Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exploring the Reformer

Equipment actually makes you stronger at the mat exercises. Most locations now offer Reformer group classes, so why not try it out? Resembling a twin bed with horizontal springs for full body resistance, the Reformer is the most commonly used piece of Pilates equipment today.

There are several types of Reformers which can range from wood to metal frames and leather to rope straps for resistance. The one pictured at right is a classical Peak brand. There are springs used for resistance or your own body weight as on the mat. Reformer exercises can be done lying down such as in Footwork, sitting as in Hug a Tree, kneeling as in Chest Expansion or standing for Side Splits. You are also able to use props such as a box for Pulling Straps, "jump" board to get your heart pumping, or a wooden pole for posture work in the Short Box series. The versatility of this machine is what makes it so popular with clients.

Workouts on the reformer focus on quicker strength results for more visible tone in your arms, legs and abdominal muscles. You also work on endurance, moving with grace, stability in a variety of different positions and assisted stretching. With over 100 exercises possibilities, each session can vary to fit the individual.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Visible Progress

In a workout rut? Think you have hit the Pilates plateau? Here's some tips to get you back to feeling refreshed and renewed:

Set Goals

I find that clients I teach who have goals are more likely to stick to their workouts and notice each improvement they make along the way. Do you want to fit into an old pair of jeans? Drop a dress size for an event coming up such as a wedding or holiday party? Want the flexibility to be able to bend down and touch your toes? Looking for better posture? These are all important questions to ask yourself. Once you define a few goals you will be able to "measure" your progress. Make sure you reward yourself for each goal you reach to ensure your continued motivation. Buy yourself a new workout top or get a manicure as a special treat. Be proud of your commitment to improving your health by sticking to your workout plan.

Get Feedback
Ask your instructor. He/she will remind you of that first day you walked in and had trouble with the Roll Up or were unable to touch your toes. Look at old photos to see the results in your posture or strength. Friends and family members may also comment on your progress. You may find that your running speed increases due to your improved lung capacity or you are able to progress to 100s with your legs extended. These are all points of improvement no matter how small.

Switch it Up
When all else fails, switch it up! Try a session with a different instructor or studio. You just might find a new perspective on a familiar exercise or modification that fits you best. Change your routine to 3 days a week instead of only 2 for a challenge. Fit in a weekend morning session to "trick" your body into burning more calories throughout the day. Jump into a group class instead of only taking privates to keep your body guessing. Ask to use other equipment during your session so your mind can lean new things. Do a workout a week at home focusing on a few exercises from your lessons to improve upon. No matter what you chose you can find a creative approach to changing up your routine and challenging your core!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Inhance Your Running

We all need cardio in our lives and recently I've taken up running as a way to get my heart going and my body moving. I started slow and have progressed into doing a few 5K runs for local charities. Mind you, I was the kid in school who tried to avoid the dreaded "mile run" in gym class. For years I envied those that got up at the crack of dawn with their wristwatches, clean sneakers and shades to jog around the block before work. Than one day I decided to give it a try and got hooked (must be those good endorphins).
All you need is a pair of sneakers and you too can be a runner. A treadmill is not required which is great for those that travel with business or don't belong to a gym. Most people start to run to promote weight loss as a way to get in shape. Even just a light jog or brisk walk can help trim you down if done as part of a weekly routine.

However, running (and walking) can be hard on your body if you are pounding the pavement on a regular basis. Luckily, Pilates is there to stretch out sore muscles and improve alignment. What perks can you expect to experience?

  • Promotes faster recovery from injuries
  • Improves posture
  • Increases balance
  • Better breathing and increase in lung capacity (breath in ribs not chest/belly)
  • Loosens up tight muscles such as hip f lexers and IT band
  • Corrects alignment
  • Low impact exercise
  • Strengthens core muscles for stability
High impact found in running can put pressure on the joints and low back. This may lead to pain, especially in the hip, knee or ankle. Try adding in these exercises on a regular basis and notice the difference in your performance. Ask an instructor for a modification if any movement is painful or you are especially stiff.

  • Bridge
  • Swimming
  • Cat stretch
  • Side Leg Kicks
  • Roll Up
  • Single Leg kick
  • Foam Roll (stretching)
  • Swan
  • 100's
  • Saw
  • Feet in Straps (on Cadillac or Reformer)
  • Single Leg Footwork (on Reformer)
No matter if you run for fun or train for marathons, Pilates will be beneficial to your body. I've found a new sense of body awareness during my heart pumping sessions outside the studio and hope you will too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On the Money

Lately we have all been counting our pennies more so than usual with this "recession" we keep hearing in the headlines. It has made us stress out and depressed. Does this mean we need to cut back on Pilates? No way! I'm here to teach you how tone up your body while continuing to grow your piggy bank.
At the Gym
Check out if they offer Pilates. Places such as your local YMCA
has memberships that range from $30-$90 a month (ask about financial assistance to find an affordable payment plan). Some locations offer fitness classes included in your membership fee or you may have to pay about $30 for a 8 week session (less than $5/class!). This is more than affordable for a busy family. The kids can be at swim class or gymnastics lessons while you get in your workout. Multi-tasking was never so simple!
Another example could be at Lifetime. Go online to find a free week pass to check it out and test out the classes to make sure they're a good fit. Most locations are open 24-hrs and provide childcare. You can even get your cardio in before you head off to work. This option may be a little more pricey at $50-$100/month dues, but usually there is no contract while means you pay as you go.

At a StudioYour best option is to learn Pilates at a studio which will ensure more one-on-one attention and variety with classes (Check out the studio finder to locate one in your area). Depending on the type of class, costs will range from $15-$75 a session. Mat classes tend to be more budget friendly compared to private sessions. Unlike a gym, studios offer a wider range of props such as Magic Circles or Foam Rolls which can enhance your workout making it worth the extra bucks. Use of traditional equipment such as the reformer will speed up your progress quicker than mat classes alone.
Keep in mind a studio doesn't have monthly dues like a gym. For example, a $100 gym monthly due can translate at a studio into 5-6 mat classes in a month! Look for discounts in purchasing packages instead of each session individually to get more for your money. Some locations offer a percentage off to students or those that attend a variety of classes. Also to help with training new teachers you may be able to save by attending classes taught by apprentices.

At HomeKnow the basics of Pilates and short on time from putting in longer hours at the office? Nothing beats the convince of your own home and you should use it! Purchase DVDs for about the price of one class session. Feel free to ask your current instructor to recommend a few (a future post will rate a few DVDs of interest). You can just pop it in and do a half hour worth to get the benefits and beat some stress. Adding a few props at home like small hand weights or bands will allow you to add in some extra arm work or stretch out your legs. Pick up ideas from classes you currently attend to take into your at home routine. 

Click here for Pilates DVDs to add to your collection. 

There is also the beauty of the internet. Almost everyone has access to a computer at their home in this day in age, so why not use it? Try out Hulu or UTube to find some quality short sessions or new moves. Most importantly, focus on a few exercises at a time to ensure you are still practicing quality over quantity in your movement.

I am in no way suggesting stick to doing Pilates in only one of these locations. Diversity is key! Do what you can afford, but remember to be consistent about your sessions. Pilates should be something you enjoy and begin to implement into your daily routine; even while sitting in your chair at work. Scooping is free no matter where you are and to me...that's priceless.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pilates 101

What can you expect during your first Pilates experience? How do you prepare? What do you wear? I'll tackle the basics to get you ready to learn Pilates with confidence in a studio setting.

What do you wear?
The all important question. Starting with your feet, Pilates is done either in socks or bare feet. As far as the rest of your ensemble, make sure your clothes allow you to move freely yet are not baggy allowing your instructor to see your body for alignment purposes. Long pants and a tee shirt or Capri bottoms and a tank top are common choices students wear. For more specific clothing styles and ideas click here. Hair needs to be off the face (high pony tail or low pig tails work best to allow your head to rest flat on the mat). Lastly, accessories should be kept to a minimum. Avoid anything that dangles which could be distracting or dangerous (including long necklaces, chunky bracelets and hoop earrings). 

What do you bring?
Most studios already have all the equipment, including mats there. I highly suggest you bring a water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout. If you plan on booking more sessions bring along your calendar so you can book another appointment while you are already there. Most importantly bring with you an open mind ready to learn and experience all Pilates has to offer.

What to expect when you first walk in?
You will have to fill out a liability waver beforehand so be sure to arrive a little early. The waver will include all your basic contact info such as name, phone number, email. It also will have places to write down past injuries or medical conditions. You will than be introduced to your instructor who will start off by getting to know you and teaching you the basics of Pilates (breathing, scooping, and imprinting). Later the movements will progress including staple exercises like The Hundred or Roll Up.

When you call to book a session feel free to ask any further questions you may have. Many studios also have web sites including more specific info such as instructor bios or class schedules. Questions are a good thing and can provide helpful feedback to your instructor as well as the studio. I hope I've covered some of your concerns. Now go enjoy your first Pilates experience!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Foam Roll Me

Ah, the foam roll! This is one you may love so much you'll need a few for your home and studio. Once most of my clients have been on the foam roll they request to use it again in their next session. Foam rolls are known to assist in balance work and stretching.

I begin teaching my clients to lie on the foam roll (tailbone to crown of the head supported) with bent knees for fundamentals such as Puppet Arms, Curl Ups or Knee Folds. This allows you to quickly find your core to help balance while doing your usual warm ups. You can than progress from there by adding in extension work such as Shoulder Shrugs or Swan. Use it for Side Bends for a more satisfying stretch on the mat or even place it under your feet for an extra challenge in Plank Push Ups.

This prop is sure to be a new favorite to add to your mat class or as a final stretch at home after your work day is complete.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Look Fashionable

Who doesn't want to look great while they get in shape? Pilates was done in the olden days in a snug leotard or next to nothing. This allowed the instructor to see more of the body without distracting clothes since alignment is a key part of the method. Today, however, there is more to pick from thanks to fashion (even down to grippe socks).
Some popular picks for clothing at stores include Lucy, Lululemon, and Nike.
I personally shop at Victoria's Secret (VSX sport collection), Target (can't go wrong with good deals on accessories), Old Navy (creative tops/basics), and Forever 21 (affordable/stylish hoodies in any color).

When selecting a shirt make sure it covers you body enough (including the back and bust line). Layering can be a good option just as you would for a dance class to ensure your body stays warm throughout. Pants work best to form a long line with your leg. If you go with shorts make sure they are snug and nothing hangs out (mirror check!). As I mentioned before there are socks with grips on the bottom to assist in helping you foot stay put, but bare feet is traditional attire (show off your pretty nail polish or toe ring). Make sure the fabric of your clothing allows your skin to breath since exercises such as Rolling work to remove toxins from the body. As far as accessories go less is more. No dangle earrings or long necklaces (you will regret it later during Jackknife or Boomerang).
Overall, have fun with your wardrobe! Mix up colors and play with layers. If you have cute clothes you will be sure to show up for your workouts and have a better self image.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Frightful Fears

Trying something new like Pilates can be scary. Even if you are currently doing Pilates you may have fears occasionally such as how you will afford it or if a group class is right for you. I will help tackle some of those fears we all have experienced.

  1. I looked at the prices and I can't afford to do Pilates. I understand your concern. Pilates is a little more expensive than other forms of exercise. One nice thing to keep in mind if that there are a variety of ways to learn that can fit any budget. For example, you could take both a private session and a group class (mat or reformer) once a week. That way you get personal attention and the reduced rates of group sessions. Your instructor could also suggest a DVD you can do at home to complement your studio sessions. If you travel take advantage of discounted sessions to new clients at studios along the way. You will save and get a fresh perspective from a different instructor. Some locations also offer a discount with package pricing of classes or perks through referrals. Don't be afraid to chat with the front desk to find a schedule you can afford. After all, Pilates improves overall health and that is worth investing your time and money into for the long run.
  2. Pilates is a fad and overtime I'll get bored with my workouts. We have all been there. We try a new form to exercise we thought we'd stick to only to find out its repetitive and the body plateaus. After over 5 years experience I can honestly say I'm not bored with Pilates and I continue to see results in my body. With over 500 exercises and several pieces of equiptment, Pilates will challenge you. Each exercise can be modified which adds another layer such as Hundreds with your legs in shelf, out to your point of control or with a Magic Circle. You will be amazed how your body and transforms.
  3. I'm nervous to move beyond private sessions because I'll hold up the class. I hear this one more than you would think. Never fear! Most location offer group sessions limited in size from 3-7 people to ensure the instructor can still provide personal attention. Your instructor is there to ensure you have a workout geared toward your ability level. Certain locations will target groups such as golfers or runners with classes that enhance your hobbies. Others have Pilates by age group such as teens or seniors. Taking a class allows you to meet fellow Pilates enthusiasts and future friends. Group sessions also cost less to open up funds that may let you fit another session a week into your budget.
Now that we have tackeled our fears I think its safe to say that Pilates is a challenging yet affordable exercise.

Banish Spooky Myths

In light of the Halloween season I wanted to correct 5 myths out there I've heard about Pilates:
  1. Only women should do Pilates. I'd like to think my dad (or Joseph, the male creator) would be the first to disagree with this statement. I'll agree that books, DVDs and even a majority of studios you walk into will be dominated by women. However, men find Pilates to be a challenge with the exercises requiring stability and control such as Teaser or Short Box series on reformer. You work those all important posture muscles including your abdominal core that prevent you from slouching as you age. Males also find their flexibility increases, especially in the hips and legs. Are you still not convinced? Check out this link where a man puts Pilates to the untilmate test.
  2. If you want flat abs quick, Pilates is the way. Pilates will tone your body and narrow you with consistant workouts. The focus of each exercise stems from the abdominals, but more the transverse than the rectus (deep not superficial). Also Pilates is a full body workout so you will see restults in other spots, not just your belly.
  3. Pilates and yoga are very similar. Joseph Pilates (the creator) studied yoga, but they are two seperate forms of exercise. One big difference is the breathing. Pilates keeps the navel sinking in toward the spine instead of allowing your belly to fill with air like yoga. Another difference is Pilates has you move throughout while yoga includes postures you hold or meditation. Both do complement each other, so don't feel as though you have to pick one or the other.
  4. Since Pilates isn't cardio you won't burn many calories. Partly true. Pilates is not considered cardio, yet you do get a good workout of about 240 cals/hr if you are 150lbs (depending on ability level). This is equal to a Snickers bar or 3 glasses of wine (3.5 fl oz servings). I am not suggesting you replace Pilates with your usual aerobic session. Perhaps adding it in beforehand could enhanse your cardio with better posture while you run or bike. It will warm and stretch your body preparing it for the day ahead.
  5. If you are injured or elderly you should avoid Pilates. Actually Pilates is for any body or age group. Pilates was created as a form of rehibilitation. It is ideal for those who have injuries since exercises can be modified using a prop like a band or ball. Most exercises can also progress to becoming more challenging as the client builds strength. An example would be taking the Curl Ups to bent knee Pre Roll Ups to full legs out long Roll Ups. The elderly will appreciate the Pilates idea of quality over quanity. You will only do a few repetitions of one movement than move on. All exercises are low impact, especially on the reformer so they are gentle on aging joints. It is important, however to tell your instructor so you can recieve personal instruction if you do have special issues such as a broken bone or scoliosis to ensure the movements are done correctly without pain.
I hope I was able to correct a few common myths out there. Feel free to be a myth buster the next time you encounter one of these phrases about Pilates; I'm sure Joseph would be proud of you!