My Journey into Pilates
1998 and I was teaching fitness classes, as I had done since 1983, my usual group were sweating their way through a Step Circuit class. My regular girls were really going for it, after class we moved to the lounge for a coffee and a chat. One of them showed me a booklet and a video she’d sent away for. It was about ‘Pilates’ I had heard about it – but never tried it – or so I thought.
I had flipped through the booklet briefly while chatting, my client wanted to know if it was any good… A couple of days later I decided to watch the video. I was surprised that some of the exercises seemed really familiar it turns out I did remember soe of my childhood dance training. As I tried them out I found some were really challenging, some impossible. I was hooked. I found an introductory training day and the rest is history.
Many courses and continual study since then has led me to where I am now. I can’t say that I follow any particular style of Pilates – my clients say it’s ‘Pilates according to Jax’ and I’m happy with that. I add in movements that will make every session valuable to the clients I have in that group.
Pilates really is for everyone, I love being able adapt any exercise to make it safe, challenging and effective but make sure that no-one feels left out or different. When I started teaching Pilates at Riverside in Gloucester it was new to everyone. My classes must have been OK as they were usually busy and a couple of my regulars even trained to be instructors. I began to teach cover classes for LA Fitness in Cheltenham and soon had my own regular classes. Bannatyne’s in Cheltenham needed cover for their American Teacher, and when she moved back to the States I was offered all of her classes.
A new JJB opened in Gloucester and I was offered Pilates & Fitness classes. The club wanted a course for absolute beginners, even though this was on a Friday lunchtime, it was well attended. It was great to take clients through their Pilates journey, most of these clients were still training with me years later.
LA Fitness asked me to do the same for them and this time a late evening class was soon filled up. One of these students has become one of my best friends and still trains with me most weeks.
I think I liked teaching these courses because years before I had qualified as an Exercise to Music course director for the RSA and tutored many basic teacher training courses in Cheltenham in the 90’s. I have always enjoyed the ‘teaching’ part of my job. Being able to help people get the most out of their leisure time, even if it was just once a week, seeing people transform is very rewarding.
As time flew by I gradually realized that big gyms, really only rent equipment to members, promising the world to their members and very rarely following through. They didn’t understand the value of group exercise to their members and definitely didn’t cherish the talents of their gym teams. Frustrated by clubs mismanaging classes, dirty studios and faulty equipment, heating failing in the Winter and air conditioning failing in the Summer, I was looking for a way to teach my own classes again.
I wondered if I was going backwards, most of my instructor friends were busy training to teach done-for-you systems like Body Pump and body Balance. I never fancied following someone else’s plan – especially ones that don’t allow you to move round to teach and correct students – which is the whole purpose of having a real ’teacher’ right? So, with another instructor friend I converted a workshop into a small studio, bought some mats and started a couple of private groups.
That was 2007, and now 5 years later I run 8 weekly classes that cover various styles of Pilates and Yoga fusions. My first group of 4 had developed into a loyal band of over 50 regular fitness chums. I think some thought I was mad giving up regular contracts with the big Health Club chains. But I feared that they would suffer because of the way they treated their members. They seemed to always be chasing new members instead of looking after the members they already had. Sadly, for them and their members, I was right. More and more people began to look for a more community based, simple way to be active. Time poor and disappointed most of my clients gave up their memberships too.
My classes developed into what is now known as ‘Small Group Exercise’ or ‘Group Personal Training’ I specialise in teaching 6-10 people in a friendly, intimate atmosphere. We all know each other, new members are welcomed and soon feel at ease. I love it, I can introduce new ideas instantly, if a class is overbooked I just add another. I stay updated and my groups are always keen to try out new approaches.
My classes changed over time and so did Pilates. When I began teaching it, Pilates was a conservative in style known as ‘Pure Pilates’ or ‘Body Control’ . I trained with Modern Pilates – still a strict form but with an easier approach to how a class should be put together. Then I heard about a training programs developed by two instructors I had known for years. I attended their training days, then a full courses for both Fitness Pilates and Fitness Yoga. I continued to evolve the technique and added balls, resistance bands, seated versions of Fitness Pilates. There are even versions that fits into my Fatloss programs.
The opportunity to develop my own style while adhering to basic principles and underpinning theory suited me to a ‘T’. Now a full biomechanics based, 3 dimensional approach to Pilates is enjoyable, adaptable and effective for real people with all the usual aches, pains and niggles that develop from the modern, mostly inactive, lifestyles we have today. It’s certainly moved on from the ‘Contrology’ of it’s originator Joseph Pilates- but every now and again I go back to his original teachings and realize that he was an clever man with a inspired approach to physical training for health & well being.
As I write this I’m looking forward to classes starting again on Monday the 7th of January. I will see regular members and some new comers and welcome back others that have been away for a while.
I’m also looking forward to the program on the BBC tonight – the latest expose on fitness, diets and health. That’ll shake a few people up a bit I’m sure – or at least I hope it does – its time to give up jogging and look at lifestyle.
To find out where I teach, more on the thinking behind what I do and the at home eating and exercise plans I offer go to
follow me on twitter @jaxallenfitness or at FaceBook Jax Alle
By this stage I had studied Joseph Pilates original works including Return to Life through Contrology and had attended training with great Pilates Teachers Moira Stott, Joan Breibart of the Physical Mind Institute, Cherry Baker & Liz Bussey. I had also recently trained with Bob Esquerre and Annette Lange in RNT – Reactive Neuromuscular Training which had a profound affect upon the way I prescribed exercises and looked at posture using movement screens.
With over 20 years teaching and presenting group exercises I formulated a modern format using Pilates exercises and theories, coupled with RNT ideas, fitness principals and ACSM guidelines. It is cost effective and aimed at the qualified fitness instructor eager to engage in Pilates training.
I trialled the program extensively in my community classes and in health clubs and worked closely with local physiotherapists
Fitness Pilates has grown from strength to strength. I have personally trained thousands of Fitness Instructors nationwide and have consulted with and helped many set up their own business, classes and training.
Recently, I have added a Functional perspective to Fitness Pilates. As science continues to develop and knowledge of how the body works is moving forward, my aim is to keep up with thid new science and incorporate it into the Fitness Pilates programme.