May 3 / Chinny Daez

7 Tips on How to Improve Your Pilates Online Classes

2020 brought on a lot of changes in our everyday routines. Social distancing, mask wearing, and quarantine measures became the norm, which prompted Pilates classes to evolve. Studios closed and in-person classes were nonexistent, but we all had to find a way to continue spreading our knowledge of the Method. How? By going digital.

But let’s be honest, making the switch from physical classes to online ones is not easy. If you’re struggling with the technology, need some advice on your angles and lighting, or are simply looking for some tips on how to improve your online classes, we’ve asked Miguel Silva and Jorge Leal to share some tips with us to help you out.

1. Invest in equipment
We’ll say it now: You can’t go digital if you don’t have the equipment. You don’t need the best of the best, the biggest, or the most expensive equipment. Simply getting a good, reliable piece of equipment will work just fine. Here’s a list of things you’ll need to make your online classes even better:

Camera: While you can always use your phone or a web camera, in an ideal situation, you would get a professional camera for your classes. Not only is the quality miles better than your phone, but you can also connect a pro camera to your phone and/or laptop and easily zoom in and out without having to get up from your pose. (Cost estimate: 400-500 Euros)

Light: It’s very important that your students see you on screen, and besides a camera, lighting does wonders in making sure you’re seen. Sometimes your overhead room light isn’t enough to make sure you are brightly lit and you will need some extra reinforcements in the form of a professional light stand. This will also ensure you have consistent lighting throughout your classes, regardless of the time of day. (Cost estimate: 200-300 Euros)
Microphone: Another important aspect of online classes is sound. While explaining or giving feedback, you don’t necessarily want to rely on your phone’s speaker to pick up what you’re saying. If you place your phone far away from you, this can affect the quality of the sound, resulting in some communication being unclear. Invest in a microphone you can attach to your activewear so that you can always be heard no matter how much you move. (Cost estimate: 200-300 Euros)

Tripod: How will you keep your phone or camera up to get the best angle? A tripod! While you can use a stack of books or a shelf to prop up your phone or camera, a tripod is more secure. You can also easily grab and move the tripod if you want to switch angles. It’s much easier than having to arrange a stack of books all over again, right? (Cost estimate: 100-200 Euros)

TV Screen: If you hold classes with 3 or more people, Miguel highly advises you to get a TV screen. Not only is it much easier on the eyes, you’ll also be able to see more people on screen and not have to look like you’re squinting all the time. You don’t have to get a huge TV screen, even a 13 inch one will do fine! (Cost estimate: 300-400 Euros)
With all this equipment, it may look like a large investment – roughly more than 1,000 Euros – but it will be worth it in the end.

Jorge also suggests looking at what you can save on. For example, many Pilates studios have 6 Reformers. What if you sell or get fewer Reformers, say 4 instead of 6, and use the money you saved on equipment instead? Look at it this way, in an in-studio class, you can only teach 6 students using the 6 Reformers, whereas in an online class, all you need is 1 Reformer to teach a larger number of students.

2. Understand your space to maximize your lighting
Like we mentioned earlier, light is super important when teaching an online class as it ensures that your students see you properly. Take a look at your home studio. What is your background? Do you have natural light? Do you need more light?

You don’t necessarily need to have professional lighting all the time. Try to be resourceful and look around you. If it’s too bright, maybe you can use curtains, fabric, or paper to cover up your window or some light. If it’s too dark, maybe you can bring in a floor lamp or table lamp. Maybe you can even find a room in your home with more windows and use that as a studio? Try to analyze your space and be creative with what you have.

3. Make sure to balance your lighting
Jorge says that proper lighting is all about balance. Sometimes if you just use ceiling lighting it can be a bit dim. Whereas if you position your lighting to hit you full frontal it can be a bit too harsh and glaring.
So what’s the ideal light positioning? From the side. You can get two professional light stands and angle them to come from different sides. Alternatively, if you have natural light coming out from one window, let’s say your right, then you can supplement and balance this light with a professional light stand on the left.

4. Situate yourself in the best angle
A common question for instructors who teach online classes is ‘What angle should I teach in?’ Should you have the camera facing you in the front or from the side? The answer is both! More angles mean more coverage.
How do you cover two angles? You can use a camera, phone, iPad, or laptop. Just make sure you have both a side view and a front view. If for some reason you can’t have two angles, then a side angle is the most efficient. You can also ask your students to show you two angles so you can better see their form and posture.

Here’s a bonus tip from Jorge: Make use of the lines in your camera and phone (the ones you automatically see when you open them) when you’re trying to find an angle, and make sure they are straight!

Another tip from Miguel: Make sure your camera is eye level so you’re not looking awkwardly at the camera. You want to be looking directly at the camera when you’re addressing your students, not at some random corner of your screen.

5. Use earphones to facilitate efficient communication
Communication is critical during online classes, especially when you’re sharing feedback and answering questions. Using earphones can help you focus on the sound and lets you hear your students clearly as compared to having sound come from your phone. While Airpods are a popular (but expensive) option, regular working earphones will also work just fine.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
Ask fellow instructors or even students for their suggestions and feedback. If you’ve got family or friends who are techy and interested in gadgets, they might be able to help you out. We are all on the same boat, so if you’re struggling with some technology, need some advice on specific brands to buy, or want some suggestions and tips for lighting, make use of your community and network.

7. Remember why you’re doing this
You might be thinking, is all this effort and cost worth it? Take a look around you. Everything is going digital. Online is not only our reality, but also the future. From online shopping and online banking, to Netflix and social media, people are constantly glued to their gadgets. What more in the next few years when technology advances even further?

Also think about the opportunities and advantages having a good online presence can have. You aren’t restricted to one location anymore. Going online means you can connect with people from all over the world and widen your reach, clientbase, and connections.

But beyond the trends and getting on board the bandwagon, having a good or even great online class will reflect on you as an instructor, as a professional, and on your career. When students pay for your online classes, you want to be able to give them the service they deserve. And that means a great experience and a good quality class. If your students have to watch you teach from 10 feet away on a grainy screen with poor sound quality, their overall experience will suffer and so will you. You don’t want them to have a mediocre or bad experience, they deserve a great one. As Miguel says, “Don’t stay in the middle. If you do it, go all the way.”

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in June 2021. More than a year later in October 2022, the unthinkable happened, and Jorge Leal suffered a stroke. He is currently seeking treatment in a specialized clinic in Spain. Jorge’s journey has been one of resilience and determination, and he requires financial assistance to access necessary medical treatments, therapies, and support systems. Learn more about how you can support him here.

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