The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

In last week's post I threw down the gauntlet.

I've given myself a 30-day posture intervention on the Small Barrel.

Today makes 7 days in.

23 more to go…

What I've been doing…

Today's video workout features my 30-day Small Barrel workout. I do my exercises at least 2x each day. I like to do 1 time in the early morning before I start my day and another time later in the evening after work.

I've done my exercises as late as directly before bed.

That's nice too.

What I've noticed so far…

  • I now feel back muscles that run up and down the center of my back. It feels like I've convinced them to work to hold me up better.
  • My back feels fantastic.
  • I've become hyper-aware of how I hold myself in daily activities: when I look into the mirror to apply makeup I have particularly bad head-forward-crunchy-neck-posture…how NOT beautiful.
  • I curl my body up when I sleep. These exercises done first thing in the morning feel amazingly invigorating: such wonderful wake-up exercises!
  • In this video my shoulders are more flexible overhead than I have ever seen in photos of myself. Interested to see how this develops over the next 23 days.

Observations from others…

Body awareness during everyday tasks has been a big eye opener for other Small Barrel Project participants.

How we use our bodies during our daily lives is a big part of our day, right?

And generally we do these slumpy things to ourselves. How nice to have our round apparatus to help us stay upright. Thanks Joe!

Exercises in this video…

Circles (with 1lb. weights)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Up/Down

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hug

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Breathing (with bar)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Change position on Barrel

Circles

The Small Barrel Project: One Week in!

Scissors

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Bicycle

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hip Twist

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Helicopter

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Rolling/Rest

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Enjoy this short workout. 

Join me for 30 days and let's see what happens 🙂

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here's where to find me in 2017

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

For Jacqueline

Hello and welcome to a short video tutorial on my former nemesis exercise: Snake/Twist.

Snake/Twist is truly a Pilates love story complete with drama, false steps, misunderstandings and hot makeup sex.

Three years ago I visited the Snake/Twist as a Pilates Project in one of my most popular posts. Clearly there are many of us who struggle with this bear of an exercise.

So if there's an exercise you just can't stomach right now, persevere!

What's going on here anyhow?

The Snake/Twist is a complex exercise. Joe Pilates threw a little bit of everything into this challenging exercise:

  • It's one-sided.
  • Your orientation on the Reformer is not straightforward. You'll need to find a diagonal line as you approach the carriage.
  • The basic iteration will move through 3 body shapes: Round, Arched and Twist. Later we'll add the one arm version and include a Side Bend as well. OMG, something for everyone.
  • Oh and it's a breathing exercise…

When Joe Pilates was making all the other exercises, he had a few things left over and thought, “Why not?”

In 10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake I mention the order of the Reformer exercises and how I use Corkscrew, the subsequent exercise, as a “Snake recovery system.”

I now realize in my execution of the Snake/Twist I couldn't really keep myself together. Body parts were falling out all over the place. Enter the Corkscrew to fix me all up again.

And that's fine.

I wasn't hurting myself. I just needed to put in my 10,000 hours of Snake/Twist.

Now 3+ years later I am learning how to keep myself together. And what do you know? I need the Snake/Twist so desperately.

Reunited at last!

I'm a bit twisted myself. No worries. Every Twist exercise I despise is just looking out for my best interests. Thanks, Joe.

What Smart Tools Do I Use Today?

Ultimately the best preparation for the Snake/Twist lies in all of your other exercises. Find what speaks to you that you do well and with confidence and you can't go wrong.

Remember your mantra:

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

My favorite Snake/Twist helper exercises:

Up Stretch Combo

The Universal Reformer

This one is a must. Perhaps the most similar to the Snake yet done in a straightforward manner.

Woo hoo!

Make sure to include this one in your workout if you're planning to add the Snake/Twist.

Elephant

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

If you want to return the carriage you'll need our trusty old friend to help. If you're adding the One-Leg Elephant as well, even better.

Swan

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

I find the Swan helpful as I move into the arched position of Snake. It's easy to forget about connecting your feet into the center as you move away from them, opening the carriage.

Sigh…

Swan helps me find length instead of dumping into the low back.

Scissors on the Small Barrel

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

This just in folks: you can open your body from the center instead of riding out too far with the carriage. What?? More on this skill in the video below.

Connection Prep

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Take support from the apparatus to connect all the limbs into your center. Use all 4 springs to hold the carriage in. Now you'll have time to perfect the crucial starting and ending position.

This is great prep. It's safe and effective and could really supplement the exercise for a while.

Step 1

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Getting up into the starting position without moving the carriage is an exercise itself. Part Pull Up on the Wunda Chair and part Elephant, you'll need this skill before you begin the full exercise.

More Snake/Twist, please!

If you're a Pilatesology member, view my Pilates Project on the Snake/Twist here.

If you'd like to become a Pilatesology member I hope you'll use my affiliate link to join. Just click on the Pilatesology banner in the sidebar on the right. Full transparency: please know I do receive a small commission if you sign up via my link.

Check out a free preview of the post via YouTube.

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching! 

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

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Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

This Pilates Project has been a loooong time coming.

I believe the Star has been on my list since I began writing this blog over 3 years ago. And I've been working on the exercise itself for over a decade.

It's one of THOSE exercises. These things take time.

So, here we are.

I'm excited to unearth this project for a couple of reasons:

  • (1) it's a super challenging, one-sided exercise I'm just beginning to wrangle properly, and
  • (2) a colleague of mine, Kati Pylkkänen of Core Sport Pilates Studio, has made the Star on the Reformer one of her workout goals for the new year.

Thanks for enlisting my help, Kati. I shall do my best!

Before digging into our helper exercises, here's a few guidelines I use:

A Star is Born

To be a Star you must radiate outward in all directions.

No prob.

To extend your reach out from the center in all directions, let's think of a more fundamental exercise: the Twist in Stomach Massage Series:

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

All parts of the body are reaching in their respective directions.

Now, you must commit to this idea tenfold when working on the Star. Otherwise, since you are no longer seated, you will sink and fall down.

Awww…frownie face…

To be a Star you must become a master of each side of the body doing its respective workload.

Imbalances may make the Star quite a battle. Persevere, it's good for you!

Your standing leg must work fiercely despite that distracting leg waving around in the air. You must find the support the carriage can provide you and use it to your best advantage.

You must have boatloads of lift!

Remember it is your lift that brings the carriage home.

Especially for the leg-circling-flourish final moment of this exercise (just my fancy name) you must use your lift to keep the carriage closed and to get the most out of your reaching legs.

Relax, Joe Pilates has us well prepared.

Now that we've laid the groundwork, enjoy these helpful exercises.

Become proficient in all of these and your Star is on the rise!

1.  Long Stretch

Pilates Projects: The Star on the ReformerWell before learning the Star you've done the Long Stretch on the Reformer. The 2-sided version of the Star if you will.

Remember the Long Stretch and the Star are both Lower Body Exercises. They are not about your arms and shoulders. Stand on your feet firmly here and use your stomach, seat and reach to move the carriage.

2.  The Order of the Universe

Within the order of the Reformer exercises you already have a few exercises to strengthen and stretch the sides of the body and prepare you for the Star:

  • Side Bend on the Short Box which is our first taste of getting the sides to move and work.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

  • Snake/Twist, a challenging mix of strength + stretch of the sides of the body and here you start to get used to just being on hands and a foot…

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

  • Mermaid is a key exercise to add when working on the Star. It gets everything up and moving in the sides – and perhaps more luxurious than the Star? Enjoy it while you can.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

3+4.  Two Favorites

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

For me success in the Star is all about the Side Kicks Series on the Mat. And it's super fun cousin the Side Kicks Kneeling.

Pilates Projects: The Star on the Reformer

These 2 one-sided exercises present similar scenarios as the Star:

  • each side of the body working independently with one “standing” leg and one working leg
  • the skill of connecting the legs into the center to make this a full body exercise not a leg exercise
  • the movement patterns of front/back, up/down and circles

The challenge of the Side Kick Series is to keep the trunk working. Lying on your side, the back shape is long and lifted, just as though you were sitting upright.

I know, it's easy to fall in to the “loungey” trap in this side-lying position.

“No sexy on the beach!” Romana demanded as we lolled about on our sides.

You can cultivate the lift in the trunk by using your opposition (2-way stretch) away from your long reaching leg.

See, that leg's good for something after all.

You can use other upright exercises, Pumping on the High Chair is a good one with amazing feedback, to find the tall lifted back position with the seat working to elongate the low back.

Same shape, different exercise. I'm sure you've got some favorites of your own as well.

Whatever exercise speaks to you will serve you well. I just mention a few of my favorites.

Which brings me to that old chestnut, the Side Kicks Kneeling.

Joe's upped the ante now. See if all the connections you found in the Side Sicks can work now in your one-sided kneeling position.

Sheesh.

Now we are less connected to the Mat.

Side Kicks Kneeling gives us more of what we'll find in the Star: up on one hand now kneeling, which is closer to our standing side-plank position.

Side Kicks Kneeling challenges our lift. It's easy to get stuck in the hip of the standing (kneeling) leg. Increase your lift in this exercise and it will prepare you for the required lift to close the carriage on the Reformer for Star.

Enjoy some Star inspiration at :43.

Shine brightly, my friends! 

Share your successes in a comment below.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Going up Front on the Wunda Chair – advanced variation with arabesque

Welcome to another installment of one of my favorite series: Pilates Projects.

In the Pilates method, the mastery of a complex exercise can require strategy.

What luck!

We’ve got a whole system of perfect tools for the job.

This time I kick it Romana-style with a Pilates-Projects-we-only-have-one-exercise spin:

If Going Up Front – Joe Pilates style – is not exciting enough for you, press on to the balance on the top of the Wunda Chair that I learned via Romana.

Although Romana Kryzanowska gives us this cadenza, it emerges out of a Joe Pilates staple: a challenging foundational exercise on the High Chair now turned into a 3-act play on the Wunda Chair.

Get ready, cause this one's a doozy.

Read with caution: this blog post might just kill you me.

For me this exercise is super hard and crazy, a balance exercise to defy my imbalances. I chose it specifically for a big challenge and for my own amusement.

I do hope you'll play along.

The Plan:

For each movement of the Going up Front arabesque sequence I've chosen a meat-and-potatoes Pilates exercise to help me get my powerhouse in order.

I'll focus on what I can do efficiently and with confidence rather than lament why my leg can't go very high, why I may fall off the Chair…etc…

Pilates is positive, right? It's up and forward.

Here. We. Go.

I found it very useful to have a “walk thru” of this one standing on the floor sans Chair. Too much thinky-thinky and I could fall to my death…so please embrace the value of a little rehearsal…

Going Up Front

  • One foot on top of the chair and the ball of the other foot on the pedal.
  • Pull the pedal up and down 2 times. Arms are reaching forward.
  • The 3rd time up you'll arrive on top of the chair to balance on one leg.
  • Bend your standing leg and reach further behind you with the other.
  • Bring your leg to the side, then to the front, bringing arms overhead.
  • Bend the free leg and bring your toe to your knee.
  • Rise up onto the ball of your foot.
  • Lower the heel and reach the leg further behind you, bending your standing leg.
  • Replace your foot onto the pedal and push it down.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Ready for the first moment? I found a Reformer exercise that's a great set up.

Control Balance on the Reformer

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Once your foot leaves the pedal of the Wunda Chair you are in exactly the same position as you are in for the landing of Control Balance on the Reformer.

Except NOW you are on top of the Chair.

Even more reason to stand up strong in your powerhouse!

Tinkerbell on Crack

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Your first move after arrival is to bend the standing leg and reach further into your arabesque (bear with me on the fancy words). This is very reminiscent of the Kneeling Knee Stretch one-leg variation called Tinkerbell.

True, your foot is not reaching up toward your head as in the ultimate version of Tinkerbell (please!) but it is reaching long and away with the standing leg bent a la Knee Stretches.

Tendon Stretch – One Leg – Back to Side Variation

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

I know, this one's so easy to pull out of your ass…

Straighten and stand strong on your leg as you bring your leg from the back to the side. You'll need the same muscles and powerhouse you use in the challenging Back to Side variation of the Tendon Stretch.

Hey, look on the bright side: you might be perched atop the Wunda, but here's a help from that old beastie the Tendon Stretch.

Seize the day!

Tree

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Yes, why not?

The Tree is an amazingly useful exercise for all things one-sided. Reach your standing leg into your imaginary straps (like on the Reformer) and lift your back and stomach as you bring your leg from side to front.

Oh yeah, and remember the goal of this balance sequence.

Can you reach your leg to be a teensy bit higher as you come from back to side?

A smidge higher as you go from side to front?

Trust me, the Tree will help.

2×4 Exercise – One Leg (Tendon Stretch)

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Strike a pose as you bring the foot of your outstretched leg to the knee of your standing leg (call it passé if you must) and rise up to the ball of the foot (relevé) on your standing leg.

Push down into the Wunda Chair and pretend it is the 2×4 exercise.

No biggie, right?

And get ready for one more fancy part before we get to do the other side!

Tinkerbell on Crack²

It's hard, yo, be happy you get another crack at it. Aargh…see how I did that?

Now you'll reach strongly behind you for another Kneeling Knee stretch-esque Tinkerbell. It will help you to lower your foot (finally!) and find the pedal.

Wait. It's not over until it's over.

Back on your 2 legs now, lift yourself tall to control the pedal down.

Whew!

I'm gonna trust you'll do both sides.

Prepare yourself

Be safe, kids. Bring a friend for this one for a boost of balance confidence.

Not Junghee Won.

She'll step back and cross her arms: “I'm not gonna catch you.”

Although that is very motivating to not fall off…

“Why bother? It's so hard and I'm not a dancer.”

I have imbalances and this is a hard exercise for me. But let's see – it's been a few years really since I worked consistently on this variation – anything can happen right?

Consistent practice of the Pilates Method = Something wretched gets better.

Not Romana-doing-the-Star (:42) better, but more hey-that-was-okay better.

A Pilates check-in if you will.

Maybe even your Mat exercises will get better!

#pilatespremise

You don't have to be a dancer.

Just do all of these Pilates helper exercises in sequence and you'll look like a dancer.

Well, you'll feel like one. And that's the most important part.

Invincible, remember?

Invigorated!

This is the spirit part of Pilates. Arriba!

Round 1: A bit of a crash and burn…

Well…

I think I need a Pilates Project to help me work on this Pilates Project…

And yes, the helper exercises are doing just that.

I sure do need the help + a healthy side dish of repetition-is the-mother-of-all-learning.

Let's add this after each workout and see what happens in a couple weeks…

Round 2: Several… weeks… later…

How about a little more of that dress rehearsal on the ground?

Build confidence. Find your muscles.

Focus your gaze and breathe.

Now.

Onto the Wunda.

Round 3: Karen Frischmann in the house!

Working on this exercise after my lesson at Vintage, Karen Frischmann had a few suggestions to further strengthen my center for the balance challenge.

Oooh and they all work so well! #karenisthebomb

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionPediPull

Really anything with the arms here. Circles, Centering…

To get the connection of the arms into the center…which I dearly need to ensure I don't take a tumble. #springssohelpful

The center of the Pilates universe? The upper stomach.

A similar exercise on the Pedipull – but kind of in reverse – is the balance on 1 leg taking the other leg front, side and then back…surely this is an awesome helper exercise.

Plus you've got springs!

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionCadillac

The standing single leg springs: not a surprise I left these out.

I cannot be trusted.

I have just started to be able to do them without falling over. This one is most useful for our purposes here: the leg to the back.

Super challenging.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit EditionWunda Chair

There's a tiny moment on the way to the passé (where your foot will come to be placed at the knee of the standing leg) that can be helped by Going up Side.

Just the thought of Going Up Side gets me more connected to my seat at this particular moment in the balance.

Right when I'm sort of anticipating the ending and I need a little boost.

Perfect!

Reformer

Believe it or not, the passé position is reminiscent of the leg position of the Snake/Twist exercise.  So I'm looking forward to trying that one out too.

You've come a long way, Baby, to use Snake/Twist as a helper exercise.

Pilates Projects: The Holy Shit Edition

Well it has been a wild roller coaster of a ride working on this exercise.

I hope you'll enjoy the short video. My client Gail joins me.

She loves this exercise. She's quite amazing. Gail has a great ability to recover her balance even if she has a bit of a bobble. Alas, I cannot always say the same for myself…

It's hard, yo.

Please know that this is captures just one moment on the journey of working on this challenging version of Going Up Front.

Got an idea for a helper exercise?

Share it in a comment below!

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

For Sally

The Tendon Stretch on the Reformer and its MANY variations is a hot topic for Pilates practitioners and teachers. It's an exercise for which I constantly revise my plan of action.

Elusive some days and a glimmer of hope in the next lesson…it's a roller coaster of a ride.

Oh I can get it done and muscle through it of course.

But I've come to understand that the Tendon Stretch is not an upper body exercise. Hmmm…

Shocker!

Just because you've got that footbar in your hot little hands does not make it an arm exercise.

Repeat the previous sentence 3 more times.

Every Day a Little Tendon Stretch

As a super challenging exercise, the Tendon Stretch is a work-in-progress for me. I am happy to share tips and tricks that have been successful in my workouts – and you may find other exercises that speak to you as well.

If you find an exercise to be helpful to find the lower body, the stomach and seat, by all means go for it. You cannot go wrong.

#pilatesproblemsolving

Remember your mantra:

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

The Reformer helper exercises are in order, so as you workout you'll get a few moments to contemplate the Tendon Stretch along the way. A little Pilates foreshadowing…

We'll begin with our old friend the Elephant.

1. The Elephant

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Oh Elephant, is there anything you can't do? ❤️ ❤️

The Elephant gives us the basic shape and action of the Tendon Stretch. The position here is more manageable and open and also less precarious than the Tendon Stretch. Less upside down if you will.

Here you are looking for length in the back of the body which you'll need later on as well.

Use the points of contact you have with the Reformer to your best advantage:

  • Reach to the Footbar like you would reach forward in Mat exercises like the Roll Up and the Spine Stretch.
  • Plant your heels firmly into the carriage.

You'll explore these same connections when you get to the Tendon Stretch.

2. The Elephant with One Leg

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Not to be confused with the exercises known as Arabesques, the Elephant with one leg maintains the same round shape we need in the Tendon Stretch.

This is very important for our purposes here.

Later on, after you're a champ at the Tendon Stretch, feel free to Arabesque all over the place.

This is perhaps the first time in the Reformer sequence that you will work a one-leg variation. Guess when the next one will be?

Remember your premise for using the apparatus in the first place. You get support and assistance whenever and wherever you are connected to the Reformer. Two legs on the carriage? No problem. Take a leg off and it now has to work on its own without much support on one side. This is often challenging.

And if you already know you have a weaker side, it can be VERY challenging.

Relax, if you didn't like a challenge you wouldn't be doing Pilates in the first place and now look you've made it all the way to the Tendon Stretch with one leg. BRA-VO!

3. Stomach Massage Series #1

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

I find the lifted curve of the 1st Stomach Massage exercise to mimic the same Tendon Stretch position you'll soon encounter in the very next exercise – so it's a great time to cram.

Thanks, order of the exercises!

Here you'll use the lift of your back and the feet reaching into the footbar to be able to then recreate these connections upside down (and on one leg) in the Tendon Stretch.

You can maintain the lift better in your Tendon Stretch with the Stomach Massage position in mind. Otherwise I find it easy to just drop over my legs – and although I think I have lift – it's really just gravity.

PS – It feels like Elephant. ?

4. Tree

Pilates Projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Another crazy helpful exercise is the Tree. I like this one for refining all things one-sided. A great Tree goes a long way. If you can do the Tree well, you can do anything!

Look at the photo above of the Tree.

Now compare it to the photo of Tendon Stretch with one leg at the top of this post.

Joe Pilates' favorite pastime: If you can do it right side up, surely you can do it upside down.

The Tree is especially helpful for the Tendon Stretch with the leg to the back. Use your fabulous mind  to mimic the support of the strap on your foot here to gain support for the leg reaching back in the Tendon Stretch.

5. The 2×4 exercises

The Pilates 2×4 exercises can be a wonderful tool to work on connecting the lower extremities into the center. You can work your entire body soundly with these simple, effective and brutal exercises.

Pilates projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon StretchPilates projects: 5 Basics to Tackle the Tendon Stretch

Let's take it vertical.

You can do it plain and you can do it fancy.

Standing in the heels-together-and-toes-apart (V) position we have what is essentially the 4th Footwork exercise also – awkwardly, for my purposes – called the Tendon Stretch.

Lift, control and balance are necessary to ground the feet and ignite the center of the body.

Repetition is the Mother of all Learning

Time.

Time is another component to factor into these challenging exercises. The one-leg variations are an exercise in stamina as well. Steady practice over many years is often necessary.

I have been doing the Tendon Stretch as a regular part of my workout for over a decade.

For many years I am sure, it was quite bad. But you must begin somewhere. Now in my lessons I get really jazzed to get another morsel of clarity – a glimmer of “Oh, it's just like that other exercise!”

Revel in the amount of time you have to traipse along the Pilates Path.

Persevere in your Tendon Stretch on the Reformer and use these 5 exercises to aid you on your noble quest. Know that other exercises may be of a great help as well. Some other helpers that come to my mind include:

  • Pull Up on the Wunda Chair
  • Tendon Stretch on the Wunda Chair
  • Long Back Stretch on the Reformer
  • The Roll Up

…and the beat goes on. La di da di dee…la di da di dah…

Lift my leg, whaaah? 

Yes, a word about transitioning to the one-leg variations:

Here's a video tutorial to work on lifting one leg to the side. Start with the leg to the side variation before adding all the other ones. You should be quite solid and secure in the standard version with 2 legs first.

Share your progress in a comment below 🙂