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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamstrings Strength and Flexibility

 

Our hamstrings consists of 3 muscles the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris.

The hamstrings cross 2 joints, the hip and the knees, and they are involved in hip extension as well as knee flexion.

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(Picture source)

Runners and weekend warriors  tend to neglect their hamstrings in their strength training and flexibility routines and resulting at times in strains, tears and pulls. Many times this injury occurs because of a muscular imbalance, the quadriceps being more dominant or stronger than the hamstrings. This type of injury is very difficult to heal, sidelining runners/athletes for weeks.

The injured hamstring can be classified by the following:

Grade 1 is a mild strain with a few muscle fibers being torn.

Grade 2 is a moderate strain with significant loss on strength

Grade 3 is a complete tear of the muscles.

In order to prevent injuring the hamstrings, it is important to implement exercises that both strengthen and stretches  the hamstrings. Pilates is a great addition to any fitness routine, because Pilates creates an evenly conditioned body therefore eliminating imbalances.  Personally what I really like about the flexibility side of Pilates is that you are always moving, there is no static holding of the exercises. As one of the principles of the method is control, you are able move your body with proper control and stability.

Another benefit of Pilates, which we all hear about is that Pilates builds a strong core. The core is not only the deep abdominals , but it also includes your low back muscles, pelvic floor, the muscles around your hips and your glutes. Having a strong core will help your body to move more efficiently and with precision.

Here are a few Pilates mat exercises that will help to strengthen not only the hamstrings but the other muscle groups as well.

Leg Pull Down

Get into a plank position, with shoulders over wrists, the inner thighs together. Lift one leg towards the ceiling with your foot pointed. Lift one leg  and pulse it twice towards the ceiling. Lower the leg and repeat on the next leg.

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Keep your hips lifted as the leg lifts. Repeat 6 times on each leg.

Leg Pull Up

Get into a reverse plank position, wrists  under shoulders and hips lifted high. Lift one leg to the ceiling and pulse up twice. Lower the leg to the mat and repeat on the other side.  Repeat 6 times.

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Swimming

Lie on your stomach, reaching your arms overhead and your legs straight.  Lift the left arm and right leg towards the ceiling, and quickly switch arms and legs maintaining the balance on the center of your torso.

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Keep your neck long and no shifting of the hips.

This next exercise is part of the Pilates abdominals series of the 5 exercises used to strengthen the abdominals and to develop pelvic stability. but it also gives you a nice stretch for the hamstrings therefore improving its flexibility.

There is no strength with out flexibility.

Single Straight Leg Stretch

Lie on your back, round your and head and upper body off the mat, reaching one leg to the ceiling and the other leg extended and reaching to in front of you. Place your hands on the leg that is reaching towards to the ceiling.

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Pulse the leg towards you twice and quickly switch legs and repeat on the other side.  Keep your torso still as the legs move, abdominals engaged, maintain stability in the low back and pelvis.

Let’s keep our hamstrings strong and flexible. Hope you enjoyed this post.