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Pilates Conferences: How to Make the Most of Your Continuing Education 

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By Shari Berkowitz

Pilates conferences are a relatively new phenomenon, but what a phenomenon they have become! Every major training program has at least one and many independent trainers have them, too. Navigating the conference landscape can be tricky. How do you know which ones to go to? How do you know when it’s time to go to these conferences? Most important of all, how do you make sure you’re getting the most for your time and money?

The first thing to consider is what you’re looking for in your continuing education. You need to know what it is you want to buy in the marketplace and then find who is selling what you want. Figuring that out is key, and it’s not as difficult as it seems to determine what it is that you want in your continuing education. Though there appear to be so very many directions you could go in, there are only three things to truly consider: 

1. Fulfilling your continuing education credits, either from your training program or from the PMA
2. Educating yourself in the areas you need to improve
3. Exploring and learning about new areas that interest you

Be a Student to Be a Teacher
Some people wonder why they ought to bother maintaining their certificate. It says it will expire in two years if you don’t do enough continuing education…but does it matter? Yes, it does! If you dare to call yourself a teacher, then you’d better be a quality student. What do you have to present to your clients if you aren’t brushing up on the material you learned before and increasing your knowledge with new material? In Pilates, that doesn’t always mean new exercises—in fact, that almost never means new exercises. What it means is that over time, you should be able to take in more information, learn new cues, gain a better understanding of movement, develop a deeper understanding of anatomy, and so much more.

Becoming a skilled teacher is a process: When you went through your training program, you knew relatively little about Pilates. At first, you are a Pilates client. Then you apprentice, and begin to develop teaching skills. Then you are a novice teacher for some time. (New teachers are often eager to take continuing education, but I advise against it in the first year. New teachers have plenty of information to digest before taking in more. Right after completing a teacher training program, one must teach…a lot.  Teach as many sessions as you can in as many different situations as you can. Teach early, teach late, teach privates, teach group classes, teach on many different manufacturers’ apparatus…just teach!  Experience is the education you need.) Once you’ve taught for awhile, you are ready to layer on more learning. Then you are ready for continuing education workshops. Make sure to ask your training program what the requirements are to maintain your certificate, and then make sure to complete them.

Filling in the Gaps
When considering your continuing education options, take a moment and think about what gaps you’re trying to fill in your studies. What direction do you want to go? Here is a starter list of general workshop areas. Take a look and see what interests you:

Classical Pilates
Progressive Pilates
Injury Education
Archival Material
Group Class Development
Specific Apparatus Exercises
Skill Enhancement Workshops
Seniors/Aging Population Guidelines
Pregnancy Guidelines

Figure out where you are lacking in your day-to-day work. Is there a wall that you hit every other day? Wonder what to do to overcome this stumbling block? You continue your education! Pick workshops accordingly to fill the gaps in your knowledge.

Exploring New Areas of Interest
Conferences are a buffet/smorgasbord of interesting workshops available for you to pick and choose from. They are a wonderful arena to get a taste of something new and explore areas of interest that you don’t yet know much about. You take a two-hour workshop—a minor investment of your time and money—and then choose to pursue this subject further outside of the conference or not.

Some conferences have it all in one place: workshops to fulfill your continuing education requirements for PMA and your training program, with lots of options to allow you to fill in the gaps of your knowledge and indulge your curiosity. Be wise and plan your year accordingly. Most of the major conferences occur around the same time each year: the PMA in November, Body Mind Spirit in April, Power Higher in February or March, etc. Check online, call the main offices, and plan ahead. Don’t forget to keep a very specific list of the workshops you have attended. Note the conference, dates, exact title of the workshop, the teacher, duration of workshop and how many credits it’s worth, to either your teacher training program or the PMA. Take control of your continuing education and responsibility for your future as a teacher.

Options for PMA CEC’s
The Pilates Method Alliance is growing stronger and stronger every year. We all must consider that we need this governing board of our peers and a means to bring the Pilates world together as a community. If you haven’t already become PMA certified, you might want to study up and take the test. Then, to maintain your certification, you’ll need to take continuing education workshops that are approved by the PMA. You can, of course, get those from the PMA conference. But if, for some reason, you are unable to attend the PMA event, or if, unfortunately, like last year, there is no PMA conference, you will have to find other options. Go to the PMA web site and look up organizations that have accepted continuing education courses. (A note: They are listed by state, but you will find that if you want to look up a major training program’s continuing education workshops, then you must look under the state of their headquarters. For example, I work with Power Pilates. Our headquarters are in NYC. I look under NY for our workshops.) Double check the list of available workshops and make sure that there are plenty of PMA-approved options for you to take. Why not get your PMA-required credits at another organization’s conference?

You don’t have to go to a conference to get your PMA credits. Of course, that is the best way to get many at one time. There is great value in big conferences: “bang for your buck.” However, if you find yourself unable to make a conference or need an extra bunch of credits, it is likely that you can find something in your region.

My Own CEC Plans
How will I do it? How will I fulfill my continuing education credits for Power Pilates and the PMA, educate myself where I am lacking and satisfy my curiosity on new subjects? Well, of course, I’m off to Power Higher, Power Pilates’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas this February 12-13! I can’t wait to be a student and I’m not alone. There will be many participants…and not all from them are from the Power Pilates program. We welcome everyone who is interested in learning. We offer PMA-approved workshops that are also accepted by other teacher training programs for their continuing education requirements. That’s something important to look into: You can go to some training programs’ conferences even if you weren’t trained by them.

Remember, conferences are not only educational, they’re fun. They’re a great excuse to come together, to learn more about and do what we love…and play! Enjoying your conference experience is yet another way to get your money’s worth, so make sure to do that, too. Maybe I’ll see you in Las Vegas!

Shari Berkowitz has owned The Vertical Workshop in Beverly Hills for the past six years. She is soon to move home to New York City. She has been the Power Pilates West Coast Director of Education for several years and will continue to train teachers for Power Pilates out of New York. ______________________________________
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Reader Comments (1)

I highly recommend that all Pilates teachers go to conferences especially in the beginning of their career. It is a great opportunity to experience the leaders of our field and the wide variety of application being made with Pilates.

PMA also is an excellent resource for education courses throughout the country. They list courses first by the month and then by state.

January 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLesley Powell

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