All Things Health and Fitness
It has long been my practice to *not* make any New Year’s resolutions. I have found that I only disappoint myself and feel guilty if I can’t keep up with some lofty goal I set for myself during the holidays. Whether it’s losing weight, getting more organized, or “getting in shape,” it seems that most of us start out with good intentions but don’t really have a clear plan on *how* to get to our goal, or what our actual goal is. Not only that but, if we do manage to set our sights on a clear goal, it’s often too far in the future or at least unrealistic to attain in the short term. So we forget. We veer off the path. We get sidetracked. We get frustrated and discouraged. And the next thing we know, it’s December again and we’re starting all over with the resolutions.
So my favorite thing is this: a New Day’s Resolution. Each day, I set a personal goal that can be accomplished that *same day*. Every day is, indeed, a new opportunity to do something good for yourself and for others. If you live in the moment, or at least in the day, you might stop punishing yourself for something you did or didn’t do yesterday or last week. You will free up your mind to do something awesome *today.* Today is all that matters. If you keep doing something awesome each day, pretty soon you’ll develop a good habit. A habit of happiness, or of exercise, or of enjoying nature, or of eating yummy fresh food. Not only that, but you’ll start realizing how much power you have to take action and make a change. Take small steps every day, and then reassess every quarter. Come March 1st, look back over your past three months and I bet you’ll see progress and be that much closer to what you want, or at least to finding what you want and feeling good about yourself.
Here are some examples of small goals.
Set a goal that feels good to you and that seems like it would make you feel good about yourself. Maybe it pertains to an overall larger goal that you had on your mind at New Year’s. Keep it simple, and keep it possible!
As the saying goes, “every day is the first day of the rest of your life.” Start the rest of your life off right. You can do it!
Many people who are unfamiliar with Pilates often ask, “what is Pilates? Isn’t it just a lot of stretching, like Yoga?” Well, they are partially right – but missing oh-such-a-big piece of the puzzle. Pilates is stretching, but with strength and control. Lots of strength, and lots of control. As the saying goes, “if Pilates feels easy, you’re doing it wrong.” Much of the focus of Pilates is on posture and how the entire body works, or not (Pilates can often point out imbalances and areas that need to work better).
As I will say to anyone who will listen, Pilates makes everything better - from running to hiking to horseback riding to carrying in the groceries. Pilates strengthens and trains your body to work from “the center,” or from your trunk – you learn how to use deep abdominal muscles to stabilize and protect your spine against the force of your moving limbs. You learn to control your movement. You become aware of and focused on your alignment and trying to keep things balanced. Sometimes you’re lengthening, sometimes you’re contracting. All of these things apply to real life. Here are just a couple of examples:
Sitting: Ideally, you don’t sit too often, and if you do, you get up frequently to give your shoulders, neck, back, legs and hips a break. But when you are sitting, the first key to sitting properly is to be aware of how you’re sitting in the first place. Where are your shoulders? Where is your head in relation to your shoulders? Where are your feet? What’s your stomach doing (or not doing)? You’ll hear us ask these things constantly in class – and these same questions (and their answers) apply equally in real life. So, next time you’re sitting at your desk, ask yourself the questions above and remember the following – keep your head on top of your neck, above and between your shoulders (not forward, in front of your shoulders); keep your shoulders down “in your back, away from your ears,” and pull in your stomach (draw the navel to the spine). Sometimes, it can help to sit on the edge of your seat instead of collapsing into the back of the seat. And keep both feet on the ground, hip distance apart. Ahhh, that feels better!
Standing: Standing is usually better than sitting, but most of could still use some work here. One thing to watch for when standing is the “lean.” We often lean to one side or the other, sometimes as a result of carrying too much in one hand or putting a bag on one shoulder. This can take conscious effort to change—and, of course, awareness of what’s happening in the first place. Whenever you’re standing, make sure you are standing tall. Visualize that you are growing taller, and that your head is lifting toward the sky. This imagery will help to lengthen the spine. Gently pull your tummy muscles in. Aim to have your ears above your shoulders and your shoulders above your hips. Do these cues sound familiar? If you are carrying more than one bag, distribute the weight across hands as evenly as possible and engage your abdominals. If you have a big box to lift and carry, hold it in front of your chest to keep the weight in the middle of your frame. If you only need one bag, where possible use one that can be put across both shoulders. Try to stand with even weight on each foot. Practice by standing in front of the mirror! Think about it the next time you’re brushing your teeth or standing in line at the store!
So as you go about your weekly Pilates classes, start thinking about how you will apply what you have learned in class. Hear our voices in your head, reminding you to relax your shoulders and pull your abdominals in. Start to visualize yourself sitting and standing better. Check in with yourself often (you’ll find that your body often reminds you to do this with its little aches and pains), and ask yourself how you can sit and stand more like the way you do in class? What can you do to avoid the bad habits in the first place?
This will require persistence, but if you commit to being mindful of your posture and habits during the week and correcting things as you go, your neck, shoulders, back and hips will thank you.
by Laura Melgar
Foam Rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is a technique used by physical therapists, chiropractors and professional athletes. They use it because it provides the user (you!) the ability to control the recovery process by applying pressure in precise locations.
Between poor posture, too many intense workouts without recovery time and other lifestyle factors our bodies learn to compensate for what we throw at them. This leads to imbalances in the body and a misalignment that could eventually lead to an injury. If our muscles are not taken care of properly we can experience loss of flexibility, "knots" and painful movement. When your muscles are tight it can limit range of motion in your body and interfere with proper form.
The deep compression in foam rolling improves circulation by breaking up knots and allowing normal blood flow and function. By applying pressure to specific points you are able to help your muscles recover to healthy, elastic tissue. Your body naturally wants to be healthy and strong but it needs TLC as well as strength training to achieve that.
In our new "Reform and Roll" class we fused together the great benefits of both foam rolling and Pilates techniques. The first half of the class mixes foam rolling techniques and uses the roller as a prop in some Pilates mat exercise challenging your core and balance on a new level. The second half of the class is on the Reformer and tailored to the specific needs of those in attendance. You will find yourself feeling realigned, rejuvenated and acutely in tune with your body.
2016 looks like it’s going to be the year for welcoming new little faces into the Core One family! We’ve got a number of clients and friends who are “mommies-to-be,” and we couldn’t be happier for each and every one of them. It seems like every month we get more news about another “baby on board.” It is such an honor and privilege to be part of each of their journeys on the way to motherhood. In the spirit of celebration of their new chapters in life, let’s talk about Pilates and Pregnancy this month.
Understandably, a lot of anxious mommies-to-be wonder if Pilates is safe for them to do while pregnant. Fortunately, for many women, the answer is yes. As long as you’re doing the work correctly, your instructor is aware of your new situation, and there’s no medical reason or mandate from your doctor telling you not to exercise, then Pilates can be one of the safest and most effective forms of exercise you can do while pregnant. As your doctor will tell you, you’ll just want to be sure not to start anything that’s too intense or that your body isn’t already used to doing.
Here are just several ways Pilates can help during your pregnancy, during labor, and after your baby is born:
It goes without saying that, in addition to the fluctuating hormones, changes in appetite and need for sleep, your body sees lots of physical changes during pregnancy. As the baby grows, the posture changes, the lower back starts to curve and the pelvic region experiences ever-increasing demands. What better time for women to do Pilates, the exercise system that addresses all of these things? And Pilates is not just important during pregnancy; you’ll need strong shoulders, arms, legs and postural muscles to help you keep up with your little one once he/she is born!
Pre- and post-natal Pilates is not about slipping back into a size zero 10 minutes after the birth, although it can certainly help get you on your way. Pilates keeps you toned, moving, focused, clear-headed, and can give you the tools needed to assist with childbirth.
As always, you’ll definitely want to let your doctor know about any exercise you’re doing during pregnancy. It is also very important that you talk to your instructor regarding your particular needs and situation before each workout. Your body changes throughout each trimester, so it makes perfect sense for your workouts to do so too. Our experienced instructors know how to modify the work to suit you during each phase of pregnancy.
We look forward to growing with you all during this journey!
At the studio, we work with lots of successful, talented men and women who, simply put, have a lot on their shoulders. We literally see it in their tight and raised shoulders, necks and backs. In these crazy, busy, overwhelming and over-committed times, it’s easy to get caught up in the race or your to-do list and forget the good things. Everywhere you turn, there’s something else for you to do or live up to. One more errand. One more email to answer. One more Facebook post from your perky, gorgeous acquaintance who has not a care in the world and is still looking fabulous at her 3rd happy hour of the week. All of these things add more pressure to our lives and can lead us down an unhappy and negative road.
So I challenge you this month to turn the tide: stop what you're doing, just once a day, and do something good for yourself. You can think something nice about yourself or your life, you can utter a self affirmation, you can eat a piece of fruit, drink an extra glass of water, or take a Pilates class. It really doesn't matter, as long as it makes you feel good. I think of the mind as a muscle that has to be worked just like the rest of the muscles in our bodies. Muscles, when not developed uniformly or used properly, become injured and sore, and ultimately lead to further trouble down the road. So too is the case with the mind. Happiness and positivity are choices—just like the choice to get fit and work out at the gym -- and must be practiced. If we practice these things just a little each day, next thing we know we’ll have developed a healthy new habit called gratitude!
So each day this month, I want you to take a time out and do something, big or small, that makes you feel good. Then, be proud of it and share it with us on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #OneGoodThing. We'll be giving away a free group Pilates class to those who share the most!
Here’s to a happy and healthy Spring!