Thursday, December 20, 2012


With the holidays approaching and the New Year around the corner its time to set goals this year that you can and will achieve.  Make sure they are SMART!

Specific: What is the exact outcome you want?  Dream big and you will make it!  Learn why this goal is attractive and that will be your driving force in achieving it.
Measurable: Do you care more about the number on the scale or what size clothes you fit into?  What time do you want to be able to run a mile in?  The more you can track your progress the better.  

Attainable: Was there a time in your life you did weigh 150lbs?  Explore lifestyle changes, road blocks and budget restraints.  Obstacles can lead to opportunities of growth.     

Realistic: How can this goal be reached?  What steps will be taken?  Sometimes setting up smaller goals to reach this bigger goal is a great idea.

Timely: This goal needs a deadline...4 weeks, 3 months, 1yr? your wedding day? birthday?

Examples of "good" goals:

  • I want to do well in my classes.
  • I want to loose weight.
  • I want to run a 5K race.
  • I want to build up my savings account.

Examples of "SMART"goals:

  • I will earn a 3.0 GPA this year with no grade below a B.
  • I will be in a size 4 dress by my wedding day with the help of my personal trainer.
  • I will run a 5K Turkey Trot in less than a half hour.
  • I will have $5,000 in savings in the bank by the end of 2013.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Break It Down: Monkey

Feel graceful and elegant in the Cadillac version of Monkey.  Flexibility if a must when it comes to achieving this cool down exercise.

Photo by Jonathan Ment, 
used by permission of Rhinebeck Pilates.

Purpose- stretches back/hamstrings

Preps- Open Leg Rocker, Tendon Stretch, Tree, Roll Up

Form- nose to knees, relaxed shoulders, stay heavy in your bones, hands and feet securely on bar (teachers should spot), head hangs off mat before you begin

*Avoid if you have low back issues such as disc injuries, sciatica, or osteoporosis.  Might be too compact of a position for most men.

Modify- don't straighten legs fully

How to Advance- add point/flex of toes at top, pull chest to ankles to get deeper

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Break It Down: Knee Stretch Series

The Knee Stretch Series is brisk paced and great for clients of all abilities.  Your athletes and runners will gain strength quickly.  However, this can be a complex exercise to introduce, especially in our society where many people have back/knee/hip issues.  Take caution by ensuring quality of movement.

Purpose- strengthen knees, torso/shoulder stability, opens up hips

Preps- Coccyx Curl, Leg Pumps on chair, Cat/Cow, Stomach Massage

Form- Round/Flat/Arched back or Knees Off, shoulders stabilize, movement happens at the hip, brisk tempo once form is mastered 

*Avoid if you have had a knee replacement or have lack of leg strength to sustain position

Modify- Scooter (one leg version), just hold in place on the Knees Off version, place pad or yoga block under knees to add extra padding or if stiff, make the range of motion smaller, hands on the frame instead of bar

How to Advance- Knees Off variation, increase reps, increase tempo 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shoulder Expressions

Tight shoulders need to be opened and allowed to "smile".  A workshop I attended at Teaser Pilates led by Jenna Anderson went more in depth on how to access the deep strength of the thoracic region and shoulders.  

Most Americans sit all day long and much of our daily lives are spent in a hunched position.  We are driving, on the computer, curled up on the coach, texting, studying, and grocery shopping.  This develops tight muscles in the chest and weak back muscles.  Pilates is a great tool to combat this kyphotic posture from occurring as we age.

Here is a helpful warm up to use with a stretchy band:

  • Hold the band shoulder width.  Let the arms circle from front to back behind the body.  Only go as far as the body allows.  Make the movement smooth and controlled.
  • Now go around the world with the band.  Lead with one arm overhead, band comes back behind the body, than open with the opposite arm to come back to the front of the body.  Reverse.
  • The band comes back in front of the chest.  Open the arms straight and wide to the sides as the band touches the chest.  Hold briefly than repeat.
  • Without the band do as many backward shoulder circles are you are old.  (25yr old does 25 circles backward daily)
Get creative with Pilates extension exercises.  Use a band for resistance for Pulling Straps on the mat, add in shoulder shrugs with the push through bar before Swans on a Cadillac, and do standing roll downs off a wall so clients can feel the collar bone staying open as they stack up.  Teach your clients to stand with confidence and a broad chest.  They will thank you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pilates Brain: 5 Parts of the Mind

Your mind is just as important as your body in Pilates.  They work hand in hand for the best results.  In fitness we expand the mind by improving memory and intelligence.  Our body learns new motor patterns which are than stored in our "data base" for later use.  Repetition of exercises as well as adding on new skills once those are mastered keep clients challenged.  Know the Pilates brain and your clients will progress quicker.

  1. Intelligence: acquire and apply knowledge or skills...Master the coordination of the 100 and the rest of the system falls into place
  2. Memory: how the mind stores and remembers information...Learn the order and trust yourself to know which exercise comes next, performance anxiety may occur but keep moving with the flow and it will lead you in the right direction
  3. Imagination: a creative and resourceful mind that can form new ideas or concepts...Feel the beach ball you round over in Spine Stretch, pretend you are a ball in Rolling, grow out of your seat to sit taller for Short Box, explore and play with your workouts
  4. Will/Desire: decides on and initiates action with intention...You plan and come to class on time, there is dedication in the practice with a consistent schedule, live your life with passion
  5. Intuition: to understand immediately or have the gut feeling in decision making...Trust yourself to go to your limits and be successful on and off the mat


Friday, October 19, 2012

Health Advice: De-stress

Q: My corporate job can be stressful.  I know that can take a tole on my health inside and out.  My personal trainer warned me that too much stress can cause weight gain and lower my immune system.  Are there ways I can de-stress to prevent this?

A: Yes!  Stress can take a tole on the body.  We are designed for a "fight or flight" response, but not well for emotional daily stress.  You can form healthy habits to help keep stress levels low.  Quit the cigarettes and limit alcohol and caffeine.  Make sure you get 6-8hrs of sleep daily to replenish the body, snack throughout the day to keep your metabolism going, and engage in some form of physical activity you enjoy for at least 30 minutes.  

Beyond those basics, take time to talk and spend time with family, pets and friends.  Plan vacation days off (especially if you get paid time off) ahead of time to allow for breaks in your schedule.  Make time to attend a sporting event, concert, or play.  Walk the mall with a friend, have a spa day alone, or date night in with your spouse.  Remember to laugh by watching a TV show or reading a comic strip.  Take time to slow down and appreciate the small things in life by keeping a gratitude journal or enjoying your morning cup of tea.  Finally, volunteer time in your community by helping out at church or making dinner for an elderly neighbor.  Having a life outside of the stressful work environment can give you the balance your body needs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Pilates Touch

I was lucky enough to attend "The Art of Physical Touch" workshop at Core Sport lead by Simona Cipriani whom was taught by Romana.  Pilates is all about stretch, strength and control.  Working hands on with your clients will encourage or help in correcting their movement patterns.  Make sure you ask permission and know your client well before moving into touch techniques.  Also keep in mind to use props such as a wooden pole or strap for the feet.  As Joe would say, "You feel it where you need it," and touch can assist in taking you deeper into the system.  

The skin is the largest organ in the body with receptors that can determine heat or cold, soft touch, vibration or pain.  Certain body parts such as the hands and lips have more of these receptors than a knee or elbow.  Keep in mind to use your thigh and hands depending on the exercise.  Below are some examples of useful touch in matwork:

100s/Ab Series: support the upper back/shoulders with heel of the hand or palms to get into the full C curve, spot feet at heels to activate more glute/hamstring or ensure proper tracking of legs

Roll Up/Spine Stretch Forward: feet in loops to ground heels, weighted pole to assist the Roll Up, wooden pole to "roll out the pizza dough" on low abs for Spine Stretch

One Leg Circles: stabilize hips or shoulders with heel of hands, press hand into bottom thigh to help squeeze when circling

Rolling like a Ball/Seal: from the front of the mat slide your foot under client on the roll back so thigh supports the bottom on the balancing point then take away to roll back up

Side Leg Series: straddle the waist with both feet to keep torso steady, line up a wooden pole on the top thigh to keep leg in alignment, palm of hand on top heel to activate more inner thigh

Teaser: thighs help balance the legs in classical Teaser position, client presses tops of hands into your palms to assist rolling up

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Health Advice: Brighten Up a Boring Sandwich

Q: I usually eat a sandwich for lunch at work.  That means I eat one about 5x/week!  Is there a way to make it more interesting instead of just your typical bread, meat and cheese?

A: Start first by working on the outside.  Think spinach wraps, whole grain bread, portabella mushrooms, or tortilla.  Than move onto replacing mayo with hummus, yogurt or pesto.  You will get more flavor and less calories in the spread alone.  Change up the "meat" into shrimp with quinoa, black beans, tofu, avocado, almond butter with apples, or beets.  If its a tuna or chicken salad add in some sliced almonds, dried cranberries/cherries, pine nuts, raisins, carrots or cucumber for a kick.  Finally add in an extra crunch (instead of lettuce) of radishes, sprouts, kale or pickled veggies.    


Monday, September 24, 2012

Break It Down: Boomerang

The Boomerang is a mat exercise well worth adding in once you are more advanced.  It is a combo move that will test balance and coordination.  Use it in place of Teaser or as an advanced version of Rolling.    

Purpose- Rid the body of toxins, massage the spine, hamstring/back/shoulder flexibility

Preps- Roll Up, Roll Over, Rowing, Rolling, Open Leg Rocker, Teaser, Hamstring stretch

Form- Stay in flexion with legs piked, Roll back first than switch crossed ankles, unroll into Teaser than add butterfly arms stretching to toes, no weight on the head and neck when rolling backward

*Avoid if you have low back or neck problems, are pregnant, have glaucoma, or high blood pressure.

Modify- Leave out the shoulder stretch or Teaser balance, spot client be bracing their feet against your thighs and assisting at their arms

How to Advance- add in a pause once in Teaser, try to touch fingertips behind back, use less momentum

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Health Advice: Safe Cooking Oils

Q: I often cook at home to help control my calorie intake.  Sometimes I use olive oil and other times I use butter.  What would be a healthier cooking oil to use?

A:  Even though it tastes good, butter may not be the best option when it comes to cooking.  Olive oil is a much better option.  The best one would be hazelnut.  If you're concerned about GMO, it's likely that corn, soy, and canola oils are genetically-modified. 
All of the following oils are low in "bad" fats:

  1. hazelnut oil
  2. olive oil
  3. flaxseed oil (needs to be refrigerated)
  4. avocado oil (good for cold spread)
  5. almond oil (good for salad dressings)
  6. canola oil (can fry foods)
  7. apricot oil
  8. sunflower oil (can fry foods)
  9. pistachio oil
  10. peanut oil (good for salad dressings)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teaching Inspiration

Being a teacher has its ups and downs.  No two days are alike; especially in the Pilates world.  Teaching Pilates makes you more patient, humble, and creative.  You have to have a passion to pass onto others.  Your clients will feed off your energy and progress through your direction.  The method is yours to pass on.  

I live daily by this quote: 
"The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires." 
-William Arthur Ward

Here are some other quotes to motivate:

"By learning you will teach; by teaching you will understand." 
-Latin Proberb

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." -Albert Einstein

"You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -Woodrow Wilson

"No matter how good you get, you can always get better and that's the exciting part." -Tiger Woods

"Nine-tenths of education is encouragement." -Anatole France

"The key to mastering any new job is finding the right mentor." 
-Carolyn Kepcher

"A master can tell you what he expects of you.  A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations." -Patricia Neal  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cultivating Your Spirals

In taking a workshop lead by Jenna Anderson on Cultivating Your Spirals I discovered another layer to Pilates.  We often hear about inward and outward rotation of the limbs, yet there has to be a balance between the two for optimum strength and stability.  "Spirals" are a yoga term to describe this same balance in the body.  Using them works deeper into the joints and requires more stabilizers to activate.  

How do you find them?  Start standing to active your lower spirals.  Toes and knees face out in a wide stance.  Lean forward as if for a Deadlift, feel the outer thigh/glutes up into the hips activate to bring you back up to standing.  Now bring your feet parallel standing tall.  Feel as if your big toes are pulling together doing the same movement.  This time you should feel more inner thigh/pelvic floor activation (inner spiral).  Move now onto all fours in a Tabletop position to find the upper body spirals.  Put a majority of the weight into the webbing of skin between your thumb and first fingers.  This should rotate the inside of the elbows to face one another.  Now imagine you are twisting a door open to allow the inside of the elbows to face away from you (outer spiral).

Once your clients understand these concepts focus on using one set of spirals for each workout and alternate each class.  This will provide more of a complete workout overall.  In time, build up to finding the balance of the spirals in certain exercises to generate the most strength/stability.  

Practice Pilates exercises:

  1. Plank/Tabletop: have the inside of your elbows face each other than away from you, work on finding the balance, add on Bird Dog or Reverse Knee Series for a challenge
  2. Push Through: without moving hold onto the bar with palms facing up to have a broad collarbone, try to keep that open as you flip the palms to face down, now do the exercise while maintaining
  3. Feet in Loops: touch the heels together with each leg circle, focus on which part of the foot is pressing into the strap more
  4. Elephant: rotate the legs into different positions to active more outer thigh or pelvic floor
  5. Standing Balance with Circle: press in with either heels or big toes more to get the whole hip working

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to Be Vegetarian

Vegetarian: following a plant based diet, lacking meat products yet including maybe some dairy or eggs

Why live like a vegetarian?  Most foods cost less than those made with meat.  You reduce your environmental footprint by using less fossil fuels, water and decrease grain production.  Meat typically contains about 14% more pesticides than plant foods which can lead to disease.  It's also nice to respect nature since most Americans consume around 24 animals a year.

Recipe Ideas:
Egg Salad Sandwich
Miso soup
Grilled Lentil Burger
Hummus sandwich wraps
Tofu and veggie stir-fry
Potato salad
Roasted Eggplant

Non-Meat Protein:
Low fat, plan Greek Yogut (6 oz= 18g)
Lentils (1 cup= 18g)
Edamame (1 cup= 17g)
Kidney beans (1 cup= 13g)
Eggs (2 large= 12g)
Hemp seeds (1/4 cup = 11g)
Tofu (3 oz= 9g)
Quinoa (1 cup cooked= 8g)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Health Advice: Smart Salads

Q: I realize that salad dressing can be high in fat.  What are some other items to be aware of at the salad bar?

A: You are smart to realize that not all salads are good for you.  Some items that make a healthy salad are grilled chicken breast, tofu, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, edamame, quinoa, raw veggies, and a light dusting of Parmesan cheese for flavor.  Dressing is where people load up on the unnecessary calories.  Always ask for the dressing on the side and dip your fork in the dressing instead of pouring it on.  If you are looking for a healthy dressing try using salsa (more fruits and veggies than fat), fruit juice, vinegar, or yogurt.   

Recipe Ideas:
Chicken Avocado Salad
Green Goddess Salad
Italian Antipasto Salad
Eating Well Power Salad (chef salad)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Health Advice: Energy Bars

Q: My life is always on the go.  I have a family and travel often which means I don't always get time to sit down for a meal.  Is it okay to use an energy bar to replace a meal such as lunch if I'm time crunched? 

A: Once in awhile it can be okay (so long as there is proper nutritional value), but try not to make this habit.  Some energy bars are really just "grown up" candy bars with sometimes up to 300 calories and plenty of fats or sugar.  Make sure your choice has 150 calories or less; less than 2g of saturated fat; less than 15g of sugar; at least 3g of fiber; and at least 5g of protein.  Also make sure you read and understand the ingredient list.  The main ingredients (ones listed at the start) should say soy, whole wheat or brown rice.  Less ingredients= better!  Try to make it more of a complete meal by adding in a piece of fruit/veggie or string cheese.

Good choices: Kashi Dark Mocha Almond Chewy Granola Bar, Toasted Nuts 'N Cranberry Luna Bar, Cliff Honey Oat Granola Bar, Kashi Pumpkin Pecan Layered Granola Bar

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Break It Down: Climb a Tree

Nothing says grace quite like Climb a Tree.  A supple spine will allow for the full extension to an elegant exercise that opens up the entire body.  

Purpose- hamstring/back flexibility, core strength, pelvic stability, extension

Preps- Roll Up, Short Box series, Leg Circles, Feet in Loops, Rolling

Form- Roll back with pelvis (do not hinge), top leg is perpendicular before you walk down thigh, keep abdominal support throughout

 *May not be appropriate or those with low back problems such as disc injury or stenosis.

Modification- practice on the mat 1st, hamstring/hip leg stretches only, roll back just halfway 

How to advance- do the full backbend into the well, add in twist of tree at top, 3-4 reps

Challenges- add in leg circles while head is in well

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back on Resolution Track

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."
-Abraham Lincoln

How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions?  Let's be honest.  Good will only get you so far.  After the 30 day hump a new habit or change is not becoming second nature?  Here are some tips to make them stick:

  1. Goal: Weight Loss...Are you on a training program?  Do you have others (personal trainer, friends/family, co-workers) whom hold you accountable?  Are you physically active 3-5x/week?  Chances are if there was one question you didn't answer a solid "yes" to then that's where we need to start.  The basics are there for a reason.  We encourage a Couch to 5K program because walking helps us put in the miles just as well as running.  It provides a mental accomplishment each time we finish the plan.  Journal your workouts to keep you on track.  Laminate your training program to post on your fridge or calendar.  Not everyday day at the gym will be fun.  Focus on your larger goal everyday (fitting into that bikini, role model for kids, running a race).  Make it your mission statement!    
  2. Goal: Improved Nutrition...Take your supplements (put them by your toothbrush or coffee).  Raw food is best.  Bring healthy snacks when you travel.  Log your food into a journal.  Stay hydrated!  Fuel before and right after all workouts.  Nutrition is all about numbers (calories), variety (food groups), and color (vitamins and minerals).  When you put positive, natural foods into your body you get the best results.  Always!  
  3. Goal: De-stress...Schedule a monthly massage, facial, counseling session, girls night out, vacation day or date night.  Make your days off involve more family, friends and pet time.  Play games, go see a musical, read a book, knit, or volunteer.  Create a no email or phone day to break away from the demand of technology.  Prep food, workout clothes and work documents.  Taking a few hours a week to re-organize helps to make the rest of the week flow better.     

Monday, February 13, 2012

Health Advice: Snacks

Q: Sometimes I have to eat dinner later then intended.  What are some good snack foods to tide me over?

A: Be careful what counts as a snack and as a treat.  Avoid pudding cups, baked chips, certain energy bars and even those 100-calorie snack packs.  Those are "treats".  You should eat something that will sustain you until your next meal such as a piece of fruit or veggie, string cheese, raw almonds, or low-fat yogurt.  Those have more nutrients and will keep you feeling satisfied longer.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slimming Secrets

  1. Set a date!  SMART goals get results.  Such as, "I want to loose 10 lbs in 12 weeks by the time I run a half marathon" work best.  Bonus: write it down and put it in a place like your fridge where you will see it daily as motivation when you need it most
  2. Plan your reward(s).  When you reach your small or large goals make sure there is a prize to keep your eye on.  Such as: new jeans, pedicure, massage, new nail polish, fun date night
  3. Lean out your meals.  Eat soup before a meal to make you feel fuller.  Exercise portion control.  Opt for an open-face sandwich to cut out 100 calories.  Consume breakfast to help jump start your metabolism.  Drink more water throughout the day. Click here for more ideas on healthy food.
  4. Make exercise more like "playtime".  Try something new.  Get on a schedule.  Do activities with friends or families (ice skate, play at the park, join a sport team, go for a swim).  Plan out a race day to hold you accountable.  Take the stairs (10.7 cal/min) or shovel snow (7.6 cal/min). 
  5. Mobile apps hold you accountable (they're your new fitness coach & friend).  Jot down everything you eat to stay on budget toward your goal.  Log in workouts and keep in touch with others.  Examples:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Fight Back Pain

Your head alignment is important to avoid back pain.  Looking at the picture below, your head when in correct alignment should weigh no more than 12lbs.  However, when in the wrong place it puts a 42lb strain on your spine.  Overtime this strain on the back can cause injury.  It can also lead to tight chest muscles and weak back muscles.

Learn to sit and stand in proper alignment to keep your blood flowing efficiently and live a long, happy life.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Parenting Fitness

How do you squeeze in time to workout as a parent?  You are busy with your job, family life, making meals, driving your little ones around, helping with homework and struggling to find time to sleep.  However, adding in small workouts (10-20 minutes) daily can improve your mood and make you a healthy role model for your kids.

With a little one you are the caretaker.  Even if you have family and friends who live nearby to assist there will be days when you are unable to make it to the gym or your fitness class.  When times like this happen go to plan B.  Take the stroller/family pet out for a walk, play tag with the kids, go for a bike ride, swim at the pool, shoot some hoops, dance to some music or do some household chores.

As your kids get older and enter school try to commit to at least one hour away a week to workout.  This gives you time to focus on your goals or try something new.  You may feel guilty at first, but when workouts are schedule and pre-paid you are going to be more successful.  This may mean getting up early, fitting in a walk on your lunch hour or stopping in after work.  Most gyms or studios now have showers which is an added bonus for those parents who are on the go.

Still not able to get time away?  Try to reach 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles; 100 calories burned on average per mile).  Wear a pedometer and if by the end of the day when the kids are in bed and you need those extra steps you can jump on your treadmill or take the stairs to get to your goal. 

Here are some sample workouts you can fit in on those days you are pressed for time:

  • Full Body: Plank + side plank holds (30secs-2mins each), Push Ups or Burpees
  • Lower Body: Walking Lunges or Squats (add hand weights for resistance), Bridges (single leg version for a challenge)
  • Upper Body: Arm weights (can use soup cans): chest press, biceps, front/side raises, triceps
  • Cardio Circuit: Jumping jacks, jump rope, march in place, grapevine, stairs (30secs-2mins each)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Health Advice: Sports Drinks

Q: I'm no pro athlete, but I do workout on a regular basis.  When I have an especially hard cardio session which sports dink should I choose?

A: Sports drinks can be loaded in empty calories.  Marketing makes them sound healthy, but a 20-oz bottle can exceed your daily sugar allowance.  Dilute a serving size of Gatorade with equal amount plain water provides you with a healthier option.  Also you can learn to make your own flavored water by adding in sliced cucumber, oranges, berries, lemon or lime.

Good choices: Gatorade's G2 series or Vitamin Water's zero-sugar line

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Break It Down: Saw

The Saw is a way to combine Twist and Spine Stretch to help students advance during matwork.  

Purpose- wring out the lungs, work on hip stability, rotation of spine

Preps- One Lung Breathing, Feel Good Arm Circles, Spine Stretch Forward, Seated Twist, Curl Up

Form- flex feet, scoop abs, sit bones stay on the floor, lift then twist, back palm flips up, gaze at back arm, ear lowers toward the thigh, reach out fingertips, 2-4 breaths

*May not be appropriate for those with back problems such as disc injury.

Modifications- sit on a pad/stool, perform only the twist to make sure hips don't shift, bend knees if hamstrings/back is tight, bend elbows or hands on shoulders 

How to Advance- add in pulse when reaching, hold onto band behind back for resistance

Challenges- Roll Up + Saw combo