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.

Workout Motivation Tips

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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 Exercise of the Week – The Hundred

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If you have ever taken a Pilates class, most likely you have done The Hundred, and like most people you probably have a love/hate relationship with this exercise. The Hundred is the first exercise in the Classical Pilates repertoire and is a great abdominal exercise that warms up the body and prepares it to perform the rest of the exercises in the mat repertoire.

Benefits:

  • Challenges Core Strength and Stability
  • Targets and Strengthens Spinal Flexors
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Centers the mind and body
  • Connects to the Powerhouse

How To Do:

  • Lay on your mat in a supine position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Bring your knees into your chest and lift your head, looking into your abdominals
  • Stretch your hands and arms along your side, with palms down and hands a few inches above your abs.
  • Pull your belly button down into your spine, engaging your abdominals
  • Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, while pumping your arms 6-8 inches. That’s one full breath or 10 pumps. Do ten reps to finish for the full Hundred
  • To advance this and challenge your core more you can extend the legs straight up to the ceiling, or out to a 45 degree angle, or as low as you can hold the legs without the back arching.

Intro to Biohacking

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I am always on the hunt for ways to improve my health and wellness. I like to stay up to date on recent research and studies done in the field of health and wellness. When I came across Biohacking I immediately thought “This makes sense” and I wanted to find out all I could on Biohacking. So what the heck is Biohacking?

Now I am just a newbie to the Biohacking community, but in the simplest terms, Biohacking is using science backed tools or “hacks” to improve our overall wellbeing. Biohacking combines the words “Biology” with “hacking” meaning a Biohacker “hacks” their bodies to improve their health and become the best versions of themselves possible.

These “hacks” include using medical, nutritional, physical and electronic tools or techniques to improve the quality of certain areas of our health. These areas include our physical condition, sleep, and nutrition among others. Biohacking is a powerful way to achieve your health and wellness goals and make some major changes in your life.

Biohackers use tools to track the different areas of their health and wellness. For instance, a simple tool would be using a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit. You can track your water intake, nutrition, fitness and activity levels as well as sleep. Then use this data to find ways to work to improve your over health and wellbeing.

Some easy ways to begin Biohacking are as follows:

  • Eat the Right Nutrition – most hackers follow the Bulletproof, Paleo or Primal Diets
  • Add Bulletproof coffee to your morning routine
  • Spend more time outside – playing in nature, breathing fresh air, expose yourself to sunlight, etc.
  • Meditate – to raise awareness and improve stress levels, memory function and more
  • Track Your Sleep – and find ways to improve it such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding electronics for at least an hour before bed, and using binaural beats or meditation to help you fall asleep faster
  • Try Cold Therapy – this can include cryotherapy, ice baths or simply finishing your shower with a blast of cold water for a few seconds

As I dig deeper into the Biohacking community and work to hack my own health, fitness and wellness I will be sharing my journey and discoveries here on my blog. I’d love to hear from you if you have any Biohacking tips or tools I should try out.

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.

What to Expect From Your First Pilates Session

 

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This is the time of year where we reflect on what we achieved over the past 12 months and look forward to a new year. This is also when most people begin to focus on making those New Year’s Resolutions, which mostly involve some sort of Health and Fitness goal. Am I right?

Maybe you have always wanted to try a Pilates equipment class/session and have decided to make that one of your goals for 2017. However, you are a little timid and maybe even scared of taking that first step. You have no idea what to expect and you are a little unsure of what this Reformer thing is that looks like a medieval torture device.

This post will banish those fears, answer your questions and get you ready to start your Pilates Equipment practice.

What is the Pilates Reformer?

The Reformer is the most recognized and popular piece of equipment or apparatus in the Pilates studio. This is the central piece of equipment used in most Pilates classes and studios. The Universal Reformer, so called because it is used for “universally reforming the body”, creates a balanced workout that is great for everyone regardless of fitness level. Auxiliary equipment you might find in the studio include the Chair, Cadillac or Tower; these pieces are often used at the end of a Pilates session to focus on the needs of the individual.

Invented by Joseph Pilates himself, the Reformer is a bed like piece of equipment with a moving carriage. The carriage is attached to springs that give resistance to the exercises performed on the Reformer. The Reformer has straps that both the hands and feet can be placed in for various exercises. Exercises on the Reformer are done laying down, sitting and even standing.

The Reformer offers all of the Pilates Benefits including: overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

What to Wear or Bring to Your First Pilates Class?

For your comfort and ease of performing the exercises it is best to wear clothes that are more form fitting. Yoga pants or leggings and a tank top are perfect as they allow the instructor to to see how your body moves so they can check alignment and offer adjustments as needed. Avoid clothes that have zippers, toggles, etc. and leave your jewelry at home. These things have been known to cause tears or holes in the upholstery of the equipment.

Exercises on the Pilates Equipment are done in bare feet or with socks that have grippy textures on the bottom. So you can leave those fancy gym shoes at home. Contrary to popular belief that Pilates is just stretching, you will sweat in your Pilates workout. Bring a towel to wipe any sweat as well as a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated during your workout. Some studios will provide these items, but most often studios do not, so it’s best to be prepared and bring your own.

Arrive Early to Your First Pilates Session

I suggest arriving early to your first session. The studio may have paperwork or intake forms for you to fill out prior to your session. A good Pilates teacher will meet with you prior to your session to learn about your body, ask if you have any challenges or injuries so that they can adjust the class to your needs. I also like to introduce each student to the equipment which includes safety information, the parts of each piece and how to use the equipment. It’s important that before you begin working out on the equipment that you understand each part.

The right Pilates teacher will find out your goals, take into consideration your imbalances or injuries and create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Whether you are there to rehab from an injury or surgery, or simply to gain more strength and become more fit, the teacher should create a plan to achieve this, and work to find the right exercises and equipment to get you to that point.

While I strongly believe that Pilates is for everybody regardless of age, body type, fitness level, injuries or medical conditions there are some exercises that may need to be omitted or modified based on your individual needs. Finding out any physical limitations prior to the class/session will help your teacher to give you the best workout out for you and keep you safe.

What is a Typical Pilates Equipment Class Like?

Once you have met your teacher and have been introduced to the equipment it is time to get started. Typical Pilates sessions are 55 minutes in length. The work on the apparatus focuses on a full body workout with small and controlled movements using the springs for resistance. Just like a Pilates workout on the mat, focus is put on building core strength, but now we work against the springs to focus on control and centering.

Your session on the Reformer will be a full body workout. Classes typically start off with a warm up while lying down. As the class progresses you will focus on specific muscle groups through exercises that have you lying down, sitting, standing and even being in an inverted position.

Pay attention to the instruction and cues of your instructor. Their cues are important to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly, that your form is good and safe, and will help to make sure you are targeting the right muscles you should be using. Expect a lot of hands on instruction in your session. Most teachers like to help adjust the body so you can reap the full benefits of the exercises on the equipment as well as focus on proper body alignment.

While Pilates is low impact and safe on the joints, you will still find it a challenging workout. Sometimes the smallest of moves can be the hardest. Also, as previously mentioned, you will sweat. You might not sweat like you would in a boot camp or HIIT type of class, but you should find Pilates a challenging workout that still makes you sweat.

Final Words and Tips

After your first session you may find yourself a little sore. That is to be expected, but you may also find yourself feeling more flexible and walking a little taller with better posture.

During your session if you have any concerns or questions please speak up and let your teacher know. I prefer my clients stop me in the middle of an exercise to ask for a modification or clarification on the exercise, instead of waiting until the end of the class to ask a bunch of questions. This allows me to teach in the moment, and helps the student to fully comprehend the exercise and what I’m asking them to do.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to take on your first Pilates class and get a jump start on those New Year’s Resolutions. Give us a call or send an email to set up your “Intro to Pilates” session.

Worcester Pilates is a small, boutique Pilates Studio in Worcester, MA that offers private instruction on all of the Pilates equipment.