Teaching on Zoom: A Glance Behind the Scenes

(This account by Andrew is a snapshot of how dedicated and hard working our team is. They have all gone to great lengths to continue to provide outstanding and safe healthcare. We thank them all and feel lucky to work with such a wonderful group of people)

Andrew Firth is Clifton Hill Pilates and Rehab’s Pilates Instructor and Personal Trainer. Andrew and his wife Emma recently welcomed their son Will into their lives. So, with a new baby at home, Andrew has adapted to the restrictions and runs all his classes live on Zoom. Here is a day in the life of Andrew:

With 2020 being what it is, the simple act of teaching Pilates has proven tricky to say the least. Restrictions, procedures and protocols have forced change on all of us – but sometimes, change can lead to innovation.

As many of you already know, Clifton Hill Pilates and Rehab has been teaching some of its classes online (using Zoom) since before the first lockdown. This service has evolved with each passing week, and every instructor has developed their own unique approach to teaching through a screen. For myself, I have found the task of crafting my own method to be an interesting and often entertaining one. Today, I thought I’d share the rigours and joys of teaching on Zoom.

First things first. This is – or rather, was – sweaty work. Teaching requires flexibility, and access to an enormous spread of exercises. Regressions for when your client is struggling, progressions for when they excel. A mixture of reliable, familiar movements for consistency, and then more varied movements to keep workouts interesting. When I began teaching online, it was quickly apparent that I could not hope to demonstrate every single exercise, for every single class, sometimes for five or six classes in a row, without suffering some sort of nervous (and physical) breakdown.

I took myself to the studio. The film studio, that is – formerly known as my living room. There I recorded myself performing exercise after exercise, variation after variation, often in arduous workouts lasting upward of two hours. I sweated. A lot. Fortunately, I enjoyed it, and the most difficult chore was trying to sweep an ocean of dog hair out of the carpet pre-recording.

With the recording done, I migrated to the computer. I taught myself the ins and outs of video software – how to slice, convert, loop and extend footage – and then I put these newfound skills to the test. As the only model in what would eventually become reference videos, I knew that only one thing truly mattered – every clip had to make me, the instructor, look excellent. Andrew Firth, top notch athlete, his flawless technique obvious at all times, always the consummate performer. And those parts of the recording where I stumbled, or forgot what I was doing? Hastily chopped away. That bit where I pulled my chair down on top of me? Sliced, diced and thrown in the trash. Those exercises where I had sweat dripping into my eyeballs? Delete everything, put on a fresh t-shirt, and return to the living room to re-record. It took me days to plan workouts, shoot them, edit them, arrange them into a workable format, and then chuck the One Ring into Mount Doom for laughs. But it was worth it.

Now, whenever I teach a CHPR Connect class, there is no need to flail wildly before the camera as I try to explain what clients should do next. Instead I just double-click the video called “High Bridge on Chair” or “Kneeling Cat Stretch”, and while that plays in the background I can give participants my full, undivided attention. With a library of over 220 different exercises now at my disposal, the classes have become concise and specific, with each 45 minute session typically boasting 30 exercises or more. It isn’t face-to-face Pilates, it isn’t in the studio, and the only equipment we use is a mat and a chair, but make no mistake: Pilates through a screen can be one helluva workout.  

Andrew Firth

Pilates Instructor

This delightful image is of Andrew dressed in his Christmas cheer, with some of the team celebrating Christmas in July last year

(of course the highly talented Andrew is an outstanding singer too!)