Emerging Instructor in Focus: Stefanie Zimmermann

Stefanie Zimmermann

Stefanie Zimmermann

Soleil Studio, Maroochy River, Qld

Emerging Instructor in Focus

Instructor Name: Stefanie Zimmermann
Studio you study or work at: Soleil Studio
Location: Maroochy River, Qld
Instructor training: Pilates International Training Centre PITC
PAA Level: Professional Level 1

What originally motivated you to try Pilates and then go on to train as an instructor?

My injuries introduced me to Pilates. I had suffered with disk injuries, abdominal separation (after having children) and a nasty ankle injury from playing sport. After hurting my back I lost all confidence in my movement. I was too scared to walk to the shower, make the bed and even pick up my children for fear it would put me back in bed for weeks on end. Then my beautiful friend said to me ‘Hey, how about you try Pilates? I’ve heard it’s pretty good.” And ‘pretty good’ it was!

Once I found Pilates I immediately wanted to know how to move correctly, what muscles to recruit, when to recruit them and how to move without pain. I wasn’t interested in doing a big class with loads of people- I wanted the ‘real deal’. 1:1 sessions, three times a week was where I found my confidence, my muscles and my capabilities. I’ll never forget the day I made my bed and felt no pain in my back! I ran into my husband and children and cheered. I lifted my youngest daughter (who was a happy and chubby 8 month old) and cuddled her to my chest- freedom! I could lift, I could rotate, I could move again.

You can guess what happened next- I remember I pulled into my driveway, spoke to the beautiful staff at PITC and they opened up a spot in their Diploma course for me. My injures introduced me to Pilates, but my freedom of movement motivated my desire to teach.

What did you eat for breakfast?

I am quite boring at breakfast time. I eat eggs every morning. Sometimes with tofu and broccolini but most of the time I whip up two eggs, pop some fresh chilli on top and then head out the door. I think my girls have adopted the same attitude to breakfast; a bit of protein and off we go.

In one word, describe your first Pilates teaching/apprentice teaching experience?

Terrifying. Ha ha- I remember thinking- can they see my plan written out and hidden behind my water bottle. I’d pretend to take a sip but really I was checking which springs to set for Elephant! Ha ha.

What impact has the recent COVID-19 virus had on your world?

It was very positive actually. I was lucky enough to be asked to film mat classes for a studio on the coast. They needed between 2-3 classes a day. I filmed sessions with myself, myself and my husband (everyone loved these as my husband would laugh each time his abdominals needed a rest) and even filmed kids Pilates classes with my two beautiful daughters. They would run out onto the deck asking when was it their turn for Pilates. They did think the stories I made up about each exercise sounded silly though- “reach over your rainbow”, “reach your hands into a bucket of glitter and throw the sparkles up into the air”.

I was able to find a balance between supporting my daughters’ schooling online and then we would have ‘Pilates breaks’ during the day to move our bodies. The juggle was real but I was always grateful to invite Pilates into peoples’ lives through these free filmed classes- even if they were filmed on my old and not-so-fancy iPhone.

How have you handled your Pilates teaching or training with COVID-19?

I really had to focus on all styles of cueing. I moved my focus from tactile cueing to imagery and visual cues. I have definitely enjoyed finding new ways to describe movement and its focus.

Training online during COVID-19 opened up my learning. I was now able to take classes and study from home. As I live on the Sunshine Coast, I found that a great deal of training sessions were offered in different states, and always found this a little more difficult to attend. I love being able to study from home now and feel that I don’t miss out any more. I am grateful that so many trainers have adapted their programs to suit the travel restrictions. I am currently undertaking an Anatomy course, recommended by PAA, and am thoroughly enjoying the access to information without having to juggle being away from my family.

What was the most unexpected part of your training?

Crying. I am laughing as I type this. I cried after every exam when they said to me “Well done Stef, you passed. You did a beautiful job”. I cried tears of intense joy. I wanted to help others move and feel safe and confident in their own bodies as I had experienced. My mentors were absolutely inspiring. Anita from Movement Principle- a studio connected with PITC- became an inspiration. I watched her teach others to teach. She supported everyone. Encouraged me when I doubted myself and motivated me to be my best version.

Your ‘go to’ website for all things Pilates (other than PAA)?

At the moment I am loving my Anatomy studies with Taube Pilates. Anything anatomy is my favourite at the moment.

The best advice you’ve ever had?

-Just have fun-
I’ve found that I am my best teaching self when I’m helping my clients to move and have a laugh at the same time. I always say that laughing counts as abdominal work. x

An indulgence you can’t live without?

Pilates indulgence? New grippy socks. You can’t beat a fresh pair!
Life indulgence? TEA!

How long have you been a member of PAA and how did you hear about PAA?

I have been a member of PAA since I first graduated my Mat training section of my Diploma. I heard about PAA through PITC. I love that being a part of the PAA encourages life long learning. I never wanted to do my training and then leave it at that. I strive to be a life long learner and encourage others to do so too.

Do you have a motto?

I don’t really have a motto but I do believe that in every day there is an opportunity to help someone feel good about themselves. I believe that we can help someone feel welcome, invited and a bit special each day. Kindness is always in fashion.

What’s the most challenging aspect of learning to teach?

Confidence. Confidence in yourself.

How do you use PAA?

I use PAA to find courses that I can trust.

Who is your Pilates idol or would love to meet, and why?

When I first began my training I thought that Sally Anderson and Courtney Miller were the bees’ knees. I would love to do a 1:1 session with both these woman. They present to have such a broad understanding of movement but also teach with a spring in their step. As my studies advanced and my time in studios increased I would now love to meet so many Pilates Instructors, the list goes on and on.

What do you appreciate most about your body?

I most appreciate my body’s ability to heal, become strong and to bend. The fact that I can go into forward flexion with my spine, brings me joy every day.

The book you’re currently reading?

A book about running marathons. I am currently training for my first Marathon and I need all the help I can get.

Where has your Pilates journey led you at present?

My Pilates journey has led me to recently building my own Pilates Studio- Soleil Studio! After juggling instructing, studying, working and being a Mother to two beautiful girls, 12 and 9 years of age- I found that there was still a passion in me to want for more.

I decided to create a small Pilates studio, with a maximum of three clients, and offer access to all the fun- for everyone. My new baby.

I have created a space filled with love and built with a lot of sweat. After helping to lift walls, sand and paint all I could think was- Lucky I do Pilates!

It was a huge jump and taking the leap was the scariest part- however, I noticed something in my girls. There were proud, inspired (yes, they play ‘Wellness Retreat’ at home now- their own business) and oh so encouraging. Since building Soleil Studio they now can’t wait to race in at the end of the day and ask to learn how to use the Caddy, Spine Corrector and of course the Combo Chair. I think the girls saw my love for movement and how much I want to help others move. This shows in the ways we spend our recreational time too. We move!

Soleil Studio is a passion project. A safe place. A space to work but to also have a laugh. Soleil means ‘Sun’ in French, and I want everyone to feel that sunny warmth inside when they’ve finished their Pilates session. That feeling that only movement can bring.

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