Mar 5 · 11 min read
by Madison Page, Co-Founder / CEO of Core to Coeur
Whether you’re a movement instructor, personal trainer, or coach, let this foolproof guide help you seamlessly transfer your in-person sessions into the virtual world.
In October of 2018, I started a company for movement instructors teaching live Pilates, Yoga, and Functional Movement online. I saw many of my colleagues in the movement community teaching clients over Skype, but there existed no platform to help facilitate this kind of intimate instruction.
With the increasing adoption of on-demand exercise in the last three years, I saw an opportunity to bring exceptional movement instruction to a wider audience. Together with my Co-Founder, Dr. Anni Engelhardt, we began building our solution. Core to Coeur (French for heart) is a virtual movement platform where people take live class in a stress-free, community-minded, private environment.
Now, this time last year I was absolutely skilled in the service part of Core to Coeur — I have been a Pilates instructor for years. But, I was absolutely clueless in the buildout of the service, the business of teaching Pilates online. My Dropbox linked to an old work account from 2014. Reminders of a severely overdue cloud backup from SIX HUNDRED days ago popped up hourly on my computer. I found one of life’s great mysteries to be how the WiFi gets from my router to the computer (to be honest, I’m still in awe, it is a miracle). But in spite of all of this, I did possess one thing that would make the company successful: determination.
My understanding of our services, our platform, and our proprietary technology continues to evolve everyday with new participants, but I’ve done the research to ensure the best possible experience for clients and practitioners. I’ve investigated price points, interviewed colleagues guiding wellness sessions over video conferencing, and experimented with camera angles and device set-up. After a year of practice, I’ve come up with part one of my first guide in taking steps towards expand your teaching or coaching practice into the virtual world.
For movement instructors, fitness professionals, and coaches, this “Fit-Tech Frontier” is happening. I want all of us who care about movement science and the people we serve to capitalize on it early. It is a tool for consistent income during unpredictable weather. It affords you flexibility for when a client’s stuck at home with a sick kid. It offers steady work when you’re traveling. And, it will assuredly widen your client-base through live streaming studio classes.
You need to make sure you’ve communicated to your client that setting up before your session is part of the session. Call it a centering ritual, call it a checklist, whatever you have to do, but not setting up the camera and environment will impact your ability to teach a successful class. The best practice I’ve found: ask your clients to sign on ten minutes before their first virtual class to walk them through the technical portion of the service. Not only will you feel more prepared, your client will be able to relax a bit knowing that you can see them beforehand. Our clients receive a landing page of Helpful Tips (which you can see here) when they book a session.
Another pro set up tip: dark clothing makes detailed movement difficult to see on camera. Adding bright leggings or a workout top to your teaching wardrobe can make the difference between an enthusiastic “Yeah!” and a quizzical trailing “…Yeah…” after you ask your class if they understand what they’re doing after your demonstration. Three months ago we started a partnership with women-led apparel company Handful to sponsor our Live Instagram classes. We realized their colorful workout gear offered the perfect solution to our dark clothing dilemma. They have incredible bright teal leggings I can’t wait move in!
Don’t expect it to be the same. It’s too easy to notice the negatives- yes you do not have your hands to guide the participant, sometimes there is a delay in the video. I am tirelessly grappling with how to safely and effectively teach exercise online keeping these two set-backs in mind. However, I recognize the benefits for people who struggle to make a regular practice out of exercise.
Here are some of the benefits to teaching online:
When you are doubting yourself remember that many people will prefer working out at home. In fact, being able to will change their life for the better.
Before I start every class I take inventory of the client’s surroundings: Which direction is the light coming? Is she in her living room or bedroom (or even the kitchen when it’s the only option)? Making references to their environments is a wonderful way to enhance your clients’ spacial learning.
Put props like massage balls, rollers, and thera-bands in the frame.
It is easy to forget what props a client has with her if they aren’t visible. Ask the client to lay her props out alongside the mat so you can have a visual reminder of them. Not only do they provide their conventional use of adding variety, they additionally serve as a feedback tool in place of touch.
And if you’re looking for the best, most eco-friendly props around, we recommend our partners in health, Rawlogy. They make incredible self-massage balls and tools for self care made out of 100% recycled cork and other sustainable materials.
Without the aid of hands-on learning, we have to excel at other forms of feedback, specifically through language. Remind the client that working out together online is their time to ask questions and practice speaking up for any pain or discomfort in a safe environment. With new clients working out over video for the first time, they may fear an unfamiliar sensation and resultantly have difficulty articulating it. The pain of a muscle overdue for activation might be confused with a threatening sensation they’ve been told to push beyond in the past. I suggest developing evocative communication that makes sense to a majority of your clients. For instance, when they say an exercise is “hurting”, you might ask:
“Does this pain feel unfamiliar?”
“Does this pain feel dangerous?”
“Can you describe and point to where you are feeling this exercise?”
And then trust what they say. This could be the first time they’ve had the opportunity to ask questions about their body if they’ve been taking crowded group fitness classes.
Showing this kind of humanity is what I believe separates the good movement practitioners from the exceptional ones, establishing a trusted bond between client and practitioner.
Got two devices? Great- use them! I had a colleague in class one evening and she suggested that when I demonstrated an additional angle would be beneficial for newcomers in class. With some brainstorming, we came up with the idea to use an old phone for our second device. We mute one device so there’s no feedback on the call and place the phone on the side of our mat. Now when we’re showing an exercise, the client has another view of the it.
I’ve found this method of teaching ideal for visual learners. But be prepared. In my experience, if a client can’t understand a movement when you verbally cue them, they will turn their faces toward the camera and stare at you expectantly. So while you’re talking, also demonstrate the exercise.
I remember when I taught my first private client over Skype. I was traveling between Portland and Eugene quite a bit at the time, always teaching in a different location. At times, the rooms I stayed in were so small the only free space to teach was on the bed! Finally, I secured a room where I could teach my weekly sessions. My client remarked, “Wow this looks so much better”. Again, this is a visual medium. We can enhance the enjoyment of their sessions simply by elevating what they see on their screens.
Bonus tip: if you’re lacking a designated room for exercise, angle the camera to the corner of a room that’s free from clutter.
There is a perceived difference in value of teaching in person versus over live video. I’m working within that framework in our on business, swapping my typical “know your worth girl’ mentality for a business model associated with many e-commerce platforms. I knew we were on the right track when we saw a spike in our numbers (obviously). We switched our business model from selling packages to monthly memberships. By lowering the price about $7 less per class, we saw over an 1,000% increase in our sales. That percentage is real. I didn’t make it up. Our clients are paying less, they can take as many classes as they want to, and our revenue recurs month after month.
Believe me I get it, it’s difficult to lower your rate when you’ve worked your whole career to be able to raise it. Again, I offer this reality: while we are skilled teachers, we are not yet experts in guiding a movement class over video. As you have most assuredly gained insights and increased somatic knowledge throughout the years, developing expertise teaching virtually will also demand acquiring new knowledge.
When a person comes in to take a Pilates class, what are some of the first comments they say during side kick series? That they didn’t know they could feel their glutes so intensely, that they didn’t even know that had 3 kinds of glute muscles, that they didn’t even know where their glutes were in the first place?! I encourage all practitioners to apply this same kind of beginner’s mindset to teaching online. The Internet and our devices are part of our everyday lives, but most of us do not understand their operation. I knew there would be glitches along the way, but I could not anticipate the unique ways the Internet and technology could go awry from my lack of understanding of it. (Are you getting the glute metaphor at this point? No? Read On.)
Our company chose a conferencing software that integrates onto our landing page, so that at the time of class our clients simply have to click on their Class Clock to enter into their teacher’s studio. I thought that function was all we really needed. I couldn’t predict that I would have clients that would come on and start speaking and I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t predict that during a group class one client would need tech help but the rest of the class was prepped and ready to move. I couldn’t predict that all of a sudden a call would drop and I’d be staring at a little avatar instead of my client’s butt-kicking side-kicks.
Thankfully, our clients have been more forgiving than I anticipated, quickly logging off and back on to the meeting without skipping a beat, downloading new browsers, doing their own investigating of their device settings.
For my team and me, we believe graciousness goes a long way. Your clients will thank you by sticking around long term if you acknowledge that the tech problems may have had a negative impact on their experience. If your internet connection gets lost for good, or if your client can’t figure out how to log back on — refund the session, or for the amount of minutes lost on the session.
I’m guessing if you’re a Pilates or yoga or movement instructor you’re probably not spending your free time coding (but if you are we MUST meet), and so: there will be a learning curve. It’s part of being on the new frontier of an emerging industry. I recommend carving out time to deeply understand the software you’re using and make good connections with their customer support team. You have to learn to crawl before you walk, and so will the client. You are likely learning together, and it’s important to remind them of that. I believe our clients want to see our own vulnerability, and if we model it, both of you can become savvy exercise buddies traversing this new frontier together.
We also wouldn’t be this far along in such a short amount of time without reaching out to others for help. Since the beginning of Core to Coeur I’ve contacted instructors I admired in my field. Practitioners like Leslie Logan, Alexx Shilling, Veronica Whetsel, and of course my co-founder Doctor Anni Engelhardt are just a few of teachers I implored for feedback. Concurrently, I sought guidance from mentors in technology, branding, and user experience. I used what I learned to construct the platform with the mindset of how to best serve our clients. I am excited to be an early adopter and advocate for a better, enjoyable, more convenient way to exercise at home.
If you’re thinking about expanding your business to video conferencing, reach out to us on social or email, and ask us what went wrong and right during our first year of Core to Coeur. We like to think of ourselves as wading through the mud of this technical stuff so you don’t have to.
*Ready to turn your space into your private studio? Onward to Part II of our C2C Pro Series ! ➡️
Madison Page is CEO and Co-Founder of Core to Coeur. You can find her teaching Pilates online with her #ClubC2C, rolling out on a foam roller on lunch break, or FaceTiming with her family. For more information on Core to Coeur, please visit www.coretoceur.com to sign up and get notified of our launch.
Dec 3 · 3 min read
by Madison Page & Dr. Anni Sanner, Core to Coeur Founders
The following steps will help any movement, wellness, or fitness teacher turn a space into a place where you can teach and take movement classes, so long as there’s a wifi connection!
It can be the corner of a bedroom with the camera angled diagonally to the corner, an at-home office, living room, or studio. Rooms that you can close the door are best-that way you can control for noise. Be it unexpected construction outside, sirens, pets or little humans from entering class- we want to professionalize the process as much as possible (although with the right class, furry friends and kiddos offer great comic relief and sense of community!).
This probably goes without saying, but remove any junk from the might be seen onscreen. Paintings on your wall, bookshelves, or even excess props can look distracting to students. Less is more here: you’ll be surprised with how many students express a different a well lit, clean room can be on screen. Suggested items include: a plant or two, up to two props, and plenty of lamp/natural light. Place your laptop within reach, but out of camera shot. I highly recommend getting your webcam set up on a tripod selfie stick so that you can easily adjust your camera angles, set it once, and be done before you start class. Pro tip: make sure your camera is set up so that you can be seen both from a standing position and a supine/lying down position on your mat.
Before class starts, be sure to check your frame. Your camera should be far enough away where your whole body can be seen standing and sitting. For exercises where attention to detail is a must, you can physically pick the camera up and scoot it closer to you.
Including but certainly not limited to: cell phones, tablets, laptop notifications, alarm clocks, watches, your oven timer, etc. etc. Trust us- when a students gets on the screen and has not silenced their devices- you’ll notice (and be glad it wasn’t you).
Nov 29 · 2 min read
by Madison Page, CEO + Co-Founder, Core to Coeur
Knowing what to charge for your services is a difficult, vulnerable decision you have to make and re-make throughout your career as a movement professional. There are opposing schools of thought on the topic and deciding one strategy over the other could gain you clients in the short term but cost you clients in the long run. Setting your rates at what you know your worth is is one thing. Actually having repeat customers pay those rates on an ongoing basis is entirely different.
And then there’s this new thing- teaching video-enabled classes to add another revenue stream to your business, and you want to do it but how the heck do you know what to charge? The founding team at Core to Coeur have been working behind the scenes to make a fool-proof guide to determining the most effective way to earn the most money teaching on Core to Coeur.
Take a look the Credit Calculators below, based on our teacher research and data on how much students are willing to pay for video-enabled classes. Each credit equals roughly $5 depending on the subscription plan chosen.
Remember- you can change your rate at any time due to feedback. Understanding the economics of your business is not just a short term game, but takes iterating and adjusting as you continue develop relationships with your clients.
*Missed the first half of our Pro Series? Click Here. Read to get an in depth scoop on setting up your digital studio and space. Ready for IV? Click Here ➡️