Your Professional Educational Development Fund: Why, How & Now!

August 21, 2009

By Rebecca Leone (aka the Suze Orman of Pilates)

The problem: Teachers often bemoan the challenges they face in order to afford continuing their Pilates education. And especially in this horrible economy, money is standing in the way of many teachers continuing to enrich their skills. Have you read in your local paper how college enrollments are way up? That’s true pretty much all over the U.S. because many of us are using this tough economic time as a catalyst to go back to school and get a whole lot smarter.

Although some educators are busier than ever, many have been struggling; the cancellation of the 2009 PMA conference is evidence of that, and I’ve been wondering why our industry isn’t experiencing the same shift toward education that the general population is. Why indeed—especially when it’s so easy to fundraise within your own schedule or within your own studio to subsidize or pay completely for the cost of continuing your education.

Kit's workshop last year in Grand Cayman

Kit's workshop last year in Grand Cayman

As an educator, I specialize in giving you what you need, so the following is a step-by-step plan to get you off the bench and back in action as the quarterback of your education game.

But first, in order for this to work, you’ve got to dismiss thoughts about how you’ve been unable to figure this out in the past. Hit the “erase” button on the voices looping in the soundtrack of your mind about how there’s no way you can spend money these days. Open your mind, soften your heart and unleash your soul to embrace a new possibility. After all, when what we’ve been doing hasn’t delivered the desired result, it’s time to try it another way. A better way. A way that works.

Okay? O-kay!

The solution: I’m going to lay out ideas about how to pay for attending two types of educational workshops. The first one is in the short term–it’s happening this year, it spans nine days and will teach you a revenue-generating ancillary skill. The second one is long term–it’s happening next year, it spans a weekend and focuses on the teaching of Pilates proper.

Now, I’m not implying that the financing strategies that follow will work exactly as written for everyone, but they will work similarly for many of you–you’ve got to start somewhere and do something so you’ll have more money to foster your own education. Teaching even one more session a week is putting you that much closer to being able to afford an inexpensive training like a single-day workshop or even some new books or DVDs. Rome truly wasn’t built in a day, but surely, someone had a plan and it all started with one simple act. It’s your turn, m’dear–it’s time to see your educational future and run toward it! Let’s go!

Part 1: Short-term, long-format, includes a vacation(!), ancillary: In this first example, I’m going to use the specifics of Kit Laughlin’s Stretch Teacher Training workshop because it’s an opportunity for you to learn from the world’s leading flexibility expert, and his work will revolutionize your ability to help tight clients; tight clients are the ones who grip in their quads on Spine Stretch Forward or Single Leg Circles, who struggle sitting for Stomach Massage or who find Front Splits agony instead of delight. In addition to that, I’m using Kit’s workshop because it’s a long one, it takes place over the two middle weekends in November (Saturday, Sunday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday the 14, 15, 20, 21, 22) and it takes place outside the U.S., on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. Exotic! And how convenient that included in this format of consecutive weekends is a 4-day synthesis opportunity/vacation for you during the gap. Brilliant!

Pilates people, did you just experience a twinge of guilt imagining yourself in November, enjoying 80 degree weather on sugar sand beaches after having work-shopped all weekend? Well, stop it! Kit’s format is becoming more and more popular because it builds in time to synthesize new information you’ve learned and time to work all that good stuff into your own body, on your own time, in your own unique way. Learning in this format, you’ll return home with much more directly applicable, in-your-pocket material to put to immediate use. I promise.

Expenses. Kit’s full workshop spans nine days and it costs $1149 USD if you register before September 15th. Payment plans are available, and for our example I’ve got you traveling the day before the workshop begins and returning home the day after it ends. That means you’ll be gone a whopping ten days. Based on that length of stay, airfare from Chicago to Grand Cayman is $232, from Seattle (my home) airfare is $540, from New York’s JFK air fare is $375 and finally, from Los Angeles air fare is $505; for our purposes, we’re using an average of those which is $413. And just so you’ll know, I used Orbitz for my searches and on all stated routes except JFK, Delta was the cheapest fare and out of JFK American Airlines was the cheapest fare.

The host hotel for Kit’s workshop, Comfort Suites, is $156 USD per night, double occupancy, and that includes all taxes, high-speed internet and breakfast. There’s also a microwave, toaster oven and small fridge in every room. For an extra $15 a night, you can get a room with a full kitchen–I’ve already got mine reserved! If you’re going alone, you’ll still be able to share a room with another attendee because any good host – and Kit’s host in the Caymans is excellent–will offer to serve as a housing clearing house for all attendees and will be happy to hook you up with another attendee for you to share hotel expenses. The estimated hotel expense for the ten-night stay, double occupancy, is $780.

For food, or should I say food and (umbrella) drinks, will run you about $20 a day if you eat in and about double that if you eat out. We’ll plan on a little of both and estimate our food and beverage costs to be $350. A big straw hat, extra sun block, a souvenir coconut bra and surf board rental total another $250.

The total estimated cost for Kit’s training is:

Workshop: $1,149

Airfare: $413

Hotel: $780

Food & beverage: $350

Miscellaneous: $250

Total: $2,942

Financing plan. Assuming you don’t have the ability to pay for this up front and/or as you incur the expenses, be prepared to put it on a credit card.

Repayment plan. Open an additional three privates a week on your teaching schedule. I will assume you earn at least $30 an hour for a private so this will generate an additional $90 of income a week, after taxes we’ll figure this will generate an additional $320 of income a month.

Here’s the super important part of this plan: Earmark that increased income for repaying your credit card debt (and don’t you dare spend it on anything else). Be sure to make payments to your credit card with every paycheck so you develop discipline and increased motivation to pay off the sucker.

If you have time to open even more teaching hours, the payback accelerates. If you work in a larger studio with more teachers on staff where you can cover for vacations and illness, this is usually an easy way to generate increased revenue. If you work alone or in a small studio, it’s more challenging but totally possible. What was that? You said you don’t have time to teach more? How about this: cut out a couple hours of TV a week and there you go–more time, like a gift from the universe especially for you.

Now, to maximize our investment in education, we’ve got to blatantly exploit our revenue-expanding capabilities by capturing revenue that many of our clients are currently spending elsewhere: in yoga, in personal training sessions at the gym, etc. But in order to do that, you’ve got to start planning at least six weeks before attending an ancillary skills workshop to make sure you’re able to hit the ground running with the programming of your new classes immediately upon your return. Make sure all your clients are educated about and know what to expect from your new offerings– you’re doing this for them, after all!

Kit’s work does not rely on Pilates experience, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to bring folks from outside the studio into the studio–market stretch classes or any new ancillary skill widely within your community, not just to your current studio client base. If you work for someone else, in order to do this you may well have to tell them how it is.

Why? There’s no better time than the present to take charge of your teaching and compensation destiny. Why else? By expanding your education base you’re becoming a rain maker and rain makers ensure their own success. Be powerful! Take charge! Get stuff done! Tell them that in exchange for you having paid for yourself to go and get better educated without any help from them other than them graciously allowing you to take the time off, you expect to keep a certain amount of the revenue from your group stretch classes.

Reasonable people will think that’s fair enough, but even if you’ve got an unreasonable person on your hands, you still have options. In fact, you have even more options. Offer stretch classes at other studios, or, better yet, rent a room at a community center or church, have your stretch classes there and keep all the profit the class generates. As a zero-overhead option, if you live where the weather cooperates, embrace Joe and Kit’s philosophy of vibrant health and communing with nature and teach stretch classes outside in parks; there are only a few jurisdictions in the U.S. that prevent this, so check with your local parks department to make sure you’re on the right side of the legal line.

But back to staying within the studio lines. You can appropriately feature Kit’s work in any mat class, private or semi-private session you teach, but it’s also a real money-maker to put a straight-up stretch class on the schedule, so that’s what you’re going to do. Let’s say you offer two stretch classes a week and price them at $20 each or with a punch card that lowers the price to $15 per class. Your promotion of the classes and your clients’ desire to become more flexible should produce class attendance of between five and 12 clients. We’ll use an average attendance of eight at $15 per for total revenue of $120 per class, adjusted for taxes we’ll figure that leaves you with two classes a week at about $100 per class for an additional $800 a month toward paying off your Kit workshop.

Here’s the summary of our debt & monthly repayment plan:

Total Workshop Debt: $2,942

Monthly repayment plan

Additional Privates: $320

Stretch Classes: $800

Monthly payment: $1,120

If you’re anywhere close to hitting these numbers, you’d have Kit’s workshop paid off, including interest in three to four months. Even if your revenue earning plan isn’t 100 percent realistic, you’ll still be making great strides to pay off the debt and will have it done, even under dire fiscal circumstances, within four to six months.

When you break it down, plan well and have fiscal discipline, anything is possible– even a winter-time Caribbean vacation with a revenue-building, skill-enhancing, transforming educational experience thrown in. Hey Cabana Boy…!

Part 2: Long-term, short-format, directly related to Pilates. The educational scenario we’re using as our second example is the 2010 PMA conference in Long Beach, California. It’s always the first weekend in November, so for 2010 that would be Friday, November 5th through Sunday, November 7th.

As you may know, within the confines of the three-day PMA educational conference, only historic Pilates-related education is presented and ancillary topics are covered in the pre- and post-conference workshops that happen on Thursday, November 4th and in the afternoon after the closing of the official conference on Sunday, November 7th. Previously, pre- and post-conference ancillary content (like Red Cord, Integrated Work, etc.) is not sufficient to qualify you to teach what you’ve learned there, so it can’t be compared to a workshop like Kit’s, which is multi-day and purposely designed to expand your skills by qualifying you to teach a new discipline. Put more simply, pre- and post-conference workshops at the PMA do not qualify you to teach anything you weren’t already qualified to teach. It’s a better you, it’s just not a brand-new you.

If you don’t do the pre-conference and post-conference workshops, you can arrive early Friday morning, stay Friday and Saturday nights, and the conference ends early enough on Sunday for outbound flights to get you all the way back home so you can spend Sunday night in your own bed and work your usual shift on Monday. However, I don’t think that’s very reasonable so for our planning purposes, so I’m adding in a third night stay. The host hotel normally runs about $170 a night, double occupancy, and the PMA does offer room-sharing clearinghouse services, so you’ll be able to find a roommate if you want one. Thus, we’re going to estimate your hotel costs at $255 for a three-night stay.

Early Bird registration has been running right around $500, and I bet they’ll offer payment plans next year like they did this past spring. There are some excellent pre- and post-cons–Irene Dowd is my favorite–and I’m budgeting for you to attend at least one of them so in addition to the $500 registration fee, we’ll add another $200 for a pre-mor post-conference workshop, so for our planning purposes, I’m figuring on a registration fee of $700. And even with a post-con, depending on where you live, you could still make it home Sunday night, which would cut your hotel costs by a third, but we’ll plan high just to be safe.

I’m definitely estimating airfares because trips can’t be booked that far in advance, so I’m unable to run some sample routings. For our purposes we’re going to assume the fares are similar to Kit’s Grand Cayman workshop and use $413–this will most certainly prove to be high. In past years the PMA has included in your registration fee a free breakfast and lunch so our food and beverage costs in Long Beach will be around $175 and that’s for dinner and drinks for three nights. I’m not sure I’ll be invited to the VIP party again, but if I am, I’ll RSVP that I’m bringing an additional 100 guests and we’ll see if we can’t all eat together for free one of those nights! (Note to self: it’s precisely this type of behavior that may well result in me not being invited!)

We’re going to plan for a generous spending budget for PMA that’s much larger than for other workshops you might attend because the PMA conference is the Big Show in our industry. Past years have pulled about 1,000 people from 30 countries, and everyone who’s anyone in our industry is there. That means the Expo Hall is packed full of vendors selling all sorts of must-haves (Come see Heidi and me at our booth!) and it’s Mecca for us Pilates people. We’ll budget so that you can take advantage of the PMA conference deals that most of the vendors offer and stock up on clothes, software, props, springs, and anything else that strikes your fancy. We’re allowing a whopping $500 spending money in the Expo hall.

So, here’s our 2010 PMA cost recap:

2010 PMA Conference Registration: $700

Airfare: $413

Hotel: $255

Food & Beverage: $175

Expo Hall Retail Therapy: $500

Total: $2,043

Financing plan. If we assume the same schedule expansion of adding three privates a week to your current teaching book, you’ll earn an additional $320 monthly that you can put toward your 2010 PMA educational fund. If you’re anywhere close to hitting these numbers, you’ll have your PMA fund full in less than seven months and you’ll be all set to pay for your PMA conference expenses at the time you incur the charges–no credit card debt!

Keep it rolling. If you keep your fund refreshing whether or not you have a plan for how to spend it, you’ll always have money to draw from to use for your own educational advancement and you’ll be able, as the whim strikes you, to say yes to a workshop that you not have otherwise considered attending. Isn’t that great? See how easy it would be to do both of these workshops, or even both in the same year? Speaking of which, when I pull out of Long Beach in 2010, I’m heading straight for Kit and his annual workshop in the Caymans . . . come on and go with me!

If you have any questions or need to brainstorm ideas on how to accomplish any of this, comment and I will answer. We’ll work together to make your own individual plan and the rest, dear Pilates person, is up to you. Isn’t that exciting?!

Click here to view a full gallery from Kit’s workshop last year.


Working Out and Dressing Up

July 28, 2009

By Kristin McGee

I have the coolest students. I am so lucky to teach Pilates all over the city and meet and work with such amazing people. Just last week after I taught my class at the Soho Equinox, I started chatting with a student from Australia. Naturally the conversation came around to the fact that I’M GETTING MARRIED IN FIVE MONTHS! And it just so happens that she is also recently engaged and she had a wonderful lead on some beautiful dresses and gave me the link: As we kept talking, we also discovered that my wedding date is on her birthday! We couldn’t believe it. Her wedding is in April so she has bit more time to pick out her perfect dress.

After a private session, I taught on the Upper East Side a few days later, I passed by a wedding gown store called Atelier Aimee, on Park Avenue. The dresses in the window were stunning and I had to ring the bell and walk inside just for a peek. I know these dresses are way beyond my budget, but I thought I’d at least ask what one of my favorites came in at.

This is E28 from Eve of Milady, which a student recommended to me.

This is E28 from Eve of Milady, which a student recommended to me.

The lovely clerk, Marni, said it was about $6,000. Wow! Six grand is a lot of money, but for handmade dresses from Italy that are one of a kind, it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. I told her my wedding date, though, and she nearly fainted. She said brides who are getting married in December 2010 have already bought their dresses and that I should get a move on. I am going back in for an appointment next week to try on some of the dresses. If nothing else, I’ll have an idea of my perfect fantasy dress and maybe I can have someone make it for me here in the States or hit the lotto and buy a gown at If I happen to really want something from there (and can take out a loan), then I have to decide, like, yesterday in order for them to have it made.
Once I posted my first blog, one of my favorite long-distance students who does my DVDs and who I connected with via internet, emailed me immediately and gave me a link to her favorite wedding designer: She also said E28 would be an incredible dress for me. I almost cried when I received her email because of her incredible support for me and the fact that she is helping me out even though we’ve never ever met in person. I feel like she is my sister in a sense.

In my familial birth order, I am the middle girl between two boys, and I have to admit as much as I love having my hair and makeup done for photo shoots, I am quite the tomboy. I run around the city in workout gear all day long and usually wear my hair back in a ponytail. I live for the weeks when I’m camping with my dad (we did two weeks white-water rafting on the Grand Canyon last summer). Don’t be horrified, but I can go for days without washing my hair and live in the same T- shirt and flannel and rinse my undies in the nearest river. But that’s when I’m camping. Right now, I have to focus and to find the dress of my dreams. (Oh, am I obsessing?) I am too practical, and I’ve given up dress shopping for work or my own workouts and classes to become a better and better teacher.

I have five months now before the big day. It’s time to really pretend I’m a princess and I need to pamper myself a bit more (something that’s actually hard for me to do). I need all the help I can get. I appreciate the advice I’ve had so far from my students and friends, and I have a few pseudo-sisters in Manhattan who are waiting for me to pick a day to go to Kleinfelds so they can help me try on dresses. I will keep you posted and I’ll try and bring my digital camera with me so you can vote on or help me decide on the ideal dress. Or send me your suggestions! Post your comments here and I will get them—and respond to every one of you. Thanks for sharing in this journey!

The Pilates Bridezilla Speaks!

July 22, 2009
Tim and I

Tim and I

By Kristin McGee

I never would have imagined I’d meet the man of my dreams while teaching Pilates. In April 2007, I was in Sun Valley, Idaho (the ski town near where I grew up), for Easter weekend and to do some spring skiing. It just so happened one of my East Coast clients has a home there as well, and she asked if I could do some yoga and Pilates privates with her apres-ski.

In the middle of our second session, Teresa jumps up and screams out, “Tim O’Shea! I said, “Tim O’huh?” I thought maybe the ab series had got her delirious or something. She says again, “Tim O’Shea. He was just here in Sun Valley skiing for a month. He is perfect for you, and you are perfect for him. You have to meet him. He will love you. I am calling him right now.”

Before I even knew what was happening, I got a phone call later that evening from Tim, who said his best friend’s mother had left a voicemail on his home fax machine phone (which he hasn’t had a call on in ages) instructing him to call me. He was as nonplussed as I was, but we both were very intrigued by the entire scenario. Tim was living in Boston, and he said he’d come to New York and take me out when I came back from Idaho.

He came in on a Monday evening, and we went to dinner at The Spotted Pig (thank goodness I’m not a vegetarian) in the far West Village of New York and talked the entire evening. The next time he came in to the city, he took me to Raoul’s (the best steak frites in all of NY….once again, thank goodness I’m not a vegetarian), and he kissed me good-night that evening. Well, the rest is history (at least, among the McGees and O’Sheas). We continued long-distance dating—lots of fung wah $15 bus rides from NY to Boston and vice versa—and just this past December while we were both out skiing in Sun Valley, he popped the question on the chairlift of all places.

Pilates led me to Tim in a roundabout way, but I think Pilates has and always will continue to keep leading me back to myself and my true center. It keeps me grounded, focused, centered, lengthened, lighter, stronger, more confident and constantly aiming for a deeper understanding of myself—and of life. I’m counting on Pilates to not only get me in tiptop physical shape. Goodness knows I need a scooped-in belly, nice posture, lifted derriere and toned arms for whichever dress I end up choosing…I’ll need all of your help with that, so please send me suggestions and leads I know I can also count on Pilates to keep me calm, cool and collected to deal with whatever comes my way as I get ready for my big day. [Editor’s note: Kristin: if you got married TODAY you’d have the perfect Pilates bod!]

We’ve set the date, December 19, 2009, in Sun Valley (of course), and we’ll be getting married in the clubhouse of the-brand new Golf Lodge, which has breathtaking views of Mt. Baldy. After the ceremony, everyone will be shuttled over to the River Run Lodge at the base of the mountain, where we’ll have our reception. I’m excited for you to help me along, and I’ll share with you all the details of my Pilates practice, dress hunting, invitation sending and beauty regime. I’ll do my best to maintain the Pilates contrology and not actually turn into Bridezilla. So far so good. Tim cannot get over how relaxed I am as a bride to be. Of course, only time will tell.


Kristin McGee—soon to be O’Shea