Revisiting my Pilates Past

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Do you ever wish you could travel back in time to visit your former Pilates self?

What was it like to learn your Pilates exercises for the first time? What were your struggles back in the day?

It's easy to get out of touch with what it's like to be a new student. However, I find with regular workouts, you can strengthen your empathy and get a good dose of Pilates karma.

(Who else gets busted in your own lessons for stuff you tell people all day long?)

Your clients imagine you're a Pilates superhero: you can do ALL the exercises, ALL the time, perfectly and without breaking a sweat.

I won't tell if you won't…

A Blast from the Past

I took my first Pilates mat class in the fall of 2000. My local studio was Excel Pilates. Anyone in the Washington, DC area, please check them out! They are an amazing group of women who will kick your butt and empower your soul in just under an hour.

#truepilatesrockstars

In mid-2001, I was browsing through my local bookstore (remember those?) and came across a little book from Mari Winsor, The Pilates Workout Journal: An Exercise Diary And Conditioning Guide.

Although I documented my lessons and classes for only a brief shining moment, my notes reveal early insights that make me smile.

My observations range from the obvious –

 

The Teaser: position and strength continue to challenge.

 

–  to the ridiculous –

 

I'm really starting to love the Swan Dive. 

 

Awww…how sweet. Who knew I ever loved that thing?

In a recent post, I shared my #1 Pilates mantra: Learn. To do. The Roll Up.

In my first Pilates classes, I could not Roll Up without my legs flying up in the air and heaving myself forward. The Roll Up is an exercise I dearly love now and thanks to my former Pilates self I had a good plan in place –

 

I just need to do the Roll Up all the time. Any spare moment… just relentlessly practicing it.

 

Repetition anyone?

OMG – Love for exercises I don't like??

Excel Pilates' brand image is an illustration of the Sidebend exercise:

I thought it was a just cool abstract drawing…

Then one day it showed up as an exercise in my Mat class.

Clearly I felt empowered to achieve the exercise that inspired their logo –

 

We learned Sidebend: this is a beautiful and fabulous exercise! It felt great to finally do the Excel logo pose.

 

– albeit my cringe-worthy use of the word ‘pose' for a Pilates exercise.

#rookiemistake

And I'm gonna bet Swimming inspired this comment –

 

Still a bit flaily… but getting better.

 

My early notes also reveal compelling evidence of the Pilates Method as the skill-based movement discipline it is.

The value of the exercises in your very first lesson continues to deliver. And even early on I realize what all this strap and springs business is really about:

 

I need to imagine the resistance of the straps and mentally use this image. This is very powerful to correctly do the exercises.

 

What luck! There's even a blog post on this exact topic many years later.

And perhaps the most heart-warming of all comments I didn't anticipate at all:

I really like all the people I have met doing Pilates.

Awww… I couldn't have said it better myself!

Thanks so much for hanging out with me this week!

What gems from your Pilates past do you remember?

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better
It's no secret I spend considerable time thinking about our beloved Pilates Method.

My favorite aspect of our system is, well, that whole ‘system' thing… I truly enjoy that we have a specific framework in which to workout.

Order! Order!

Our classical system has a specific order of exercises on the Reformer and on the Mat.

Combined with ‘We only have one exercise‘ Joe Pilates has literally built crucial skill-building into his method.

Repetition is truly the mother of all learning.

Pilates as a skill-based exercise regime is more akin to a martial art than it is to traditional fitness.

Like martial arts, Classical Pilates is “deeply rooted in philosophy… and tradition.” But “it [also] teaches discipline, focus, and respect.”

Often the Pilates method is promoted as fitness but it's different.

It is a practice, so you've gotta practice, am I right?

Won't I get bored?

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better
In last week's post I shared one of 2 exercises I'm working on in my current Pilates Proficiency Project: Rolling Back on the Cadillac. Working this exercise each day is bettering my Roll Up skills and creating more proficiency system-wide.

Repeatedly visiting the exercises allows the apparatuses to be our teachers too.

Plus, the Pilates Method is experiential so I invite you to consider starting your own Pilates experiment to find out for yourself:

  1. Choose a small group of exercises
  2. Choose a time frame – 2 weeks, 30 days, etc… (at least 2 weeks tho)

Limit the number of exercises you choose so you can complete them in just a few minutes.

Do your chosen exercises Every. Day.

I've done this experiment here before with my Small Barrel Project and also with my Foot Corrector and 2×4 exercises. If you've got a couple of exercises you really hate but know are good for you – those are the ones to choose!!!

You can decide for yourself if you're bored or if you get better day-by-day at your chosen exercises.

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

You know what? I'm gonna jump in right now.

I've got a trifecta of Ladder Barrel exercises which aren't my favorites and are ripe for just this kind of ‘noble experiment.'

My 3 horrible exercises on the Ladder Barrel:

Side Sit Ups – aaaargh kill me now…

Side Stretch – maybe you know this one as Fish??

Backbend Hanging – probably this one has a bunch of other names as well… it used to be a fave but not sure anymore…

Stay tuned here for next week's post to find out how it's going.

Also If you're not a blog subscriber, click here. You'll receive a new post every Monday and you'll also receive a bonus blog post all about How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate.

You'll see how many exercises I don't like and maybe you even hate them too.

But it's no fun to be a hater…

Won't my clients get bored ??

Serendipity led me to find this image on IG:

Variety social share

Consistency yields big dividends. It's a great feature of our beloved Pilates Method.

If you are consistent, it works. You don't even have to be that great at the exercises.

Just do it.

Joe Pilates takes care of that whole ‘variety' part for us. It's in there.

Joe presents us with the same demands in multiple scenarios all around the studio.

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

Creating consistency in your clients' workout will better their skills, change their bodies and empower their minds.

You become a team!

And while this is not a guarantee that every new client will jump on board with you… you will find your people. There are plenty of clients who are perfect for YOU.

Remember: The exercises stay the same and familiar as your body goes through monumental change.

Check out this recent video collaboration I did with the amazing Lesley Logan.

Thank you for reading!

Check out @Pilatay on IG and cast your vote for Best of Pilates 2019.

If you like what you read here use this link to vote for me as Best Pilates Blog 2019.

Thanks so much!

Learn. To do. The Roll Up. and other Pilates Mantras…

Joe doing the Roll Up on the Mat

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey that is our beloved Pilates Method.

I've been thinking about you and as always, I've got the Pilates exercises at the forefront of my mind.

Where'd you go, Bernadette?!

Thank you so much for all of your sweet emails and comments expressing your love for the blog and your concern that you've not been receiving my once-weekly emails.

There's nothing wrong with your subscription or your inbox.

The short answer is that my surf lessons have absorbed the time in which I would write my weekly posts…

But that's not the whole truth… and as of yet, I've not become a surfing expert…

The real story is I've been experiencing a huge learning curve in my workout and therefore in my teaching as well. I dearly wanted to share this with you but I wasn't sure how best to go about it.

To be frank, my body used to LOVE the Pilates exercises. Every last one of them was a total. Feel. GOOD. Experience.

Since my most recent post in May '18, I've found that my body has grown intolerant of my movement patterns and pointed me with a neon red sign toward my imbalances and compensations.

“So what are you going to do about THAT??!” my body cries.

Don't blame the exercise!

This is an important point at this juncture: there's nothing wrong with the Pilates exercises or my body. After careful thought, movement and consideration, my body is pointing me in the direction of my weakest points and demanding I address them.

And you know how change is not comfortable? I felt reluctant to testify about Pilates with you. The blogposts got started but alas, were never completed…

So thank you, dear readers, for your patience, support, and love. I'm back – I hope a little bit wiser – and completely humbled by our magnificent Method.

Meanwhile…back at the Roll Up

Jay Grimes is straightforward in his direction.

Here's one of my favorites:

Learn.

To do.

The Roll Up.

Pretty simple right?

This. Means.

YOU.

It was a big day in my mat class when I did my first successful Roll Up.

In my first class, I could NOT roll up.

Nope.

I should have stopped right there as my One Leg Circle was not much better…

Fast Forward 18 Years (not a typo)

Now I've done the Roll Up for decades so I am golden. I'm all ready to move beyond the humble Roll Up and onto more exciting stuff…

…like the Neck Pull

Good times.

This is where the journey gets uncomfortable interesting…

With more proficiency comes greater responsibility, my friends!

Don't just get it done… was that a heave-ho in there?

It's called the Roll Up

not the Throw Up.

(also Jay Grimes)

What would it take to REALLY do the Roll Up?

These things take time…

In my very first Pilates Mat class all those years ago at Excel Pilates, I could NOT roll up.

Today the Roll Up is one of my favorites. Now it's time to peel more delicious leaves off the artichoke.

Hard-won exercises can take us to the next level of proficiency over time.

Lately, I've been working hard to perfect a couple of the Roll Up‘s kissing cousins on the Cadillac.

Can you guess?

I know, we're always rolling up or down from somewhere, right?

Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Andrea doing Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Early on in my physical life, I found it “helpful” to compensate for my swayback posture by essentially tucking my pelvis all the time… you can kind of see it in the above photo from January 2018.

And boy do old habits die hard…

Now I know my tucked pelvis was a quick fix for not using my stomach effectively in my Pilates workout.

Rolling Back has helped me to keep lifting everything that sits up on top of the Short Box while my deep scooped belly starts the rolling back part. Rolling Back is even an exercise I like!

I don't have to tell you my Roll Up has gotten so much better (insert mindblown sound effect here)!

Which brings me to my second fantastic exercise on the Cadillac: Push Thru Front. 

Andrea doing Push Thru Front on the Cadillac

This one I have never liked…

I've spent many years not practicing the exercises I don't like. But now at least there's LIFT!

The photo above was taken last month (October 2019).

Here the Cadillac apparatus gives my body parameters which increase the difficulty. Push Thru Front is even more truth serum for my body.

The deep scoop of my belly must take me into that sharp turn of the exercise (right in my weakest spot!) and continue as I push the bar forward. Remember there's no crying in Pilates!

So how's that Roll Up going?

Working to initiate Rolling Back in my low low center has helped my Roll Up become much stronger.

And longer!

These 2 Cadilac exercises have helped me locate that deep-scooped-belly connection in so many of my other exercises. It's no joke how learning to properly roll up and down can strengthen our Pilates workouts.

Since I have been “learning to do the Roll Up” I've increased my proficiency in MANY other exercises:

I have built strength in my Roll Over, Rolling Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Corkscrew, Jackknife, The Short Box, Tree, Short Spine Massage, Swan, Neck Pull, and the list goes on…

When one exercise gets better, they all get better: we only have one exercise!

Thanks so much for reading!

If you like what you read here, join my list below. If you've been a longtime subscriber and you're excited there's a new blog post, lay some love on me in the comments 🙂

Now let's workout! You know you want to…

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

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