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History of PIA and Customized Pilates Teacher Training Solutions

About us at-a-glance:

PIA is owned by 2 sisters who have a been in the fitness industry since 1986.

Carrie Cohn, MBA, PMA-CPT

  • Started teaching fitness classes in 1986
  • Worked in for large corporations in various leadership positions from 1986 - 1998
  • Earned a BA in Business Administration and an MBA from the University of Missouri
  • Opened Personal Best Pilates Studio (PBPS)  in 2000, the first Pilates-only fitness studio in the Kansas City area
  • Ran PBPS for 18 years, including managing a staff of 14 Pilates teachers, serving over 3,000 clients with annual revenues topping $500K
  • Was named Top Woman Business Owner by the Kansas City Business Journal in 2005
  • PBPS was named Top Woman Owned Business in the state of Kansas by the Kansas Department of Commerce in 2005
  • Elected to the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Board of Directors in 2010, and served on the Executive Committee of the PMA Board from 2011 - 2014
  • Presented at the PMA Business Owners Forum in 2014
  • Presented at the PMA Annual Conference in 2016
  • Sold Personal Best Pilates Studio in January of 2018 to focus on supporting independent fitness business owners

Amanda Jessee Iiams, MA, CSCS, PMA-CPT, NKT Level 3



The Full Story

Carrieheadshot.jpgHi! My name is Carrie Cohn. I started my career in fitness in 1986. Those were the days of leg warmers and high-impact dance aerobics. I was taking classes at a fitness center and was frustrated that the instructor teaching the class couldn't keep the beat. As a music student for most of my life, I figured I couldn't do any worse than the current instructor. So, I inquired about the qualifications necessary to teach aerobics. The response I got from the fitness center manager was "Can you yell loud?" "Sure, I can yell loud", I said. The manager said "Can you start on Saturday?" "Sure”, I said. And, just like that, I became an aerobics instructor!

In those days, group fitness, especially aerobics classes, was a relatively new phenomenon, and there was no not-for-profit organization setting the standards and qualifications for aerobics instructors. But, thankfully for the exercising public, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) were organized, and a nationally recognized certification exam was developed. Today, no health club, fitness center, YMCA or community center would dream of hiring an aerobics instructor who was not certified by one of these organizations.

Carrie's First Pilates Class

I took my first Pilates mat class in the late 1990's. The movements were so different from my aerobics and weight lifting background; I couldn't believe that they could be effective. The next day my skepticism was put to rest. I was so sore in my abs that I couldn't take a deep breath! Well, I was hooked! I had to learn more about this amazing system of exercise that had humbled me so.

At that time, there weren't any Pilates instructors in Kansas City, and nowhere even close for me to go to get trained to teach Pilates. I found a school in Santa Fe, New Mexico and literally had to live there for 2 months to complete my training. Needless to say, this was an expensive option, and required me to be away from my family and business for a long time. I realized that many other instructors interested in getting certified may not have the luxury of traveling away from their homes for an extended period of time.

Additionally, I found the education I received to be severely lacking in quality. The materials were old and looked like they were thrown together with a copy machine and stapler. The curriculum was vague and unfocused. The requirements for certification ranged from 100 hours to 600 hours! I found myself wondering if there was a better, more affordable option for Pilates instructor education. And, after some research, I discovered that there really weren’t any other options. The industry was still several years away from the creation of the Pilates Method Alliance, and nationally recognized standards for Pilates certification.

The Sisters Create the Pilates Instructor Certification Program

Amandaheadshot.jpgLuckily, my sister, Amanda Jessee, MA, CSCS, PMA-CPT was a faculty member at the Santa Fe Community College, and was teaching in the exercise science program there. She had already developed a semester-long, Pilates Mat Instructor Course that students could take for credit towards graduation. She and I worked together to build an exercise science-based, contemporary Pilates Instructor training program.

Amanda's strong background in exercise-science, combined with her extensive experience in developing college-level curricula, made her the best possible partner for me in creating this material. Our program is offered in accessible academic components (recognized for Continuing Education Credits by ACE and PMA), allowing greater choice for the student-instructor. A real jewel of the program design is the reliance on the student apprenticeship. This is, quite literally, a win-win-win: The student-instructor gets valuable hands-on teaching experience with clients, the clients get to take private Pilates sessions at a deeply discounted rate, and the studio generates more revenue from these sessions while extending the studio's customer base. Using this material to train our own instructors, our Pilates studio realized these benefits while we continually improved the program over 15 years. Our studio was the largest and best established Pilates studio in the state of Kansas, and was even named top women owned service business in the state of Kansas by the Kansas Department of Commerce in 2005.

Amanda and I firmly believe we have developed an outstanding educational curriculum for Pilates training. This material was not created with an initial intention to sell it - it was developed with the primary goal to help us train instructors the WE would want to hire. But because demand for Pilates instructors in still on the rise, and because there are still few high-quality, affordable options available for instructor education, (especially in the central part of the country), we recently made the decision to make our materials available to few like-minded Pilates studio owners. We are looking for hard-working entrepreneurs who have a passion for teaching Pilates and are striving to grow their businesses.