I try to workout every day. This is something I have been doing since I was 20 years old. I just turned 69 in July of this year.I find that I can do Pilates every day and feel better and energized after I am finished. It also helps me center my mind and destress after a long day. I try to do at least ½ hour if not more on the apparatus. I do Pilates with a teacher in my area.
Lee Artur is a veteran of the fitness industry having begun her career in 1982, at the inception of the fitness boom. Over the course of the last 34 years, Lee has been in every aspect of the fitness Industry. IN 1984 Lee opened the Exercise Studio In Doylestown, Pa. In 1989, Lee partnered with The Center Club, a family owned Karate and Fitness center in Bucks County Pa. Lee acted as the Aerobic and Fitness Director of the club, from 1989 until 2003 as it grew from one club, to a small chain of three centers located in Bucks County Pa. and Hunterdon NJ. Lee has been a CEC provider and conference presenter, for ACE, AFFA and AAAI and starred in a step training video produced by Greg Twombly, founder of CIA, Creative Instructor Aerobics, a video based training program for aerobic instructors.
In September, 1999, Lee entered the Body Precision Pilates Instructor training program and after completion in 2001, opened The Pilates Center at Lambertville Inc. The Pilates Center is now located in The Diamond Silver Building, 24 Arnett St. in Lambertville, NJ (www.pilatescenter.net ). In 2006, Lee was hired by the Healthquest Fitness Club, to train instructors in the Pilates Method and to facilitate and install a fully equipped Pilates studio at the club. Lee acted as a consultant to the club and as Director of the Pilates studio from 2006 until 2011.
How old are you and what is your background?
I just turned 69 in July of this year. My background was as an artist and potter, who was always into fitness and running. I ran track in High school and continued throughout my adulthood. I got into teaching exercise by accident. In 1978, I was asked by the director of the community center where I was living at the time, if I would teach an exercise class for the center. My experience with exercise at that point was running and working out with Jack LaLanne on TV. But never one to turn down a challenge, I said yes. The first Kenneth Cooper book had just been published, The Royal Canadian Airforce Exercise Handbook, I bought it and modeled the class on it, including calisthenics and aerobic exercises like squat thrusts, and jumping jacks. Some of the calisthenics actually resembled Pilates exercises. Of course I had no idea at the time that the exercise where you do a sit up and lift your legs too, was in fact a teaser. This was at the cusp of the fitness boom, within the next few years, Jane Fonda’s workout was all the rage, and The 20 minute workout was a big hit on TV. It was basically a bunch of dancers, hopping around in leotards and leg warmers for 10 minutes between commercials.
By 1984, I had moved to Bucks County, Pa. and opened my own exercise studio. I enrolled in some physiology classes at the community college, to learn more about the science of exercise and read every text book about anatomy and physiology I could find. In 1986 I learned of The Kenneth Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Dallas, Tx. They were the first to offer an Aerobic instructor training program. I enrolled and went there for a 2week program that covered just about everything you need to know to teach aerobic classes, even how to count music and work on the beat. I also trained as a fitness specialist, which was a precursor to a Personal trainer. We learned how to test for, Vo2 Max, strength, agility, endurance and power as well as strength training techniques. It was a very comprehensive program that included a practical as well as a written test to pass. That same year I took the first certification test for IDEA, now ACE. I owned The Exercise Studio until 1989, when I partnered with two brothers who had recently opened a Karate school and fitness center called The Center Club. BY 1995, the club had two new owners and 2 more locations. I was the Aerobic and Fitness director for the clubs until 2003, and then The Pilates director until 2005.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
I was introduced to Pilates by a fitness instructor who worked for me. This was 1994. She was taking Pilates with a teacher in Philadelphia, Pa., rehabbing from a failed knee surgery that damaged the peroneal nerve causing drop foot.
My work schedule did not allow for me to travel frequently to that studio. I was teaching 7 days a week while running the aerobic program for 3 clubs, with over 300 classes per week, and 100 teachers.
By coincidence a Romana Trained Classical Pilates teacher, living abroad and looking to locate to Bucks County, reached out via email, to see if there would be a place for him at the club. And so I hired the man, who is still a friend and owns a studio in the same town as my studio. I have to say that for a small town gym we were pretty progressive back then to offer classical Pilates classes on the aerobic class schedule. Not many people even knew what it was or even how to pronounce Pilates, but the classes did very well and they were classical order Mat, not some gym type abs class. He even had a reformer set up in the aerobic studio and charged for private sessions. After about 1 year, the owners wanted him to pay for use of the studio and he soon left to open his own studio.
Not long after that, a married couple opened a Pilates studio about ½ mile from the gym. I hired them to teach the Mat classes at the gym and began taking Pilates on the apparatus, 3 times per week at their studio. I knew this was something that had been lacking in my fitness training. Not coming from the dance world, and being by and large a product of the origins of the fitness boom, I had no exposure to this type of training. Back then it was still the no pain no gain type mentality. I was thinking about getting certified to teach, but going to NYC to train was out of the question, and I was unaware of any other program until they mentioned I should check out the Body Precision Pilates studio teacher training program, located in Bryn Mawr Pa. This is where they attended, and it is only an hour drive from Bucks County. I began my certification in 1999 and certified in 2001.
I am very fortunate that the owners of the gym had confidence in me. They believed when I said that the fitness industry was moving in this direction. They paid for my training in Pilates and after I certified, they agreed to open a fully equipped dedicated Classical Pilate studio. We were one of the first gyms anywhere to do that.
We opened the studio in 2001 and by 2003 I had given up the aerobic director position to run the studio full time. By 2005, I made the decision to buy out my partners and relocate from the gym to a larger studio in the same town. I still have many of those same clients in my studio to this date.
Are you running your business on your own?
I have been running my business on my own since 2005. For the first few years of the business, when I was in partnership with the Center Clubs, one of the partners handled the business and I concentrated on the studio management. But after went out on my own, it wasn’t a problem because I had experience owning and running a gym. But I do feel that ownership and managing and teaching are very challenging to juggle and still have time for a life outside the studio. By the time I owned The Pilates Center, my kids were grown and I was single. It was not a big deal for me to put in long hours as I didn’t have to worry about a family. All I had to worry about was the studio. I have good friends who own a Pilates studio and have small kids and I really don’t know how they do it.
Can you earn a good living as a Pilates teacher and/or studio-owner?
I do earn a really good living owning a studio and teaching Pilates. It’s how I support myself and have for almost 20 years. But I think you need to be adaptable and recognize that this is a business that has ups and downs as far as client base. I rent space in my studio to other instructors, rather than have employees or sub- contractors. This is how the Center Club structured the business before I took it over, and it worked well, so I decided not to change it. The teachers have their own client base and I have nothing to do with ensuring they have clients. They rent by the hour, and pay me at the end of the month. I don’t worry about payroll or the others things that take up so much time in running a business.
I have had primarily the same teachers renting from me since the studio opened in 2001. We get along really well and work out together when we can.
But a caveat here, I think it’s hard if you are single and expect to make enough money to live on, teaching in a fitness center or gym. Traditionally they do not pay well, and really don’t care about education. The weekend certification is the standard, and usually the classes are a loss leader. The clubs make money on the gym, where they don’t have a payroll for the teachers.
Do you think people can call themselves a Pilates trainer after a one-weekend-course of a workshop? What is your opinion about that?
After the trademark lawsuit was resolved in favor of making the Pilates name available to anyone, the course of Pilates was changed forever. The name was available for anyone and so the method itself was bastardized as the gym mentality took hold. As someone coming from the fitness Industry and not a dance background, the idea of getting certified to teach in one weekend is the norm. The information taught is basic and the pass rate is high. I have been a fitness presenter and CEC provider for many training organizations: I know full well that it’s all about the choreography and very little science.
Since becoming a Pilates teacher, I have been asked by several fitness certifying organizations to present a weekend Pilates certification workshop at their conferences, and my answer is, NO Thanks!
I also feel that Training programs that offer modules, rather than the full comprehensive work are diluting the method and it shows in those teachers, who lack a full understanding of the system and how it works as a whole. Many of the programs do not even require the reading of Joe’s book, Return to Life, which contains the essence and basis of his philosophy and must be read to fully comprehend what you are teaching. l I understand that time constrains and money are at issue, however teaching it like that has changed the idea of what Pilates is and what it does for the body. Learning in bits and pieces, rather than a system that has continuity and congruency, changes the perspective and changes how Pilates is then taught. If you read some of the questions on the forums you can see that there a lack of understanding of the method, by the very basic questions that are asked, questions that should be addressed in the training process, not an online forum.
Did you solve your own body issues with Pilates?
I don’t think that anyone can solve their own issues. You need other eyes on you. Our brain controls how we move if there is pain, and even the most astute of us, is not aware of these subtle shifts to move away from the pain. It’s hard to get yourself out of a pattern that has been corrupted by pain. But once you have worked with someone, I think then that you can work to keep them under control.
I discovered this after I had hip replacement surgery due to a break from a bad fall. I think being in good shape helped me recover quickly, but I did need the guidance of a good PT, who was able to help me when my alignment was off and I was compensating. Even though I teach alignment and I am aware of my own posture, after an injury that perspective goes out the window, and our brain takes over our bodies, in spite of our best efforts.
How many times per week do you workout yourself?
I try to workout every day. This is something I have been doing since I was 20 years old and have never really gone very long without. It was my job for many years, to work out at a very high level of intensity several hours per day. I don’t know if it was luck or good genes, but I was never injured during my career, and I taught over 25 classes per week.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to transition to teaching Pilates. I realized that I could not keep up that level indefinitely. Teaching aerobic classes is very different from Pilates in that you are participating in every class, and it takes a toll on your body.
I find that I can do Pilates every day and feel better and energized after I am finished. It also helps me center my mind and destress after a long day. I try to do at least ½ hour if not more on the apparatus. I do Pilates with a teacher in my area. I also train with kettlebells and workout with a trainer doing lots of functional exercises and moving in ways that I won’t by myself. It’s been just a little over a year since my hip replacement and there are some areas of reduced ROM that I really need to work on. So I really need to target those hip flexors and do lots of squats and lunges, working on balance and stability. I have found that for me cross training is the best way to stay healthy and fit. I also walk/run every day. My orthopedic surgeon said no running, but I do run, and so far so good. I think the precautions are generalized for my age group, but I think I am above average. I also know my body very well, so I run, but do take it easy.
What makes a Pilates teacher a better Pilates teacher?
Teaching Pilates requires skills that need to be learned and developed apart from being able to perform it. However the best teachers have the experience and knowledge of the movements in their bodies and that translates in knowing how and when to cue, how to touch and spot as well as what words and visual images work for each individual.
I also think that the best teachers show empathy and compassion. They listen to the client and know when to push them to work harder, but also when to recognize limitations and to understand why someone can’t do an exercise. Most of our clients want to please us and impress us. They trust us to do what is best for them, and have confidence that we are going to help them reach their goals. The best teachers in my opinion never take that for granted.
But at the end of the day, experience is the best teacher for all of us. After completion of the training program is when the learning really begins for Pilates Teachers. Working with lots of bodies we start to recognize similar patterns and learn how and what to do to help the client move more efficiently.
How do you see the future of Pilates and what is your Pilates dream/goal?
Being a Classical Teacher my answer is biased toward the Classical style. I’m hopeful that more teachers and people in general will seek more information about the Method as Joe Pilates developed it. I’ve noticed there seems to be a renewed interest in learning Classical Pilates. Sean Gallagher has revived the Authentic Pilates training program, which is dedicated to the method as created by JHP, using the archives and films that show exactly how Joe directed his method to be taught. And Sunni Almond has created a site called, “Going More Joe” which focuses on the classical approach to teaching. But that being said I still think that Pilates has been changed forever, and not for the better. There is nothing that defines what Pilates is, or that makes it unique and special. And the fact that we are discussing weekend certification and tests that offer no practical exam, as well as training programs that do not require an apprenticeship speaks volumes.
At this point in my career, I am moving in a direction of taking more manual therapy courses, and am taking the Level I and II Neurokenetic Therapy course next month in NYC with Dr. Kathy Dooley. I am also going to take Sean Gallagher’s Authentic training program. Sean is an incredible teacher, who shares his vast knowledge without ego or pretension. Another favorite teacher, although not Pilates, is Elizabeth Wetzig, who developed the “Coordination Patterns.” She is a wonderful teacher and the patterns are an amazing tool in teaching movement. I am going to be taking more session with her this year as well.
I learn from my clients all the time. They provide a vast amount of information.
My Pilates goal is to continue to teach as long as possible. I feel that adding manual therapy approaches will allow me to advance my career and help my clients in ways not possible with only a Pilates certification. Going through physical therapy, after my hip replacement, allowed me to see what is lacking in those practices. I think that’s why I see many clients who had PT for injuries and were not helped and are still suffering from pain. Those practices are set up on principles based on insurance and billing as many patients as possible. During my stint in PT, I saw so many patients, left on their own to do a rehab exercise and they were not doing it correctly. The PT would give basic directions but then leave to see another patient. I was lucky because of my Pilates background, but the other patients do not have that knowledge. I had to restrain myself from going over to offer my help.
Pilates really did help me recover quickly, I was back to teaching in 2 weeks after my surgery. .My surgeon said I recovered faster than any patient in the history of his practice. I know I help my clients and with Pilates, but I with the addition of manual therapy training, I will be able to add another element to my toolbox.