The Pilates System: A Day in the Life (Now with bonus videos!)

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

Welcome all you amazing Pilates people! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to join me for here for a bit of Pilates Nerdery (a bit?!).

A special welcome to new subscribers – thank you for signing up for the long haul as we traipse along our Pilates Path.

My Morning Go-To Exercises

Today I am fresh off my personal “This is for you” exercises and feeling tall. Funny how our list of exercises we need on a daily basis grows ever longer. Hmmm?

The more you know…

Here's how my list started:

Small Barrel

  • Arm Circles
  • One arm Up/One Arm Down
  • Hug
  • Breathing
  • Leg Circles
  • Scissors
  • Bicycle
  • Shoulder Bridge (when I can remember to do it… weird…)
  • Rolling/Rest

This was my list at the start of my Small Barrel Project 30-Day challenge.

Here's my list today:

Foot Corrector

  • Ball of foot
  • Heel
  • The Massage (oh SUCH a goodie…)
  • Arches
  • Ball on Top with Heel Lifted

Small Barrel

  • Arm Circles
  • One arm Up/One Arm Down
  • Hug
  • Breathing
  • Swan Dive (balanced on top of barrel)
  • Swimming (yeah, same place)
  • Single Leg Pull (low back balanced on top of barrel)
  • Double Leg Pull (same place – if you've not tried these I recommend it…)
  • Leg Circles
  • Walks
  • Beats
  • Scissors
  • Bicycle
  • Shoulder Bridge (ridiculously I still “forget” to do this one if I am not super focused. Weird…)
  • Jay's Exercise (it doesn't really have a name and I learned it from him)
  • Helicopter
  • Hip Twist
  • Teaser (roll up to balance on top of barrel)

High Chair

  • Pumping (if I am not pressed for time or if I feel particularly gimpy…)
  • Going Up Front
  • Going Up Side

Cadillac

  • Standing One Leg Spring (recently added and nearly impossible…)

Whew!

Looks like a ton of exercises, but it only takes about 20 minutes or so to do. Perfectly manageable even on a busy day.

Random Acts of Pilates

The longer one studies and practices the Pilates Method, the more immersed one becomes in its tenets. One's awareness can heighten to the point where every daily mechanical action of living is filtered through our Pilates mind.

I love waiting in line during my day and lifting up my waist to open and stretch my hips. A little bit of secret Pilates on the inside. Perhaps I have said too much…

Conversely, I am more than willing to entertain a Pilates thought when it is delightfully unexpected.

Read my other Random Acts of Pilates posts here and here.

And now for a Random Act of Pilates from the magical Seth Godin:

Beginning is underrated

Merely beginning.

With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.

With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.

Begin. With the humility of someone who's not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it's possible.

Thank you Seth Godin for knowing exactly what I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it.

Beginning.

Beginning each workout.

Just start.

It's everything!

Its a leap to your future self even if you are unsure of who she will be.

The last sentence from Seth is my favorite. Beginning requires humility. So. Does. Pilates.

Beginning is exciting and empowering. Pilates. Every. Time.

Think of the beginning student who lifts the pedal in the Pull Up for the very first time. Perhaps beforehand they even told you it was an impossible request.

But they did it.

Boom.

30 Day challenge anyone?

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

One of the exercises recently added to my morning (and evening) go-to workout is one with which you may not be familiar: Standing One Leg Springs on the (near the) Cadillac.

These exercises (shown in the photo to the back, but also done to the front (across the body) and to the side, were not part of original training programs. They were part of The Work, part of my study with Vintage Pilates and Jay Grimes.

And boy are they a doozy for a little crooked person like myself. Perhaps twisted is a better descriptor for me ha ha…

Bottom line is I cannot be trusted to complete these few exercises daily as I am not a huge fan of them… yet!

Although if you'll remember one of our Pilates mantras…

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

Well yes, this is a favorite – but the one I need right now is another oldie but goodie…

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

Or in my case, What I don't like I will do twice 30 times!

Sounds about right.

So in the spirit of ‘Make your apparatus your Teacher' I propose a 30-Day challenge on the Standing One Leg Spring exercises.

And with you, dear readers I know I will be held accountable.

As usual it's a challenge for myself and anyone else who'd like to join in the FUN, shall we say?

Don't worry.

Maybe these Standing One Leg Spring exercises are new to you or perhaps you've never even heard of them? I smell a long overdue video tutorial to help us on our challenge.

It's a date!

This week's COLLAB video with Lesley Logan

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

Lately I've been thoroughly enjoying my YouTube collab with my Los Angeles colleague, and owner of Profitable Pilates, Lesley Logan.

Do you subscribe to my YouTube channel? Become a subscriber today and never miss my weekly videos.

In this week's collab we look at the Mermaid exercises all around the studio.

Check it out and thanks for watching!

And find Lesley's video on the Mermaids here.

Lesley takes a look at the Mermaids done on the Wunda Chair.

View her tips on the exercises and then have a go at my new Wunda Chair workout. Be careful – this one's a wild ride… you won't want to miss the moment where I fall off the chair!

The struggle is REAL…

Also kudos to my sister, Fran, for making the blog this week! She's in the featured image for this post, above.

Nice looking Stomach Massage, yes?

Look at her all decked out in her nerd gear as well… #soproud

Coming Up on the Blog

Recently on Social Media there has been much discussion and interest in the concept of the 2-way stretch we use in the Pilates Method.

It's one of my favorite topics and can be such a boon to your teaching and practice.

Stay tuned for another in-depth post in which I'll dissect the opposing reaches of the body and illustrate how they can deepen our connection to the center, to our powerhouse.

If you've got questions about the origins and/or implementation of the 2-way stretch leave me comment below or contact me via email.

Hello Hong Kong!

I am super excited about my upcoming trip to Hong Kong. I'll be teaching many of my favorite workshops as well as lessons and classes. You know how much I adore the Reformer

I hope you'll join me at Flex Studio in March 9-12. Teachers and clients are all welcome!

Workshops will include a Reformer workshop based on my most-viewed posts On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises and Transitions! Transitions!, a Mat workshop based on the posts On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and Transitions on the Mat plus 7 Spot-On Quotes to Keep you Honest and The 3 pilates Barrels.

Register here.

And here's a few more places you'll find me in 2018.

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 3

The Pilates System: Rowing on the Reformer, Part 3

Thanks again to the lovely Lesley Logan for collaborating with me on this YouTube video series.

We've taken a closer look at the 6 exercises which make up the Rowing Series on the Reformer.

If you've missed the previous 2 posts in this series, you can view them here and here.

The 6 Rowing Series exercises as they appear in the order of the Pilates Reformer exercises are:

  • Rowing 1: Into the Sternum
  • Rowing 2: 90° 
  • Rowing 3: From the Chest
  • Rowing 4: From the Hip
  • Rowing 5: Shave
  • Rowing 6: Hug

So for this week's video collab we'll look at the first 2 exercises in our Rowing Series.

Woo hoo! #finalinstallment

Rowing 1: Into the Sternum

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 3

As a Pilates practitioner, I find once you learn the 6 Rowing exercises you never want to leave them out. They are not easy by any means, but nevertheless, beloved.

Often we get sidetracked in these two exercises when it comes to the last moment of returning the carriage. Check yourself the next time you workout:

Does the carriage bang home as you finish each repetition?

At any point?

If so, report to your stomach immediately.

So many different moments in these 1st two Rowing exercises. Aren't you glad we learn them last?

Here's the breakdown:

  • Sit up tall just like when you sit on the Short Box. The carriage is closed. The straps are tight when arms are in the starting position.
  • Lift and scoop in to arrive at a Round position.
  • Hold your shape as you reach arms out to the sides.
  • Scoop more to reach the head toward the knees and the hands behind you at the TAILBONE!
  • I cannot say it enough. take the arms straight and low to the TAILBONE.
  • Lift your back and arms and close the carriage as you reach toward your toes.
  • Sit up tall again at the finish.
  • Repeat 3x

Wow. That's a sh*t ton of bullet points…

And here's a hot tip:

If your Reformer has wooden handles, you can use them to your advantage.

Moi ha ha haaaa… (evil laughter)

Connect the heel of your hand to press into the wooden handles at all times during the exercise. It will help to use the center more and the arms and shoulders less.

You may notice moments of connection. Also notice moments of disconnection (when your hand does not easily connect into the handle).

Just notice…

Rowing 2: 90 Degrees

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 3

For our second Rowing exercise you can forget all the set up rules for our first exercise Into the Sternum

You'll need to find your back position and the upper body 90° position first. Most likely the carriage will not be completely closed at the start of the exercise.

And that's just fine.

Here we go:

  • Lift up your back and push upward on the handle (Forget that the exercise choreography dictates you go backward and down – on the inside lift up and forward.
  • Lift yourself to tip back as much as you can return.
  • Reach up on a high diagonal as the carriage closes. Scoop like mad to not bang the carriage.
  • Flip handles and reach down along the frame of the Reformer with straight arms.
  • I cannot say it enough. take the arms straight and low to the TAILBONE.
  • Lift your back and arms and close the carriage as you reach toward your toes.
  • Sit up tall again at the finish.
  • Repeat 3x

Enjoy this short tutorial collaboration.

Thanks for watching!

Got a favorite Rowing exercise? Or one that vexes you?

Lemme hear it in a comment below!

And here's where to find me in 2018

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 2

The Pilates System: Rowing on the Reformer, Part 2

Thanks again to the lovely Lesley Logan for collaborating with me on this YouTube video series.

If you missed last week's post – the first installation of this series – you can view it here.

Over the course of 3 posts we'll take a closer look at the 6 exercises which make up the Rowing Series on the Reformer:

The 6 Rowing Series exercises as they appear in the order of the Pilates Reformer exercises:

  • Rowing 1: Into the Sternum
  • Rowing 2: 90° 
  • Rowing 3: From the Chest
  • Rowing 4: From the Hip
  • Rowing 5: Shave
  • Rowing 6: Hug

So for this week's video collab we'll look at the middle 2 exercises in our Rowing Series.

Rowing 3: From the Chest

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 2

I find this Rowing exercise – From the Chest – to be a choice nugget of Pilates goodness.

It's just so perfect.

The support you receive from the straps helps to lift your tall back up and forward. And next there's a brilliant moment where the support of the straps goes away and yet you must maintain your lift!

Twice. Twice this moment happens!

Our first moments of (albeit supported) Reach!

Let's unpack it:

  • Sit tall.
  • Reach arms straight out to eye level. Imagine the lower back lifts and follows the trajectory of your fingertips.
  • Keep the lift and reach into the handles toward the carriage, forward and down.
  • Lift the lower back and reach forward continuing arms all the way up overhead.
  • Pause.
  • Lift your chest and gaze. Lift your whole-self. This is the raison d'être of this exercise!
  • Keep the lift of the back and reach fingertips side to side in your periphery with control.
  • Repeat 3x.

Rowing 4: From the Hip

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 2

Rowing 3+4 just may be my favorites of the Rowing Series. Keep a long lifted body as you reach first toward your heels and then forward and all the way up to the same finish as Rowing 3.

Challenge yourself further by holding the carriage still on your journey to the upright position.

Enjoy!

  • Sit tall with hands on the mat beside you.
  • Lift and round over the lower body as you reach your fingertips along the mat and forward.
  • Reach below your heels if possible.
  • And now for a wonderful moment of foreshadowing. Use your reach a là Swan on the Barrel and bring the entire torso upright with arms overhead.
  • Pause. Keep the lift and S-L-O-W-L-Y reach fingertips side-to-side in your periphery. Don't rush this moment!
  • Repeat 3x.

Enjoy this short tutorial collaboration.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna see more video collabs like this one?

Suggest your favorite exercises in a comment below!

And here's where to find me in 2018

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

Thanks again to the lovely Lesley Logan for collaborating with me on this YouTube video series.

Over the course of 3 posts we'll take a closer look at the 6 exercises which make up the Rowing Series on the Reformer:

The 6 Rowing Series exercises as they appear in the order of the Pilates Reformer exercises:

  • Rowing 1: Into the Sternum
  • Rowing 2: 90° 
  • Rowing 3: From the Chest
  • Rowing 4: From the Hip
  • Rowing 5: Shave
  • Rowing 6: Hug

Generally we learn our Rowing exercises in the reverse order, sometimes in pairs. You might learn only Rowing 5+6 at first.

Or maybe you'll learn Rowing 3-6 and do them for a while before adding Rowing 1+2.

Looking at the demands and complexities of the Rowing exercises, Rowing 5+6 – while not a walk in the park – are the most straightforward of the 6 exercises: the back shape remains the same throughout the entire exercise and you have only one movement pattern to learn.

In Rowing 3+4 there are multiple moves per repetition and Rowing 4 includes both a Round back and a Tall back.

Rowing 1+2 have more complex choreography, more than one back shape and more coordination is required to close the carriage with control.

So for this week's video collab we'll look at the last 2 exercises in our Rowing Series.

Rowing 5: Shave

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

The Shave is perhaps my least favorite of the Rowing exercises. Keeping a long and lifted back shape is a challenge for those of us with tight upper backs and shoulders. Here's a few tips to help us love our Shave exercises:

Get a jump on it in the Transition!

  • Keep arms long and flip your handles.
  • Reach arms down and forward with the palms up. As the arms get overhead turn palms to face downward and bring the thumbs together and the forefingers together.
  • Bring arms straight overhead and bend into the starting position.

Now for the exercise!

  • Place hands at the base of the skull if possible with the palms facing back of head.
  • Find your scoop and your seat and reach arms straight upward on a slight diagonal.
  • Bring fingertips together. Press them firmly against each other.
  • Resist the spring as the hands return to the starting position, elbows reach out to the side.
  • Repeat.

Bonne chance!

Rowing 6: Hug

The Pilates System: Rowing Series on the Reformer, Part 1

Recently the Hug has become one of the most challenging exercises. It's not easy being tall and lifted! Again you'll get a jump on your Tall back with an efficient transition.

  • In the midst of your last repetition – with arms overhead – open arms into the Hug position keeping your back tall.
  • Pull your stomach in to move the carriage.
  • Sit up super tall and S-L-O-W-L-Y reach the arms open.
  • The handles should be vertical. Notice if your pinky finger doesn't want to touch the handle. Insist that it does!
  • Repeat.

Enjoy this short tutorial collaboration.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna see more video collabs like this one?

Suggest your favorite exercises in a comment below!

And here's where to find me in 2018

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

For Isabel

photo courtesy of Jack Coble and Pilatesology

Hello and welcome to this week's Pilates Project!

I'm in love with all-things-hanging-upside-down on the Cadillac.

So I can't believe I haven't already featured this exercise, the Hanging Pull Ups, in a previous post. Nor have I mentioned the iconic finishing sequence in which it appears – the Traditional Ending.

The Traditional Ending on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Working steadily on your Cadillac exercises, over time you will learn a challenging little series of exercises as a finish for your workout.

The Traditional Ending is comprised of 5 exercises:

  • Breathing
  • Spread Eagle (above in photo)
  • Pull Ups
  • Hanging Pull Ups
  • Half Hang/Full Hang

You also have the option for an embellishment in the midst of your Hanging Pull Ups, the Twist Pull Ups. Of course! More on this thrilling variation in the video at the end of this post.

The Traditional Ending is a wonderful opportunity to play, cavort and challenge ourselves within the spacious canopy of the apparatus.

While we're having fun we'll also perfect a fundamental skill in the Pilates system: the connection of the arms and upper body into the larger muscles of the back.

Connecting the Upper Body into the Back

If you're ready to tackle the Hanging Pull Ups and the Traditional Ending you're no stranger to using your back muscles to support and power the movement of the upper body.

By now you've used this skill successfully in exercises like the Hundred, Arm Springs Lying Down and Chest Expansion on the Cadillac and Arm Circles and the Rowing series done on the Arm Chair to name just a few.

The major difference between the above exercises I mention and the Hanging Pull Ups is now you must support your entire body hanging in space.

Which means (1) this is not merely an arm exercise, and (2) oh gosh, we must use our lower body too.

Hello full body exercise!

What's to be done?

Step 1: The Order of the Universe

Work on all your other exercises… of course.

Step 2: I Pilates Projects

Let's look at some helper exercises for our Hanging Pull Ups. Later we'll examine the entire Traditional Ending series for more challenge assistance.

I've chosen 5 exercises which speak to me. Give them a try and see what you think.

If you find additional exercises which serve you – great! Please share your successes here in a comment and let me know what exercises work their magic.

1. Arm Springs Lying Down

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

This exercise is the very first ‘arm springs' exercise we learn.

Our entire body is supported and we can feel our back muscles on the mat behind us. The spring is sufficient to coax our entire body into doing the exercise.

This is not your ordinary arm exercise.

Using the position shown in the photo above, press the feet into the mat to enliven the lower body. It's usually the part of the body that is just lying there which must do all the heavy work.

Consider the Arm Springs Lying Down from a different POV:

When we push on a spring in Pilates we must lift our center in the opposite direction. Consider this exercise to be more of a back exercise than an arm/shoulder exercise.

If you were standing up, the Arm Springs Lying Down would become Chest Expansion.

2. Teaser (part 1) on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

The very first moments of this exercise are chock full of connective goodness!

Again you have the feedback of the mat behind you. Plus you now have the unwieldy Push Thru bar which must be controlled.

A-ha! The plot thickens…

Learning to move and control the Push Thru bar here will reward you majorly in all your other exercises.

  • Use the heel of the hand to connect and resist the bar as it comes toward you.
  • Control the bar as it begins to change direction.
  • When the arms reach upward connect to the back muscles to move the bar with the center instead of the shoulders.
  • Repeat up to 3x. And then of course, Teaser!

Now you're ready to connect your upper body into the back without being on the mat.

Brilliant!

3. The Rowing Series on the Arm Chair

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Here on the Arm Chair you'll have the exact same feedback from the apparatus, this time sitting up instead of lying down. See how you do.

If you've not experienced the four Rowing exercises here you're in for a real treat.

Rowing exercises on the Arm Chair:

  • Rowing 3 – From the Chest
  • Rowing 4 – From the Hip (above in photo)
  • Rowing 5 – Shave
  • Rowing 6 – Hug

The Arm Chair provides valuable information to take with you for your Reformer Rowing series. You'll find the connection and feedback from the chair to reinforce your tall back position wherever you are tall and away from the support of the apparatus.

4. Rolling Back (with eyes on the prize…)

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Occasionally there's an exercise with mass appeal.

I find Rolling Back on the Cadillac to be just such an exercise. No matter what the quality of the students' rolling up skills, everyone benefits from and enjoys this exercise.

It's often a nice segue from outside the studio into the workout.

Here we can begin to work on the lower body component of our Hanging Pull Ups.

  • Reach your lower body and heels against the upright poles of the Cadillac. Use your willpower. Really make it happen.
  • With all of your body supported by the apparatus, hone your focus to find your back, stomach and seat.

Think of this support as a help to our next lower body exercise, the Short Box Series.

5. The Short Box Series

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Practicing this meat-and-potatoes exercise can have a focus which will support our Pilates Project.

Forget about all the beautiful choreography happening in the upper body.

Just for a moment.

  • Commit to finding the lower body in this series to root the body and power your amazing Short Box skills.
  • Work the strap reaching the heels underneath and keeping it oppressively tight around the ankles.

You no longer have the luxury of pressing your heels into the apparatus.

Remember our other helper exercise, Rolling Back. Imagine the support and information you received and focus today on the lower body work in our Short Box Series.

See what happens. You might even surprise yourself.

The Traditional Ending on the Cadillac

Pilates Projects: Hanging Pull Ups on the Cadillac

Let's take a look here at one of my favorite components of the Pilates Method: the Order of the Universe.

Even our order of exercises is a help for our Hanging Pull Ups!

Our first exercise is Breathing, also an effective helper exercise and a great start to support all of our body weight in space.

  • Keep everything in a strong line.
  • Reaching the lower body long toward your big toes.
  • Find your skills from your Arm Springs Lying Down: move the bar toward you and connect into the back.
  • Work this exercise well and enjoy this invigorating finishing sequence!

Thanks for watching!

What are your favorite exercises to work on the Hanging Pull Ups? 

Share your success in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2018.