Why is Pilates so Expensive?
The Short version
You get what you pay for. Pilates is expensive because:
- Not all Pilates is created equal
- Comprehensive Training (rather than just mat) and Certification is long and it’s detailed (500 hours min) ;
- Buying the equipment and housing it is expensive;
- Unlike gyms, Pilates can’t operate a factory system;
- Teaching is intense work – you can only do it for a certain number of hours a day.
But it is possible to make it cheaper?
– Yes it is. In fact, not only will your practice be cheaper, but you will progress faster and that progress will be far more effective!
Why not read:
“How to make Pilates cheaper to do whilst still getting all the benefits?” (click here)
It’s not just the lesson time. It’s the planning, the research, the thinking…
Your Pilates teacher is more than an exercise leader. We think about your body, before, during and after your session. And listen to all that your body and mind share, they plan, research and think about how you move and what they can do to change the broken movement patterns.
Your teacher is probably not your best friend, therapist or physical therapist, but often that’s what your body asks of them.
A Pilates instructor is a special person who will get training, do research and think about all the ways they can help you continue to do your Pilates and progress so when you walk out that door you feel like a million dollars!
Now, another way to ask the question could be: “what’s the cost of NOT doing Pilates”?
Not all “Pilates”is created equal.
In the UK there seems to be two ways that you can do Pilates: in a large groups with a non-specialist teacher or in a specially designed space with a Comprehensively Trained specialist teacher.
- These classes in large groups are often on a Mat, or can be on Reformer and, less often, on Wunda Chairs or Wall Units. The instructor stands in front and demonstrates the exercises, meanwhile, the clients try to imitate and/or keep up. These classes are most often found in gyms, local halls and health clubs. The classes are sometimes free or may cost between £7 – £30.
Unless you know the Pilates Method very well, you may well be missing the point in these classes. In these classes the focus is on doing movements, not on learning about how your body moves.
The other way of doing Pilates is in a fully equipped specialist studio with a Comprehensively Trained Instructor. The instructor will be teaching you correct movement patterns based on a full and comprehensive assessment of needs and objectives. You would have undergone a medical screening and Assessment Lesson, Your specific needs would have been discussed during your assessment lesson. You teacher may well suggest that you undergo some 1:1 lessons to familiarise yourself with the method, basic exercises and how to operate the equipment before starting in a group.
Remember the Principles of Pilates: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow? Together with the Principles of Movement: breath, deep core activation, optimal spinal positioning, spinal strengthening and mobility and scapular stabilisation and mobility are what makes the Pilates Method of exercise unique. In large groups these elements are lost.
“The key to the positive effect if Pilates lies in it’s principles, not only in it’s exercises and equipment”
Rael Isacowitz (“Pilates” – Second Edition)
Your Teacher & their Training
Your instructor has had a lot of lessons before even starting teacher training. It’s often a requirement that the potential teacher takes at least 100 hours before commencing. Some courses require five years of experience.
- The instructor has completed a Comprehensive Training Programme of at least 500 hours – these are expensive. Mine cost more than £4000. Additionally, as they are rarely in your home town, there is travel, hotels food and so on. Then there’s the time spent not working. Note: these courses are considered apprenticeships and as such the absolutely minimum level required in order to call yourself a Pilates teacher.
- The distinction between comprehensive training and mat training courses is important. Let me explain.
- There are 34 exercises in the Mat Repertoire as described by Joseph Pilates in his book “Return to Health”. Most Level 3 REPs courses add in a few modifications and extra exercises. Some of these courses last three days, some less. You can be certified and qualified for as little as £300 and in three days!
- Meanwhile, the exercises on the equipment (Reformer, Cadillac, Chair and Barrels) adds up to over five hundred exercises without counting variations and modifications. The comprehensive teacher training courses last about 22 days (120 hours of contact hours) added to which are some 500 hours of observations, teaching practice and self-practice. After that, there is the Pilates Method Alliance certification examination.
The difference between the two is not just the number of exercises, but there is a huge difference in depth as well as breadth. To successfully satisfactorily finish a Comprehensive Course often takes a couple of years.
- Continuing education is yet more expensive. This is essential in order to dive deeper; gain more detailed knowledge; teaching special populations; correcting better and cueing better; learning and exercises and or modifications not covered in the apprenticeship. There are historical perspectives to learn, There’s mentorships, workshops, continuing education requirements, anatomy courses … certification examinations – books, international conferences, subscriptions …
- We take lessons each week too. And these cost! I currently have two teachers. One, as an internationally recognised authority in Pilates, her time does not come cheap (£130 per hour). By Internationally Recognised, I mean is sufficiently well regarded to appear on pilatesanytime.com as a presenter. Additionally, I have a Mentor, who is preparing me to enter Faculty of Balanced Body (£65 per hour – an utter bargain).
- In order to teach better, we need to feel Pilates in our bodies. Pilates isn’t an overnight fix. It’s a lifetimes fitness commitment that continues to provide you with rewards ten, fifteen even thirty years later! That means practice, practice and yet more practice. And that brings me on to my next point: the apparatus and the space.
The Apparatus & Space
The apparatus is expensive. A studio grade Reformer costs at least £2500, add on the essential accessories: box, pole, cushions and you’ve gone over £3000, before VAT.
The total cost of properly equipping a studio easily exceeds £12,000. The apparatus is usually imported, so then there’s shipping and import duty. That’s just for the very basics without factoring in blocks, boxes, poles and so on. Then there’s maintenance. Gyms also have expensive equipment, but they operate on a factory system and so have a much larger client population.
Mats can be bought at £10-£20 from high street retailers and sports superstores like the wonderful Decathlon. However, for Pilates, they are either too thin to protect your spine in rolling exercises or they are not sufficiently durable so can’t resist some of the pushing forces that are generated in some exercises. If you want a rollup mat that is truly fit for purpose, you will have to pay upwards of £70. If you want a true Pilates mat complete with straps and pole, from the likes of Gratz, you’ll paying at least $570 and up to $1150.
Prime location is expensive be it in the city or, high street. Inner city is, of course, cheaper. Of course it is, but would everyone go there?
Your Teacher: the workday
- Groups of six or more are easy to instruct. The teacher demonstrates the exercises, show enthusiasm and the clients copy. The teacher gets to practice whilst teaching!
- There is little time or space for personal attention to form and cueing and more often than not it stops the flow of other clients’ work.
- In one on one classes, your teacher has to watch you like a hawk every minute and offers metaphors, correction, cues both verbal and physical constantly as well as correction and encouragement. The time is thoroughly enjoyable but very intense. The teacher never practises with the client but has to do this in his or her own time.
- How many hour lessons could a teacher teach everyday? Would you be happy with a jaded teacher who was merely going through the motions after having already taught seven hours of 1:1 lessons? Of course not.
- By extension, would you be happy with a Pilates teacher who has neither the time or energy to do Pilates themselves? Who is not fresh, but instead, worn out to the point to burn-out?