Instructor of the Month
Introducing Rachel Bridges, owner of The Pilates Bridge
I have been working in the fitness industry now for almost 20 years. I started out as an Exercise to Music Instructor and Gym Instructor in 1997 as a way of earning money whilst at University, combining my passion for fitness with paying the bills! After gaining a BA Hons degree in Primary Education I began my teaching career but still managed to teach the odd aerobics class in the evening! After the birth of my two children, I decided to reduce my hours at school and began to get back to what I love - teaching exercise classes including Body Training Systems workouts. I also qualified as a Personal Trainer.
Like all fitness instructors, teaching several fitness classes a week soon starts to take its toll on your body and I started to get the odd injury. To support my own training and aid recovery I started to attend Pilates classes on the recommendation of my Osteopath and was instantly hooked! After a year of self practice and seeing the positive changes to my body that Pilates had created I decided to train to become a Pilates instructor myself and thanks to the recommendation of fellow J Pilates instructor Bethany Lucas, I found Joanne Cobbe and qualified with JPilates in December 2014. I set up my own business in 2015 and taught local community classes as well as teaching in local leisure centres and fitness chains.
In August this year we moved as a family from Kent to Barnstaple in Devon to escape the stress of the 24/7 lifestyle in the South East for a life by the sea and boy what a different way of life! Coming from an area saturated with Pilates instructors I have found it to be quite the opposite here and there are fewer health clubs as most people tend to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle. I am currently in the process of relaunching my business, The Pilates Bridge, through which I hope to share my passion and the many benefits of Pilates with the people of North Devon and so far it’s proving quite popular!
How would you describe your style of teaching?
As an Instructor I always try to make my classes as inclusive as possible. I have had groups where the ages have ranged from 23 to 78 and at times the 78 year old has had greater spinal flexibility than the 23 year old! Thanks to the ongoing training I have undertaken with Jo, I feel confident in adapting moves and offering alternatives for those individuals that may have an injury or a condition that hinders their movement.
I do like to focus on technique as I know myself how a little tweak to your position here or there can make all the difference to ones ability to perform the move and gain benefit from it, however, I try to strike a balance between focusing on technique and allowing the class to flow and to keep people moving. I think the key here is definitely honing those vocal cues and visualisations which frees you up as an instructor from having to be at the front of the class and enables me to move around making subtle corrections as and when I see somebody has a foot/hand/ hip out of line!
What is your client base like?
To date I have mainly taught group classes which I love! The majority of my clients have tended to fall in two main catagories:
1. Mums in their 30’s – 40’s who have had back issues since having children or are trying to get back into shape or
2. Mature ladies (60+) who have either been referred from their Doctor due to a medical condition e.g osteoporosis or who come because they love how well Pilates makes them feel – their words but my sentiments!
I have also had supermarket workers, builders, teachers and office workers that have all come to help improve an ailment or postural issue they are suffering from due to the nature of their work or as a way of destressing after a hard day at work!
What is your most favourite move and why?
I love Single Leg Straight Stretch as it is soo good for my tight hamstrings however after months of trying I would now have to say Teaser is my favourite because I can finally do it! I am proof that perseverance pays off when it comes to accomplishing a Pilates move plus it’s a great party piece with that ta-dah factor!
What is your least favourite?
My current nemesis is Control Balance! It is a challenge but I’m always up for that and I will master it!
What do you find most challenging about your work and how do you overcome this?
Like most working mums, the challenge is finding that work life balance and also fitting in my own training when there is so much other stuff I could/should be doing! This is generally overcome on those busy days with a quick 10 minute daily fix though – thanks Jo!
In terms of the business itself, I think it is a constant learning curve of working out what works for you in terms of advertising, maintaining your client base and how to run your classes/courses. I love the JPilates forum and associates pages on Facebook for all the advice that is shared and it has helped me out on a number of occasions. That kind of support network is vital as an instructor.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Pilates instructor?
Seeing somebody who walked into my class several weeks before who could barely touch their knees let alone their toes, complete their first roll up! Having somebody tell me that since coming to Pilates their sciatic pain has gone or they have slept better than they have in years or that that pain they always have in their neck is easing. These are just some of the things I have experienced with my clients and every time I just smile because I know I have done my job and I am so happy that I have helped to make somebody feel that little bit better and helped to improve their health and wellbeing.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
My dream is to have my own studio. A Pilates haven where I can teach a little bit of everything from beginners to advanced, Barre to Reformer!
If you could give one piece of advice to a new instructor what would it be?
Have faith in your ability and don’t be downcast if it takes a while for things to get off the ground businesswise. Always offer value for money and go the extra mile with your clients – a little handout or video clip is always appreciated! Network with other instructors, physios, osteopaths etc and never underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising! Remember- nothing worth having ever came easy so follow your dream and make it happen and finally….keep practicing!
Rachel can be contacted at: