Instructor of the Month

Introducing Emma Sanders, owner of Lichfield Pilates


Suffering with neck and back pain from childhood, I'd always been looking for an answer to give me relief from the pain.  After years of searching I finally discovered Pilates, I instantly knew it was for me and wanted to train to become an instructor.

Qualifying in May last year Jo gave me the confidence to realise I could up set up my own business, one that would work around my young family and hopefully allow me help other people like myself.  I'm now a full time Pilates Instructor with a growing business and a much better work life balance.

I run 10 classes a week, mainly mixed ability with some smaller beginner classes, I also teach clients on a 1-2-1 basis for those who want or need more attention.  My classes are already naturally falling into different types of classes so I imagine I will start to steer them in different directions.

In addition to my own business I work for St Paul's Physio Clinic in Birmingham City Centre providing marketing and project management support.  This has also led on to me becoming the clinic's Pilates Instructor offering clients private 1-2-1 sessions in the clinic's bespoke exercise room. Initially I found working for myself a bit isolating at times so I enjoy being at the clinic a few hours a week as I get to feel like part of a team.

Q&A session:

How would you describe your style of teaching? 

Relaxed and friendly, most of my clients come with friends and I think are more tempted to have a go if they feel supported by the people around them. Saying that I am focused on technique and alignment, constantly giving teaching points and hands on assistance.  I want clients to enjoy the moves and the feeling they get from them when done correctly.  I love hearing people say "Oh I can really feel it now I'm doing it right" or "this is different to what I've done before, it feels great, I understand what I'm doing now".  But sometimes we just stop and all have a go at something new without worrying too much about getting it right first time, I then build the technique in over the weeks once people are use to how the move feels.

What is your client base like?


I have a complete mix of people; footballers, tri-athletes, runners, cyclists, office workers, nurses, teenagers, parents, grandparents, a really interesting mix. Currently most of my classes are mixed ability as I find people like a particular time of the week; I enjoy the mix of people this gives me in each class.  I do however offer at least 2 total beginners classes a week for people to learn the essentials and support new clients with 1-2-1 sessions.  It's interesting when I have a really flexible 70 year old next to a 20 year old with very limited flexibility, clients soon realise we all have different strengths and to embrace the things we can do and not focus on the things we can't but hopefully enjoy working towards our own goals.

After your Level 3 training what other training have you done?

Level 3 Pre and Post Natal trainingPilates Anatomy and Advanced Anatomy Workshops. I also love the Instructor only classes, the Instructor daily fixes and plan to join in with the Webinars asap!

What are you planning for the next 12 months?

Training wise I'm booked in for the Correction Clinic workshop in June and also the JPilates Convention in July. Going forward the training possibilities are endless with Jo, it's so difficult to choose.  I'm interested in learning more about both large and small equipment and definitely attending more workshops later in the year.

Regarding the business it seems to have grown so quickly over such a short period of time I think I need to take a bit of time to stand still and make sure it's running well and I'm giving enough time to my existing clients.  I would like to build up my private clients fitting them around my family and also giving them more professional homework in the form of videos or photographic handouts.

I've also committed myself to do at least one of hour of Pilates a week for myself, it doesn't seem a lot but hopefully that will grow.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Pilates instructor?

Feeling like your making a difference, some clients like me have been looking for help for a while and they are just so pleased to be able to safely exercise and get on the road to fitness or just living a normal life.  One of my private clients is a 17 year old girl who had a brain tumour 3.5 years ago and was left unable to walk or talk. She is so inspirational; she is always laughing, smiling, enjoying life and looking forward to the future.  She still finds lots of thinks hard and gets tried easily but wow is she strong and is making huge improvements, it feels great to be a small part of her journey and it's a joy to work with her.

I also recently did a class incorporating a lot of stretching and when we finished everyone looked like cats that had just had their morning stretch, it made me smile and they went home happy.

Its also great when clients start to feel a greater appreciated for their body and understand how it works and take responsibility for it, I'm always happy to talking things through with clients as I just love how amazing our bodies are.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new instructor what would it be?

Don't take things personally if a class is busy one week and not the next its not a reflection of your teaching, people are probably just busy. It takes time to build a class and for people to commit and realise they need to keep it up to feel great.  Keep in touch with clients- don't let them drift away, make them feel special; people love basic things like remembering their name and dropping them a text to let them know how well they did in class.  Also realise that some classes just don't work due to time or location, give them a fair go but eventually realise you might just need to move on and try a class at a different time or place.  Above all, enjoy it.