The New Year and Resolutions

Happy New Year!!!

Now is the time of year that everyone flocks back to the gym, the personal trainer, the Pilates class, or the yoga studio after weeks, or even months of abandoning the regular “routine”.  At our Pilates studio, we too are jumping on the Resolution bandwagon with the implementation & promotion of “Fit & Fabulous in 50 Days!”, assuming, of course that 50 days would be about the time it takes to make a lifestyle change.  Actually, it’s very easy to resolve to make a change, either by deleting or adding something to our lifestyle, but how easy is it to MAKE the change?

Well, we decided to do a little poking around, and we found a number of sources that stated, and with a great deal of “authority” at that, that it takes 21 to 28 days to change a habit.  By this logic, if all of us can just stick with our new routines, whatever they may be, until January 31 or so, then we’ll have no problem keeping our resolutions until the end of the year.   …Yeah, right!  We all know that it’s not so easy!!

So, we continued to search for other articles about habits, and habit forming, and we came across this one (click here!) We highly suggest that you read it, but this article sites a study in which it took some participants UP TO 245 DAYS to change their habits!!!!  The average was around 66 days.  Well, if 66 is the average, then maybe we’re not too far off with our 50 day plan!

At our studio, because we offer not only Pilates (Pilates mat classes and Pilates Reformer classes, yay!), but also XTEND™, CARDIOLATES®, GYROTONIC®, and ActivCore, we figure we have enough in one location to keep even the most ardent sufferers of ADD satisfied and entertained!  Couple that with the whole idea of muscle confusion that has become popular, and our New Year’s Resolution plan should really kick off the New Year right!!

We’re actually looking for 10-12 people who want to be case studies at our Manhattan Pilates studio!  If you are interested, please send an email to projects@pilatesonfifth.com and please put PILATES NYC in the subject line!!

THANK YOU!!

Katherine & Kimberly

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January 6, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

How to work your abs WITHOUT FLEXING YOUR SPINE!

short plank pilatesAs we wrote in our last blog, when a client asks to “work their abs,” it is very easy to fall into the trap of delivering an hour of flexion exercises.  Hearing our clients squeal “oh I feel my abs” is most gratifying, and as we all know, this result is most quickly achieved when many flexion exercises are performed in succession.

But for the spine’s long term health AND balance of the muscles in the torso, varying spinal movement is absolutely essential.  Additionally, exercises requiring stabilization in neutral add a new dimension of body awareness and abdominal work to a client’s routine.  Not only do such exercise help teach a client where neutral is in their own body, but also trains the muscles in the body to support the body there.

For starters, simple exercise like sitting upright, right on top of the sit bones, on the stability ball can start to bring awareness to the abdominal muscles’ role in holding the spine and pelvis in neutral.  Once this is mastered, practicing alternating lifting and lowering the legs (we call this “marching”) further challenges core strength.

Every piece of equipment, including the mat, includes exercises in neutral, so don’t forget to include them in your clients’ sessions.  The Reformer and Cadillac provide many exercises in which the spine is stabilized in neutral against the movement of the arms and legs.  These exercises can be modified for all levels, so beginning and advanced clients alike can benefit.  The Chair, on the other hand, offers many “neutral” exercises, but given the balance and core strength required for many of them, these exercises may not be the most suitable for the first session (depending on your client’s strength and ability, of course.)

Personally, we LOVE the prone exercises on the chair!  One of our biggest problems to this day is popping ribs, and the prone chair exercises help bring awareness to the muscles we need to use ALWAYS to prevent this from happening.  Because the weight of the legs is unsupported in this series, you can try backing the chair up to the Cadillac (providing your Chair and Cadillac bed are the same height) so that the client’s lower body is fully supported if necessary.  Likewise, side lying exercises on the Cadillac and Barrels are excellent ways to work all four layers of the abdominal muscles while working the legs or arms, depending on the exercise.

In fact, we encourage all readers to challenge themselves to incorporate at least 10 “stabilization in neutral” exercises into all of their sessions this week.  If you have a client with a disc injury (a herniation, etc.), you are surely an old pro at this!  If you have not yet HAD to program this way, staring now when it is “fun” is an excellent way to prepare for the client you will have – one day – who can not flex his/her spine.

June 24, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

ACTIVCORE® cured my neck and shoulder pain

ActivCoreFEX 007When we first started doing ActivCore ® , we couldn’t wait to try every exercise that we could get my hands on.  As dancers, we’re also always first enticed by the exercises for the legs and the core… the upper body exercises have always been a secondary focus.  However, as we began the training and learned more about ActivCore’s amazing ability to get the right muscle to fire in the right amount at the right time, we started wondering if there was any hope for the nagging neck and shoulder pain that we had been silently suffering with off and on for years.  Katherine had lost hope that anything would make her pain go away.  It had actually become so bad that I couldn’t finish the last sip in a tall glass of water without being forced to support the weight of my head in my free hand!!

To our amazement, the secret recipe for completely “fixing” shoulder and neck pain was ActivCore ® … particularly the pull ups and the push ups.  Who knew?!  The first time we tried the pull ups (not being able to do a single pull up on my own), we knew we were using our legs more than our arms, but we LOVED the way it opened my shoulders and how we were so connected through our backs.  Because ActivCore ® allows you to set the difficulty appropriate to your own personal strength level, you really can’t go wrong.  We have all our clients doing their own personal pull ups with the ActivCore Activation Station ® because of its incredible adjustability.

With the push ups, because the ropes are unstable every direction except straight down, we were total wrecks…. both of us on the left side  (for different reasons, we promise!!!  We’re not clones!!!)  Neither of us could really complete one push up without our left arms freaking out and shaking like gangbusters.  We couldn’t keep the rope still!!  ….And that’s when it hit us.  None of the local stabilizers in the left shoulder were firing.  It was like they were on vacation on another planet.  The solution?  Find the setting on the ActivCore Activation Station n® that would allow us to complete four push ups without collapsing or shaking uncontrollably.  Then I repeated three more sets of four, adjusting the height of the ropes or where I was standing so that I could alter the level of support.

In the first week, we probably did the pull up and push up sequence 2 times….. that’s a total of about 32 pull ups and push ups, and both our shoulders and necks felt better after that one week, not to mention that we felt like our posture improved immensely.  (…And we’re not the only ones who’ve said this!  One of our best friends and workout buddies said to us the day after doing one set of pull ups:  “Could it really be possible that my posture is better after only one session????”  The answer:  yes!)

Pull Ups 003Now, we’re completely addicted to the pull ups and push ups!!  Katherine’s neck pain is gone, and I no longer have to hold the back of my head when I’m enjoying my last sip of my favorite beverage.  Kimberly’s rotator cuff pain is gone, too!  We make both push ups and pull ups a mandatory part of our ActivCore ® workout sessions, and as a result we have happier necks and shoulders!!

June 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Tired of your Exercise Routine?? TRY SOMETHING NEW!!!!

stretchAt our Pilates Studio, we hear people complain often about being sick and tired of their workout regime.  There is actually a really easy remedy to this problem:  quit your typical workout regime for  a week or two, and try new things!!  With the beautiful weather comes the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, so why not take a walk, ride a bike, etc?  Better yet, why not try something you’ve never tried before?

Trying new things not only refreshes your mind, but also gives your overworked muscles a break, while introducing movement and stimuli to often dormant muscles.  Moving the body in planes of motion different than what you typically do can reap lots of benefits, including balancing out muscle groups as well as exposing you to a weakness that you may have not known that you had.  With that knowledge, you’ll have something new to target when you return to your regular fitness routine.

You will be amazed with the outcome if you give your mind and body a necessary break.  You’ll come back to your usual Pilates routine refreshed, revived, and invigorated!!

May 28, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Better Posture in One Week with ACTIVCORE!

Pull Ups 003We have been pleasantly surprised with another benefit of ActivCore:  not only does it improve posture, but ActivCore improves posture fast!!!  ActivCore features many exercises for better posture that are fun, challenging, and, of course, core strengthening as well!  We noticed better posture on ourselves after one week, but we largely dismissed it because as Pilates instructors, we work out all the time.  However, after working with our own clients and talking to dozens and dozens of clients at our Pilates studio, (www.pilatesonfifth.com), the results are unanimous:  with ActivCore, posture improves after just one session!!!!

When we were kids and our mother constantly said, “stand up straight!” and “don’t slouch!”, we grew accustomed to thinking that good posture had everything to do with the degree of one’s laziness and very little to do with muscle weakness.  How wrong were we!  (Well, we were kids after all!)  For optimal posture, the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle need to be strong enough to maintain that great posture without your conscious brain having to think about it all the time.  And for us, and dozens of others at the studio, the pull ups in the ActivCore repertoire have been our secret weapon to better posture INSTANTANEOUSLY!!  Who knew??

With ActivCore Pull Ups, you can perform different varieties, and the most striking feature is that you can completely adjust the level of difficulty to your own ability.  Thus, we have eighteen year olds to 70 year olds doing Pull Ups at our ActivCore activation stations, and they all love it!  One of our clients told us yesterday that she is “obsessed” with the ActivCore machines because she’s never been able to work her upper body so effectively.  Another client came to us after her first session and said, “Could one session have made my posture better?”  And the answer is, yes!!!  And with ActivCore, all of us, Pilates instructors and clients alike keep coming back for more because with all the exercises you see results so incredibly quickly.

And for those of you who may not like Pilates because of the coordination required, look no further!!!  ActivCore does all of this without requiring its practitioners to learn any fancy choreography.  The ropes do the trick for you.  Once you start to work with ActivCore, you will see for yourself…. and watch your posture get better and better in the process.

May 14, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates lovers: challenge your core with this core strength test

core_challenge_small2If you’re a Pilates instructor or an avid Pilates practitioner, you most likely think you have a really strong core.  We certainly did!  So we searched the internet for a “core strength test” to prove our power.  What an eye-opener!  The test explained below and the video link provided shows you what we found.

Joseph Pilates did not invent this test, nor did we.  This three minute test was designed by Brian Mackenzie, a British sports conditioning coach.  We have videotaped it so that you don’t have to stare at a clock or a watch the whole time (although watching the second hand slowly make its way around the clock three times does add enhance the enjoyment facor as you can imagine!)  Hopefully our cues for proper positioning will help you out as well.  If you’re at work and can’t watch the video, the “test” proceeds as follows:

Elbow Plank (as pictured) for 1 minute
Lift one arm for 15 seconds
Lift opposite arm for 15 seconds
Lift one leg for 15 seconds
Lift opposite leg for 15 seconds
Lift arm and opposite leg for 15 seconds
Reverse, lifting other arm and opposite leg for 15 seconds
Return to the elbow plank for the final 30 seconds

That’s it!  If you feel your back starting to arch (which those of you who are slightly anteriorly tilted in the pelvs — like us — may find happens), you must bend your knees and rest for a few seconds before continuing.  And for that matter, if you experience any other discomfort, REST!  You have plenty of time to work up to the full three minutes.

One final but very important note:  WE’RE NOT PERFECT!  In fact, given our body types (anteriorly tilted pelvis), this test was extremely challenging, and we could not do the whole thing the first time we tried it.  For instance, in the video, I say “keep your shoulders level” and lamentably, mine are not level, though I am trying!

A strong core has been shown to benefit people in all activities from golfers to runners, from new moms to senior citizens.  Take your time with this test and remember:  core strength is a journey!  Enjoy the journey!

April 22, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Pilates and posture, part one

posture“Stand up straight!”  “Pull your shoulders back!”  “Don’t slouch!”  How many of us heard this as kids?

Good posture conveys self confidence, poise, leadership and many other positive attributes.  But posture is important not only for aesthetics, but also — and most importantly — for proper biomechanics, alignment and weight distribution throughout the body.

This week we will dissect the various aspects of good posture and the most common obstacles to achieving it.  As the spine is the center of the body, we will begin with a description of the spine and a definition of “neutral spine,” which is important for achieving proper posture.

First of all, the spine is comprised of 24 vertebrae that articulate with one another and another nine vertebrae in the sacrum — the bony triangle at the base of the spine with five fused vertebrae — and the tailbone consisting of four fused vertebrae.  The 24 vertebrae which articulate with one another are flexible enough to give us the movement we require to complete our daily functions.

The neck — or cervical spine — contains seven vertebrae and has the most flexibility of any part of the spine.  The rib cage area — or thoracic spine — contains twelve vertebrae and has the least amount of flexibility because of the limitation (and thus the protection) imposed by the ribs.  Finally, the lower back — or lumbar spine — contains five vertebrae with a fairly large degree of flexibility naturally, though many find limitation as they age due to muscle tightness.

Contrary to the common command, “stand up straight!” the spine is not naturally straight!  The spine has three curves which should be maintained for proper biomechanics.  The cervical spine (neck) curves slightly forward, the thoracic spine (rib cage) curves slightly backwards and the lumbar spine (lower back) curves slightly forward again.  These curves give the spine resiliency and aid in the absorption of impact and stress to the body.

Pilates seeks to preserve the natural curves of the spine, which is why you may have heard the terms “neutral spine” and “neutral pelvis” in your Pilates class.  The spine in its neutral alignment facilitates proper breathing, proper functioning of the bodily organs (as nothing is compressed) and as mentioned, proper transfer of weight through the joints.

Want to learn more about good posture?  Check back the rest of the week for more on head placement, pelvic placement and more!

April 17, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 4

golf-pilates-pics-41To complete our series of articles outlining the ideal set-up for the golf swing, we will discuss the importance of shoulder placement.  As with all aspects of alignment, Pilates can help build body awareness and bring attention to bad habits!

Our first article discussed ideal alignment in the set-up, which stated that the shoulder of the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand holds lower on the club.  Because the dominant hand is lower (the right hand in the photo), this sets the spine on a slight tilt to the right, which should be maintained during the back swing.  Thus, from the side, a forward lean, and from the front, a sideways lean, is present.

“One of the most common faults is to have the right shoulder too low at address,” explains Rick.  (See picture below left.)  “This creates a position that forces the arms to dominate the backswing instead of the core muscles, which should be in control.  Also, when the right shoulder is excessively low, the body is not centered, which prevents a sound pivot as the shoulders are unable to turn at 90 degrees to the spine.  The result is a powerless swing which could lead to injury.”

golf-pilates-pics-42 golf-pilates-pics-43

Rick continues, “Less common is a tilt to the left, or to the side of the non-dominant arm.  (See picture above right.)  The elbows of both arms should be loosely bent — not locked — so that the arms have energy in them without being rigid.”  The picture below shows the side view again, from the side of the dominant arm, which you can use to improve your positioning further.

golf-pilates-pics-44To continue improving your body awareness and to strengthen your abs and back more, try Obliques Roll Back, Swimming and “the Banana” from the Side Leg Lift SeriesObliques Roll Back strengthens the spine in rotation and flexion, Swimming targets the muscles of the back and “the Banana” strengthens the obliques and improves lateral flexion.  For simple arm exercises that will help rid the body of excess shoulder tension, try Pilates in Ten — Arms!

“Tis the season for golfing again, so brush up on your golf game and blow the competition away when you hit the green again!  Contact Rick Nielsen at Power Golf Pilates, powergolfpilates.net!

April 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 3

golf-pilates-posture-311Adding on to our week long investigation of the set-up of the golf swing and common problems to avoid, we’ll highlight another common problem and show you how Pilates can help.

PGA certified golf instructor and certified Pilates instructor Rick Nielsen cites “sitting in the set-up” as another habit that essentially kills all hope for a good swing!

As stated in Part 1 of our Golf and Pilates series, in the set-up position, “the knees should be slightly bent…”  So don’t squat!  Sitting in the set-up position displaces the body’s weight backwards, thus the relationship of your body to the ball is altered, as the picture below shows.

golf-pilates-posture-321The exercises we described last time – the Spine Twist, the Spine Stretch Forward and the Saw – are excellent choices here as well, as all three exercises bring awareness to spinal movement and proper posture.  To conquer the sitting habit, try this:

1.    Stand with your back against a stability ball against a wall, so the ball is between you and the wall.  The ball should be placed roughly at your lower back.  Take a step forward with each foot so that your feet are not directly under you.

2.    Inhale, pull in your abdominal muscles and bend your knees to no more than 90 degrees of flexion, keeping the spine perfectly straight.

3.    Exhale, extend your knees to return to the starting position.

You may be thinking, “how will this teach me NOT to sit?”  This exercise helps build awareness of squatting, as most golfers who have the habit of squatting don’t even realize they are doing it!

Did you feel your core muscles engage doing this ball exercise?  Most likely, the answer is yes!  Well, that is because the ball helps you remain vertical when you bend your knees so that your core muscles engage naturally.  When you perform a typical squat, you have no choice but to stick your backside out and lean forward so that you don’t lose your balance.

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “Get on the Ball” Workout for more great ball exercises or “Meet Your Core” for great core strengthening workouts using the BOSU from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 2

power-golf-pilates-1Yesterday we showed you “ideal” alignment in the set-up of the golf swing.  Today, we’ll discuss one of the most common errors that negatively impact the success of the swing:  rounding the shoulders and the spine.

“Most golfers bend from the waist instead of the hip sockets due to lack of body awareness and the inability to physically do it,” says our favorite Golf and Pilates expert Rick Nielsen.  “The hip girdle and spine should be tilted forward about 25 degrees to allow the arms to hang freely and the club to move around the spine in a predictable manner.”

Rick suggests holding a golf club at your back to keep the spine straight before and then leaning forward from the hip socket.  “Of course your entire spine will not stay in contact with the club due to the spine’s natural curves,” says Rick, “but doing this can tell you if you are rounding your spine.”

The below picture shows proper set-up:

power-golf-pilates-2Not only does setting up with rounded shoulders and a rounded spine take the body out of the optimal alignment needed for a good swing, it could also lead to injury.  Rotating the spine abruptly with the spine flexed (rounded) instead of straight is more damaging to the discs and the surrounding musculature.

To build body awareness and strengthen appropriate muscle groups, try the following exercises:

1.    The Spine Twist:  This original Pilates exercise will teach you to keep your hips completely still and just rotate the spine. This will strengthen the deep muscles that stabilize the spine and build awareness of the ribcage and the hips as independently moving parts.

2.    The Spine Stretch Forward:  This original Pilates exercise takes you from a straight spine to a flexed spine and then back to a straight spine again…all using the abdominal muscles instead of gravity!  This is a great choice for those of you who may not know your spine is rounded to begin with!

3.    The Saw:  This original Pilates exercise combines flexion (rounding) of the spine with rotation, building abdominal strength and body awareness.

For all of the above exercises, it may be necessary to sit up on a cushion or pad if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight.  The most important part of these exercises is to perform them from an optimal starting position, which means the spine should be as straight as possible.  It is ok to perform these exercises sitting in a chair as well!  (Hint….you could probably sneak some of these in at work!)

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “My First Pilates Workout” or “Technique and Fundamentals” workout from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1. Leave a comment.

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