private class

Hickory, dickory, dock!

Hickory, dickory, dock

The mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one;  the mouse ran down,

Hickory, dickory, dock!

 

Every day the clock controls my life. I wake up to the sound of the alarm, and then for the rest of the day, I am constantly checking the time to make sure I’m getting all my “stuff” done.  There are many days I struggle to get a workout in. That means I have to workout as efficiently as possible. If I have only a limited amount of time, I always choose moving through a Pilates routine. And I will tell you why…

At about the age of thirty, man and women begin to lose muscle tissue all over the body.  We need that muscle for balance and strength as it is the best way to prevent injury.  Aerobic exercise generally does not build muscle tissue.  To build it, we need to fatigue our muscles using weight and resistance. THAT is the goal in every Pilates class.  Because your Pilates instructor knows the "good news" – we can counteract the natural decline of muscle tissue with strength training, especially around the joints.

Here is a list of other benefits of strength training:

  • Provides relief from joint pain as effective as medication
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases energy and elevates our mood
  • Increases bone density
  • Improves how we look with lean and taut muscles

So, I will battle that daily clock, and the clock that is ticking since I passed 30 years old a long time ago!  It doesn’t take too much time for me to move through a complete Pilates routine.  I’m confident in the promise of Joseph Pilates who said, “When all your muscles are properly developed you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.” 

TW.png

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick, Jack  jumped over the Candlestick.

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick

Jack  jumped over the Candlestick

 

Well, maybe in Pilates we don’t have to worry about being as quick as Captain Jack escaping authorities or about jumping over a fire, but we DO think a lot about how nimble we are.  When we are nimble, we are quick and light in action; we are quick-witted and alert. Pilates brings a mind/body connection that puts us in that frame of mind.

Joseph Pilates said “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.”

Pilates is where we learn to control each movement of our bodies. When we practice a short spine move on the reformer, we don’t let the tension of the springs fling us onto our shoulders. We focus on our exhale as we lengthen our imprint, squeeze our gluts, and inch our vertebrae open to lift up onto our scapula where we use our core to balance and lengthen down our spine. 

When I first came into Pilates, I was disappointed that I wasn’t sweating, that I wasn’t winded, and that possibly, I wasn’t even “really exercising”, but within the first few weeks, I began to understand the Pilates terminology, the idea of working from your center. I became more powerful and flexible than ever before.

The next time you are in a Pilates class follow the advice of Joseph Pilates. ConcentrateConcentrate on the breathing, concentrate on the contraction, concentrate on lengthening each muscle, concentrate on holding the joints in place, concentrate on each muscle individually. The more we are able to connect the mind to the body and do the exercise correctly, the less likely you are to feel as if you aren’t “exercising” like I did in the beginning. It is now impossible for me to make it through a Pilates class without sweating, without becoming winded, and, I definitely cannot say I didn’t “exercise”!

 

 

 

This Little Piggy Cried All the Way Home!

“Ah, don’t look at my feet!” 

“I’m getting a pedicure later today!”

“I’m not taking off my socks and subjecting you to looking at my feet!”

These are phrases heard all throughout a Pilates studio.  This is because Pilates is done with all those little piggies uncovered. They need to wrap around the footbar, hold firm during an up stretch, and grip the platform extender for side splits. We need to keep our feet strong and flexible as much as any part of our body.  The ankle and foot are made to move in a great variety of angles to provide stability and dexterity so we can get ourselves over all sorts of terrain from hard rocky ground to pliable soft sand. 

  • Wearing flip flops mess with your posture because your foot doesn’t bend the way it does when it is bare.
  • Wearing high heels can lead to painful muscle fatigue and strain already formed injuries in hips and knees.  They also alter our posture and gait.

If we don’t get out of our shoes, the small muscles that keep us balanced and steady in our feet will be at risk for atrophy from disuse.  If the smaller muscles are too weak to support your foot and ankle, your body reacts by increasing tension where it can, which is in your bigger muscles further up your leg in your ankle and calf.   

My favorite Pilates Reformer moves for the feet include Running, Stomach Massage, and Develope. The next time your do them in a class, focus on fully moving through the plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. 

If you MUST cover your feet, try some toe-less, heel-less options as shown in the photo, or at least have socks with some good grip on the bottom. But always be prepared to bare-all for certain moves so that you stay safe. 

So, let’s take off our shoes and socks with gusto! Let’s not apologize for the condition of our feet! We are making them strong to take us where we want to go so we DON’T cry all the way home!  

 

We Huff and Puff and Blow the House Down

Don’t be afraid to PUFF it out and make noise in a Pilates class

It all starts with Pilates breathing...

I used to take breathing for granted.  I mean, breathe in, and then let the air out. It’s not a big deal. I’ve been doing it since birth. I like to think I had it mastered.  Then I took a Pilates class where my instructor kept telling me, not only WHEN to breathe, but HOW to breathe. 

There are two main ways in which people breathe….into the top of the chest, which signifies being tense and prone to anxiety.  When one breathes into the intercostal muscles rather than through the rib cage, not enough oxygen is getting pulled throughout the body. 

The opposite is deep belly breathing which has been proven to cause relaxing of the body.  The only problem with that is that it isn’t super helpful when you are exercising and NOT trying to relax.  Also, some people find themselves getting light-headed if they belly breathe for too long.

When you take a Pilates class, breathing is the first concept that is taught. Breathe in through the nose and feel your lungs expand up and out to the sides of your ribcage.  Fill up your lungs so much that you even feel pressure in the upper back.  Then press your air out through pursed lips like you are blowing out a candle.  I bet you are doing that right now. Did you feel your abs contract as you pressed the air out? If you didn’t, push more air out this time. Like you are getting to the very last candle on a cake, but you can’t take another breath in or everyone will say you cheated. Here is a way to test your breathing.  Put your thumbs on the bottom of ribs and your pointer finger on the top of your hip bone.  When you are blowing all the air out, the space between your rib and hip bone should get about an inch or so smaller. You can also think about also sinking your belly button inward while doing a small Kegel squeeze.   

If you do this breathing long enough, you will actually get an ab workout.  I find myself practicing my Pilates breathing when I’m running.  I practice when I’m driving.  Then I find myself doing it when I revert back to my shallow breathing and need some help relaxing some of the tension out of my shoulders. 

This form of Pilates breathing is making you aware of your core, and that’s what we all want to work on, right?  We have a goal to plank for hours!  What I have found is that when I exhale at the right time during a Pilates move, my muscles work together in the right way.  Contracting my muscles while I execute a strong exhale through the abs helps me to control the movement. It keeps my form, my posture, and my spine in perfect alignment. I feel stronger when I use my breath to help my movement. It is a feeling of being complete within yourself.  

So, don’t discount that breathing in your next Pilates class. Think of forcing that air out and make some noise. I will be huffing and puffing alongside you.