What did you say? | Pilates Lingo for the Beginner

If you’ve never taken Pilates before, your first class may be a lot to take in. You’re moving your body in new ways and you’re learning more about how your body works as a whole. I’ve been studying this method for over three years now, and I’m still learning–it will be a lifelong pursuit. Knowledge of this method and anatomy is my job (and my passion). Your job is to simply come and enjoy a good workout. Lucky you! You are in good hands! Still, these terms will help you sail through your first class a bit easier.

Neutral Pelvis: This simply means that whatever position you’re in, whether lying down, sitting, or standing, your ASIS (or the bony hip points on the front of your body) and your pubic bone are in line with one another. Check out this image for a visual.

C-Curve: Looks like it sounds, right? 🙂 Tail bone is tucked under, draw abdominals deep so that hip bones and ribs are pulling toward one another, head and neck are gently rounded forward (not dropping the chin onto the chest).

Pilates V: Make a V with your feet, legs zipped together, inner thighs working to keep the legs together.

Hip width apart: We’re alignment freaks, us Pilates instructors. Line those feet up with your hip joints. To find this easily and quickly, simply make the Pilates V with your feet, and then bring the feet into parallel position.

Tabletop: This is a combination of a 90 degree angle of the knee and a 90 degree angle of the hip joint. Shins are parallel to the ceiling/floor.

Articulate your spine: This is the action of moving one vertebrae at a time from one plane to another. (Just a little clip from a client homework video.)

This Isn’t About Pilates, Either.

I love Pilates. I really do. The method is inspiring if you get deep enough into it to begin to understand it. It makes my body feel good–really, really, good. So I do it. But you want to know what? It’s not all I do. Not because I’m a fitness freak or love being skinny or because it makes me look really good. I’m none of those things, honestly. I still carry some weight from the three babies I birthed, I don’t want to eat boiled chicken and lettuce three meals a day, and honestly staying in any kind of shape is just hard work. That was quite a tangent.

In a sequel to my previous blog post, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t take much to add some fitness to your life. Maybe you don’t come to Pilates or don’t even like it. That’s cool. What I do want is for you to feel good. Go for a walk at lunch and take a protein shake and a piece of fruit with you instead of sitting at your desk (I’m sorry if it’s rainy or snowy where you live. It’s February 1st and 80 degrees here in Tucson–outside is all I can think about.). Or find a quiet corner of the office to do a 15 minute leg and abs workout. Wrangle a desk mate into it. Find some awesome fitness people to follow on Instagram who post short workouts using compound movements with body weight only (like @naablevy @mickiphit or @nancycastiglioni or @bwmcfitness, they’re my faves). Last night I did a 20 minute workout on the bleachers during my 5 year old’s soccer practice. I did three sets of a plank series, step ups onto the first seat, I practiced hanging, and then I chased my two year old all over creation running as fast as I could. It doesn’t take much.

So instead of some big, unachievable fitness thing you don’t have time for anyways, just do something, every single day. My husband does his 300: 100 pushups, 100 sit ups, 100 pull ups. I do three sets of pushups, squats and lunges (I just typed lunches, maybe I’m hungry…), and usually some kind of abdominal series. It’s not even Pilates. But it feels good. All it takes for your body to feel good is that you want it, and find something you can do. Don’t do what someone else is doing, but do be allowed to be inspired by what they are doing, and make it your own.

Some day I’ll talk about Pilates again. But for now, do movement that feels good and challenges you a little bit, and eat the right amount of calories.

Just Say No to Grandiose Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m not sure what it is about the New Year, whether it’s tradition or the constant craving for a fresh start, to try again to improve oneself. Even I woke up this morning excited to map out the coming year. There are a million things I want to complete this year, but I’m only human, so I’m going to do one thing: Start small.

We thrive on success, but it we bite off more than we can chew, the possibility of not succeeding at any one thing is quite probable. Do you have one large goal? Write down which parts should be completed during each month, this way you have measurable success throughout the year. Do you have several small goals? Divvy them up. Make habits of a new one every month or two (or three…).

Give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Do you want to feel good? Find rehabilitation for a part of your body that needs help? Be more flexible? Eat better? Walk every day? Pick one thing–just one–and make it what you work on until it becomes a habit.

If improved fitness is your goal, remember that you have the opportunity to purchase three private sessions for $90–that’s over half off! Three dedicated hours to your body, the stuff you want to address with your body, and learning to move better. You’ll thank yourself for it. I promise.

 

Invest in Your Retirement

Most of us hear quite often how important it is to save for retirement. We have 401K accounts and savings plans that we religiously place money into each paycheck. But have we been putting the same kind of care towards our bodies for retirement? What happens when we get to retirement and our bodies are failing? Clearly there are things outside of our control when it comes to our health, but there are things we can control, and that’s the good news I want to share with you today!

Whether you’re 20 or 46 or 65, you can invest in a healthy body so that you can enjoy a vigorous and exciting retirement. There are many things that are common in the active aging adult population, and Pilates helps to combat them all!

Fall prevention is key as you age. A fall can be devastating, resulting in a hospital stay or a broken hip or anywhere in between. In Pilates we work on building strength, balance, and control so that as you age, falling is less likely.

Posture is often an issue later in life. If exercise is not a part of your routine now, muscles will weaken and posture is quick to go. The shoulders round forward, the head begins to sit in front of the spine instead of properly atop it, the rib cage begins to compress the internal organs. These things can cause issues with breathing, digestion, and of course, greater risk of falling. In a Pilates session, posture is key! I’ll help you to learn how proper alignment looks and feels, as well as help strengthen the proper muscles to keep you upright comfortably. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, it can  be somewhat painful to find good posture, but as your muscles are moved and strengthened, good posture will become second nature.

Muscle Mass decreases as we age. New studies have shown that adding resistance and weight to your exercise program, rather than just aerobic exercise, will help you to retain and build more muscle. The Reformer, the Wunda Chair, and the Tower are all in the studio I work at, and all three offer resistance during your workout to help grow your strength.

How are you investing in your body? Try out Pilates with one of my current offerings or by contacting me to purchase your first three private sessions at over half off!

This Is Why You Need Pilates

Whether you come to Pilates for general fitness, for help with certain ailments, to cross train your body for sports performance, or to exercise safely during pregnancy–whatever it is–you’ll begin to feel and see results after about ten sessions. Below are a few testimonials from clients who are in their first ten to fifteen sessions. See what they have to say, and think about how Pilates might be able to help you.

I already feel positive change, and my low back isn’t hurting like it used to! I even went for my first pain-free run in months and I’m so happy.
-Lorie B.

I’m a 6’4,” 225 pound man who has been bodybuilding for more than 25 years. I can bench press over 300 pounds, deadlift 500 pounds, etc. But Pilates kicked my butt! It works my muscles and my core like nothing else. Best of all, it makes my body feel great! I’ve had chronic shoulder and upper back pain, and after just a handful of sessions, I’m nearly pain free. As a 47-year-old, still very fit man, I now see Pilates as a sustainable way to work out for life. It can challenge you at any level, no matter how big and strong you are.
-Kelly W.

I have really enjoyed how Pilates works on every part of the body, giving a complete work out! It lengthens & strengthens the muscle groups giving the lean, strong result that I like! Andrea has been wonderful at teaching me the proper postures and working with any injuries I’ve had.
-Gina D.

I like how it’s low impact to suit my health conditions. It also seems to help relieve stress. Even though I’m pushing my body it feels good. It helps my breathing, too.
-Cheryl D.

Give me ten sessions to work with you twice a week, one-on-one. It will be my greatest pleasure to address your personal goals and help you truly feel and begin to see results in your body. “You’ll begin to feel a difference in ten sessions, see a difference in twenty, and in thirty sessions you’ll have a whole new body,” said Joseph Pilates. Try his method, let it improve your life.

This month I’m offering a New-to-Pilates special! Three private sessions for $90. Learn about the foundations of Pilates all while getting a custom workout designed with your needs and goals in mind. Simply go to the contact page and fill out the form to find out available session times. 

Pilates for Mommas | Part One

There’s kind of a tension surrounding the discussion of exercise and pregnancy, have you experienced it? While there is cause for concern with some women, most can continue their regular exercise routines until labor day with some  modification and care. Isn’t that fabulous news? Talk to your provider and bring in permission to begin a prenatal routine, and you’re well on your way to a healthy and energetic pregnancy (it can be done!).

If you’re planning to become pregnant, or already there, the benefits you will gain from a dedicated Pilates practice to prepare for and throughout pregnancy are many. Your body will be rocked by pregnancy; it is wonderful, delightful, and hard work! Even if mum’s the word for a while at the beginning, please always tell your Pilates instructor as soon as you find out the exciting news. We take great care to plan your sessions accordingly through each trimester, but also on each individual day.

Your first trimester won’t change much, unless you’re suffering serious morning sickness or fatigue. But by about week 16-19 we start to transition into true prenatal Pilates, staying off of the back and finding other creative ways to get the whole body working. The second trimester most women find exhilarating; bellies round and energy is back. We’ll focus on abdominal and back strength to support the growing baby, lateral breath work that targets breath into the ribs and the back, and we’ll work to alleviate aches and pains that begin to crop up (as well as find ways to keep them at bay). Safe range of motion and safe levels of resistance ares key as the hormones in the body relax the joints. By the third trimester, movement becomes slower, and aches and pains can become truly bothersome, breathing is much more difficult the last few weeks, and the body can tire very easily. Your sessions will focus on breath, finding room in the lungs, stretching, and giving movement to the body. The last few weeks are very dedicated to your self-care.

prenatal pilates tucson arizona

I practiced Pilates diligently throughout my third pregnancy, and it was one of my favorite seasons of life to date. I felt fabulous (minus that darn sciatic nerve at the end)! I practiced until the day baby girl showed up. I could even see abdominal definition on the sides of my belly until the day I gave birth. I used stretching and breath work from my Pilates sessions all through labor, and it made an enormous difference on my stamina and confidence in giving birth.

Stay tuned for Part Two in this series, Pilates and the Postnatal Body.

Breath | Principles of Pilates

We are working our way through the Ten Principles of Pilates, and today we zero in on breath. If you’ve missed the previous two principles, simply click here to catch up!

Life is very busy: We have our 9-5 jobs, our families, our social lives, and we all do our best to fit in personal time whether it is for fitness or reflection or decompression from stress. And no surprise, we breathe throughout our day without so much as a thought to keep it going. So why put energy or thought into something that is natural work of the body, something that is practically a reflex?

Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. – Joseph Pilates

That is rather profound, if you think on it. He lived to attest to proper breathing not just in his exercises, but in his daily life.

Above all, learn how to breathe properly. Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as is a vacuum. Stand erect again and observe how your lungs will automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air.

And he was right about it. Of many things, deep breathing has been shown to help decrease stress, one of the main antagonists of the modern world. So in your Pilates practice, we begin our session with a few very intentional deep breaths to calm our minds and prepare our body with a fresh intake of oxygen. We engage the abdominals and breathe laterally and deeply into the ribcage and into the back of the lungs, filling them with as much air as we can hold, and exhaling fully. This little practice automatically focuses your mind deep into your body to begin a good Pilates session.

Then, each Pilates exercise has a particular breath pattern, and it does differ a bit based on a particular discipline or a teacher’s personal preference. Generally speaking, though, your instructor will have you exhale as you exert force to complete a movement, and inhale as you return to the start. Your breath will aid in the execution of your movement. During each breath pattern you should inhale fully, and exhale as much air out of the lungs as possible. Breathing is important work in your Pilates practice!

Anxiety or stress will have us breathing shallow and in short breath cycles, but Pilates will work to correct this problem, leaving you feeling calm and more level-headed throughout your day. Inhale fully, exhale fully. Inhale deeply, creating energy in the body, and exhale your difficulties and stress. Be mindful of your breath and you will reap the rewards.

 

Balance | Principles of Pilates

When was the last time you stood on one foot for a while, just to see how long you could manage the task? Go ahead, see how long you can hold it. I started getting bored about twenty seconds in, so I bent my opposite leg and touched the ground, and repeated it ten times before I started getting bored of that, so I sat back down to keep writing to you. 😉

Balance is so very important to our lives. It helps with our posture, proper muscular development and function, it helps to prevent falls and injuries, and is simply necessary for healthy, daily movement. The older you get, the more balance decreases, and it is wise to practice balance in order to keep it. Many in the fitness industry will tell you, “Use it or lose it!” It is true.

When you attempted the balance exercise, was one side easier than the other? We all have one side of the body that is stronger than the other, or one side with a past injury that inhibits us. The body is not perfectly balanced, even down to our internal organs. None of us is perfectly balanced or symmetrical. I struggle with injuries from an accident on the right side of my body, so anything that requires symmetrical work from both sides of my body is a true challenge. I have to work very deep in mind and body to complete even the pelvic curl, let alone roll like a ball or jackknife or short spine. Ahhh balance, you are a tricky one.

I address balance in the general sense and in regards to muscular development/strength in both sides of your body in each class. Think of your side-lying hip work (whether on the mat, the reformer, or the arc!), it takes concentration and effort to stay balanced on one side while using the muscles on the other side of the body, doesn’t it? We also work on balancing your muscles to improve posture. Now every time you come to class you’ll notice how balance exercises are incorporated into your workouts!

We could also talk about the other meaning of balance, finding balance in all areas of life. Perhaps you have a rigorous work schedule, or you have little people at home that demand so much of you, or there is a huge challenge in life that’s stressful–doing the good work of Pilates helps to achieve a balance of mind, body, and spirit. And that is another beneficial type of balance. Don’t neglect your sessions this week, as you will leave feeling refreshed, proud of your body, and of course, balanced.

Functional Difference of Leg Length | Postural Deviations

The human body is designed magnificently. Even as I rested my head on my pillow to go to sleep last night, I marveled at how wonderfully each part helps and supports the other, all while performing the exact task it is created for. And almost more incredible, is that when one part of the body is injured, the parts surrounding it help support it or compensate for it. Unfortunately, left unaddressed, this wonderful system of assistance for an injury or pain will create more problems. This leads us to a little series on postural deviations.

Postural deviations can happen due to injury, repetition of movement or force on or from the body, or lack of movement in a state of incorrect posture over long periods of time.

Let’s talk a little bit about leg length discrepancies. There is a genetic Leg Length Discrepancy, where one limb is truly longer than the other. This condition only seems to begin to adversely affect the body when it is 3/4″ or greater. This should be diagnosed using medical imaging, as it is not accurate to simply eyeball it or measure it by hand. More commonly, there is a functional difference of leg length, which is what we’ll address with one scenario today. While functional leg length discrepancies are quite common, the actual effects described below are less common, and would be a more extreme case.

For the sake of getting a picture of how functional leg length could affect the body, let’s say something happens to injure or disrupt the SI joint, your piriformis will then lock down to prevent movement of the SI joint. If the source of the problem is left unaddressed, this can cause the femur to drop down in the hip joint on that side of the body, while the pelvis on the other side remains the same, creating a functional difference in leg length.

Should this scenario occur, there will be other areas of the body affected (you knew that was coming!). If the femur is dropped out of the hip joint, the knee will more than likely compensate by rotating inward toward the middle line of the body. And if the knee is improperly rotated, the foot could suffer a decrease in arch and become more flat footed in order to keep the pelvis level. And if the foot/knee cannot keep the pelvis level, then the spine will begin to adapt and could create functional scoliosis (there is a genetic scoliosis, and a functional scoliosis, but we’ll explore this another day, as well).

Within all of the skeletal/joint issues of a functional difference of leg length, muscular imbalances will also occur. The side on which the femur is dropped down, the gluteus medius is now longer and weaker, and the opposite side is now shorter and tighter. This will affect the hamstrings and the adductors and abductors in the legs, and more.

If the SI joint was the source of the problem, we would address it in studio with therapeutic exercises for the SI joint specifically, by balancing the muscular system with proper strength and stretching exercises, strengthening the muscular system of the pelvis and supporting areas of the trunk, and rewiring of the mind/body connection to help return the pelvis and joints of the body to a neutral position.

While you had  no idea you’d be reading a short novel today, perhaps now you’re curious about your own body and its compensations or postural deviations. We can look at your body with a postural analysis and talk more in depth during private sessions. Contact me to schedule your sessions here.

Health and Wellness Goals

I avoided New Year’s Resolutions like the plague this year. Who of us hasn’t written down one or two sweeping resolutions over the years and failed miserably? *raises hand* Resolutions tend to flop because we haven’t truly addressed why we want to achieve them, or because we bite off more than we can chew. Let’s resolve to stop that nonsense, and do something (or many little somethings) that are practical and doable.

You’re coming to class or private sessions for some very good reasons, I know! I am invested in you and your goals, and I want to help you achieve them.

What is your main goal? This would be something like, “Lose twenty pounds,” or, “Have more flexibility,” or “Tone my body.” Wonderful! Now why? It will be great to achieve those things, but there has to be something other than the end goal that helps drive you to it. Do you want more energy? To feel healthier in your own skin? To be able to do something you love with more efficiency?

Now that you have your goal and your why written down, you need to think practically about how you will achieve them. What are your first second and third steps, and how will you work toward them on a weekly basis? How will you measure your progress?

I will share my fitness goal with you: Perform a teaser.teaserjp

Why? After I had my sweet little Eleanor, it was nearly nine months before I could connect and fire my lowest and deepest abdominal muscles efficiently. If you don’t know me and are reading this for the first time, I had three babies exactly three years and six days apart from first to last. I had a severe diastasis recti that needed to be addressed, and my abdominals were very worn out (to say the least). So my why isn’t just doing the exercise, it means I’ve been able to rehabilitate my core to a point of being able to perform advanced level work for my own practice and for my Pilates certification. That is a big driving force for me!

How? I spend 3-5 hours each week doing Pilates on my own time outside of teaching. You’d think this particular exercise would just come naturally, believe me I wish that it did. When I first decided to make it my goal to accomplish this apparently monumental task, I found additional weaknesses in my body that needed to be addressed. My hip flexors were weaker than I knew, and my knee extensors (particularly my right knee) were weak or potentially damaged from an accident years ago. So now I’m not only working on my core rehabilitation, but on knee health and rehabilitation, plus the strength of my hip flexors. Whew! It’s a lot. But I’m getting closer each week and progress is measurable (I take photos and can feel how strong I’m getting by the efficiency of my workouts or particular exercises).

Think about your goals, keep them handy, and take time for yourself to address those goals weekly, along with tracking your progress.