Pilates

Holiday season is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to pull out those cocktail dresses and festive tops. This 10-minute workout will help you get those cocktail party arms that you’ve always wanted, while also working your abs, butt, and legs. You only need a mat or towel and 3-5 pound hand weights. If you don’t have hand weights, grab some canned vegetables or bottled water. Go through the series two times, aiming for 3 non-consecutive days, a week.

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1. Forearm Plank

To do:

a. Start by getting onto your forearms and knees

b. Make a fist with one hand, and clasp the other hand around it

c. Extend your legs back to get yourself into a plank, keep legs together, shoulders over elbows, and heels over toes (as shown in photo)

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute

Tips:

Press into your forearms to prevent yourself from sinking towards the floor, and simultaneously pull your heart towards the wall in front of you

Work your pubic bone towards your forehead to engage your abs and protect your lower back

Press backs of thighs together, and make sure they don’t sink to the floor

Think of your body being pulled in two directions with your head going one way and your heels the other

Modification:

Do with your knees down

Challenge:

Hover one leg off mat for 15 seconds, then switch to other leg for 15 seconds

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2. Bridge with tricep extension

To do:

a. Lie on mat, knees bent, legs shoulder-width apart and feet flat

b. With a weight in each hand and palms facing one another, extend your arms to the ceiling

c. Lift hips to create a straight line from knees to chest (as shown in photo)

d. Bend and straighten elbows

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep chest open

Imagine holding a little beach ball between the inner thighs to keep energy there

Make sure elbows are reaching up to the ceiling when the arms are bent

Reach the tailbone towards the heels and pubic bone towards the head to keep the core active

Modification:

Keep butt down

Challenge:

After last rep bend elbows to 90 degrees (forearms parallel to ceiling), with butt still lifted, hold for 30 seconds

bicep-corrected

3. Bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, while holding a weight in each hand, arms long by your side, shoulders down and back, and palms facing out (as shown in photo)

b. Bend elbows to bring the weights to your shoulders, then slowly lower to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep elbows glued into ribs

Keep shoulders on your back to isolate the biceps

Imagine a corset around your waist to engage the abs

Gaze forward and stand tall

Challenge:

After you complete your reps, hold the forearms parallel to the floor for 10 seconds

tricep-swing

4. Tricep and shoulder swing

To do:

a. Stand with legs together, a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Bend knees in to a squat, hinge forward, and press arms back so that palms face the ceiling, pulse arms up 3 times (as shown in photo)

c. Return to standing bringing arms to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Keep spine long when you hinge forward

Picture a corset around your waist to keep your abs engaged

Make sure palms face up to ceiling when pulsing

Challenge:

As you return to standing bringing your arms to start position, as draw one knee into your chest

lunge-twist

5. Lunge with twist and bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand tall with a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Lunge forward with right leg, twist torso to the right, bend elbows (as shown in photo without the bent elbows)

c. Extend arms, untwist torso, step back to meet left leg while keeping arms raised

Repeat 8-10 times, switch sides and repeat

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Press through the heel of the forward lunging leg to step back

Twist from ribcage, making sure to keep arms in line with shoulders

Modifications:

Lower arms a little if shoulders are tight

Take out the twist

flye-26. Bent Over Flye

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand

b. Bend knees and hinge torso forward from the hips, keeping weight in heels

c. With a slight bend in your arms, lift them up to shoulder height, lower with control (as shown in photo)

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Focus on the back-side of arms and mid-upper back when doing the work

Keep shoulders on back

Picture a corset around your waist to remind you to keep

abs engaged

Make sure you can see your toes and watch that the knees track over second toe

Challenge:

Add an extra set of 10 pulses at the top of the last repetition before you lower arms back down

 

Pensive reformer shot

Curious what I have to say with all things Pilates related including exercise ideas?  Then check out  Pilates Style.

On Pravassa.com, a healthy travel website, you can check out my reviews for Los Angeles based classes and restaurant as well as wellness posts.

MindBodyGreen offers a diverse collection of articles on all things relating to living a healthier and happier life.

Remember to check back often as I contribute every few weeks.

 

Running

FALL 2015 CLASS SCHEDULE at UpRise Classical Pilates

MONDAY:

1:30-2:25 Tower class level 2

6:30-7:25 Tower class open level

WEDNESDAY:

8:30-9:25 Reformer/Barre

UpRise Classical Pilates is located at 929 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. You can call Kristen to schedule at 917-887-3836 or book online.

 

When the Pilates Anytime competition was announced for their next visiting teacher, I jumped at the opportunity to be online.  On new year’s this past year I sat with my friend Jackie and told her one of my goals/resolutions, is to get myself teaching Pilates classes online by the end of 2012.  This is my chance!  I filmed my video, uploaded it onto Youtube, and entered.  Now I need your votes.  Please help me win by voting here.  Voting goes until July 15th, 2012.

Whether or not I win the contest, I feel like I’ve come one step closer to achieving my goal.  It’s not as overwhelming as I once thought.  But, it would be fun to win!

 

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I recently had the chance to speak with Mika Street, owner of Uptown Pilates in NYC and Sag Harbor.  She filled me in on why she loves Pilates, what brought her from New York City to the Hamptons, and why Sag Harbor should be your next vacation spot.  Now I wish I had planned a trip there this summer!

How long have you had your studio in Sag Harbor and what made you choose opening a studio there?

I opened Uptown Pilates Sag Harbor in the summer of 2010. It was in response to years of clients requesting that the studio have a presence in the Hamptons. Sag Harbor was a natural choice because it is the most conveniently located and I personally love the town!

How is running a studio there different than the studios you run in NYC?  And is the clientele different between the two places?

The studio out east has a very casual vibe. Although clients can expect the same level of service, there is a fresh off the beach feel. Clients often come straight from swimming in the ocean with sand still in their hair and mellow music can often be heard when clients request it.

How many teachers do you have on staff, and what kind of Pilates do they teach?

During season we have four full time instructors. They are all classically trained either from Romana’s or from the Boulder Center. Out of season we have one full time instructor.

What makes your studio stand out among other studios in the area?

Uptown Pilates worked hard to earn our clients vote of Best Pilates Studio in NYC for four years in a row! The same dedication to the clients that earned us that reputation is what sets us apart from our competition in Sag Harbor as well.

Why do you love Pilates so much?  What about it do you think draws people towards it?

I love Pilates because you can never conquer it! The stronger you get the harder the practice gets – so you can never get bored with it. I also love the way my body feels after a session!

What advice do you have for someone looking to get into Pilates?

Research the studio and instructor. There is a tremendous difference today in teaching styles and you want to be sure that you work with someone who went through an apprentice program that was at least 600 hours. I also advise committing to at least three lessons. It is hard to wrap your brain around the potential benefits of Pilates in just one session.

Do you have any stories about clients who have transformed either physically or mentally, in a positive way, because of Pilates?

Oh for sure. Countless! One of the best parts of my job is listening to clients share their many stories of how Pilates has transformed their bodies and minds. I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of sharing them!

If someone is trying to decide on a vacation spot, why would you recommend Sag Harbor, besides the amazing Pilates of course?

Ha, of course the Pilates! Sag Harbor is a gem in the Hamptons! It is such a charming, casual and centrally located town with the best restaurants, farmers market and Main Street in all of the Hamptons!

If you could open another studio anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Bali – winter 2013! Jokes aside, probably Santa Monica.

What is the best way for someone to contact you and schedule an appointment?

For Sag Harbor bookings – 631-725-5994 or uptownpilatessag@gmail.com. Or directly through our website www.uptownpilates.com

 

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Last summer I took a Pilates workshop with Jay Grimes, one of the elders. Amidst all the stories and information, what stuck out most to me was when he told us that if you could truly understand the double leg pull (a.k.a double leg stretch), one of the exercises in the series of five, than you fully understand Pilates. Why, he asked? Because it’s in every exercise you do in Pilates. It incorporates a strong center, and opposition.

Everyone knows that one of the benefits of Pilates is a stronger core. Most people do Pilates for that exact reason. But opposition is like the middle child, often forgotten. Can you guess where I fall in my family order? But I don’t think I’m any less important, and neither is opposition. It’s what will help lengthen your body, and length can be your best friend. Just ask anyone who struggles with back problems.

In another workshop I took recently, the presenter focused on the importance of getting grounded through Pilates. She made the point that you must focus on the placement of your clients feet, because the more supported you are at the base of your body, the more length you can get all the way up. With the length you achieve through opposition, you decompress the spine. That’s why many people say they feel lighter after their Pilates session.

It’s not enough to just cue opposition. Look to see that your client has equal weight on the big and little toe knuckle, as well as on the inside and outside of the heel. This applies to when someone is standing, sitting, or inverted. While you bring awareness to the evenness of your clients feet, make sure their muscles are working the opposite direction, up towards the crown of their head. I like to tell people to visualize stirrups under their arches that work their way up the inside and outside of their legs, pulling their muscles up. Don’t forget the importance of grounding the feet at the same time.

In an inversion, you still want the same emphasis. If your feet are in straps, work to make sure there’s equal weight on all four points of your feet. Since you’re working against gravity, you have to put a little more energy into it. When I’m in an inversion, I pretend I’m standing on the ground and apply all the same principles. Your goal is still opposition. Ground your feet while you work the muscles up towards the crown of your head.

People often ask me if Pilates will make them taller. Clearly it can’t make your bones grow. However, if you strengthen your core and work in opposition, you will gain an inch or two. Truly understanding the double leg pull (stretch) is not only the key to understanding Pilates, but also the key to being taller. Looking to add a few inches? Head to a Pilates lesson.

 

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Do you find it challenging to be inspired as a Pilates teacher? When I was going through my Pilates certification program, I wasn’t sure I’d make it out the other end successfully. There were moments that I totally doubted my ability, especially after a lesson with a teacher who I admired and respected. Each one was unique, yet the same. As they say in Thailand, “same same but different”. They were all knowledgeable, challenging, present, and passionate about Pilates. In those moments of doubt, I couldn’t imagine being like them. However, they became my inspiration for the teacher I would strive to be.

In order to get there, I realized a few things. To increase my knowledge, I would have to take lessons on a regular basis because if you don’t know how an exercise feels in your body, it’s very challenging to teach it successfully to someone else. A co-worker told me that Romana used to say “you teach a body from you own body.”

Along with lessons I knew I’d need to seek out continuing education courses as you can only learn so much in 9 months. And I began to teach as much as I could for practice. Bob Liekens, one of my mentors, says that the real learning begins once your certified. There is no better way to become familiar with bodies than working with them. Studying anatomy won’t hurt either.

My teachers all managed to challenge me in a different way. Some moved me at a quick pace, while others were a bit more deliberate. They all had the ability to make slight adjustments that would drastically change how an exercise felt. No matter how they chose to teach the exercises, they were all very present. Nothing seemed to distract them, no chit chat was allowed, and there was always a plan. Most of all, it was so apparent to me how passionate they all were about what they did. I always left with a deeper appreciation of the method.

While my passion for Pilates has never gone away, my love for it has slipped at times. But like any relationship, I’m always able to find my way back. It takes work, and effort though. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping up with your own Pilates lessons. Make appointments and put them in your calendar. One lesson will give you ideas that could last weeks. If you think your clients are bored, it’s usually because you are bored. After your lesson, jot down some notes about new things you did. I have pages of notes I’ve taken since my certification 9 years ago. Even as a teacher trainer, I still do it.

Inspiration is all around you, in the teachers you take lessons from, and even the clients you work with. On days you feel less inspired, think about the teachers who helped lead you to Pilates. You chose this path for a reason. Remember that inspiration is endless.

 

kristen4pilates-resized-251“I AM a purist. I swear.” I’m quoting my good friend Michelle Fama, co-owner of Core Pilates NYC, as those were pretty much the exact words I was thinking of using to start this post. I swear! Great minds think alike I guess.

While I can’t speak for Michelle, my reason for swearing I’m a purist is because when it comes to Pilates, that’s how I’ve always seen myself. So when Michelle recently asked me to consult with her on the topic of a new class they offer at their studio, Core 30/30 (similar to a class I teach, Combo Class), I started thinking about the evolution of my teaching and the future of Pilates.

Someone once told me when you are learning something new you first memorize, then imitate those you admire, and finally come into your own. I think I stayed in the imitating world for a while doing everything exactly how I learned it and not really critically thinking. I was worried the Pilates Police (not real in case you were wondering) would come after me if I left out an exercise, or started with leg springs instead of footwork on the reformer.

In time, I began to loosen up a bit. I tend to live in such a black and white world but learned over the years that Pilates is far from black and white. I realized that the Pilates Police weren’t coming after me, and that it’s okay to step out of the box while staying true to the Pilates principles. In reality, in order to survive in this industry, stepping out of the box has become necessary. It’s still something I fight. But we live in a society with lots of choices, constant change, and innovation.

One change I’ve noticed since getting certified in 2003, is the growing number of group apparatus classes being offered. One contribution to this was most likely the economy taking a nose dive in 2007. People needed to come up with creative ways to get and maintain business . There are so many types of classes to choose from whether they be pure Pilates classes or a hybrid of some kind. They range from more classical reformer and tower classes, to jump-board classes that offer cardio, to Pilates Plus type classes.

Is this just a phase or the beginning of something new? Most likely these classes are here to stay. And in another 10 years, I’m sure there will be new trends to talk about in the Pilates world. My guess is even then I’ll still consider myself a purist. While I’m all for making Pilates accessible to people, because at the end of the day I want everyone exercising, I will never compromise myself as a teacher just to be competitive. A bold statement I know, especially considering what I’ve been talking about. But at my core I believe in the classical method.

Trends come and go, but solid teachers are hard to find. So I will continue to do what I can to make my classes fresh and fun, just don’t expect to be jumping from a trampoline onto the reformer and back.

 

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The other day I drove past a DirectTV van and thought, “I can’t wait to get cable again.” But then something strange happened as I quickly found myself thinking, “or do I?” For this to make any sense, I should give you a little history with my relationship to tv. Forever, I was the one people would ask what shows to watch and when they were on. My sister at one point even nicknamed me, TVguide. I couldn’t really take offense to it since it was true. I knew when everything, or almost everything, was on. When I didn’t have anything to do, or if I wanted to procrastinate, tv was my go to. So it’s been a bit of a surprise to people who know me, and to myself, that I’ve gone without cable for over a year now. While I’d like to say it was a conscious choice to cut cable out of my life, that’s not really how it’s gone down, at least not until recently.

After living in a house with cable (over 500 channels) that the landlord paid for, I moved into an apartment with a stranger. She wasn’t willing to split cable, which was fine, and I knew the day I moved in that I wouldn’t last long there, which, I didn’t. So I found a great apartment to live in alone, but I had to make some sacrifices for a while, cable being one of them. To be fair, it’s not that I don’t watch any shows at all. I do watch a bit on my computer as well as on my television, through Hulu Plus. But it’s not the same experience, and because of that I’ve found that there are many shows I can live without. Shows I now consider fillers.

What I’ve come to realize, is without all those filler shows, I have a lot more time on my hands. And with all that time I’ve become much more productive. In the past year I’ve read “Anna Karenina,” “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest,” “Wuthering Heights,” “The Help,” “The Paris Wife,” and “The Glass Castle”.  All books I would recommend by the way. Along with reading I’ve become more productive than I’ve ever been with work. I’ve been able to put more focus into the Pilates teacher training I’m involved with. And probably most importantly I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. One thing being that when I didn’t want to deal, I used to just plop myself on my couch, grab the remote, turn on cable, and turn off my mind.

While the decision of cutting out cable may not have initially been what I wanted, it turned out to be what I needed. Now when I don’t want to deal, I have to because there is nothing to distract me. I used to find comfort in watching hours of tv, and now I feel like I’m wasting my time. Something inside me has shifted. Will I ever get cable again? Probably, but I have a feeling it will be a while. I’m enjoying this sense of accomplishment too much right now. Never in a million years did I think I would choose to not have cable.

 

Running

About 3 years into my teaching career, I was living in Boston, and working at a Pilates studio Every Body Pilates, in Belmont. It was clear to me very early on that my time in Boston was limited. I ended up staying for almost 2 years, mainly because of the owner of Every Body Pilates, Kirstin deFrees. I knew that I could learn from her. Besides being a kind and loving boss and friend, she’s an amazing teacher. I remember thinking “I want to teach like she does one day… with her patience and ability to get clients to do what she asked.” In fact, during a review with Kirstin one of her pieces of advice to me was to make sure when I ask a client to do something, that they actually do it. Make their movement effective.

I have never forgotten what Kirstin told me, and I can pinpoint that time as a turning point in my teaching. I credit her for helping me get to where I am today, a teacher trainer for the Equinox Pilates Institute in Los Angeles. I’m in the position to pass on this invaluable piece of advice, as one of my jobs is to make our trainees effective teachers. If you can learn this tool early on in your teaching, it will make you stand out among the many teachers out there. And your clients will stick with you because they will see results. Anyone can teach, but not everyone has the ability or awareness to teach effectively.

What does being an effective teacher actually mean? To me, it means when asking your client to do something, make sure they are actually doing it. It’s the exact advice given to me 5 years ago. Be present as a teacher, follow through with your instructions, and don’t just go on cruise control. In my opinion, there are layers to learning to teach. First you must memorize the information, then you may imitate those you admire and respect, and finally you’ll take what you’ve learned and come into your own as a teacher. This will happen in stages; however, what you can do from the start is guide your clients with effective cueing. Get them into positions where they don’t have the option to not use their muscles. It’s actually a pretty simple concept: Be Present and Aware. Advice that can also be applied to your life.