How to Maximize Your Workout

Certified Pilates Instructor Teresa Shupe offers some helpful tips for using that constant instructor feedback.

Do you sometimes feel discouraged, like you are not improving? Like you instructor is always critiquing you? “Pull in your ribs, squeeze your bottom! Use that powerhouse! Unlock your knees, lift your back – but not your chin! Relax your shoulders, lengthen your legs…” Does it ever stop?

Learning to use this constant critical feedback can be a challenge. Here are some helpful tips:

Remember the Basics

This may seem obvious, but if you’re familiar with receiving feedback about your body, it’s a simple concept that will help you improve faster. The BASICS are the box and the powerhouse – you never do a Pilates exercise without them. If you lose sight of a BASIC, say while focusing on another part of your body, your instructor will always point it out. When and instructor gives you a new exercise, or an improvement on an old one, and you find it includes too many parts, focus first on the Basics, and add the new parts as you can. And COMMUNICATE with your instructor: tell him or her if something is uncomfortable, or if you don’t understand what is being asked of you. Your instructors are always pleased that you understand the goal and that you are trying.


Some days are better than others. Everyone, even the most accomplished dancer or athlete, has had an off day. One day I can do a perfect double pirouette, and other days I can barely balance on one leg. The goal, of course, is to keep those off days few and far between. So if you’re having a bad day, or have an injury, or are just not feeling up to par, let your instructor know. We don’t necessarily need the details, but we do need to know that maybe for this day a light, easy session without exacting corrections would be most beneficial. And, vice versa, if you’re feeling fantastic, let us know. That’s the perfect day to push you a little, show you a new exercise, encourage you to work on something very specific that requires lots of concentration – perhaps do an entire Wunda Chair workout!


It’s no coincidence Uncle Joe put this on his list of The Six Principles of Pilates. You’ll improve faster by concentrating your mind on your body. Don’t look around the room during a session. Become acutely aware of your instructor’s voice and rhythm, but don’t focus your eyes on her/him. If you’re supposed to have your chin on your chest, then look there, focus on your box. Focus on your breathing. Feel your muscles. Think about why you’re doing each exercise. Concentrating can be difficult, and takes practice. If you’re still having difficulty focusing, start with short periods and set goals – say, getting through The Hundred with intensity, or waiting unitl you finish The Short Box to praise your instructor’s haircut. Keep in mind, too, that each session lasts only 50 minutes. Make the most of every workout by really being present.


In Return to Life, Joseph Pilates wrote about his philosophy and ideas. The book is an easy read. His observations are interesting and his explanations offer valuable insight into his unique exercise system.

Set Goals

Discuss your goals with your instructor. If you don’t know what kind of goals to set, discuss that with your instructor. Set realistic goals – you want to win! We want you to win too. Your instructors can see progress in your body that may not be so noticeable to you. Setting goals allows you to measure your progress. When you make your progress noticeable to you concretely, you’ll be encouraged and inspired. And maybe even more focused.

Instructor Feedback

Instructor Feedback is what sets True Pilates apart and what makes it so effective. And remember: instructors work out together regularly – and give one another critical feedback all the time. It’s not just you! Everybody needs feedback. Let it work for you.