Listen to Your Body

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Our bodies are pretty resilient, in fact they are often stronger than we think or give them credit for. It is often our minds that let in fear and doubt that prevent our bodies from showing just how strong they can be. However, there are those times that are bodies speak to us and say “Hey, something is not right here”. The body tells us this through pain.

Whenever we are feeling pain, it is our job to stop and listen to what the body is saying. It is time to pay attention to our bodies in this moment and to say “I see you!”, “I hear you!” This is not the time to push through, adopt a “no pain, no gain” attitude or to think “I’ll rest when I’m dead”. No…this is  the time to really to listen to your body, to not push forward but to back off and take some rest.

Recently, I did something to my back that was causing me a great deal of pain. I listened to my body and decided to take a few days of rest. When I felt that I was feeling better, I knew that then was the time to get back to my Pilates practice. But it had to look differently. This is one of the things that I love about Pilates. It is smart movement that truly links mind and body together.

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Our Pilates practice can look different from day to day, depending on what our bodies are telling us. Maybe instead of strength, we focus more on stretch or stability. We slow down and take our time through the movement. Slowly and smoothly = Contrology. Maybe we pick just one of the Pilates Principles such as Breath or Concentration and make those the focus of our workout for that day.

Our bodies are a precious gift and we need to take care of them. Sometimes we just want to move, but we need to listen to our bodies and meet them where they are in that moment. Check in with your body and see what comes up before, during and after your workout. Take care of your body and it will continue to take care of you.

 

Happy Pilates Day – Pilates Studio Tour

Yesterday was World Pilates Day, a day where the Pilates community takes time to celebrate the work that Joseph and Clara Pilates created. I did my first Facebook Live video to talk briefly about Pilates Day and to do a quick tour of my studio, Worcester Pilates.

I also shared some fun Pilates facts over social media throughout the day. Check out the video below. If you have any questions or comments on Pilates or the studio, please comment on the video with them and I will answer in an upcoming Facebook Live video. It is my goal to do more of these to help share information and my knowledge on the Pilates method.

Spring Has Sprung & Mat Classes Coming Soon!

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Greetings and Salutations! I do believe Spring has sprung, at least it is feeling and looking that way. Yesterday, as the sun was shining for the first time all week, we took our dogs on a walk around the neighborhood. The skies were clear and so blue. We found little crocuses blooming in some of the front yards as we passed.

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. This is a time to let go of the dreary and heavy energies that we may have experienced from the Winter. With the coming of Spring, we find ourselves in a new place, looking ahead to everything we wish to create in the upcoming months. This is often a great time to recommit to any goals towards your health and wellness that you made at the start of the year.

Spend some time this week in reflection on what you are holding onto from the Winter that is maybe no longer serving you. Take some time to listen to your body and become aware of what is existing within your body. This is a time for a health revolution, a time to make positive changes in yourself and your surroundings.

Take some steps this week to better align yourself with your health, fitness and wellness goals. Let yourself be inspired this week to bring your goals to fruition.

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A great way to enhance your studio workout with the apparatus is to do, what I call, your homework. Your homework can involve any exercises that are given to help you become stronger in your Pilates practice. This can also include picking up a Mat Pilates practice.

I will be offering a “Mat Pilates for Beginners” series starting in May. This will be a 6 week small group mat class that will introduce you to the Pilates Principles, teach you the Mat Pilates exercises and we will work on proper alignment and technique.

Classes will be held on Sundays at 9:30 AM. Pre-registration is required to attend the classes and the cost of the six week series is $60. Space is limited so please call or email the studio to reserve your space.

Studio Phone – 617-462-9851
Studio Email – worcesterpilates@gmail.com

Pilates for Runners

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Here in New England we are coming up on the Olympics of running, the Boston Marathon. Despite colder temperatures, harsh winds and snow covered streets, many runners are out and about focusing on their training runs. Besides a bright, sunny, warm, Spring Day there is one another thing that can help you on your runs. A STRONGER CORE! 

As you may or may not know, running uses more than your legs. Your core is a huge part of how you move. In fact, everything we do radiates out from our core. A stronger core means a stronger run. A stronger core helps you to maintain form, increases your endurance and helps prevent injury. 

However, most people’s idea of a core strengthening routine is a few crunches on the floor while watching an episode of the latest binge-worthy show on Netflix. Sadly, no matter how many crunches you do during the season finale of “Stranger Things” it just isn’t enough. Exercises like crunches work the superficial core muscles such as the rectus abdominus. What you need is a strong Pilates practice.

So how can Pilates help? See, Pilates works ALL OF THE ABDOMINAL MUSCLES; even the deepest of them all, the transverse abdominus. But not only that, Pilates works to build core strength as well as the other supporting muscles of the torso, hips, shoulders and back. You won’t get that from a few crunches.

Pilates not only strengthens the core but also improves flexibility. Pilates is a two way stretch from a strong and stable center. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace, while building flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abs, arms, hips, and back.

Pilates can also help prevent a lot of running related injuries such as weak and painful hips, IT Band issues, pain in the knees and ankles and piriformis syndrome. Pilates will improve your posture which helps to improve your running form, there for preventing most of these injuries. A better running form will also help in your running performance, allowing you to run farther and faster.

Some of the performance benefits of a regular Pilates practice for runners includes:

  • Increases flexibility and strength
  • Develops coordination and balance
  • Increases range of motion in the hips and shoulders
  • Helps recovery and recovery time
  • Helps to prevent injuries
  • Increases core stability
  • Enhances breathing
  • Improves endurance
  • Helps with posture and gait

Worcester Pilates offers private instruction on all of the Pilates equipment. If you are interested in starting a Pilates practice to help improve your running call or email to take advantage of our New Student Intro special.

What Pilates Isn’t!

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In today’s fitness world, many fusion classes are being marketed toward those looking to improve their health and fitness. With names like “PiYo”, “Piloxing”, and “HIIT Pilates” it can be hard to determine what is Pilates and what isn’t.

In my previous post, “What is Pilates?”, I gave a short overview of the Pilates method and the many benefits it offers. But, how can you determine if the class you are interested in taking or are currently taking is Pilates or not?

Pilates is Not Yoga

  • Pilates does not include many standing exercises like Yoga does. So if your class contains standing poses similar to Yoga such as lunges, planks, warrior poses, or even downward dogs then it is not Pilates.
  • Mat Pilates classes most often feature the traditional order of exercises that Joseph Pilates created. When taking a Mat class with a traditional teacher, you can expect a structured class. This helps the student to learn the order and focus on working on proper alignment and progressing the exercises. The focus of the class is a great all over body workout, but mainly the work is on building a stronger core or Powerhouse.
  • In a Pilates class you will move the whole time. The Pilates exercises are not static, meaning you don’t hold poses like you would in Yoga. You are meant to keep the body moving both during the exercises as well as from one exercise to the next. If you are holding planks for long periods of time in your class, it is NOT Pilates.

Pilates is Not High Impact

  • Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that is kind on the joints of the body. The majority of the exercises are done in a supine position and focus on building core strength.
  • In a true Pilates class you will not be asked to do exercises that can be rough on the joints such as burpees, lunges, jumping jacks, box jumps, or other jumping movements. If you are doing exercises like burpees, you are NOT doing Pilates.

Pilates is Not Mindless Exercise

  • Pilates is not a form of exercise where you can zone out and just mindlessly perform the exercises. In fact one of the “Pilates Principles” is Concentration.
  • The Pilates Principle of Concentration is about bringing your full attention to the exercises. Joseph Pilates intended for his method to connect the mind and body and we see that when we are mindful of executing the movements. When you bring your full awareness to the exercise and commit to executing it fully and at your level, you will gain the maximum benefits of each exercise.
  • Every movement in Pilates has a purpose, and you will learn to move with purpose. Pilates is not a mindless form of movement.

Pilates is Not Just a Core Workout

  • While Pilates does work on building core strength, it is not merely a core workout. In Pilates we work to strengthen the Powerhouse which includes the abdominals, the back muscles, hips and shoulders.
  • Throughout your Pilates workout you should learn to move from your center. In Pilates we bring focus to the Powerhouse to stabilize the body and initiate movement. Therefore building greater strength in our abdominals and helping our bodies to move more effectively. Pilates is a full body workout.
  • If you are doing lots of core focused movements like crunches and sit-ups and only movements like these, then you are NOT doing Pilates.

Pilates is Not About Performing Tons of Reps

  • Pilates workouts focus on quality of movement over quantity of movement.
  • Awareness must be used and sustained throughout the exercises on what muscle group you are working, and the other parts of the body that are working in conjunction. Precision must be used in alignment and movement throughout the exercises in order to achieve the maximum benefits of the exercise.
  • If you are performing tons of reps of an exercise then you are NOT doing Pilates. Classes that have you perform 60 crunches, 50 push-ups, etc. are NOT Pilates.

Teacher and Teaching Style

  • Be sure your teacher is actually certified to teach Pilates. Pilates teachers are certified upwards of 600+ hours which includes personal practice, observation, and testing by Pilates schools, training centers and organizations.
  • A certified Pilates teacher will be able to modify the exercises for you and help you to find the proper alignment in each exercise. They can teach you to incorporate the Pilates Principles into your practice and help you progress into a more intermediate or advanced practice.
  • It is pretty prevalent in gym settings to find personal trainers or other fitness trainers teaching Pilates. A personal training certification does not make you a Pilates teacher. Not only are these people giving Pilates a bad name but are causing confusion of what Pilates is and sadly even causing injuries.
  • Your teacher is there to teach, focus on your alignment, challenge you and keep you safe. They should not be practicing alongside you for the whole class. They are there to teach, not get in a workout of their own.
  • A knowledgeable teacher will focus on alignment, anatomy and offer modifications for special cases or injuries. They should also be able to teach all levels of students at once, teaching the exercises so a beginner can do them, while offering progressions of the exercises for intermediate and advanced students in the class

Will fusion classes such as “PiYo”, “Piloxing” or other Pilates inspired classes offer you a great workout? Absolutely! Will these fusion and Pilates inspired classes make you sweat, and build strength? Perhaps! However, they are not Pilates. If you  are interested in trying an authentic Pilates class that will help you to create lean muscles, improve posture, gain flexibility, and gain more strength then give Worcester Pilates a call to set up your “Introduction to Pilates” session now.

 

 

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week – Shoulder Bridge

 

This weeks “Pilates Exercise of the Week” is The Shoulder Bridge. This is an amazing strengthening and stretching exercise for the whole body. It challenges the abdominals and the hamstrings to work together to keep the pelvis stable. The exercise works to strengthen the back of the body including the glutes, hamstrings and back while also giving a nice stretch and openness to the front of the body.

In this exercise really be mindful about keeping the knees in line with the shoulders and the pelvis still. Focus on the articulation of the spine as you roll up and down through the exercise. I like do the first Shoulder Bridge variation at the start of my practice to help warm up the spine and back and then later in the order I will do the Intermediate Shoulder Bridge version where you add the kicks of the legs (as seen as the end of the video).

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Shoulder Bridge

Goal of the Exercise:

The Shoulder Bridge works posterior muscles to maintain the lift of the hip, as well as focuses on spinal articulation.

Benefits:

  • works articulation of the spine
  • strengthens glutes and hamstrings
  • stretches front of body including hips

 

Execution:

  • Lie on back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent
  • Place hands by the side and firmly press palms and forearm into the floor
    Keep the knees, feet and legs parallel and in line with the hips and shoulders
  • Inhale as you lift up the hips, then the lower back, middle back lifting up into a straight line from the knees to the shoulders
  • Focus on lifting up through the spine bone by bone, focusing on the articulation of the spine. Keep the sides of the body long and work to create length in the spine.
  • Exhale as you roll down the spine, again focusing on the articulation of the spine
  • Watch that your knees don’t turn in or out as you roll. If you see this happening place a yoga block or small ball between the thighs/knees to maintain the leg alignment
  • 5 Reps

Worcester Pilates – Pilates Exercise of the Week: Criss Cross

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Criss Cross

Goal of the Exercise:

Criss Cross is the final exercise in what is known as the “Abdominal Five” Series or what I call the “Fab Five”. Criss Cross is more popularly known in the fitness world as “bicycles”. It’s main focus is on proper twisting of the trunk of the body using the Powerhouse and specifically working the obliques.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the abdominals specifically the obliques
  • Challenges and works rotation of the spine.
  • Develops pelvic stability

Execution:

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest
  • Curl your head and shoulders off of the mat and bring your chin to your chest
  • Place your hands behind your head, letting your hands support your head. Use your abdominal strength to keep the head and shoulders lifted not by pulling forward with the hands.
  • Inhale as you bring your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg out at eye level, similar to Single Leg Stretch.
  • Exhale and twist the upper body to the right, bringing your left shoulder towards your right knee.
  • Inhale through center as you switch the legs and exhale twist towards the left bringing the right shoulder towards the left knee..
  • Stay high and lifted through the center as you switch from side to side, keeping both shoulders off the mat.
  • Keep the legs hugging into the centerline of your body as you reach the legs long away from you.
  • Maintain the hips anchored to the mat as you twist the ribs from side to side and work the powerhouse.
  • 6  –  8 Reps each side

Modifications:

  • For lower back sensitivity, keep low back connected to the mat and aim legs higher towards ceiling instead of out at eye level.
  • Legs can also be bent with feet flat on the floor and work the abdominal curl and twist by bringing the elbows toward the bent knees.
  • For neck issues you can rest the head down from side to side. Inhale to prepare, exhale curl up and over. Lay the head back down and then move on to the other side.

Motivation Tips for Your Pilates Practice

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I just sent an email out to my “Stronger in 17” Pilates Challenge participants in which I talked about motivation. I was inspired to write about motivation because one of the participants told me she is struggling with just motivating herself to do her Pilates practice, or even finding the time to do it. I thought I’d share the tips that I offered the challenge group here on the blog in hopes that someone else will benefit.

So let’s talk about motivation. Committing to practicing Pilates, or any workout really, is just a stepping stone to a greater reward and that is making a stronger feeling YOU. The only person who can make the change is you. Don’t be upset by the result you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.

This past week I’ve heard just about every excuse in the book:

  • “I’m too tired from work when I get home to do a workout”
  • “I forgot to set time aside to practice”
  • “I had a bad day and just didn’t feel like working out”
However, what I hear from these excuses is really “I’m not a priority”. One of my favorite quotes is from RuPaul and I think it really sums it up.
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Let’s take that even one step further to say “If you are not taking care of yourself, how can you properly take care of others?” We need to set aside some time to practice self care, even if that is only ten minutes a day. Taking just ten minutes a day to focus on YOU will have greater benefits in the end. It will lead you to find a practice of self care and self love.

I know we all have things that go on in our lives, and sometimes life just gets in the way. However, you must take care of yourself first before you are fully able to take care of others. Take this time now to really commit to this practice and  start engaging in some self care and radical self love.

Remember, the only bad workout is the one that you didn’t do.

 

Here’s some tips to help motivate you to hit your mat this week:

  1. Reward Yourself – Set a goal such as “I will do _____ amount of workouts for _____ amount of time”. For instance “I will do three workouts a week, every week for the next three months” Then think of a way to reward yourself at the end of your goal. Maybe you treat yourself to a massage or maybe you buy those shoes you’ve been eyeing. Having a reward at the end will give you a goal to work towards and help keep you on track
  2. Keep a Journal – after every workout, write down in a journal how you felt. When you are low on motivation you can read back over the last time you worked out and how great you felt afterwards. It will motivate you to hit your mat.
  3. Remember Why You Started – Think about why you want to work out or make these health changes. What was your aim in doing so? Keep that in mind and let it be a motivating factor to working out
  4. Set Up Yourself Up for Success – literally set out everything you need to get in your Pilates practice or workout. Keep your mat out in a spot that when you walk by and have time you can just get down and do your practice.
  5. Find an Accountability Buddy – find a partner to do your practice or workout with. Show them the moves and what you have learned so far in the challenge. Motivate and cheer each other on. Also, ain’t nothing wrong with a little healthy competition am I right?
  6. Time for You – set a time each day that is your time to practice self care and get your practice in. Even if you have to get up an extra 15 minutes to do so. Set an alarm on your phone to wake you up early so you can get in your workout. Think of how great you will feel starting your day with a quick and energizing practice.
  7. Check In – Check in with me or someone else daily to let me know you did your practice. It will keep you accountable to finishing strong towards your  goal.
Make the commitment to some self care this week and I hope these tips motivate you to become #strongerin17

Pilates Better Than Stretching at Improving Flexibility

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A regular Pilates practice has many benefits such as strength, improved balance, improved joint health and increased flexibility. In a recent published study, a comparison of Pilates and Static Stretching was studied to see which was better at improving flexibility. Two groups of women over the age of 60 were giving either stretching exercises or Pilates exercises to do for 60 minutes, twice a week for three months.

Movements of the trunk such as flexion and extension, hip flexion and plantar and dorsiflexion of the ankle were evaluated before and after the study using a fleximeter. The results concluded that Pilates was actually better than Static Stretching in improving the flexibility of the study volunteers.

Pilates is more than stretching or working to build a six pack. If you would like to increase your flexibility, gain better strength, coordination and balance, start practicing Pilates. Worcester Pilates is a boutique Pilates studio in Worcester, MA offering private instruction on the Pilates equipment. Get a head start on those New Year’s resolutions with our current New Student Intro Flash Sale. Right now you can get 3 private sessions for $99 (usually $120). Sale expires 12-31-17 so get yours now!