From Rehab Specialist to Pilates Studio Director to Teacher Trainer

Physical fitness has always been important to me. My career has always centered around helping people heal their bodies and become more fit all around. In 2001 I was working at the Orthopedic Center of the Rockies when I was offered the chance to enroll in a rehab-based Pilates program. I didn’t know what Pilates was, but the opportunity would allow me to learn a new way to help clients and patients with rehab. A perfect combination! I signed up for the year-long intensive training.

After three years of putting my new skills to use as a Rehab Fitness Coordinator for an outpatient center in Colorado, I decided to open my own Pilates studio. My experience as a rehab specialist and practitioner of Pilates – plus the knowledge that Pilates was just taking off in popularity in the country – gave me the courage to start my own business.

My studio grew over time. Clients began to express interest in becoming Pilates instructors themselves. There were training programs they could join through franchises or through other studios, but I wanted a solution that kept their training in my own studio. I wanted to teach my students in my own way.

Opening a teacher training program would let me expand my business while training clients I already had strong relationships with. It would deepen my own practice and let me grow a community of Pilates instructors within my own world. Pilates was an invaluable part of my life, and training new instructors meant bringing more people into the fold.

Time and resources were a major roadblock: How could I start my own teacher training studio from the ground up given the sheer volume of information I would need to teach? There weren’t enough hours in the day to run a business and create a curriculum from scratch.

When I learned about Pilates Education Institute in 2014, my prayers were answered. I could open a teacher training school within my studio without creating the materials on my own. PEI gave me a pre-made curriculum that I could use and modify as needed for my students. Over time, I created supplemental resources to customize the program and add on learning from my experience in rehab work. By using PEI’s tools, I could focus on my student teachers instead of wasting time gathering all the materials.

Once I began training students, I learned that the best way to learn is to teach. After students had passed the exam for an apparatus, I allowed them to assist in teaching clients. This fulfilled my student teachers’ necessary observation hours while letting them be members of the team. Both student teachers and clients love this method. The student teachers really get the idea of what it takes to run a successful Pilates business!

Since the PEI curriculum is focused on treating clients as individuals with unique needs, student teachers experienced how to effectively manage client needs across both private and group classes. When PEI moved its platform online, my student teachers were thrilled to have this easy reference…but nothing replaced the times we were teaching together.

In total, I’ve had 11 students complete the 450 hour teacher training program successfully. I have always encouraged them to join the PMA and attend the national conferences for the experience of being around so many gifted lecturers and just the energy of the conference itself. After my student teachers became Pilates teachers I hired them to teach at my studio. Several have gone on to open their own studios, had children, worked at different Pilates businesses, and generally had a successful career as a Pilates teacher.


Don Spence

Director, Pilates Career Institute and PEI