The Pilates Roll Up

 

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The Pilates roll up works the abdominals but it also works on spinal articulation.  When performed correctly the rollup is more effective on strengthening the abdominals than countless crunches.

As a side note you may have noticed the count or rep range in Pilates is remarkably less than most fitness exercises, except for the Pilates hundred.  You may have wondered why, and I will let Mr Pilates answer this with one of his many quotes ” A few well designed movements properly performed in a balanced sequence are worth more hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”    The focus in Pilates quality over quantity.

 

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Let’s get back to the Roll up. Personally, I have had a love hate relationship with this exercise when I just started  Pilates, because I was not able to perform the exercise correctly, but through practice and some helpful tips/modifications on my Pilates journey  the roll up has become one of my favorite exercises.  The purpose of this article is to  share some of the  modifications I not only used for myself but ones I use with my clients.

Common “roadblocks” while performing this exercise is 1. weak abdominals 2. a tight low back  3. not recruiting the bum and hamstrings.

The first tip is to keep your knees bent and as you roll up straighten your legs.

2. Place a rolled up towel under your low back and press into the towel as roll up and roll down.

3. Holding light weights 1-2lbs during the exercise will help.

4. Use your hands to help you, this is done by holding the back of your thighs

5. The half roll back is a great way practice.

Instructions for Half Roll Back:  Sit tall and roll back to about the top of your pants, maintaing the C curve, and roll back up, again you can hold the back of your thighs to assist.

6. Remember to press the back of your thighs into the mat and to squeeze your glutes.

7.Place a theraband around your feet and holding the ends in your hands. Use the band to assist the roll up.

Be patient with your self and keep practicing.

Pilates is grace, strength and stability through movement.

Weekly Challenge

A Pilates routine is not complete without the Pilates Hundred.  I like to include the ball in the sessions to keep the lower body still.

 

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Pilates Hundred with a ball

 

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Lie on your back with legs in table top position keep your shins parallel and curl up keeping your shoulders away from your ears. Pump your arms inhale for 5 breaths and exhale for 5.

Keep your abs engaged and keep your eyes on your thighs.

Have a great week.

 

Let’s Talk Feet

 

Our feet are our foundation and the Pilates Method can help us keep our feet strong and flexible.  We tend to “forget” about our feet until they start to ache.

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Happy Feet

 

Just like the rest of our body we need to “exercise” our feet regularly.  We have 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles in our feet so lets give our feet a workout. Go barefoot sometimes and feel the earth beneath your feet, wiggle and spread your toes to get the blood flowing trust me it’s a glorious feeling.

Did you know a lot of foot injuries are a result of a weak core?  Having a weak core can cause you to compensate by changing your gait.  As I have mentioned in a previous post the footwork series on the reformer as well as on the other pieces of Pilates  equipment used in class, helps to mobilize and strengthen our feet and always in Pilates we are working our core.

If you are not able to take a  Pilates class here are a few exercises for your feet that can be done anywhere and anytime.

1. While standing, lift your toes and spread them apart.

2. Curl and uncurl your toes.

3. Use your toes to pick up marbles.

4. Lift and lower your big toe only.

5. Lift and lower your baby toe only.

6. Glide your big toe away from the other toes and back again.

7. Repeat the above move but with the little toe only.

8. Stretch your toes with pedicure pads, this also helps to realign the bones of the feet.

Lets keep our feet healthy and happy.

 

 

 

Pilates Spine Corrector

For todays post I thought I would share a video  of Joseph Pilates working out using the Spine Corrector.  This piece of Pilates equipment stretches, strengthens and aligns the spine and it is great for opening up the chest which allows for deeper breathing and preventing that computer posture ( think rounded shoulders etc).  While improving our posture by strengthening the back extensors, you will also be stretching your trunk flexors.  You are able to work your entire body in every range of motion.

Movement is medicine.

 

 

Pilates and Running Part 2

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These exercises are a continuation from the previous post.

As always check with your doctor before engaging in any exercise activity.

Swan Dive

( This exercise is great for  increasing back extension as well as strengthening the back extensors, hamstrings and gluteals).

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Lie on your stomach, palms on the mat.  Lift your upper body into extension as you press your hands into the mat. Reach the arms forward while rocking your chest towards the mat.

Bring your hands back underneath you and catch your body in the Swan position.

* Remember to keep head, neck and spine in alignment, keep your abs engaged the entire time. *

Side Kick Kneeling

( Great for challenging your balance, torso and pelvis stability, improves hamstring and hip flexors  flexibility, strengthens shoulders and lats and strengthens the hips).

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From a kneeling position,lean over to one side until your hand touches the mat. Extend your leg to the side to hip height. Keep your bottom hip pressed forward so your torso is as straight as possible.

Kick the top leg forward and back, 6-10 times is sufficient and switch sides.

Corkscrew

( Increases spinal rotation, back flexibility,scapular stability and core control.)

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Lying on your back, straighten legs to the ceiling. Tilt your legs to one side,allowing your hips to lift off the floor. Allow your legs to swing  down towards the floor, circle through center and up the opposite side.  Keep your legs together, shoulders anchored, and make smooth even circles in both directions.

Clam Shells

( Strengthens gluteus medius.)

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Lie on your side, heels are in line with the gluteals.  Hips flexed at 45 degrees, knees at 90 degrees.  Abdominals are engaged and your pelvis is neutral.

Keep your ankles and feet glued together as you abduct the top leg, without allowing your hips to roll back. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.

Thigh Stretch

( Stretches and strengthens quadriceps, core control.)

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Kneeling with your ares extended, parallel , hinge back keep pressing the pelvis forward, leading with the pubic bone.  There should be no movement  in the body only at the knee joint.

I hope you enjoy this little sequence.

Have a great week and stay warm!

 

 

 

Pilates and Running

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Whether you run for fun or you are serious about running marathons, trying to improve your speed or endurance or you are just starting out, including Pilates in your weekly routine will help you to remain injury free and strong.

Here are a few benefits of Pilates for runners:

Pilates stretches and strengthens you at the same time and will use muscles that are not specifically used in running.

Pilates will improve a runner’s overall strength, flexibility, balance and mobility.

Pilates exercises will help keep the pelvis in a  stabilized  level plane therefore allowing the extremities more range of motion and flexibility.

Pilates will improve a runners posture by elongating the spine and strengthening the muscles of the back as well as maintaining proper alignment in the knee ankle and foot.

Your core will be a lot stronger thus helping to relieve the pressure on your joints.

Here are a few Mat exercises to add to your training routine.

 

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Pilates Mat Exercises Part 1

Roll Up

(Rolling up slowly and incrementally helps to lengthen the muscles of the low back, increases the flexibility and articulation of the spine and increases core strength).

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Lie on your back, reach your arms up over your head, keeping the back of your lowest rib on the mat. Inhale, reaching your arms up towards the ceiling,  exhale and lift your head up between your arms, continue the rolling up

and reach towards your feet.  Return to the start position by gently squeezing the buttocks and tuck the tailbone to begin the roll back.

Single Leg Circles

(Great for stretching hamstrings, increasing flexibility and mobility of hips, core control, pelvic stability)

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Lie on your back, straighten your leg towards the ceiling, pointing the foot, maintain the stability of the pelvis. Circle your leg across your body and down and out and away from your body. Repeat circles in each direction, lower leg and repeat on the opposite leg.

Saw

(Increases spinal rotation, stretches mid and upper back, lengthens low back muscles, lengthens the hamstrings, lengthens the quadratus lumborum which lifts the hip,creates balance in pelvis).

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Sit up tall with your legs straight and open, shoulder width apart. Reaching your arms out to the side. Rotate torso to one side, reaching the arm in front towards the little toe of the opposite foot.

Return to the starting position with our evening distributed on the sit bones and repeat the rotation on the opposite side.

Swimming

(Strengthens the back and hip extensors,improves pelvic stability, opens the chest).

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Lie on your stomach with your arms reaching overhead and your legs straight. Lift the right arm and the left leg, switching to the left arm and right leg quickly without rocking your hips from side to side.

A few reminders:

Keep your abdominals engaged, keep your shoulders away from your ears and breathe!

Hope you enjoyed this  post, part 2 posting soon. Let me know if you add these exercises to your routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Fridays

I thought this would be a fun addition to the blog.   I know we have all heard of having a gratitude journal, where you write down 5 or more things you are grateful for whether you write it everyday or once a week . There really is no rule as to when or how much you want to write or how small or great it is. The simple things brings the greatest joy.

I will share here just a few things I have been grateful for this week,  it will be more pictures than words.

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Coffee ( i am a huge fan)

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Joseph Pilates ( self explanatory)

 

 

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Beautiful Scenery ( gotta love vacations)

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Saw this duck and her babies early one morning at work. How adorable!!

Desk Bound: Three Pilates Desk Exercises and Stretches.

 

There have been numerous articles written about the perils of too much sitting. Researchers say that prolonged sitting may lead to a slower than normal metabolism, diabetes and a larger waistline etc. Among these we can also add an inflexible spine due to lack of movement, poor posture, weak upper back muscles, short and tight chest muscles, forward head posture and rounded shoulders to name a few.

Sitting is not only inevitable and necessary at times but the problems arise when we do not make the time to add movement through out our day.

Here are a few ways to add movement to your day while at the office. 1. If possible. instead of sending an email to your co-worker, walk to their desk or office. 2.   Add some stretches/Pilates exercises to your day that can be performed at your desk. 3. Have a walking business meeting. 4. Have lunch at a park. 5. Walk the mall on your lunch break 6. Take the stairs 7. Take calls while on your feet or better yet pace and talk 8. Set a daily reminder to step away from your computer screen at regular intervals, this is for your mental and physical health and 9. Use the restroom on a different floor.

Below are a few Pilates exercises you can include in your day, these can be performed at your desk.

Note: Abdominals should be engaged at all times, keep length in the spine and breathe!

Spine Twist:  

Sit tall, with neutral spine and pelvis., abdominals pulled in and up, feet hip distance apart. Extend your arms long in front you, shoulder height, palms facing in and shoulders down.

On an inhale, lengthen your spine, exhale and rotate or twist your spine for a count of 3, bending your elbow as you twist in the same direction while keeping the opposite arm long in front.

Inhale and return to the center and switch sides.  Repeat 5 times on each side.

Spine Stretch Forward:

The same seated position as the above exercise. Inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale and nod your head forward ,abs engaged, slowly curve or round your spine forward, arms long and down by sides.

Inhale at the bottom of the movement, taking slow breaths and breathing into the sides of your ribcage.  Exhale and slowly roll back up to sitting position. Repeat 5 times.

Seated Mermaid:

The same seated position as above, hands are resting at your sides. Inhale, reaching one arm overhead, pressing the opposite hand into the side of the chair. Exhale, bending sideways while reaching the extended arm over head. Inhale and return to the start position.  Repeat 5 times on each side.

A few reminders while actively sitting through out the day: Maintain neutral spine, keep your abdominals engaged always, breathe well, meaning fill your lungs air and exhale completely, sit tall and lengthen your spine, relax your neck and shoulders.

The Pilates method/ principles, are not only for inside the studio but the principles should carry you through out your day whether you are sitting or driving or whatever activity you are doing.  Being mindful of your own body awareness will improve your alignment and comfort level.

 

Here are a few stretches that can be performed at the end of your workday.

 

Back and Hamstrings:

Lie on your back, feet on the floor, knees bent. Draw both knees into your chest and rock side to side. Then alternate extending one leg and hugging the other leg into your chest. Hold each stretch for 20 -30 seconds. Enjoy this you should be able to feel the entire body relaxing.

Cross Body Stretch:

Still on your back keep one leg extended and use the opposite hand to cross the bent leg across your body, and look in the opposite direction to the crossed leg.

Shoulders. Stand and reach your arms behind you, you can hold on to each wrist if this easier or interlace your fingers, while raising your arms behind you so you feel a wonderful stretch in the front of your shoulders.

Figure 4 Stretch:

Lie on floor or mat. Bend knees with feet on floor. Cross lower leg over thigh of other leg. Grasp back of thigh of lower leg with both hands.

Pull leg toward torso. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite leg.

How do you incorporate movement through out your day? What are your favorite stretches? 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Challenges

We will be focusing on 2 exercises this week:

Balancing Star Plank 

Balancing Star Plank

Balancing Star Plank

Get into the side plank position. So if you start on your left side, your right arm should be extended to the ceiling, now here is the twist, instead of raising your right leg, you will keep the right leg firmly planted on the floor and swing your left leg forward. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat on the other side. 3 reps each side.

 

High V  ( this is a classic move used in Barre classes)

High V

High V

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Stand next to your support, feet in a narrow V. Rise onto the balls of your feet, keeping your heels glued together; bend your knees, bringing your butt down toward knee level. Slowly move down and up by an inch for 30 seconds. Repeat, smaller and faster, for another 30 seconds.

Keep your abs engaged, shoulders away from your ears, neutral spine and breathe!!

 

 

 

 

 

Pilates Breathing

 

 

There are 7 Pilates principles but I will be featuring the first one and that is “Breathing“.  Not only can proper breathing be used to decrease stress, lower our blood pressure  it can also help to facilitate movement and increase out mobility in exercises.

I always teach the following the breathing exercises to my Pilates clients:  Belly Breathing, One lung Breathing, Lateral Breathing and Sniffing Breath.  I will briefly  explain each one and share a few exercises that we use them in. I have also included the purpose/objective of each exercise for those of you that like to know why we perform each one.

Belly Breathing:

Place you hands on to your stomach and take a deep inhale so your belly expands like a balloon, on the exhale draw the abdomen in towards the spine expelling all the air. This type of breathing is used while performing Footwork on the Reformer.  The footwork is a fundamental move used following the warmup exercises before transitioning to the other exercises in the sequence.

Objective of the Footwork:  to strengthen the hip extensors, knees extensors, the feet, to align the foot and leg and to develop pelvic lumbar stabilization.

Footwork

Footwork

Lateral  (intercostal )Breathing:

This is when you breathe into the back and sides of your ribs, without allowing your abdomen to expand.  This type of breathing often used in the Pilates Hundred exercise.

Objective of the Hundred: to strengthen the abdominal muscles and for pelvic lumbar stabilization.

Hundred

Hundred

One Lung Breathing:

This type of breathing is as it sounds, breathing into one one side of your lungs at a time. This  type of breathing is used while performing the Mermaid.

Objective of the Mermaid:  Teaches spinal movement to the side, scapula stabilization, spinal mobility and stretches the quadratus lumborum, internal and external obliques.

Mermaid

Mermaid

Sniffing Breath:

This is when you take really small breaths through your nose and you exhale through pursed lips. This type of breathing is used while performing the Side Leg Series.

Objective of the Side Leg Series:  To learn and develop disassociation at the hips and  to stabilize pelvic lumbar area.

 

Side Leg Series

Side Leg Series

 

Remember to Breathe!

Have a fabulous Friday.