Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

About last week…

In last week's post, I challenged you to visit a few of your nastiest exercises. Did you get bored with them? Or did you get better at them? How did it go?

I'd love to know.

TBH, I decided on my 3 exercises quickly but only managed to visit them a few times… sign me up for another week.

So far I am neither bored nor better.

My 3 exercises to continue to wrangle:

Ladder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercises

Side Sit Ups, Side Stretch, and the Backbend.

Clearly I need to hear Joe Pilates' words again:

“Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you in keeping faith with yourself.

So I'll keep the faith at full speed for another week at least. How'd you do with your exercises?

Meanwhile…

Jump into a new series with me this week!

Nearly 2 decades into this amazing method, I'm finally (mostly) ready to tackle the-most-basic of all basics: Footwork on the Reformer.

Let's. Go.

Footwork at a Glance

In the traditional Pilates system 4 exercises begin our Reformer workout:

  1. Toes – the official name, but dare I say, Balls
  2. Arches
  3. Heels
  4. Tendon Stretch

For the record, I've never been a fan.

Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis, one of my first teachers, used Footwork as her go-to workout on busy days. Not all the exercises on the Reformer, there was no time. 

JUST the Footwork.

She loved it.

Ugh.

Why subject yourself to such torture?

Even my most horrible Mat exercises would be more fun than Footwork on the Reformer all by itself.

#FootworkProbs

At first, I found the Footwork exercises to be frustrating. So much focus on the minutiae of my misbehaving foot, arch and ankle was such a drag. Not to mention I had the quads of 10 men… *sigh*

Can't we just move on to the Hundred and all the fun stuff?

What's really going on here?

I need an attitude adjustment…

Let's Zoom Out

Jay Grimes and Vintage Pilates (and time) have liberated my Footwork series.

I'm more than just a pretty pair of feet…

Joe Pilates was often asked, “What is this exercise for?”

“The BODY.”

Good answer! Thanks, Joe.

Footwork is your first big warmup of the lower body.

Footwork on the Reformer

The Hundred continues this theme of warming up, now for the upper body.

100 on the Reformer

What a pair!

#fullbodyworkout

Mobilizing and lengthening the back is more vital than perfect legs, feet, and ankles – at the moment. 

These things take time.

Most importantly MOVING through this series plucks you out of your busy mind and into laser focus: controlling your body. You may even sort yourself out on your way to the Tendon Stretch.

Joe Pilates has your back on this one.

Literally.

Can you be long, tall and straight like the Reformer behind you? Nope, but it's the trying that counts.

The Footwork series is a great place to take full advantage of your most supportive friend, your partner in crime, the Reformer.

Ready? Set? Footwork!

A whole Pilates studio of apparatus lies in wait to exploit your Footwork skills. Surely all of our 500+ exercises in the Pilates Method will benefit.

Footwork on the Reformer is the very first skill to haunt you (perhaps even taunt you) on every apparatus you visit.

Footwork on the Reformer

It's your very first squat!

Joe Pilates takes it easy on you at first. You are horizontal, fully supported by the apparatus and free from pesky gravity.

Check out these Pilates morsels! See if you can find their inner Footwork

Frog on the Reformer

Frog, in many iterations and on multiple apparatuses, is the ultimate Footwork clone.

Pumping on the High Chair

Pumping on the High Chair puts our Footwork (and our Frog) upright. I find changing the relationship to gravity can be a huge help in honing our Footwork skills.

Centering on the Ped-o-Pull

Focusing on your inner Footwork can make even grueling exercises on the Ped-o-Pul possible. In the photo, I am using a bit of Footwork to help with my Centering exercise.

Wow! The scope of the Footwork exercises makes it a whole lot more fun.

Now for something completely different (NOT)

Our Footwork series also provides a strong foundation in formidable exercises:

Greg Swan on Barrel

Swan done on the Ladder Barrel puts the strength of your Footwork to the test.

Headstand 2 on the Reformer

OMG it's a moment of Tendon Stretch from our Footwork series smack dab in the middle of the Headstand! An old familiar friend despite the challenging position…

Tower on the Cadillac

And you can clearly see some Footwork skills in my personal nemesis, Tower on the Cadillac. Thanks, Joe Pilates, someday I will learn!

Lights! Camera! Footwork?!

Joe Pilates starts you off right away with the fundamental skill of the Footwork series.

Visit your Footwork and all your fundamental Reformer exercises in these videos:

Use the first one for a detailed deliberate pace and the one below for the same group of exercises done at a brisk pace:

Need help finding your bottom and actually using it in your Footwork series?

Check out this video as well:

Have an amazing Pilates week. You got this.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Last year I weighed in on a few crucial skills we learn in our very first Pilates lesson.

Turns out our first lesson is jam-packed with key intel to serve us on our Pilates journey.

As I progress toward Day 30 of my Small Barrel Project (today is Day 28!) I can add 2 more fundamental exercises to our skill set.

Pilates is straightforward and simple in many respects. Even in our first few lessons Joe Pilates introduces us to all the tools we'll need as an advanced practitioner.

The first of today's fundamental exercises is one I've had to refine and relearn repeatedly in my workout. Perhaps I've finally got it this time…

1. Frog

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

With a lazy bum and overworking legs the Frog is a continual challenge for me.

We learn Frog early on in our Pilates life. It's the first and foremost way we extend our lower body away from our center for a while.

Beginning the Hundred, the Leg Circles and Double Leg Pull would be impossible for some without Frog.

I dare you to go through your Reformer or your Mat workout to see just how many times you find yourself needing some Frog skills.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Why here's our very first Footwork position.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Coordination follows shortly after our Frogs and Circles. What you have learned to do with straps and support, now you must repeat without them.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

In the Stomach Massage Series you'll take what you've learned to do lying down and now do it sitting up.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

All the gloriousness of Short Spine Massage begins with our simple Frog.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

And for those that like a challenge we've got a nice High Frog up in the air upside down! Yes, Frog has some thrills in store for us as well.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

OMG Double Leg Pull!

2. Scissors

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Scissors – which granted you may not learn in your first Pilates lesson – repeats itself in countless exercises where we are multitasking: one side and then the other.

Our first incarnation of the Scissors is probably not on a barrel, but oh that's a good one.

We'll probably encounter it first on the Mat. You may know this exercise by another name: Single Straight Leg Stretch.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

How do we keep the center in control as our limbs alternate?

Better learn quickly because Joe Pilates is just getting started.

Do these Scissors look familiar?

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson
Yes, the Tree. We've talked about this Scissors extravaganza before.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Here we go again in the Tendon Stretch.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Here's a little nicer one in the One Leg Elephant.

Now for a couple more doozies…

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Sure, I'll see your High Frog and raise you a High Scissors. Why not?

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

And perhaps the ultimate upside down scissor, Control Balance.

Small Barrel Project Recap

All of which brings me to my Small Barrel Project update:

Today is day 28 on my 30-day Posture Intervention on the Small Barrel.

Wow. Only 2 days to go!

I now know I can never stop doing these 10-15 minutes of exercises.

My Small Barrel has become one of my teachers.

What I find with ease to be possible on the Small Barrel enhances and primes me for my Reformer or Mat workout.

Brilliant!

Thanks Joe, it's all in there.

What's going on here anyhow?

The Frog and Scissors are game changing exercises in the Pilates Method, the foundation of so many of our other exercises and well worth exploring.

What are these exercises teaching us?  

Frog and Scissors are some of our first examples of the lower body reaching away from the center. In Pilates we begin by strengthening the center and gradually we increase the challenge by reaching further away from our strong center.

Frog refines our engagement of the seat to elongate the low back and support the lower body in the air.

Scissors increases the difficulty and we reach our lower body away from the center one side at a time.

The center must remain steadfast! We do this many times in the Pilates Method ALL. AROUND. THE STUDIO.

It's not too late to join my Small Barrel Project.

Check out the exercises. Use a Small Barrel, a Spine Corrector or even just your Mat. Play along in just 10 minutes each day and see what magic happens…

Been working on your exercises? Leave me a comment and let me know how you're doing!

And here's where you can find me in 2017.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

For Tessa

Thanks so much to everyone who attended my Cadillac workshop this past weekend at LauraBPilates studio in Raleigh, NC.

It was a pleasure to meet and work with so many awesome readers. You guys rocked it on the Cadillac and the Standing Arm Springs!

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Gifts from Joe Pilates

Joe Pilates has bestowed numerous gifts upon us. My favorite one is of course the gift of repetition. Do your exercises frequently and your body will reap the benefits. Even if you don't think you're particularly good at your exercises, it's the doing it anyway that counts.

And you're probably better than you think…

Lately I've come to feel a kind of Pilates déjà vu in my workout.

Hmmm… I've been here before…

The Tree is chock full of moments just like this.

See if you can find the moments of Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, the Roll Up, Single Leg Circles, Double Leg Pull and High Bridge all jam-packed into one workhorse of an exercise.

Thank God for the Tree

Early on in my Pilates journey I was decidedly NOT a fan of the Short Box Series.

The Tree was the exception.

A fundamental exercise in our order of the Reformer exercises, the Tree, succeeded in making the entire Short Box Series just that much more bearable fun. 

The Tree is a versatile exercise that continues to grow and blossom along with our Pilates practice.

Even the basic version is not easy.

Later on you can turn on the jazz with your first taste of High Bridge.

Tree Time

If we distill the Tree down to its very essence it could look like this:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Sit up as tall as you can and reach your leg as much as possible without sinking in the back.

Your lift inward and upward must increase as your leg reaches further away from center.

Further progressions could include just setting up your Tree position:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the TreeThe Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Maybe you control yourself into this position and then return upright 3 times.

Later you'll learn to lower your upper body away from the center – just a little bit at a time. Remember to only roll backward as much as you can successfully return.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Over time you'll work your way all the way back and into the well if you are able.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

And once you're completely comfortable upside down you've got some fun options:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Reach for the frame and pull everything in toward your center.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Ultimately you can add an empowering precursor to the High Bridge with lovely support from our friend the Short Box.

Here you may add the Single Leg Circles from Pilates Mat fame.

Holy stomach exercise, Batman!

And it's all leading up to where we began very simply: a global stretch of the back of the body in our final moment of Tree:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

What's going on here anyhow?

Take another look at our final moment of the Tree. Every exercise in the Short Box Series is leading to this point: a global stretch of the back of the body.

That final moment of the Tree is the money note, the big kahuna, your raison d'être…

Often in this exercise we become preoccupied with stretching the back of the leg. We all feel so incredibly inflexible in this exercise, even the most loosey-goosey among us.

The back must take precedence over the leg. And the more lift you find in your back – ooooh that tight leg will get a fantastic stretch! See what you think.

Further Reading

Want even more info on the Tree and the Short Box Series?

Check out these related posts – you know I'm completely obsessed with all things Short Box…let's see if you are too!

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching!