would like you to consider some of these ways. It’s in your word choices within the class. It’s the atmosphere that you are creating. It’s the structure of the actual training. It’s the way that you teach the exercises. It’s the interactions that you have, when they have gained something, when they have achieved something. I think there’s motivation in creating a community of support. I think it’s between the coach and the student. Maybe you have contact with them outside of that training. Maybe it’s in the form of a Pilates challenge within the studio or within your classes. Maybe it’s having that good intake where you have smart goals that are set up. Or even just setting realistic goals. Maybe it’s because the motivation comes because the workouts are fun. Maybe there’s a software that you’re using that helps them track their stuff, track their achievements.


In this part of motivation, we also need to make sure that we’re setting our expectations, and that we’re not overhyping our results, because that can be really demotivating. I think being empathetic is also important, not that as you’re this motivational role model, not that it is so far over the top that it’s no longer relatable. I think part of motivation is also listening carefully to what they’re saying to you. You might need to read between the lines. At the beginning we’re talking about people stumble into your studio, whether the person is new to the idea of fitness. Maybe they have some experience. But there might be reservations or misconceptions there that you can easily address. And by doing that, you’re going to help them manage those expectations that we were talking about before.


Motivation also comes in, if we’re focusing on the benefits, short-term, long-term benefits so that they know what they’re doing it for. It might mean that we need to start slow. If we overdo it at the very beginning, maybe that is demotivated. This is where you need to know your people. Maybe they do need that big challenge. But at the beginning, maybe they need to start slow. So, getting to know your people. That’s going to be important.


We are all about connection and community over here. We know that the social factor of it is super helpful. For accountability, it’s helpful to, yes, lean in when you’re having a hard day. Just having someone that you know smile at you and say, “Hey, I’m glad you’re here.” That is enough sometimes. I mean, I think there’s so many different ways to keep people engaged, and motivated, and working towards whatever goal that they’ve set out. We go through a lot of them in our Train the Trainers program. But I think I’ve offered you some ideas, hopefully today, to start your own thinking about what that means. What does that look like for you? Is that a value that I that you hold?


Again, no shame. If you’re on the camp of, “Hey, I need to just go out and do my job, and explain and teach clearly, and give generously of that information, and that’s where my job ends.” Okay. Like I said, that is also a valid place to be and that is absolutely fine. I’m not knocking you down. I’m really not. I’m just saying what I find is important. I would absolutely love to hear what you think. Send me a message either on Insta or an email, or like where all of the places. So, I’m sure, I hope that you can find me or even drop Chris a note. He’ll be around as well. Have a wonderful rest of your day and happy teaching.




[0:30:14] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You could also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching, everyone.



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