Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Posture 102: Harmful Workplace Habits

Does this picture below look familiar of anyone you know?  Chances are probably "yes".  Posture at work is not something that should be ignored.  Most people work a good 40hrs a week and habits from work can be harmful to your body in the future.
Exercises like Pilates are helpful in understanding proper posture outside of the gym or studio setting.  When talking "posture check" always start from the ground (or feet) and work your way up.  The best part about maintaining good posture is that your body will be less sore at the end of the day and you will burn more calories being in correct alignment.  

Seated at a Desk Checklist:
  1. Feet are flat on the floor, toes facing forward
  2. Knees bent at about a 90 degree angle, but still able to see your toes
  3. Sitting evenly on your sit bones (hips); that means no leaning from side to side
  4. Pull your belly toward your back (scoop)
  5. Reach your shoulders down toward your back hip pockets
  6. Feel as if someone is pulling your hair up to the ceiling to lengthen through your neck, gaze straight ahead
Slouching will put extra pressure on your spine, round your shoulders forward, and tighten your hips.  Make sure that at least every hour you get up to stretch or walk around.  The less you are sedentary the better  you will feel.  This will allow blood to circulate and bring fresh oxygen to the brain so you stay sharp throughout the day.  

If you are frequently at the computer during your day take time every hour to close you eyes and do some deep breathing.  This will relax your muscles and avoid strain on your eyes.  Your fingers might also tend to cramp up so give them a small workout too (pretend play the piano, open/close to a fist, circle the wrists).  This will loosen up your joints so you are able to type up those important reports more efficiently.

Note to females: Be careful of high heels!  They can cause tight calves/hamstrings, low back pain, and sore feet.  Opt for flats or wedges so you have more stability if you have to be on your feet often.  

Workplace injuries are common, but taking simple steps can help to prevent them from happening.  Remember, a small change you make today will have a large effect on your future health!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Break It Down: Swimming

Swimming out of the water requires a little bit more coordination.  Strengthen your whole back side by doing the Pilates version of this fun classic (usually done in contrast to the Teaser).

Purpose- strengthen back muscles/legs/bottom, works coordination, extension

Preps- Pregnant Cat, Swan, Heel Beats, Double Leg Kick, Superman, X Lifts, Acquaman

Form- don't rock pelvis from side to side, lengthen neck, arms/legs parallel and reach in opposition, lift navel to spine

*Not appropriate for: low back problems with extension (spondyloisthesis, stenosis, disc injuries); if shoulder injuries are a problem only move legs

Modifications- pillow under hips, legs kick only, start on Cadillac for preps, tabletop arm/leg extensions, shorten time hovering

How to Advance- Reformer on box, wrists stay above foam roll

Challenges- extend time hovering, increase tempo, transition right into Aquaman without a break

Saturday, March 19, 2011

DVD Review: Kick Abs Pilates Workout by Virginia Nicholas

Virginia Nicholas is a wonderful, well experienced Pilates instructor who owns Moving Breath Pilates in Tempe, AZ and teachers as part of Pilates Core Integration Teacher Training Program (PCI).  I had the pleasure of having a private workout from her while nearby on vacation.  She is very hands-on and taught at an invigorating pace.  She has now come out with a handful of DVDs that are highly educational and well executed.    

"Kick Abs Pilates Workout" is an advanced mat routine that can be completed in a little over a half hour.  You are cued through all the moves in the traditional style of Pilates just as you would be in a class setting.  The best part about the DVD is the beautiful transitions and combination moves.  They are sure to test your coordination as well as endurance!

I personally would have enjoyed a longer workout, yet the moves are challenging.  Great for any instructor or elite student for at home use.  Also check out her spine corrector or chair DVDs (sold online) to spice up any private or class.

Click here for more Pilates DVDs to add to your collection. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pilates for Golfers

Professional such as Rich Been, Annika Sorestam, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate have switched to doing more Pilates to win the PGA Championship and preserve their backs.  It's time for you to see how Pilates can improve your game...

Performance Benefits:

  • Attain an optimal backswing and follow-through 
  • Increased range of motion in shoulders
  • More distance/power because 
  • Greater hip/torso flexibility
  • Smoother and more controlled swing 
  • Maximize balance and alignment while rotating
  • Decrease fatigue and more stability
  • Play without pain!

The biggest concept for those who golf is being able to separate their hips from their shoulders moving.  This will improve rotation and power of their swing.  As an instructor it is important to open up your clients chest muscles, increases flexibility in the rotator cuff, lots of trunk twisting, core stability and strength in the upper back.  Flexibility will improve over time, however make sure they understand neutral alignment in their golf stance.  This will be key to make or break their swing.

Suggested Exercises for Golfers:
  • Twist/Saw
  • Ab Series/100s
  • Short Box Series (on Reformer)
  • Tick-Tock (obliques)
  • Chest Expansion
  • Bridging
  • Swimming 
  • Planks + knee taps
  • Pulling Straps (extension work)
Click here for more golf specific exercises.

Monday, March 7, 2011

5 Pilates Principles for Life

You have been doing Pilates for awhile, but do you understand how the principles you learn in class can translate to your outside life?  Well, believe it or not they do.
  1. Quality is better than quantity.  Take the time to master the details of the movement much like you ponder decisions before they're made.  We learn the basics like scooping before we master the ab series.  Mistakes will happen, but we must learn from them and move on.  
  2. When in doubt breathe and scoop.  In Pilates this is a given in order to achieve fundamental and challenging exercises.  In life when you hit a rough spot take a moment to focus back on your center and breathe before you move forward.
  3. You are your only competition; preform at your best.  If we all trained like athletes we would have beautiful, strong bodies.  Remember you are an athlete, except your only competition is yourself.  Find motivation and push yourself.  Set goals to track your progress.  There is always another layer to a Pilates exercise much like there is to your career and relationships.
  4. The body and mind have to work together as a unit.  You need to be present in your Pilates workouts to achieve the maximum benefits.  You also need to be present in your daily life: career, family, social, and spiritual.  The mind is powerful and can help your body achieve its physical goals.  Start by being strong internally and the rest will follow.
  5. Make work a form of play.  In Pilates we add in props to make a mat class more fun and stimulating.  In classes you learn new variations of exercises to keep you mind active and enjoying the workout.  In life, take the time for learning new things and experiencing joy.  Take a break to try a new activity like golf or taking a trapeze class will give you a new sense of wonder at all your body is capable of achieving.
Allow Pilates to become a lifestyle change.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Break It Down: Teaser

The dreaded Teaser.  Fear not!  The stronger you get the easier this exercise will become.  Start by doing it on the Cadillac/Tower, in an arc Barrel or on the Mat, and before you know it you'll master it on the Reformer.  This is a common exercise and much like the Hundred there are several variations to progress.  Let's break down this challenging exercise:

Purpose- works balance and core strength, timing is essential

Preps- Roll Up, Rolling (add one leg extension), Open Leg Rocker, Ab series

Form- scooped abs, lift out of shoulders, turn out from the hips to not grip in the quads, gaze at big toes

*Avoid if: you have low back problems that effect spine flexion such as osteopenia/osteoporosis, fusions, or disc injuries

Modifications- instructor holds clients ankles, bent knee w/single leg extension, shelf position to start, transition from Rolling to Teaser, add hand weights, walk up thighs to assist

How to Advance- fold up version or classical

Challenges- add arm circles (Mat/Reformer), add twisting w/upper body, add prop (Circle/ball in hands/feet, maple pole/band in hands), bend/press combo (Cadillac/Tower)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Posture 101: Stand Tall, Be Confident!

"Stand up straight, pull your gut in, and push your shoulders back!"  Sound familiar?  Mom was right in correcting you all those years.  Posture is an important part of life that Pilates can help you achieve.  Our society is not a world where good posture is enforced.  Many of us work at a desk where we slouch in front of the computer, pivot to reach for the phone, and carry heavy loads on the same side year after year.  These habits show in your body's natural standing posture.

How do I correct this?  Well, first let's identify what ideal posture looks and feels like!  Take a look at the picture below:

Notice how for good posture the ankles are stacked in line with the knees, in line with the hips, in line with the shoulders, in line with the ears.  This allows the chest to be open and the head to balance on the spine.  The abs are active and scooped inward to the back.  There is equal weight on your big toe, little toe, and heel while you balance.

This new found length in the spine helps relieve pressure on your discs.  You body can now work more efficiently.

Benefits of Good Posture:
  • Pain relief (neck, back, hips, feet)
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improves muscle function (burn more calories per day)
  • Improves circulation through body
  • You appear thinner (loose 10lbs in 5secs)
  • Look more confident
So try it today.  Remember: ankles + knees + hips + shoulders + ears

Looking to improve your posture at work?  Click here