Katherine and Kimberly Corp on Ella Speakes!

Kimberly and Katherine Corp were guests on the Ella Speakes show on Monday, January 11, 2009.  They spoke about Pilates on Fifth and what is was like to own a small business in 2009, complete with the challenges and opportunities for growth and change that 2009 did provide.  You can find more information about her radio show, which is broadcast in the Oklahoma City area, at this link: http://radiotime.com/program/p_124073/Ella_Speakes.aspx .

Ella is one of the most gracious hosts we’ve worked with, and she generously informed her listeners of not only our studio, Pilates on Fifth, and our Pilates video podcast, but also our Ultimate Pilates Workouts website. We were able to speak in detail about everything our Pilates workouts site has to offer, and especially how to do Pilates correctly as well as Pilates for beginners.  We highlighted Pilates exercise routines such as the Pilates Morning Low Back Care Workout, My First Pilates Workout for Pilates beginners, as well as the Pilates Pink Ribbon workout, for survivors of breast cancer.  We stressed that the sort function on the site allows users to sort not only by duration, but also by LEVEL.  If you’re doing Pilates at home, you can select the level that’s completely right for you!

Finally, we encouraged Ella’s listeners to utilize our podcasts so that they know if they’re doing an exercise correctly.  From our podcasts page, look on the right side of the page for the list of exercises that have been covered.  From there, just look for the name of the exercise that you’d like to review!  It’s really that simple.

Ella was also kind enough to encourage her listeners to send in their testimonials, and even send us “before” pictures so that once you’ve embarked on your Pilates journey, you can follow it up with a fantabulous “after” picture with a story of your Pilates experience!  Feel free to friend us on facebook or send us an email at info@ultimatepilatesworkouts.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Many, many thanks to Ella Speakes for having us on her fabulous show!

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January 12, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1, ACTIVCORE®, Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

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

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

The Tensor Fasciae Latae: new Starbucks drink or important muscle of the hip?

Side Clam and Book PilatesFirst of all, we’re joking!  To hear the correct pronunciation of this important muscle of the hip, click here! The correct pronunciation is fash-ē-ē-lā-tē or fash-ē-ə-lā-tə, not “LATTE” as in the coffee drink!  (But don’t you think it would make a GREAT name for a new coffee concoction?)

WePosterior View of Hip Muscles promise to finish our discussion of the gluteus medius and its importance in ground reaction force, but first, we’ll discuss the cousin of the gluteals, the tensor fasciae latae or “TFL.”  The TFL is part of the “gluteal group” of muscles and literally, the name “tensor fasciae latae” means “tensor of the fascia lata.”  Well, that’s not very helpful now, is it?!  Generally speaking, the muscle originates on the iliac crest and the outer portion of the ASIS and inserts into the iliotibial band (click here to read more.)  The tensor fasciae latae abducts the femur and assists with medial rotation and flexion of the hip.  Also, it stabilizes the pelvis on the head of the femur and through its insertion on the iliotibial band, stabilizes the femur on the tibia.

NAnterior View of Hip Musclesow here’s the catch:  when the thigh abducts, the gluteus medius should fire first and the tensor fasciae latae second.  However, in many cases, the tensor fasciae latae fires before the gluteus medius, which simply means the gluteus medius is not doing its job (more on this later!)  Also, though the tensor fasciae latae assists in medially rotating the femur, it should not be the ONLY medial rotator of the femur!  The adductors, specifically adductors brevis and longus and the upper portion of adductor magnus, assist with medial rotation of the femur yet are grossly underused by most of the population.  (More on the adductors later this week!)

EPosterior View of Gluetus maximus and Gluteus mediusxercise bands, small balls and Pilates rings are excellent ways to target both the abductors and hte adductors in the same workout.  Try “Tighten and Tone“, “Sculpt and Shape“, “Stretch and Strengthen” and the “Small Ball Toning Workout” on www.ultimatepilatesoworkouts.com.  For individual exercises, try Episode 112 “Side Lying Clam and Book” or any of our exercises such as Half Roll Down or Half Roll Down with Obliques squeezing the Pilates Ring or a small ball between your knees.

July 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. 1 comment.

Tips for Tackling the Teaser

teaserThose of you Pilates enthusiasts who know us or who have watched our Pilates workouts also know that the Teaser, given the fact that we have such tight lower backs, was a real zinger for us to master.  While it was possible to accomplish something that looks “Teaser-esque” using sheer momentum, that is hardly Pilates’ version of the Teaser.  A “perfect” Teaser should be executed with control, finesse, methodical in nature every time.  After all, the real secret to the Teaser, besides abdominal strength, is SEQUENCING!!  Getting sequencing correct in the Teaser can be your Golden Ticket to better success with not only this Pilates exercise, but also more enjoyable Pilates workouts from here on end.

Try these ten tips for tackling the Teaser step by step:

1. Rome was not built in a day!!  Spare yourself frustration and don’t try to conquer the Teaser on your first try.

2.  Don’t compare yourself to others…  As we always say, the gods of Pilates are fair!!  Sometimes people with very little experience can just do the teaser because of a very flexible spine, forgiving ratio of torso to leg length, or whatever.  Simply focus on you and your needs!!

3. Work on the Pilates exercises that will help you execute the Teaser a little bit every day.  Even 5 minutes a day will do the trick.  Actually this will be much more effective than working for 20 -25 minutes on the same muscle group, which will simply cause a lot of fatigue.

4. Make sure that you can do the following Pilates exercises to strengthen the upper fibers of the abdominals:  Half Curl, Hundreds, Half Roll Down, Roll Up, Rolling Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker Balance, Open Leg Rocker

5. Make sure that you can do the following Pilates exercises to strengthen the lower fibers of the abdominals and hip flexors:  Scisorss, Double Leg Stretch, Hip Twist, Roll Over, Open Leg Rocker

6. Go through the progressions of the Teaser.  Start with Teaser 1, not Teaser 3 or 4!!  Make sure that you can do each Tier relatively well before challenging yourself with a more difficult progression.

7. For Teaser 1, really work on rolling through the spine and finding the proper place to arrive for the “V” sit.  Remember, you are not directly up on your sits bones!!   For those of you who have difficulty lifting the torso off the mat, using a stretch band around the feet or holding a weighted medicine ball or mini body bar (3-5 pounds is usually more than enough!) will assist you by carrying your weight forward for you.

8. For Teaser 2, try the modifications with only one leg lifted at a time.  Perfect these, and then move on to the both legs lifted version.  Even when you progress to both legs lifted, you can always bend your knees slightly to start just to make the lever a little bit shorter.

9. For Teaser 3, and all teasers really, make sure that you are directing your energy forward to the level of your own knees and not up to the ceiling, for example.  Lifting your chest too high and too soon will typically pull the lower thoracic spine into slight extension, making it very difficult to complete the exercise.

10. Take a private lesson if you can!  Despite the best efforts of Pilates videos and tips, there is no substitute for excellent one on one instruction!!  A skilled Pilates instructor will be able to discern exactly where the weak spots may lie and help you immensely with the Teaser and other Pilates exercises.

Many of our Pilates mat workouts feature The Teaser in all sorts of variations, so enjoy!!

June 4, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com 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.

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.

Simplifying the Saw

saw“The Saw” is one of those Pilates exercises that a lot of people “just don’t get.”  At first glance, it might just look like a hamstring stretch, but it’s actually more complex.  The Saw is a classical Pilates exercise that increases flexibility of the spine and strengthens the core.  The goal of the exercise is to use the abdominal muscles to rotate the spine, then flex the spine over the leg, scooping in the abdominals.  You can also think of it as combining the classical Pilates exercises of Spine Twist and Spine Stretch Forward.  Now, because some flexibility in the hamstrings as well as freedom of movement through the hip flexors is required, you might find it necessary to sit on a small cushion or even in a chair so that it is easier to keep the focus on the spine and the core.  It’s very important to start the exercise with your pelvis in neutral (think vertical) alignment.  First, rotate your ribcage to one direction, feeling like you are growing taller as you rotate.  Then, imagine that you’re trying to round your spine over a beach ball….  You have to lengthen first, then round to try to go over the ball.  The opposite hand reaches to the outside of your foot, as if you were planning to saw off your baby toe.  The other arm naturally rotates so that the thumb faces the floor…. It’s simply more comfortable!!  For a detailed video of how to get the most out of the Saw, visit our Pilates on Fifth podcast at http://pilatesonfifth.com/video/2007/10/03/saw/.  We also feature the Saw in many of our Mat Pilates Workouts at www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com.

April 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Can Pilates help reduce cellulite?

small-ball-toning-workoutThough Pilates was designed to re-align the body and re-balance muscle groups, many people — namely women — use Pilates for vanity!  From sculpted arms to toned abs to tighter hips and buttocks, Pilates definitely helps prepare the body for bikini weather!

But many people seek to “spot tone” and accomplish cellulite reduction in specific areas.  At our New York studio, second only to questions about weight loss, women ask “will my cellulite go away?”  Unfortunately, spot toning is not possible with Pilates or any other exercise system.  Cellulite reduction occurs only with fat loss.

Factors that contribute to one’s susceptibility to cellulite development are gender, race, age and body composition.  Women are more prone to cellulite development than men.  This is due to structural differences in the connective tissue that lie below the skin in men and women.  If you think of connective tissue as fish net stockings lying under the top layer of skin, men have smaller squares per inch in their fish net stockings, and the “netting” is thicker and lies more horizontal to the skin’s surface.  On the other hand, in women, the squares are larger, the netting is thinner and the strands of the netting lie vertical to the skin’s surface.  Thus, more fat breaks through the squares and produces the dimpling effect on the skin’s surface.

Moreover, studies have shown that caucasian women are more susceptible to cellulite development, whereas African American and Asian women are less susceptible.  Just as darker skin tones — those with more melanin — display a stronger resistance to UV rays, so to do darker skin tones show more resistance to cellulite development.  As the levels of melanin, and thus skin tones, can vary greatly among caucasians, an individual’s susceptibility to cellulite development will depend on genetic make-up.  The more an individual tans naturally, the more melanin in their body, and the more resistant to cellulite development they naturally are.  Redheads with blue eyes have the least amount of melanin in their bodies, while African American women with dark eyes have the most.

Next, the natural process of aging causes a decrease in firmness of the skin.  The older one is, the more susceptible they are to cellulite development.  Research indicates that most women start noticing cellulite most after the age of thirty.  This should not be new information to anyone, as wrinkles start to appear “suddenly” after age 30 as well.

Finally, body composition plays a part in cellulite development.  Bodies with a lower body fat percentage will be less susceptible to cellulite because the fat simply is not there!  Increasing your body’s lean mass (or increasing muscle tone) will not only help that percentage, but also increase the body’s metabolism, or capacity to burn more calories, even when the body is at rest.

Pilates helps increase muscle tone, so in a very indirect way, yes, Pilates can help.  But if your goal is to rid yourself of unsightly cellulite, you must do more than Pilates.  Both engaging in cardiovascular activity and consuming a sensible diet are key components that can not be overlooked.  As you know, we recommend CARDIOLATES, but any physical activity that elevates the heart rate is effective.

Losing overall body fat and increasing overall muscle tone will help you lose the unwanted cellulite!  So keep up with your Pilates, take a brisk walk a day and watch what you eat!

April 7, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Distinguishing good pain from bad pain in Pilates

spine-twistAs Pilates instructors, addressing a client’s questions regarding a sensation they are feeling in their body presents a challenge — and a dilemma. Sometimes, a muscle is working, which is “good pain,” but other times, pain is not at all good. So how do we answer?

We would love to be able to enter our clients’ bodies for that instant to evaluate whether the pain is good or bad, but alas, we can not! Thus it is important for Pilates practitioners to learn to distinguish good pain from bad pain.

If you are sitting down reading this, contract your gluteus maximus muscles (the ones you are sitting on) and hold the contraction until you start to feel the muscles tiring. (If you have an injury in your low back, sacrum or hips, please do not do this.) This is typically considered “good pain,” as it is the sensation you get from a muscle working. It is often referred to as “muscle burn.”

For a relatively safe example of bad pain, take your ring finger and gently pull it back towards your wrist until you experience discomfort. In most cases, because this joint does not have a lot of flexibility, you quickly feel discomfort and know instinctively that you should stop.

The difficulty in discerning the good pain from the bad pain in Pilates arises from practitioners experiencing bad pain and thinking it is good pain. They don’t want to give up or complain, so they continue exercising. One of the most common examples of this is neck pain in a Pilates session. Because many Pilates exercises require you to lift your head off the mat, the muscles in your neck must engage as well as the abdominal muscles. Many clients experience muscle fatigue in their necks quickly, and if they do not rest, this can turn into muscle strain.

Learning for yourself what is good pain and bad pain in your body is very important. Feeling your muscles working is normal, but feeling discomfort is not! If you have trouble distinguishing between the two, please discuss this with your Pilates instructor. Also, following a workout, delayed onsent muscle soreness is normal, so feeling sore the next day is not a cause for alarm.

Those of you at home doing workout videos, be careful about turning your head to watch the television while exercising! This is a recipe for neck pain!

April 6, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

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