Instructor Spotlight – Kerstin Vieth


Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you lived in Singapore?

I’m originally from a small place called Gladbeck in Germany. My professional background is as a specialised nurse for intensive care and anaesthesia, a job that I’ve practiced in for decades. My husband and I came to Singapore about 7 years ago and I’ve worked as a Pilates and now also Gyrotonic instructor since I arrived here.

What encouraged you to become a Pilates Instructor?

There was always a lot of sports in my life, playing volleyball, skiing, a bit of jogging and so on. In 2006 my husband and I had the opportunity to live and work in India for a few years. It was there that I found Pilates and regularly had a 2-3 classes per week Pilates routine. I absolutely loved it. About a year into it the owner of the studio asked me if I’d be interested in becoming a Pilates teacher, and I jumped at the opportunity right away. So in early 2009 I did my first trainer certification and I’ve been teaching and adding more qualifications ever since.

You’ve been teaching for over 10 years now! What keeps you inspired? And how do you keep it fresh?

What motivates and inspires me in my work is seeing progress in my clients and having fun during the classes with them. I also love to keep learning about Pilates and its related skills which I can then apply to my clients. I have many long-term clients who are with me already for a long time. The fact that they come back again and again is a great confirmation and motivation. Ultimately, seeing my clients enjoy their time with me and coming out stronger and healthier is the best inspiration.

I’ll be honest, it’s sometimes hard to keep things fresh after a decade in the industry. I try to challenge myself by teaching each class in a new way, adding variations and forcing myself to be creative. I also try to incorporate the new skills and techniques I’ve learnt, such as NeuroKinetic therapy and Gyrotonic, in a seamless way while teaching.

Apparently it works! Your classes are very popular and there’s often a waitlist for them. How do you go about planning your classes? Do you have a template/program outline?

I will first look at the class to see who have signed up. I know many of the clients personally and their areas of concern and I will then decide on a general theme and structure for the class based on their needs. I normally spend the first 5-10 minutes warming up to see how they are moving that particular day and then prescribe exercises based on the group’s needs. A lot of times their movement patterns and needs are not what I had prepared and this is where experience and the library of exercises I’ve build up in my 10 years of teaching come in handy!

A lot of clients have heard about Pilates and Gyrotonic, but maybe not so many are familiar with NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT). What is it and how do you incorporate it into your classes?

NeuroKinetic Therapy is a system of precise muscle tests to help us identify faulty muscle and movement control. I find it very useful for clients who have chronic pain as well as weaknesses that are not improving even after many sessions.

I would then incorporate NKT into the session to figure out what is wrong and then prescribe stretches and exercises to correct the dysfunction. For example, I had a client that had neck pain on the day of her session. I did some NKT testing at the start, to figure out which muscle to release before starting the session so that she will not be in pain throughout the session.

I also had another client who had hip pain that found NKT very useful. We were able to identify the muscles which needed stretching and the ones that needed strengthening and she has not experienced any pain ever since!

Can you share your most meaningful milestone?

I believe a significant milestone in my career was when I treated one of my first serious rehab clients a few years back. The first is always the most special!

This person already had a longer journey behind them with seeing several doctors, physics and osteopaths before starting to work with me. She was in her 70s, and unable to lift her hands up and unable to perform movements needed in daily life, like combing her hair, putting on makeup….

After working with me, she was able to do all that and more and just seeing how that changed her quality of life really made me feel that the work I am doing is worthwhile. During the course of some intense classes the progress was pretty amazing and my client ultimately was completely pain free. Seeing the impact we can have as Pilates teachers in this way gave additional meaning to my practice. It’s far beyond fitness if done right.

Since then I have been honoured and lucky to work with other clients where I have been able to make a difference, such as a post breast cancer patient who similarly had shoulder restrictions, as well as a client who had back pain that Pilates has helped so much she is now pursuing Pilates teacher training herself.

What does a typical week look like for you?

I teach quite a few classes from Monday to Saturday each week in a combination of group and private clients. So during these days I spend a good bit of time preparing in between the actual classes to make sure I’m on point when I see my clients. I also try and stay up to date with my continued learning and am watching Pilates videos, going through related literature etc.

I try to do Pilates classes to keep up with my own movement practice although I’m not unlike many clients in that I’m not as disciplined as I should be! We’re not perfect! And we definitely understand it when clients don’t practice the homework given or come as often as they should. Pilates instructors are humans and have the same challenges too!

When I’m not busy with Pilates or Gyrotonic, I enjoy exploring the Singapore food scene from hawkers to fancy restaurants, which is a passion that my husband and I share. So typically weekends for us are focused on food, sleep, and ideally a bit of exercise as well.

You know you’ve been in Asia too long when you become a foodie! Which restaurants in Singapore would you recommend to someone in Singapore?

If money wasn’t a concern – Odette! I love that the quality of food is high, produce taste very fresh and has a very complete palette. The portion size is just right as well.

For regular nights out, Sbagliato Kitchen and Bar.

What is a good German restaurant you would recommend?

Brotzeit. It’s very reliable and consistent.

You mentioned that you don’t work out as often as you should. You’re 50 this year and you’re in great shape! Apart from Pilates what other exercises do you do?

I do yoga, running and mountain biking. I try to do all of the above at least once a week. I also make an effort to go for a retreat once a year in Thailand – I find it helps me reset my mental, emotional and physical health.

Who do you think would benefit the most from Pilates?

Anyone can benefit from Pilates! The most important thing is to have the right attitude when approaching Pilates. I’ve found that the ones who benefitted the most are those who have a curious mind, are open to learning and are willing to listen.

What do you find the most challenging thing about being a Pilates instructor?

I know I’ve mentioned this earlier, but keeping yourself healthy while helping others stay healthy has been really challenging! Learning to take care of myself and practising what I preach is a challenge for me.

I recently fractured my toe while teaching when I kicked my toe into the chair. I also had trigger finger from repetitively changing the springs on the tower for my clients!

What is your life motto? Favourite Quote?

“If life gives you a lemon, eat the pie.”

If you had one piece of advice to give to anyone wanting to become an Instructor, what would it be?
First, I believe it’s important for somebody intending to become an instructor to have a very good foundational level of the Pilates basics in terms of core strength, coordination, and body awareness themselves. Teaching Pilates requires quite a bit of precision and theoretical knowledge, but it has to be combined with practical experience and a feel for how the body moves. So I can only advise people aspiring to become teachers to approach it with as holistic and approach as possible and to keep learning and stretching their knowledge. This really is a journey, not a race.

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