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.

Book Review: “Stretching Anatomy”

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Reviewed by: Christopher Roberts
Title : Stretching Anatomy
Author: Arnold G. Nelson and Jouko Kokkonen
Publisher: Human Kinetics
Year: 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 215
Availability: Barnes and Nobles, Most Booksellers and Amazon


Description and Review: 
“Stretching Anatomy: Your illustrated guide to improving flexibility and muscular strength” by Arnold G. Nelson and Jouko Kokkonen is a great book with full color illustrations that show the muscles in action as well as how the muscle emphasis can change with different variations on the stretching exercises.

Each exercise details how to execute the stretch, the primary and secondary muscles activated to help you increase flexibility, reduce soreness and tension and increase your athletic performance.

The book first details the difference between static, dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. The exercises are then broken up in to chapters based on which area of the body is the focus for the stretching exercises. The first seven chapters focus on major joint areas of the body, starting with the neck and ending with the feet.

The sections are further broken down into Beginner/Intermediate/Advance levels as for who should do the stretches and when. Once you are more comfortable with the Beginner exercises you can graduate up to the next level of exercises. The last few chapters focus on dynamic stretching routines for athletic performance and some sport specific stretches (i.e. tennis, soccer, etc).

Chapters are as follows:

  1. Neck
  2. Shoulders, Back and Chest
  3. Arms, Wrists and Hands
  4. Lower Trunk
  5. Hips
  6. Knees and Thighs
  7. Feet and Calves
  8. Dynamic Stretches
  9. Customizing Your Stretching Program

Most of the stretches in the book are ones that we have seen in most gyms and studios before. I didn’t see any that were completely new to me, so I didn’t have any aha moments.

However, what I did like about the book was the detailed instructions on how to execute the exercises that were accompanied by very detailed anatomy pictures that clearly show the primary muscles that the exercise stretches as well as the secondary muscles that are used to support the stretch. Each exercise also includes a “Notes” section that gives some idea of who could benefit from the stretch which is handy in helping to put together a stretching program for your clients. It gives you more tools in your tool box to better serve you clients needs.

I also found the sport specific stretching programs at the end of the book to be very helpful. If you have a client who is say a gymnast, it gives you a few exercises in that would benefit them in helping to increase their flexibility better targeted to the sport that the perform and practice.

Overall, I think it’s a great book and a super easy read. It is definitely a book that Ill refer back to again and again when looking to target some tight areas for my clients.

Natural Skincare

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The more I study and read about Biohacking (there is an upcoming post about Biohacking if you are not quite sure what I’m talking about here), the more I realize what we do with our bodies is super important to our health and longevity.

Now I have always believed that what we put ON our bodies is just as important as what we put IN them or how we move them. I’m surprised that in the Biohacking community you don’t hear or read more about the products we use. Most commercial skin, hair and body care products on the market are FULL of chemicals that have been linked to all kinds of issues including certain cancers. So, I’m always on the hunt for great natural skincare without all the “meanies” in the products such as: synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances or toxic chemicals.

Recently, most of the skincare I’ve been using is from Weleda. They “aim to use only the purest ingredients for our products – wild-crafted, organic and Biodynamic® whenever possible”.  Weleda was started in the early 20’s under the idea that our bodies, minds and spirits are all linked in one holistic system. This was groundbreaking and very innovative work at the time. Weleda created skincare and beauty products with natural ingredients to heal our bodies.

Just as an instance of the healing power of what we put on our bodies, I used to constantly breakout under my arms in a horrible rash that itched and burned like crazy. This was usually from the deodorants I was using. I tried switching brands and I always broke out in this painful rash. Once I discovered Weleda’s amazing spray deodorants I was hooked. Keeps me clean and fresh all day long, and I have not had any painful irritation under my arm since.

Some of the chemicals and ingredients you want to look out for in your beauty products include the following:

  • parabens
  • synthetic fragrances, chemicals or preservatives
  • GMOs
  • basically anything you can’t pronounce.

Take a look at the products you are using and make the switch. I in no way work for or am being reimbursed by Weleda. They just happen to be a company whose products I discovered and love. There are many companies now making the switch to cleaner products. Eat Clean, Train Mean, and Bathe Green!

Book Review: The Complete Book of Pilates for Men

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Title: The Complete Book of Pilates for Men
Author: Daniel Lyon JR.
Published: 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 338
Availability: Bookstores, Amazon, etc.
Review:

There are not too many books on Pilates that are actually geared towards men, so when I spotted this book I had to purchase it. “The Complete Book of Pilates for Men” by Daniel Lyon JR. is a very thorough book on the traditional mat work, with a focus on making the practice accessible for men. Lyon JR is Romana trained and worked at both Drago’s Gymnasium and realPilates Tribeca Bodyworks.

The book is broken into four major parts and I will cover those separately.

Part 1:

This part gives a brief overview of what Pilates is and how men of all fitness levels can benefit from practicing Pilates. In this first section Lyon JR. mentions the Pilates principles, gives a brief description of the anatomy of the “Powerhouse” and discussed the benefits of practicing Pilates related to strength, flexibility and posture.

He also gives a short history of Joseph Pilates  and explains the difference between mat and apparatus Pilates. He gives a quick description of what the apparatus is and what each piece is. He closes this first part in going over some of the basics of mat Pilates such as Pilates stance, chin to chest, further details on the 6 principles and a “How to Use This Book” section.

Part 2:

This is the meat of the book featuring the 40 Traditional Pilates Mat Work exercises from The Hundred all the way to Push-ups. At the beginning of the section is a list of what exercises to do for Beginner, Intermediate and then Advanced. The exercises are then written out and in order. The idea is to pick and choose and follow the list depending on your level of practice.

The pictures accompanying the exercises are actual pencil like drawings of Lyon JR. in movement. They are great at showing body position and exercise set up, as well as how the body would move during the exercise. Detailed descriptions of the exercise set up and movement patterns are under each picture. Also included are the benefits of the exercise and what body parts they work.

Each exercise also has a section called “The Beast Within” thats includes three sections: “Body Position” (further description of setup and imagery on how to move through the exercise), “The Mind in Motion” (more detail on movement and this section offers modifications if needed for each exercise) and finally “Cautions” (anything you need to know whether you should omit this exercise or not).

Part 3:

This part is more mat exercises, but this time covering “Reformer on the Mat”. This sections goes through all of the advanced exercises on the Universal Reformer but how to perform them on the mat. Again, this section starts of a list of 66 Advanced Reformer Exercises and then further lists on what to do for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced students.

The detailed descriptions, pictures, etc for these exercises are similar to the first section of the Traditional Mat Work.

Part 4:

The book closes with different routines and modifications for injuries (weak neck, shoulder, injured or weak back, and injured or weak knees). Also included a great and detailed “Glossary” of Pilates terms.

I did enjoy this book, and found some great cueing and imagery that Daniel Lyon JR. used in this book. However, it is in my opinion that this book is more for someone who had taken a class or so with a real in live teacher, and who maybe wants to further develop their home practice.

I think the book contains way too advanced work for a beginner to attempt to do at home, especially in the “Reformer on the Mat” section, with exercises listed such as Control Balance/Arabesque.

Even though Lyon JR. does write about the challenge of these exercises and that they are more advanced, and gives the breakdown of what to do at each level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) I can see some men would not pay attention to this or do the modifications listed and attempt to do all the exercises in the order given. The exercises in each section are described first in the ideal set-up, execution and more at the advanced version of the exercise. I think this can be challenging to most men, or I can see men muscling through the exercises.

Overall, this is a great book and I’m glad I grabbed when I saw it. It’s full of great cues and imagery and the pictures are a nice accompaniment to the exercise descriptions. I actually love the “Reformer on the Mat” part and see that as a great way to challenge some of my students in a mat class. This is a book I will definitely refer back to over and over again, and do recommend it for teachers to add to their collections.

 

 

 

 

Paleo Strawberry Ice Cream

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Last night I was craving something sweet but had nothing on hand as I had recently cleaned out my pantry.

Then in a lightbulb came on.  Frozen banana “ice cream”! I keep frozen fruit on hand for smoothies and happened to have some frozen bananas and strawberries.

Throw into a food processor the following:

* 1 frozen banana

* 1/2 – 1 cup frozen Strawberries

* 10 drops of vanilla stevia

Blend all the ingredients together. You may have to stop several times to scrap down the sides of the food processor. Keep blending until it’s all blended and the consistency of ice cream. Serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

Paleo Coconut Macaroons

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I love how super simple this recipe is for the moments that you’re craving something  sweet but don’t want the extra sugar and would like to stay on your Paleo plan. These are the perfect coconut macaroon cookies.

To a bowl add:

1.5 cups unsweetened coconut shredded finely

2 egg whites

1 Tblsp of honey

10 drops of vanilla stevia

add 1 tbsp of cacao powder (optional)

 

Mixx all ingredients well and form into little balls. Place on sprayed/buttered cookie sheet and place in a 200 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until you see them begin to brown/turn golden. Easy!