Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Refining your Pilates Journey: The ONE Thing

How often have we heard our clients say this?

Take note.

Are you looking for perfection? Every part of your body exactly where you believe it should be in an ideal Pilates world?

Or are you looking for a glimmer of yesterday's efforts creating a workout today that shows steady incremental progress?

Examine the way you approach your own Pilates workout as well as your teaching.

Where is this ideal Pilates world anyway? Would I even enjoy visiting?!

Refining our Pilates journey: The ONE Thing

As an avid reader, I happily devour books of all genres. The marketing and business books I enjoy are often ostensibly about improving your productivity, study or career.

But it's especially nice when I stumble upon a Random Act of Pilates.

Recently my favorite online business guru Pat Flynn advocated strongly for The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

(Have a peek at another book recommended by Pat that made the blog last year.)

I'm an ardent fan of simple, clearing the clutter, developing focus, etc…, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Because it's really about Pilates.


The premise of the book is to take a look at your business and discover the answer to this question:

“What is the ONE thing you can do,” – one choice to be made on a daily basis – “such that by doing your ONE thing everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

The book urges you to think about this question like the lead domino. Topple the first domino and all the rest will fall into place sequentially.

What a useful Pilates question!

It's right up there with “Think like a sculptor.”

What's the ONE thing you'll focus on – ONE – for your workout? For your client today?

Yup. Just ONE. Tricky business, right?

As you go about de-prioritizing this-and-that in dogged pursuit of today's ONE thing it's easy to feel like a lazy teacher.

Am I going to just ignore their foot position that is really not what I'd like to see? What about all the tension in their arms? I'm going to let that happen? I'm okay with that?

Oh yes, obstacles do arise in our pursuit of ONE thing.

  • Everything is important (It's not.)
  • It's possible to fix everything all at once. (It's not.)

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

Pilates Prioritizing

For teachers, applying the ONE thing approach speaks to prioritizing what you'll address with your student today.

Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Jay Grimes encourages us to “Think like a sculptor.” He furthers his point with “Don't start with the eyelashes.”

What's the most important thing you'll focus on?

Generally what's going on (or not going on) in the center will take precedence. Strengthening the center can often alleviate tension or overactivity in the extremities.

What's your lead domino for today?

Remember you'll be watching the workout and making plans for what you will address later on in their session.

It's all about the Short Box

Years ago I was having a lesson with Jay and we were working on my now favorite series, the Short Box on the Reformer. Alas, way-back-when the Short Box was decidedly NOT my favorite.

I've spent literally years preoccupied with my shoulders and how much they want to do everything. Yet Jay worked to get more movement and strength in the sides of my back as we worked on that old chestnut Side-to-Side.

He was very patient in his explanation that we needed to get my back and center working and stronger first. Then the upper body “would just take care of itself.”


How exactly is that gonna happen? Slowly, of course, it did.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Clearly he didn't want to waste his time telling my shoulders what NOT to do. Instead he offered guidance on what needed to work more to find success in the exercise.

What a positive choice.

That's Pilates right?

It's positive. It's up and forward.

Joe and Romana

Joe Pilates believed that 10-12 minutes of work on the Cadillac in the latter part of the session was plenty of time for the “this is for you” section of the workout.

ONE thing, remember? In those 10-12 minutes you could hit just a few exercises – maybe even ONE – and hone in on your theme for the day. Too many themes crammed into 10-12 minutes? No bueno.

Romana also believed that in a given day, ONE thing to focus on is all anyone needs. Give away just ONE pearl, not the whole necklace!

ONE thing in your workout

Picking ONE focus for your own workout can create a vigorous movement experience. ONE focus prevents me from micromanaging my workout.

I like to choose a new skill I've found in my lesson that I am working to cultivate further. My workout will help to get the feeling more deeply in my body. More tangible. More repeatable.

Or perhaps there is one (ONE) exercise in which I feel particularly connected that I will use as a touchstone exercise to work on finding connection in all the other exercises I will do that day.

Other focus ideas:

  • ONE skill you will address in every exercise. For example: to find length in the low back.
  • ONE exercise that serves you that you'll look for in every other exercise. Example: Double Leg Pull
  • ONE exercise you'll visit on each and every apparatus. How are they similar? how are they different? What can you learn from each one?

Be your own BFF

The singular focus that is required to address our ONE thing now that we have pinpointed it: what's that like?

How many of us have finally carved out time for our own workouts only to have a million to-do lists in our head that scream to be heard over the Hundred?

“Not now,” you must tell the manic, insistent to-do lists, “it's time for a brain dump and I will deal with you all later.”

The philosophy of ONE thing also challenges us to put ourselves first. In the book, the doing of our ONE thing that's meant to make every other aspect of our businesses take care of itself must be cherished and nurtured. We are encouraged to do our ONE thing first thing every day, so it remains top-of-mind and it gets done.

The Pilates message for me was to remember to make time for the ONE thing that always always ALWAYS makes us better teachers.


Maintaining our own workout. Consistently. Our experience of the exercises in our own bodies is our most important teaching tool.

And I cannot express the virtuousness that I feel when I get my own workout in early in the day. I feel amazing!

It enlivens me. I am all jazzed up to get down to business with my clients. I've had my own dose of empathy. These exercises are no joke.

Often I think I'll work out at the end of my day and some days I almost believe it. But inevitably later in the day I am more interested in dinner or a nice bath…and the workout doesn't happen. Quel suprise…

Make your own workout your ONE thing and put yourself first!

In the repeated doing of our ONE thing we create a habit.


There's a domino effect for ya.

Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Courage, friends!

Had success with the ONE thing? Share your insights below:)

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.