Latest "Pilates" Posts
Heart Health is More than just Cardio.
Yes, the heart is a muscle and it’s important to do activities that get our blood pumping. To keep our heart strong and work on improving heart health with exercise it’s important to do at least 20-60 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, elliptical, hiking, skating, dancing…) Any activity you enjoy that gets your body in its optimal target heart rate zone for aerobic activity, at least 3-5 days a week.
You’ve got lots of options to improve hearth health. And there are good reasons to do Pilates, because a vigorous Pilates workout IS improving heart health. (In more ways than just strengthening the heart muscle and improving blood flow.)
Yes, it’s true that Pilates is not considered an aerobic activity. But here are ten good reasons why doing Pilates regularly IS important for your Cardiovascular activities to help improve heart health.
10 Ways Pilates Can Help Improve Heart Health and Enhance Your Quality of Life
- Pilates helps develop better posture. With better posture and good body alignment, there will be less wear and tear on your body while you’re “pounding the pavement” and getting your cardio workouts done.
- Pilates helps improve body awareness to find and use the right muscles to move. (Regardless of the activity, overusing the wrong muscles ultimately will lead to injury. And most cardio training activities involve repetitive movements.)
- Pilates posterior-lateral breathing improves breath control. Pilates breathing helps you get more nourishing oxygen INTO your body, and more waste out. Better breathing habits makes it easier to enjoy cardio training plus you will get better benefits from your efforts.
- Pilates helps improve balanced muscle development to avoid injuries. If you’ve ever had an injury or accident, or have dealt with chronic to foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, or neck pain problems, getting your body in balance matters to stay healthy!
- Pilates connects mind, body, and movement to help boost confidence, and learn to trust AND listen to how your body feels. By paying closer attention to what you’re doing when you move, how you move, what you’re using to move, and how you feel, it becomes easier to adjust, and pace your workouts to stay safe, healthy, and injury-free.
- Pilates is a system to MOVE well for better health. Pilates isn’t just a bunch of exercises done on a mat or machines for a “workout.” Your ultimate goal is to take what you learn with Pilates out the door into your daily life activities, and other fitness workouts.
- Pilates takes stress OFF the joints while helping you get an effective whole-body workout.
- Pilates combines strength and flexibility into each and every exercise.
- Pilates improves core support. Which is much more involved than just working your abs. Effective use of your core helps stabilize the pelvis, improves gait, strengthens the back, takes the stress off hips, knees, and feet, helps shoulder mechanics, and supports healthy movement habits.
- Pilates helps lift your Spirits, reduces mental stress, and improves your life! So many people during cardio workouts put on their headphones and jam, watch TV on the treadmill, and completely tune-out what they’re doing with their body during cardio. Pilates helps improve your focus to pay attention to what’s going on INSIDE the body during your workouts, so you can take good care of yourself! Do this enough, and regardless of external stimulus, you will always make smart choices to stay safe and healthy.
On a historical note: Joseph Pilates did incorporate jogging, jumping jacks, and more vigorous calisthenic exercises into his workouts – take a peek at some of the old historical films, and you’ll see how much he believed being outdoors to breathe in fresh air and move was a part of his philosophy for better health.
Then there is the jump-board option on the Reformer… Although 20-60 minutes on the jump-board (in my opinion) does not fall into the 3-5, up to 10 rep philosophy of working the Pilates system for a whole-body workout in an hour. But it can be a great lower-impact option to work some intervals into your Pilates workouts.
Whatever you choose to do… Take time to take care of YOU! Get your weekly cardio workouts in, do Pilates, get regular health check-ups with your Physician. Your heart health matters – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’ve only got one ticker, and it doesn’t get a break, the beat must go on. Enjoy better health with a healthy heart.
Interested in adding Pilates to your weekly workout routine? Want to try something fun and new to challenge your cardio workouts? Contact me for details to get started at Bodhi Body Pilates – A Centerworks Studio with our Pilates programs and Coreglide Cardio+ class.
How to Have FUN with your Fitness Program and Make the Most of Your At-Home Workouts with Pilates Training Tools
I have a client, Donna, who has probably purchased at least 5 foam rollers! She wanted one to use at home in-between her studio workouts. But the funny thing is, every time her kids and grand-kids come over to visit, everybody is fighting for time on her foam roller. The kids think it’s something fun to play with; the adults realize the value in the tool for posture, core support, and better health. Because Donna has shown them some of the exercises that she uses it for, her at-home Pilates training tools have aren’t just for a workout but are also fun! Because she cares about the health of her family, Donna always ends up sending them home with her Foam Roller, buying another one from me the next time she’s in the studio. Maybe this trend will slow down one day, but in the meantime, she’s sharing the love and passing on the “joy of toys” with her family for health improvement at home.
Every fitness training tool and toy you purchase is an investment in your health.
It’s important to make smart buying decisions. Ask yourself the following three questions before purchasing anything.
- Do I believe in the value the product offers to help me improve me health?
- Do I like and trust the seller?
- And most importantly – Will I actually USE the products? Because there is no sense in spending your money on anything if you’re not going to actually use it!
With that said, we have lots of parts and pieces to organize to keep strong, fit, and flexible. We focus on cardiovascular conditioning – walking, running, cycling, rowing, stair climbing, swimming, elliptical machines… You can do strength training with weights, balls, kettle-bells, or bands. There are at-home video programs like P90X, Body Beast, Beachbody, and a million others… All of these are training tools and resources. If you are a Yogi, chances are you’ve got a good mat, a strap, a couple of Yoga blocks, and probably a bolster and blanket at home to assist you with your practice. Most of my Pilates clients have at least a few training toys at home. And while they might not use them all every day, they’re in a good rotation to be able to supplement their workouts, and take care of what they feel their body needs on a day-to-day basis. It’s empowering to be independent and self-sufficient, even if it’s only for a quick 15-20 minutes of “home-work” a couple of times a week.
Here are the top five at-home Pilates training tools I find my clients purchase, and use regularly for their Pilates workouts.
Top 5 Pilates Training Tools to Use at Home
- A nice thick Mat
- A Pilates Magic Circle (link includes my Magic Circle Mat Audio workout)
- A FULL Foam Roller (although not a classical Pilates prop.)
- A Fitness Ball (again not a classical Pilates toy, but very useful for at-home workouts)
- The Pilates Arc Barrel Combo (aka Spine Corrector) which includes a copy of my book A Barrel of Fun.
Whether you do Pilates in a studio or just at-home, these at-home Pilates training tools can help you have FUN with your fitness workouts. And if you’re having FUN, there’s a really good chance your workouts will be longer and more frequent, which are important key factors to enjoy wellness success.
Note: If you are 5’6” or taller, you might prefer the lightweight Pilates Arc available from Balanced Body. I get nothing from this product endorsement. (They don’t allow me to resell their product online.) Shorter people can use this barrel too, so please note it’s an option! But you’re going to want a copy of my Barrel of Fun book too with easy-to-follow exercises to help you maximize the use of your Pilates Arc barrel, so please order these products separately if it’s more appropriate for you!
How to Improve Core Support for a Healthy Back, Better Abs, and the Best Pilates Exercise Technique Possible
Do you struggle with really finding and working the lowest little pieces of your mid-section for core support? Is “belly button to backbone” your go-to cue when you think about ab work and core support? Do your neck muscles fatigue faster than your abdominals when you do sit-ups, or other core strengthening exercises like the Hundred in a Pilates mat class?
Well if any of these resonate with you, then please keep reading because I’ve got 3 Pilates Training Tips (and probably a few extra secrets to share) that can help you improve core support, keep your lower back healthy, get more good work from your middle, and dramatically help you improve your Pilates exercise technique.
Pilates Training Tip #1 for Core Support – Neutral Spine vs. Pilates Scoop
Continue Reading ‘3 Pilates Training Tips for Core Support
I know it seems like blasphemy to talk about hip exercises and say that tight hips aren’t terrible, but let’s take a closer look at this perspective.
Every day in the studio I see clients who are plagued with poor posture and tight hip flexors from sitting all day at work. Let’s face it, gravity is not our friend, slumping posture, a weak core, grippy hip flexors, inner and outer thigh muscles that are out of balance, tight hamstrings and calves, feet and ankles that are both stiff and weak, it’s no wonder that people struggle to achieve healthy, normal functional movement habits.
But I really don’t think that tight hips are terrible. The muscles and ligaments that surround the hip are tight and should be strong for a reason… To keep us upright, and allow us to walk and run, hop, skip, and jump. I’m sorry, but IS stretching really the solution if you’re struggling to climb a flight of stairs, or are challenged to get up out of a chair? NO, it’s a hip extension and STRENGTH issue!
Is stretching the hips going to help you balance better? NO, it’s improving the strength and support of everything from your feet to your core, and improving the relationship between your pelvis and your legs. For most folks, this means working on body posture, placement of the pelvis and spine, and improving strength of the inner thighs, outer thighs, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Abdominals because they ALL play a major role in improving balance and body control.
I realize that those of you reading this, may not struggle with the challenge of climbing stairs or getting up off the toilet yet, but trust me… sooner or later you likely will be facing these quality of life issues if you’re hips and legs are not strong enough to support you!
What’s the secret to getting the most out of your hip exercises? There is more to improving hip mechanics than stretching your quads and hip flexors. Let’s face it, if your hips are tight, there’s probably a very good reason why, and your daily movement and exercise habits are only continuing to reinforce this compromised support system.
Tighter in the front of the hips, means weaker in the back… Tighter outer thighs, means weaker inner thighs… It’s entirely possible that any of your muscles can be both weak and tight! And I can’t tell you how many people I see using their Quads and hip flexors “thinking” that they’re working their core especially to hold the legs up without help on exercises like the Hundred.
So go ahead, keep doing some hip stretching exercises and rolling your IT bands on a foam roller, but have you ever wondered why you stretch, and stretch, those extremely tight hip muscles and they never really seem to release and “let go?”
For a healthy body we need BALANCED MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT. It’s a key movement principle for Pilates. Balanced muscle development doesn’t necessarily mean that every opposing muscle group has a 50/50 relationship. But for us to move our bodies, we are working with the lever and pulley system of our skeleton and musculature, which requires the right balance of work and release for healthy movement.
Walking is one of the #1 most efficient hip exercises to improve gait and train efficient body mechanics. And there is A LOT going on with the pelvis, hips, and legs for a healthy stride. The problem is, hardly anybody is using their lever and pulley system to walk well! (My Pilates-Walk™ book will be available soon, with simple training tips and exercises to help you make the most of your walking workouts, subscribe to the Centerworks Wellness Success newsletter to get announcements when this resource becomes available, as well as get tips, and updates for upcoming workshops.)
Having an improved understanding of how the hips and legs need to work, is critical to get the right exercises in your Pilates program, and transfer this body knowledge back to your regular workouts to reinforce healthy hip habits.
Healthy hips not only help improve your leg swing to walk, but also can significantly improve how your lower back feels, to reduce or eliminate back pain and improve core support.
Years ago I had a really annoying hip pain problem. I went from one massage therapist to the next trying to get some relief… I consulted with several different Chiropractors, Kinesiologists, and D.O.’s, and nobody could seem to make my hip pain go away. Then, I met one of my dearest Pilates Mentors, the fabulous Dianne Miller from Vancouver, Canada, and in ONE private training session, she helped me understand why my hip hurt, and what muscles I would need to strengthen to get things back in balance. Within 2-3 days of focusing my attention to a few underdeveloped muscle groups, my hip pain went away, and hasn’t bothered me since. There was nothing I could have “stretched” that would have ever solved my problem. Interestingly, for this hip issue, it was a pelvic floor weakness! By strengthening the connection from the front to the back of the pelvic floor (the pubic bone to tailbone connection) my over held, shoved up too far in the socket thigh bone, and grippy, grabby hip flexors started trusting me that it was okay to let go.
I’m not suggesting that doubling up on your Kegel exercises is going to solve the world’s tight hip problems, because a Kegel isn’t the answer. But learning how to use your pelvic floor muscles well can be a nice start to help lift the pelvis up off the legs for more space in the socket. With more space in the hip socket, you can then focus on developing the muscles for a more efficient leg swing. Learn more with the Pelvic Floor e-course you’ll find here…
And of course it’s not all about the Pelvic floor. On the Pilates equipment, every single exercises that you’re pushing against a spring with your feet against the foot bar, in the straps, or held up in free space, gives you an opportunity to work on improving muscle balance and retraining the body for better hip mechanics. You have the choice to use the equipment to help support FINDING the right muscles to move, or can go through the motions of movement, continuing to reinforce your old habits. Helpful to have the friendly eye of a great Pilates teacher helping to coach you along to find and feel the right stuff! But it’s also important to work on your own to develop your brain-body, hip-to-head connection. Check out the 6 Simple Training Tips for Functional Movement at the Hips in this Centerworks® e course.
Think Before You Move…
- Is the movement of your leg initiating from the foot end of the leg, or from the hip? For example: When you’re doing Pilates exercises with your feet in the straps, are you pushing the feet against the straps, or starting the movement from the back of the hip to work the whole leg to resist against the springs?
- What is the relationship of your pelvis to your leg (tucked, neutral, arched)?
- Is your thigh turned inward, parallel, or turned outward?
- Is the turn to rotate inward or outward coming from the hip, the knee, or the foot end of the leg?
Different leg and hip strengthening exercises may have different answers to each of these questions. And the answer might also depend on if you are moving the leg to the front, side, or back. Discover the power of paying attention to details to help you keep your hips healthy, whether you’ve got a “tight” pair of hips, or they are looser. Pilates is a great place to explore exercises to improve your balanced body development for a healthy pair of hips. Then, every time you climb up and down stairs, walk from the house to the car, sit down and get up off the toilet, do squats at CrossFit, walk on the treadmill, bike, swim, do Yoga, or any other physical activity, you have an opportunity to work on improving muscle balance for your hips and legs.
Tight doesn’t have to be a bad thing. What’s most important is finding the right support, and improving balanced muscle development, to enjoy a free range of motion in all directions for healthy movement habits at the hips.
Why these 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain, just might make your back feel worse instead of better…
I recently read an article from ACE: 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain and I so vehemently disagree with the exercises and information in this article that I have to share my thoughts.
Here’s the short version of what I’m thinking about this article: 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain if executed well because you really understand Pilates and don’t have any back problems to start with!
Now if you want a few more details about this, keep reading. I’m on a rant and this is a longer than usual post, but if you have chronic back pain and want to use Pilates as a method to help, the info below will be worth your time to read more.
I love that Pilates is a hot topic to help people alleviate back pain, but it really bothers me to read articles like the recent post from ACE Fitness, which starts by saying that, “Many people with chronic back pain have felt their aches diminish with regular Pilates sessions.” Yes, I agree. Then the article goes on to say, “While equipment-based Reformer sessions can be costly and group mat classes may not target your specific needs, many Pilates exercises can help realign your movement patterns to prevent and lessen common back pain.” And then there’s more… “Here are 10 moves that, when practiced regularly, can help improve posture and strengthen the support structures that take pressure off the lower back.”
Sigh… as a fitness professional who has been in the health and wellness industry for forty years, and more specifically focused on Pilates and functional movement training for the past twenty years. It frightens me to see this article and think that people with chronic back pain are reading this and thinking, “Great, I don’t need to invest in Pilates equipment training, OR find a well-qualified Pilates teacher to help me, and why bother with group mat classes, I can just do these 10 exercises on my own and my back pain will go away!” AUUGHGHHHH!
Here’s why if you chose to follow the advice from the ACE article, 10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain, your risk of further injury is imminent:
Continue Reading ’10 Pilates Moves to Alleviate Back Pain: Don’t Do These…
What’s Your Favorite Way to Celebrate Your Pilates Progress…
It is always fun to see how far we’ve come. Who doesn’t love a great before and after shot of a home makeover, a weight loss success story or fashion makeover? But what about celebrating your Pilates progress…How far have you come in your Pilates journey? And how do you celebrate your Pilates progress?
Do You Remember How You Felt When You Started Pilates?
Sometimes clients actually forget how they felt, or what their body was capable of when they started. Do you remember how badly your feet cramped after only a few exercises during your first few Pilates sessions? How smooth was your roll in rolling like a ball? What other exercises or Pilates concepts seemed to make sense in your brain, but seemed impossible to execute in your body, and now they are a piece of cake, you barely have to think to move with ease! When was the last time you took a moment to celebrate your Pilates progress?
Did you know that Joseph Pilates celebrated “Champagne Moments” with his clients? Yep, when someone achieved a breakthrough, did an exercise that they’d been struggling with, or something fabulous and monumental while they were in the studio, everybody would stop their workouts, they’d pop the cork on a bottle of champagne, fill up little Dixie cups, cheer, toast, and celebrate the achievement. Quite a fun way to celebrate your Pilates progress don’t you think!
It’s important for us to remember the little moments in life when we’ve achieved “greatness!” But many of us forget our “Champagne Moments,” or don’t take time to celebrate them along the way…
I hate to see clients drop out of Pilates, frustrated, and feeling like they’re not making progress. For new students often BIG changes happen right at the start, but most of the time it’s the accumulation of very small shifts and improvements that with time, make the biggest impact in our lives for better health and wellness. And achieving greatness takes time, patience, and consistency. But you can’t just celebrate reaching the BIG goal, you have to learn to celebrate your Pilates progress with all the little steps along the way. This is the motivation that can help keep you moving in the right direction.
It’s good to have both short and long term “Pilates” goals to work on. With goals you have benchmarks. Every time you reach your next benchmark you have an opportunity to celebrate your success, and will have clear things to identify that can be “Champagne Moments” for you.
Take the initiative to keep the lines of communication open to stay in sync with your mind, body, AND Pilates teacher, to get the help you need to move forward so you can celebrate your Pilates progress. Whether you’ve been doing Pilates for a week, a year, or 20+ years, every Pilates workout gives you the opportunity to achieve greatness for a healthy, happy, well-balanced body.
Think about what you want to achieve, how you want your body to feel and look by practicing Pilates. What things in your daily life will improve? What things that are challenging for you now will be easier? What other sports and activities will you be able to enjoy? All of these answers will help you appreciate your efforts. Remember where you started, what you’ve achieved so far, and where you’d like to go to improve your strength, flexibility, and fitness for a healthy and active life. So now tell me, how do YOU plan to celebrate your Pilates progress?
Sometimes it can be helpful to track your workouts! Check out the BeFit Journal to keep you on-track for 5 Years of fitness!
Every student wants an answer to their Pilates training questions, and this curious question was asked by a client of mine recently.
“How advanced should I be after one year of Pilates training?”
I love Pilates training questions! The answer to this one hinges on many factors:
1. What your health status was when you started? Are you 100% healthy with no injuries, chronic aches and pains, or medical limitations?
2. How many days a week are you doing Pilates either privately, or in a group, and working with a well-qualified Pilates teacher?
3. How much you are working on your own in addition to participating in lessons and classes? Are you able to take what you’re learning about your body and how to improve posture, breathing, and functional movement, and take it out the door with you to practice and apply throughout the day, at work, at home, while you walk, play sports, etc… Is putting your Pilates principles to work making your life easier and you’re discovering ways to apply what you know with everything you do?
Continue Reading ‘Pilates Training Questions: How Advanced Should I Be?
Pilates Training Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your Efforts for Better Whole-Body Health
How is your Pilates training program going?
- Are you Really Working the Pilates System, or only doing a few “Pilates-type” exercises during your workouts?
- Are you happy with how things are going or looking for ways to get better results from your efforts?
There is a LOT to pay attention to, to do Pilates well, and really reap the benefits it has to offer your mind and body.
Understanding the power of Pilates to help improve your whole-body health is key to ensure that you’re using it to your advantage to improve mind, body, and movement!
If you’re not sure that your Pilates workouts are heading you in the right direction, here are a few things to consider before you give up on yourself, or your Pilates program… Consider these four Pilates Training tips to ensure you’re getting the best results possible from your efforts:
Continue Reading ‘Pilates Training Tips: Getting Results
3 Tips for Getting the Help You Need from Your Pilates Teacher(s)
The questions to ask yourself are: Are you really getting the help you need from your Pilates Teacher? Did you do a good job picking the perfect Pilates teacher for you?
If the answer is “Yes” then congratulations, you’ve picked the perfect Pilates teacher for you! You’ve found a teacher you know, like, and trust, and you’re working well together to meet your needs.
If the answer is “No” then perhaps some of my insights and recommendations will resonate with you and you’ll keep searching until you find the perfect Pilates teacher, (or teachers) for you.
I recently received a question in my inbox from a Pilates student who lives in another state and doesn’t feel like she’s getting the help she needs from her Pilates teacher. Since I’m an advocate for Pilates and believe it really is the best healthy movement habit training system on the planet… I thought I’d post my comments on the subject of picking the perfect Pilates teacher. Everybody should be happy with, and love the health improvement help they are getting from their Pilates teacher!
Continue Reading ‘Picking the Perfect Pilates Teacher for You
How is your spring fitness plan shaping up? What are YOUR favorite spring fitness activities? Do you enjoy getting outside for long walks? Hitting the road or trails on your bike for a ride? Participating in sports like Soccer, Baseball, or Softball? Participating in running races or triathlons? Or maybe having fun gardening, playing golf, or tennis?
Whatever your favorite spring fitness activities are, it’s not too late to focus your Pilates and fitness program for a little extra conditioning to get your body in tip-top shape to prepare you for your favorite spring sports and activities.
Continue Reading ‘How is Your Spring Fitness Plan Shaping Up?