In an ideal world, clients would always come clean about what's going on in their bodies during a pre-session interview, or on a questionnaire. But sometimes clients may be unaware of injuries or limitations, or may be embarrassed about them, determined to grin and bear it through the session. But by keenly observing clients, an instructor can often find clues about exertion levels or exacerbating pre-existing injuries or other concerns.
Watch the breath
Is your client breathing easily, or is the breath ragged? Are the inhales and exhales long, controlled and smooth, or are they short, uneven bursts? Is your client holding their breath during an exercise, indicating that it may be too difficult? When an exercise is too much for a client, the first thing to fall out of balance is the breath.
Watch the face
Is it red? Is the jaw set tight, or is it grinding? Do you notice any wincing during certain exercises? Look between the eyebrows, it is furrowed? Often the face expresses what is going in the body, whether the client is aware of it or not. With careful observation, an instructor can pick up on client movements that may be too challenging or even uncomfortable for the client.
Watch the body: Look for imbalances
Is one leg taking most of the weight on the Cardio-Tramp? Is the strength of one arm pulling back the bar, and not both? Is another area of the body compensating for the targeted joint or muscle? Injuries can cause clients to favor a non-injured limb, or to compensate for a sore or damaged muscle by over-using others. Keeping a close eye out for uneven or imbalanced movements of the body can help an instructor determine if the client is favoring an injured area.
Can the client maintain the same quality of movement through the full number of repetitions? Does she avoid a certain range of motion? Does she speed up the movement on certain parts of an exercise? In Pilates, quality is definitely better than quantity. When movements get smaller or faster, it may indicate that the exercise is too challenging. Choose a modification, alter resistance or do fewer repetitions to ensure optimal movement patterns are being performed throughout.