Thursday, August 20, 2015

Humans are like Trees

There is no perfect body.  
There never will be.  

Yet we as a society and even as teachers strive for perfection.  The photos of Joseph Pilates spine to match that of our clients in less than a year when in reality for some it may take a lifetime.  Perhaps a better idea would be to not judge and just acknowledge some circumstances (especially as teachers) are out of our control. 

The athlete may get injured.  People need to go away on vacation and may miss workouts.  Sometimes what appears to be setbacks however is just forward progress in disguise.  When in doubt the breath and the engagement of the core (our basic Pilates principles) are the foundation for all of good movement patterns.

For me personally, I find it more rewarding to teach a client with an injury or imperfection.  I can see the progress more clearly.  I can see the soul open up.  I can see the changes unfold.  The confidence build with the improved posture.  Over time they realize they want to eat better and do more self care.  They become a more happy complete person.  That to me is where the reward lies.  

May we all learn to be patient with the practice and enjoy each day as another opportunity to uncover a new layer.  No matter if that is a layer in the system of Pilates or in ourselves.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Unlock Your Client's Potential

Sometimes we are our own problems and we hold the key to our own solutions.

There came a point, as it does for everyone at least once in their life where I was burnt out.  I was teaching so many hours in a studio/gym environment that I personally could no longer stand staying an extra hour to get in my own workout.  I'm sure many a teacher has been warned, especially when going through teacher training..."You love your Pilates practice now?  You're excited about getting in hours of personal workouts to learn the equipment and master your craft?  Just you wait...there will come a day where you will teach the method more and are barely able to get in your personal practice."  I know I was warned this early on and didn't believe it for a second.  I told myself I am disciplined.  I will always practice what I preach.  Yet that day still came.

In a way I felt I lost faith in the Method.  I needed to clear my head from all the years of classical vs. traditional teaching debates.  The years of working in so many different places that I lost track of why I took up Pilates in the first place.  How it made me feel internally strong and beautiful.  It allowed me to be an acrobat, boxer, swimmer, gymnast, equestrian, yogi and dancer.  Pilates took me to a different world where there were less restrictions on my body and I was able to defy gravity if only be it in the 100 for a matter of 60 seconds worth.

How did I unstuck myself and get back in the studio on my own terms?  Basically I had to unearth the joy I had experienced in my first few sessions.  Doing that I had to find a mentor.  That mentor oddly came from an Ashtanga Yoga class and she had no idea until months later how her cues and explanation of yoga allowed me to once again return to the studio and begin again with Footwork.

Part of me had to find my mind and set it right again for my body to be able to accept the connection again.  I had to feel my breath in new ways.  I had to hold a Boat pose to realize how much it resembled a Teaser.  I had to do a full Handstand to recognize how Joseph Pilates was intelligent enough to use the Ladder Barrel to provide assistance to the average "Joe".  

I was again allowed to move in a way that provided the body balance.  The dance of yin and yang.  The twists and side bends.  The full Sun Salutation to rinse the body.  I was told to root down, yet find a way to soften in each pose.  I felt comfort in the knowledge I was only one pose away from meditation or Child's pose.  Once there all I had to do was breathe until I was able to begin again.  

Suddenly Footwork had layers.  It wasn't a silly, quick warm up to get to the juicy parts of Pilates.  Footwork became that time where I was able to check in with my clients bodies and notice all those subtle hints.  To remind them to breathe and why we breathe.  We cleanse and detox the body with proper breath.  We purify the blood through the breath.  We get every vessel and nerve woken up prior to doing the 100 so we see more success later in the practice.

During my group classes I began to educate more and bring back my love of the Method to my students.  I could get all nerdy with some anatomy terms, have them close their eyes to feel the proper way to hold their pelvis steady while under tension and check in to their mind/body connections.  I also began to teach less exercises and focus on the details that make Pilates so valuable.  All those little ways we use posture or lessons on how to pick up a box and put it down with proper control.

So why do we move?  Movement brings us joy.  We dance, run, bike, swim, climb and play sports.  We were meant to be in motion and explore the world this way.  Pilates isn't for everybody.  However, I strongly feel that for everyone there is a point in time where Pilates, if taught correctly, can be the form of movement that will unlock a person from a poor movement pattern.  They will uncover a form of mobility they've never before experienced.  It will make them stay injury free while they train for a half Ironman or dance competition.  It will be the form of workout they use to de-stress from being a full time parent or spouse.  It will be the next step from physical therapy into the real world when gravity is not their friend.

My wish for you is there may never come a time when you feel you need to escape from the Pilates world.  However, if that day comes know that sometimes it takes another teacher/mentor to help you begin again.  All is takes is one single breath and the mental choice to start over.  To make yourself a priority.  Perhaps that is the whole reason it is called a practice?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Health Advice: When to Go Organic?

Q: I feel organic fruits and veggies are best to purchase.  However I have found it to be a bit pricey and find it hard to manage eating well on a budget.  Is there a way to get the most nutrient dense foods without suffering a large grocery store bill?

A: Great question!  You will be happy to know my answer is YES!  The "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" will be your key to shopping organic and when you can save some extra cash.

Watch out for items such as Apples, Peaches, Strawberries, Grapes, Peppers, Spinach, Cucumbers, Snap peas, Tomatoes, and Potatoes.  These are part of the Dirty Dozen list.  Their thinner skins do not protect well against pesticides.  Make sure to clean them very well before consumption.  Best to purchase these foods when they are in season and organic as much as possible.  To have access to things like strawberries or snap peas year round you can always freeze them to later add into a smoothie or stir fry dish when desired.

Produce such as Avocados, Bananas, Cantaloupe, Kiwi, Onions, Pineapple or Mango are part of the Clean 15 list.  This means they have a more protective outer layer and are exposed to much less chemicals.  These are the items you can save some cash on and shop around for the best deals on.  For something like an avocado you can always buy them when green and ripen in a sealed brown paper bag in a day or two.  Place clear wrap over the top stem of you bananas to keep them green longer and lock in their freshness by leaving them out on the counter until needed.      

I hope this simplifies your shopping needs and helps you save some extra cash in the long run!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Stability Ball Strength Circuit

Have increased balance and more core control by using this stability ball workout.  This series will challenge your full body and pairs well as a mix up day to the Medicine Ball Workout since there are similar movement patterns involved.    

Begin each workout with a proper warm up and cool down such as one with a foam roller (see articles on Stretch It Out, Self Myofascial Release 101 and Restoring Foam Roller Workout).  

Perform each circuit for time such as 1 minute each or perform 8-15 reps of each exercise.  Pick one of the groups for a quick 15 minute workout, or complete all 3 groups 1-3x each for a full hour session.

  1. Squat with overhead press (holding ball)
  2. Forearm plank on ball, Add in straight leg lifts
  3. Single and Double leg stretch (ball in hands or ankles)
  4. Bridges and Hamstring Curls (shown below)

  1. Kneeling side leg series (lean into ball; shown above)
  2. Legs on ball Planks and Knee unders
  3. Roll Ups and Teasers (ball in hands or ankles)
  4. Seat/heel lifts while lying on belly, Ball squeezes (ball in ankles)
  1. Single Leg lunge with twists (ball in hands)
  2. Push ups and Pike Ups
  3. Scissors and Seated Twists (ball in hands)
  4. High Bridges (feet on ball)

Want to increase your heart rate and add in a challenge?  Add in cardio bursts such as mountain climbers with forearms on ball, jumping jacks, high knees, grapevines, burpees, jump rope or sprints.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Medicine Ball Workout

Looking to slim down in a quick circuit?  Than this medicine ball inspired workout is sure to get you ready for summer!

Depending on your level of fitness a 6lb ball or more will do the trick.  If you don't happen to have one of these handy using a prop such as a hand weight or heavy book can do the trick.  This circuit can be done for time intervals of about 30 seconds -1 minute each or about 8-10 reps of each exercise.  

Feeling ambitious?  Repeat each series 2-3x for a half hour to full hour workout.  Enjoy!

  1. Squat with overhead press at the top, Wide Pile with pulses
  2. Rolling pass push-ups, Oblique Knee twisters
  3. Open leg crunches, Bicycle
  4. Bridges (hold ball in hands), Hold with knee taps

  1. Lunges (Split squats), Hold the lunge and torso twist to the front knee
  2. Triceps push-ups (hands on ball), Single straight leg lifts
  3. Roll Ups, Teasers
  4. Single leg bridges (hold ball in hands), Straight leg lower/lifts

  1. Roman single leg Deadlifts, Lateral leg lifts with pulses
  2. Push-ups (feet on ball), Toe taps to sides
  3. Sit ups with ball toss (slam against wall/toss to partner), Seated torso twists
  4. Bridges (feet on ball), Hold and pulse at the seat
Want to increase your heart rate and add in some more creative options?  Add in cardio bursts such as mountain climbers, jumping jacks, burpees, sprints, or lateral step overs on a Bosu.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bosu Cardio Circuit

Work your core deeper with an unstable surface such as the Bosu.  Below is a Bosu workout with cardio intervals* (1-2 minutes each) tucked in for an extra challenge.  To make things interesting build in 2-3 circuits depending on strength and workout time available (10-15 minutes for one circuit).  

  1. Single Leg Squat (one foot on Bosu, arms can swing forward)
  2. Squat on top of Bosu 
    1. Add a hop/jump for extra challenge and more cardio
  3. *Lateral Step Overs
  4. Walking Planks (on round part like picture to side)
  5. Push Up w/alternating Leg Lifts (flat side)
    1. On knees to modify
  6. *Mountain Climbers (flipped over like picture above)
  7. Crunch to Standing/Get Ups 
    1. Crunches only to modify
  8. Side Planks (elbow/hand on round)
    1. Hip dips for challenge or top leg lifts into a Superstar hold
  9. *Burpee (see picture below)

To learn the Bosu basics click here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Restoring Foam Roller Workout

The foam roller can be used to help restore balance to the body.  Most days we feel tightness in our shoulders, hips and low back.  The foam roll helps get the whole body moving while you decompress your spine.  It's one of my favorite ways to warm up prior to a workout or use right before bedtime.  Below is a workout designed to stretch out all your kinks while working your core as an added bonus (10-15 minutes):

  1. Lying on the Roll (whole spine on)
    1. Body Sways
    2. Puppet Arms/Scissors/Circles
    3. Curl Ups/Angel Arms/100s
    4. Single/Double Toe Taps
    5. Single/Double Leg Stretch
    6. Frogs/Heel Beats
    7. Dying Bug/Oblique Curl Ups
    8. Arm Hang in a Letter T stretch
    9. Field Goal Arms w/overhead Reach to Y shape
    10. Bridges
  2. Hips Elevated (w/Roll underneath)
    1. Passive Hip Stretch
    2. Frogs/Circles
    3. Scissors/Beats
    4. Bicycle/Helicopter
    5. Shoulder Bridge
  3. 4 Point Kneeling
    1. Cat/Cow
    2. Balance Stick/Plank
    3. Thread the Needle
  4. Seated Mermaids/Side Bends
  5. MELT Method on the Neck
    1. See video here

Monday, February 2, 2015

Finding your Balance

Burnout.  It happens.  No matter if its during the holiday season, the start of a new job/workout program or just plain old going too long without taking an actual vacation (you know, one where you don't answer your email or phone).  You feel like you are loosing control.  Probably because you are.

There have been a few times in my life, even this past year switching jobs when I almost hit a wall.  For me personally it comes as a time when I loose track of when I last slept/ate.  The days blend together.  

I was training for a marathon in September (my second) which made everyday an early morning one where I put in all those long runs.  I had also switched jobs.  We had just opened a brand new fitness club and a typical workday I'd be up at 4:30am and not get back home till 4pm.  There were days when my cat rebelled by leaving me a "present" in retaliation, but I keep going since these were the demands of my career.  When it really hit me though was the moment I looked at the time clock and saw how many hours I'd worked in the past two weeks.  Let's just say it was more than two digits worth.  

I forgot what it was like to have real fun and to let go of my job.  My brain was constantly in "work mode".  My life consisted of work, running and trying to keep my head on straight.  I forgot to put some of that energy into other places like my personal relationships, painting my nails or picking a new recipe to try for dinner.  Don't get me wrong, I love my career and I love to run but too much of a good thing leaves no time for anything else.  My perfectionist self had booked up all my hours to be productive.  A typical day off looked like this:

6am- wake up/eat snack, get ready for my run
7am- long run of 10+ miles depending on the day
10:45am- done w/run, snack and change clothes
11:15am- attend hour yoga class
12:30pm- grocery shop
2pm- eat dinner, prep my food for the work week
5pm- check emails while watching TV 
6pm- shower, do laundry
9pm- bedtime

Before noon I'd accomplished more than the average person.  It felt exhilarating.  Yet somehow I'd forgotten that with taking time to relax and reflect we are better able to give of ourselves (especially being in the service industry) which makes us more productive in the long run.  

First I went to stock up on my supplements, aromatherapy soaps, and lots of pet supplies to let my cat know he hadn't been neglected.  Than I created a new routine:

  1. Each morning I started my day with some deep breathing and took a moment to be positive about the day ahead  
  2. I made it a point to sit down to eat each meal mindfully and actually schedule in a lunch break
  3. When I left work I mentally gave myself permission to not respond to email or my phone unless it was an emergency
  4. I planned out some fun me time like my monthly massage, lunch with a friend and bowling with my parents 
My client would understand I was busy.  There was no reason to overbook myself anymore.  Clearly that wasn't working out well.  My new plan helped create more balance to my busy days and let my mind take a break.
I have come to realize there is a reason why people enjoy sleeping in on the weekend.  It isn't because they are lazy.  It's actually really nice not to wake up to an alarm clock everyday.  When you do wake up you know your body got all the rest it required.  There is also something peaceful about not checking your phone or email every chance possible.  It makes me less stressed or anxious.  They invented an answering machine and an email automated response for a reason.  I am now allowed to be me outside of work hours again.  

So this year I encourage you to create big goals and change the world in a way you are passionate about.  However, make sure to not loose sight of what is really important.  Savor the simple moments and take all your vacation days because you deserve it!