Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my Pilates Home Practice Project.

So far in our Project we've met Bill. At 82 he embarks on his Pilates path. Find out more about his workout in part 1.

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

Nearly a year into her regular Pilates lessons, Fran, 60, plans any travel to and from work to include a stop at LauraBPilates Studio at least twice a week.

What does she dig most about her new workout regimen and dedicated ‘me' time?

Find out the answer and learn about Functional Reach in part 3!

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

My esteemed colleague, Nicole Marcione, holds a BS and MS in Gerontology. She's currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC and has graciously shared her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

In today’s post we'll look at Balance and successfully maneuvering around obstacles.

OMG, I think we should all work on this one…

Balance

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Whoa. A big topic.

First some sobering statistics:

1 in 3 adults 65 and older will fall at least once annually.

1 in 2 adults over 85 will fall at least once annually.

Nicole stresses that we must work with our clients “on their balance, not only when they are standing still, but more importantly while they are moving: climbing up and down stairs, stepping up onto a curb or stepping over something in their path.”

Remember Bill?

He felt the benefits of his Pilates exercises and was no longer unsteady when rising from a seated position.

Evidently he felt SO good he stopped doing his exercises.

Oh no…

The balance problems came back.

I do my best not to be the Pilates Police…however he did mention the guilt I have instilled in him when he passes by the room where the mat lives and maintains he “needs to get back to it.”

Bill and his wife both had a fall on the same day.

Walking between 2 parked cars, Bill hit his shin on a tow hitch. He fell, hit his face and scraped himself up pretty well.

His wife, a few years his junior, fell first thing in the morning as she arose, maneuvering around the side of the bed and other furniture.

On a positive note Bill and his wife are making huge dietary changes. They have both lost a significant amount of weight. Bill tells me I will not recognize him when I see him he is so skinny.

To which I replied:

“Wow, think how easy those Pilates exercises will be now!”

I'm confident he'll return to his Pilates exercises, even if it's not until I'm there to crack the whip in person.

Now I have a couple new exercises for him.

Thanks Nicole. 

2×4 Exercises or Calf Raises

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

From Nicole:

“The plantar flexor muscles are the most important for propulsion in walking, so they need to stay strong.”

This one's no joke. Make sure to find your entire body to work this exercise, not just the ankles.

Remember we're defying gravity. And cultivating control.

And keeping our feet supple and strong.

  • Stay tall as you slowly lower the heels. Don't get any shorter!
  • Push down into the balls of the feet to lift the heels up.
  • Repeat 10x.

Standing Pumping on the Wunda Chair

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Why is it always the simple, straightforward exercises that are the most challenging?

Deliberately control the pedal in both directions: you must push it down and you must pick it up.

The pedal should not push you around.

Keep the spring quiet.

  • Use the tall gondola pole for added support if necessary.
  • The spring tension can be graduated for this exercise and increased as the student builds strength and confidence. 
  • I like to use 2 springs on the bottom to find maximum connection. Once that's working well you might work your way toward 1 top + 1 bottom over time.
  • Work to stand evenly on both feet.
  • Nicole points out the importance of “emphasizing the UP part.”

Foot Slides

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7385

Using the kitchen counter or the back of a chair for balance, seniors can practice this versatile exercise just about anywhere.

They'll strengthen their stomach and seat and keep their hips flexible as they find their balance on one leg.

  • Stand facing the Ladder Barrel.
  • Gently hold on the Ladder for support.
  • Slide the foot to the side 10x on each side.
  • Slide the foot to the back 10x on each side.

Step Ups

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7367 IMG_7368

Remember the part about stepping up onto a curb? Or stepping over an obstacle in your path?

This simple exercise is fantastic to reinforce these skills in older adults.

It's a crucial skill for us all.

  • Use the Reformer box or something smaller if needed.
  • Put the box against the wall.
  • The client will face the wall with palms on the wall for support, if needed.
  • Do 20x for each side.

A Delicate Balance

Use one of these simple exercises in your next workout.

You may be surprised to find out how hard they are to do well.

I know I was.

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.
http://pt.usc.edu/nmarcione/ 

How do you work on balance in your own workout?

Share your hot tips in a comment below so we can all try them!

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

When I started my blog a few years ago I dreamed of a world in which all of my loved ones came to cherish our beloved Pilates Method.

I even wrote a post about my dream.

Now nearly 4 years later you've read about my father-in-law, Bill and his commitment to his Pilates Mat exercises.

I further documented his progress in a follow-up post .

In North Carolina with the Fam

I regularly travel to Raleigh to visit my family.

Last November I was thrilled to present my workshop On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises in Raleigh, NC at Laura Browning Grant's beautiful home studio.

My sister, Fran and her best friend Sandy each took a private lesson with me while I was in town.

How lovely.

Fran, Fran, Fo-fan, Banana-fana fo-fan, Fee-fy-mo-man, Fran!

My sister turned 60 last year.

Without a regular exercise routine, she wanted an enjoyable workout which would serve her well going forward.

Fran has a stressful full-time job, she checks in frequently on our aging parents and she's got 3 young grand-daughters that keep her on her toes.

And like me, it's hard for her to sit still.

We share a love for organization, direction, order, precision and excellence. Naturally, I thought she would really take to Pilates.

And it turns out she did. She's been having private lessons twice a week with Laura since December last year.

And I'm super proud.

Unlike Bill who prefers to workout by himself at home, Fran needs the structure of the private lesson in the studio. I keep pushing my YouTube channel at her, but she assures me that working out at home on her own is not gonna happen.

“I like the Hundred!”

Now after 6 months of Pilates Fran is feeling the love – and the results! – from our beloved Pilates Method. 

She has more energy, she sleeps better at night and our mom has noticed a huge change in my sister's posture. We've got a bit of the “slumpy gene.” 

And yes, Fran really likes the Hundred. And all the “ab stuff.”

I should also note that this is the very first time Fran has been able to commit to doing something for herself.

It feels good for her to carve out time for herself in the midst of her demanding job and essentially caring for everybody else.

While catching up via Skype Fran couldn't resist showing me her new muscles: “the guns” and her back muscles.

Woo Hoo!

Now that Pilates has given her shapely arms it is surely time to administer the Kool-aid…

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

Fran is hardly in this age-group, but these concepts and exercises will serve every one of us well in our journey on the Pilates path.

An esteemed colleague of mine, Nicole Marcione, (who holds a BS and MS in Gerontology and is currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC) enabled me to share her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

In today’s post we’ll cover Functional Reach. Stay tuned for more of Nicole’s tips in part 3, Balance in the near future.

Functional Reach

The term ‘functional reach' refers to reaching your arms overhead. Nicole explains that this skill is not even on our radar as younger people.

You probably don't even think twice about putting a dish in the cupboard or storing a box on the top shelf of a closet, but we can lose this skill as we age.

We must help our clients keep their shoulder joint mobile, stable and strongly supported by all the surrounding muscles.

In Pilates we are working on this skill in every exercise.

We all know that our arms start from our backs so we will want to focus on the back-arm connection throughout the entire session.

No prob.

Use the following exercises (as well as countless others) in our beloved Pilates Method to perfect your functional reach.

Arm Springs Lying Down on the Cadillac

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs exercises done lying down are nearly at Scrubbing Bubbles status.

Exercises here include Straight Down, Circles, Triceps and Side Arm.

With the mat behind you for feedback you can feel what's going on in your back muscles.

The support of the Cadillac also encourages clients to use their entire body to execute these “arm” exercises.

Full. Body. Workout.

Arm Series on the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs lying down help us locate our back muscles.

Now the Spine Corrector and Small Barrel will enable us to lift our back and reach it up and over the Barrel.

It's true that for delicate clients the Barrels may present an extreme challenge or even be inappropriate.

Know that you can do the same exercises lying down on the Mat without a Barrel. It's a nice maneuver for myself as well.

Can you also see the very beginning and finishing moments of the Roll Up here?

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

Pedipole

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

Slowly I am understanding that the Pedipole is no joke.

It's the Arm Springs lying down, but SO MUCH more demanding.

It's the Wall on steroids.

Probably not for most of the 80+ crowd, the Pedipole is only for those that can keep their balance.

Another great place to work on the back-arm connection is of course the Arm Chair!

Sitting Side Bend with the Magic Circle

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

Throughout my Pilates career I have underestimated the power of side-bending exercises.

We're all tight in our sides and waist, especially if you are 75+.

Side bending is also a delicious way to stretch up and out of the hips.

The seated pre-cursor to the Side Bend with Magic Circle (in the photo above) is a lovely safe place for your older client.

I love this exercise myself for addressing imbalances.

Use the Magic Circles to find the back muscles and then proceed to the Side Bend.

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

There are great side-bending exercises done kneeling with the Push-thru bar and on the Wunda Chair as well, but keep in mind that not every older adult can kneel.

Thanks for sharing your expertise, Nicole!

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.
http://pt.usc.edu/nmarcione/ 

How do you best serve your older clientele? Have questions?  

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

UPDATE The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82Today I am thrilled to update progress on my Pilates Home Practice Series.

I'm fascinated by the Pilates Method as applied to special populations, in particular the older adult. It is my firm belief that age is not a disability and that our beloved Pilates Method has something in it for every body.

Two individuals of even the same age may be wildly different in their abilities, needs and fitness levels.

The Pilates Home Practice Series will highlight the benefits of a Pilates workout – not to perfect your Teasers or to execute Super Advanced Exercises – but simply to improve your quality of life.

Remember Bill?

My father-in-law has been working on 5 Pilates exercises for a few months now.

There's nothing Bill loves more than a plan of action.

He's decided 4pm is his ideal workout time and he does his exercises at least 3 times every week.

He confessed to me that in one workout he “overdid it” and was really sore for a few days.

My father-in-law is a shining example of a pragmatist. He rested for about a week and then resumed his exercise schedule.

Perfection!

Now nearly 6 months in to his Pilates routine he tells me the exercises are becoming more manageable and his balance is much improved. His wife Shirlene has started using her exercise bike while Bill does his Pilates.

I'm a big fan of teamwork. I hope they enjoy a good pre-Pilates hug too…

A good hug helps the workout immeasurably. I firmly believe it.

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

An esteemed colleague of mine, Nicole Marcione, holds a BS and MS in Gerontology. She's currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC. I am thrilled to be able to share her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

In today's post we'll cover Sit-to-Stand. Stay tuned for posts featuring Nicole's tips on Functional Reach and Balance in the near future.

Sit – to – Stand

What's the #1 reason an individual must move to assisted living or a nursing facility?

Nicole levels with me on this one:

One of the number one reasons a person has to move into assisted living or a nursing facility is because they can no longer stand up from a toilet.

Yep, that's right the toilet.

Most of us stand up after using the toilet multiple times per day and don't give it a second thought. However, a lot of leg strength and balance are required to accomplish this movement.

Core strength, leg strength and stability in general are going to help our clients perform sit-to-stand movements.

But wait. Don't all Pilates exercises do this?

Correct! That's why Pilates is the perfect method of exercise for older adults!

Depending on the age and physical ability of your client Nicole suggests incorporating many different pieces of equipment to perform this skill.

One of Bill's ‘finishing exercises' is simply just this particular skill.

Sit-to-Stand on a regular chair

UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82

From Nicole:

This is not a Pilates exercise, but the client can put all of their Pilates to good use.

Have them sit in a chair and without using their hands or momentum, have them stand up and sit down with control (no flopping down) 10 times.

Bill's original complaint was that upon rising he was unsteady and often dizzy. So at the end of his 5 Mat exercises he works on his Sit-to-Stand.

And although this is technically not a Pilates exercise, think about how we Pilates teachers have students get onto the Reformer or Mat ALL DAY LONG: with control, no hands and no plopping.

Sit-to-Stand is the distillation of a skill we perform in our Pilates workout all the time.

Nicole's go-to Exercises: Core and Leg Strength

Leg Series on the Cadillac

UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82

The Leg Spring Series is a great all-around exercise for strengthening the lower body: trunk, bottom and legs.

It's beautifully safe in its lying down position and you have options here for different levels of fitness: lighter spring, lower placement of the hook, basic exercises and more complicated ones.

Also the height of the Cadillac is perfect for those who may not be able to get onto the floor easily. Mat exercises can certainly be done on the Cadillac for this population.

Footwork on the High Chair or Wunda Chair

UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82

Just look at this one! The High Chair in particular helps to support the older student as they work to strengthen all the muscles of the stomach, back, buttocks and legs.

You can do all of the Footwork positions here which will work nicely to strengthen the feet too. We all need a sturdy foundation!

Seated Pumping exercises done on the Wunda Chair can also challenge your student's upright posture. Springs can be adjusted if necessary, of course.

Wall Squats

UPDATE The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

One of the first ending series we learn is done on the Wall.

The Wall provides support to achieve one of our most human movements, the squat.

Wall exercises are not easy to do well. You can squeeze so much juice out of these simple movements.

I have one older client that has nearly every joint replaced including both of her knees. She too, with the support of the Wall, can get her squat on!

Squats off the Cadillac

An assist into a deeper squat can be achieved by using the Cadillac – and control, of course.

You've got great access to your student here to spot effectively and help them work the stomach and back.

UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82
Many thanks, Nicole.

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California's Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.
http://pt.usc.edu/nmarcione/ 

How do you best serve your older clientele? Have questions?  

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

Reputedly, Joe Pilates was an evangelist of his method.

As an avid practitioner (nerd) of the Pilates Method we cannot help sharing our passion for the work we do. Oh if only our loved ones could embrace the method and reap its benefits as we do…

Recently over the Christmas holiday, we celebrated in Texas with Joe's family.

Joe's father Bill turned 82 on December 23rd.

Bill, at 6ft tall, has a sturdy and solid physique. He's no push-over and I'm often surprised by his firm pat on the back. It nearly knocks me over.

Literally.

Bill has been having some balance issues when he stands up after sitting for a while. He would take a few careening steps to steady himself upon rising. He knows when I visit I regularly do my Mat exercises and this year he had a question for me.

“Are there any exercises that would help to improve my balance?”

Imagine my surprise at such a loaded question. He has no idea that I've got over 500 exercises for just that.

Sure.

I could spare a few for him.

The Pilates Home Practice Project

We would be visiting for about 7 days. I told him we would do 5 Mat exercises plus 2 extra standing ones.

I decided we would start with just 1 exercise and then add an additional one each day. This would help him remember the exercises and also build stamina slowly, a little bit each day, because he hadn't done a physical workout in a couple decades.

In 5 days he'd have 5 exercises plus 2 extra exercises I planned to sneak in on the last days of our visit.

Okay, to get started he would need a mat to use.

Amazon Prime took care of that and the next day I had a mat to use for my workout as well.

Now how did he feel about getting on the floor?

“Not a problem,” he assured me.

Case History

Bill Knight, my father-in-law, is a man of action. We marvel at the speed with which he can send us a package via US Mail. We joke that while on the phone telling us he's sent a package, the doorbell rings and there it is.

We decided his name deserved the honor of being made into a verb.

“Could you Bill Knight that to me please?” Meaning you need it in a hurry.

He was Superintendent of Schools in Mineola, TX for 23 years.

The youngest of 7 of a family of tenant farmers (think Steinbeck), upon his retirement Bill created numerous projects for himself including self-publishing a book about his 3 older brothers that were war heroes. Read more about his book, My Brother Jack here.

So I'm pretty sure the 5 Pilates Mat exercises will not take him down.

He tells me he's had no injuries or issues, he's just stiff. Okay, that sounds great.

And amazing.

Getting onto the floor is not a problem, he says, although it may take him a while. Fine too.

I can see that his low back is tight and he has a bit of a belly.

I want to keep my instructions clear and simple: it's his first time with these exercises and he needs to remember what to do. I promise to write down instructions for what we do.

The plan in action

1. The “Wake up your Muscles” Exercise

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I chose just 1 pre-Pilates exercise for Bill.

Well, it's kind of a 2-in-1 exercise.

In the photo above is part 1. Scroll down for a video except of part 2.

It's a wonderful first exercise for those that have not worked out in a while. I never did hear a name for this exercise, uhm, bridges and curls?

Regardless, it's a great one to wake up your muscles and find out what they can do.

I love it because it is simple and it really pinpoints what muscles we will cultivate and use in all the Pilates exercises. Especially in a program that does not include work on the apparatus (yet?), these 2 skills are illuminating for the student because they can feel the muscles they should be using.

For the teacher, it is a great assessment tool. You can see the body, the back as it is moving and all kinds of stuff will show up in just a few moments. And it's safe and simple.

For the record, this post will include photos of me doing the exercises I chose for Bill.

It is my fervent hope to include photos of Bill doing the exercises as this project continues. However, I didn't want to get all up in his grill on day 1 of Pilates to feed the blog.

I hope you'll understand.

Here's part 2, the curl into the upper stomach from Pilatesology.

2. Bill's first Hundred

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I noticed after watching Bill do the previous exercise that to curl up into the upper stomach was a challenge. As I taught him the Hundred I discovered that keeping his head up did not cause strain in his neck. He said it hurt his stomach and was tiring, but his neck was fine.

For now, he will do the upper body portion of the exercise, but his lower body will remain the same: knees bent and feet on the floor. This will also keep things simple at first.

Note: On the first day I used a pillow between the knees to keep his lower body supported. I made only one correction so far after 2 exercises. His right side is stronger and as he lifted up his hips he would really lean over to the right side and barely be on the left at all. So I decided to tell him. 

The next day he didn't need the pillow anymore and he worked much more symmetrically. 

He also told me he has grit.

Clearly.

3. The One Leg Circle

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

For the One Leg Circle I decided to keep my theme of the ‘base position' as I will call it. The position stays the same just with one leg up to the ceiling. He is catching on already.

“When I move my leg I want to keep this (pointing to the trunk of his body) still right?

Yes. He also remembered the 1st two exercises we did on the previous days.

Should I order the Pilates Nerd T-shirt now?

4. Single Leg Pull

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

We did this one in 2 steps: (1) I had him just do the lower body part. Pull one leg in with the proper hand position and then put it down. Then the other leg. Head down and whatever happened happened. It was not perfect, but he was moving safely and today, sweating.

So far, Bill has been wearing jeans and a button down shirt for his exercises.

The next day he put on a T-shirt to workout. And (2) he did the Single Leg Pull with his head up and his stomach in.

Extra exercise: standing up without using your hands

On Day 4 I added one of the extra exercises I chose for him. It is simply getting up out of a chair without the use of your hands. This is a crucial skill as we age. I started him in a firm chair that sits rather high up.

It's helpful to feel like you push the floor away when standing. That way you'll use the stomach, seat and legs to get you up.

This is vital lower body strength we must cultivate at every age.

To be honest, this exercise I knew he could do easily.

And he did. I believe it's his intention to learn his exercises and then to help his wife to do them too.

This exercise is really for her.

Meanwhile, he can work on standing up without his hands from a lower more challenging chair.

5. Double Leg Pull

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

On day 5 I introduced what I suspected would be the most challenging of the exercises: Double Leg Pull.

You know how I feel about this exercise. It's my mantra!

We did 3. Slowly…

Although he got himself into the most lovely starting position, this exercise was hard for him.

He was really curled up into a ball. We did about 3, and the work of this exercise was exhausting. He fell out after being curled up. I told him to be judicious and only do as many as he could. 1 was great. If you can eventually work up to 3, that's perfect. When 3 feels easy, then do 5.

I preached frequency, not duration.

Extra exercise: The Wall

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I wanted to include the Wall into his routine as it is the perfect exercise for a home practice. Everyone has a wall they can use to finish their workout.

I included 3 exercises at the wall: Circles, Roll Down and Squats (Skiing).

He knew right away they were for his posture.

Stay tuned for more on Bill's Pilates Home Project. 

Share your experience in a comment below.