A few years ago, my friend asked me to try a pilates class with her. We made our child watch reservations and off we went. At the time, I had no idea the impact this decision would have on my life. Our kids enjoyed seeing each other two mornings a week and we got to catch up as we went to class. We rarely missed a class, with the exception of sick kids. Before we began going to class, I was home with the kids and my entire life revolved around their activities (playgroups, story hour, preschool, etc). This was two hours a week for me and it was great!
Eventually, I added a little time on the treadmill. I enjoyed playing music I wouldn’t necessarily listen to with the kids and getting out any stress from the day. It truly became my sanctuary. For however long I was in class or rocking out on the treadmill, the kids were safe; I didn’t have to worry about laundry, cleaning or grocery shopping. It began to release anxiety that I hadn’t even recognized until it was gone. Now, I am much more aware when the anxiety is creeping in and I find the time for a class or even 15 minutes on the treadmill.
For me, exercising outside of the house is key. When I practice yoga, pilates or cardio at home the to-do list is looming; yet if I am out of the house, those tasks aren’t in front of me and I can forget about them for a short period of time. Finding the right activity for you makes such a difference and not just physically but mentally. It helps keep everything in perspective and organize your day. Everyone deserves time to recharge the batteries and be ready for what the day has to offer.
That first pilates class gave me back some sanity and now it is my career. I love that I can share my joy of pilates with new and returning students. My mood lifts every time I walk into class, both as a student and as an instructor. Everyone is different and finds peace of mind in different places. Sometimes it takes trying a variety of activities before settling on one but it is certainly worth it in the long run!
Finding a gym or fitness center can be a daunting task. Everyone is looking for something different. Personally, I enjoy a clean, bright space with nice people. I enjoy chatting before and after class or as I walk through the machines. My family found this at our local YMCA. My husband and I both use the fitness center and our children take swimming lessons. Through our many years of membership we have made new friends and strengthened existing friendships.
Frankly, my husband goes in, uses the equipment and heads home with maybe a few hello’s to the staff. I have made friends with the people I take class with, discovered a group of preschool moms who go over after drop-off and overall had a welcoming experience. It is because I enjoy seeing people I like and feel accountable that I continue to go.
Now, I am a pilates and yoga instructor at the Y and have made new relationships with my students. I love watching people meet and create friendships. There are older women who now get together for lunch or dinner. They are very warm and positive to everyone in class, including their instructor. One woman always has something nice to say. It doesn’t matter who you are, she can come up with a positive statement. It is this positive attitude that has helped her grow new friendships and a sense of belonging in a new town.
It got me thinking. It isn’t hard to have a positive affect on someone. We could all find something nice to say to someone we know or even the person bagging our groceries. Everyone can use a cheerleader. Moving forward, I am going to do my best and be a cheerleader for those around me!
Much like the 100′s in Pilates, the plié is a cornerstone to any dance class. It is found in all styles of dance and works the inner thighs and glutes like few exercises. The plié can be done standing or while lying flat on the floor (or a mat).
Begin standing with the heels together. Allowing the hips to turn-out creating a turn-out of the knees and feet. Gently, lowering the tailbone to the floor while bending the knees towards the toes. Making sure that you can see your big toe inside the knee. Bend until just before the heels want to raise off the floor. Sending energy into the heels, slowly extend the knees, drawing the inner thighs together until you are back in the beginning position.
Through the entire exercise, it is essential to engage the lower abdominal, as if zipping up from the pubic bone to the belly button. From here, supporting the rib cage with your upper abdominal. Continuing to feel the “zipping” up to the sternum. Keeping the shoulders down and relaxed and lengthening through the neck.
You can use the back of a chair to gently rest your hands for better balance. Once you understand the gentle bend of the knees and lengthening of the legs, you can lie down on a towel or mat. Bringing your legs to a 90 degree angle, finding you turn-out with heels together. Keeping the heels together let the feet come towards the tailbone and then extend long towards the ceiling. Keeping the feet flexed as if they are pushing against the floor.
As with any exercise, the more you control your movement the more you will get from the exercise. The more you practice the better it will feel. Once you are comfortable, you can play with rising onto the balls of your feet through the exercise or you can move the feet to just beyond hip-width apart or maybe both.
Enjoy the slimming of the thighs and raising of the glutes with an exercise that can be done anywhere!
If you have ever taken a Pilates class, you have most likely done the 100s. This is a great exercise that can be done anywhere and has modifications that make it great for beginners or advanced students. All you need is a towel, or yoga mat and a few minutes and you will be on your way.
Lying on your back bring your knees into your chest. I like to take a moment here and rock my knees side to side and maybe make small circles with the knees. When you are ready, extend your legs up at a 90 degree angle and extend your arms long at your side. Take the time to feel your spine fully pressing into the floor. If you are a beginner, stay here. As you exhale lengthen your hands towards the end of your mat lifting your head and shoulders to look at your belly button. Continuing to feel your spine from the low part of your shoulder blades to your tail bone pushing into the mat. Begin pulsing your arms up and down – really feeling the strength coming from your shoulders, not letting the arms flop. Through this exercise begin taking 5 short inhales and 5 short exhales to the count of 100.
If you are advanced, you can lower the legs towards the floor. Continuing to engage the abdominals to support the weight of your legs. A few other variations are to place a ball or magic circle between your ankles through the exercise. You can also hold small weighted balls in each hand as you pulse the arms. Personally, I don’t find either modification necessary, but it does mix up the exercise a bit.
The key with any exercise is to listen to your body. See what feels good and what doesn’t. You always want to feel the exercise, but never pain. As a beginner you can always come in and out of the exercise building the strength to do it correctly. It is key to have a strong foundation and you will continue to have better results through any form of exercise.