The Pilates System: What’s in a Workout?

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me here for all things Pilates.

I've got a special announcement at the end of this post. It's another cool way to work with me even if you're on the other side of the world so be sure to check it out!

If you've missed some of my YouTube collaborations with Lesley Logan of Profitable Pilates, check out this playlist. There are also lots of workouts on my channel. Thanks for watching!

What's in a Workout?

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

The Pilates Method works best with consistent, concentrated and diligent practice. Joe Pilates famously tells us to be faithful to ourselves and our pursuit of Contrology, and in just 30 sessions we'll have a whole new body. Joe bases this claim on lessons 3x per week with HIM!

Today, alas, this is not possible…

What's to be done?

Every workout is valuable and serves to better our progress and execution of the exercises. But what's the benefit of my private lesson versus my independent workouts? And what about working in a class?

How can we best spend our workouts and our training dollars to deliver optimum results?

Not all workouts are the same. The combination of lessons, classes and solo workouts beautifully complement each other and ensure our steady progress.

This week I examine our workout options to illuminate how they best serve our Pilates needs.

Let's start with a favorite of mine:

The Private Lesson

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Private Lesson pairs you with your very favorite Pilates instructor(s). Ideally you've been studying consistently with one or more teachers over a long period of time.

You know more about your skills and your body from working with this/these instructors. You may even hear his or her voice in your head when you workout solo (more on this a bit later on).

In the Private Lesson you are working to refine your skills and better your weak points. You may not do every exercise you currently do; you might work more slowly through your order of exercises with a focus on a particular nuance. You may investigate the same focus in each exercise in today's workout.

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Private Lesson is a wonderful way to make yourself accountable to your workout. When I first began my Pilates lessons years ago, making my appointments kept me honest. I couldn't blow off my workout or there would be consequences… and a cancelation fee to pay.

Consider the Private Lesson as an hour chock full of ME time. I initially got hooked on Pilates via a Mat Class (more on this a bit later as well). Soon a couple friends from Mat Class joined me in Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus). We were a great trio. One day I remember, both friends canceled and I had my very first Private Lesson.

I learned so much about my body in that very first Private Lesson.

Me likey!

The Private Lesson is also a great space in which to clarify new or unfamiliar exercises. It's a great place to begin scary crazy exercises like Headstands and Backbends.

You need a friend.

Do you have concerns about injuries or other body issues?

If so, the Private Lesson is the place to be.

The Continuing Education Workshop

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Continuing Education Workshop tempts us from all around the globe.

In April I snuck off to Seattle with a few Pilates friends for a workshop weekend with Lori Coleman-Brown. Later I visited Jay Grimes in Los Angeles for a workshop on my favorite topic The Double Leg Pull. This summer I head to Kuopio, Finland to teach a bunch of my favorite workshops.

Oh I love a good Continuing Education Workshop!

My favorite workshops include a workout component as well. I find it hard to sit still in a Pilates workshop (all the while talking about glorious ways to MOVE!).

The Pilates Method is experiential.

My body must experience the exercises (over and over again) to better them.

Jay Grimes is famous for stating that one cannot learn the Pilates Method by taking notes.

I take notes, but as much as possible I also take action.

I encourage you to be mercenary. Don't be an apparatus hog, but if you're the only one who volunteers to do the exercises I say seize the day!

The Pilates Mat Class

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

I took my first Pilates Mat Class in the Fall of 2000. It was the most inexpensive option at the Pilates studio. I had a job in retail and for my budget, the six-week Mat Class course was ideal.

The Pilates Mat Class can give you a taste for the wider method to come. However, you should know the Mat exercises are unforgiving and you'll be at the mercy of your own body.

The Mat Class enables us to experience a variety of instructors over time and perhaps discover a different spin on an old favorite exercise. Perhaps a teacher's language speaks to you in a new way. Or you've made a discovery about how an exercise early-on prepares you for what's to come later in the sequence.

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

Let's say you've combined your Mat Class experience with the Private Lesson as well. Now your Mat Class gives you a chance at more of an Independent Workout. You know what you work on in your lessons and now's your chance to try it out in real time. Hopefully with some movement and flow.

The Mat Class can often be self-limiting. You will either accomplish the exercise or you won't. There's minimal help and no matter who you are, you're gonna need some.

Enter The Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus).

The Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus)

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Pilates Class brings you and a few choice friends together with a fun teacher. You'll have fun just letting your instructor steer the ship for the hour. Maybe you'll use the Reformer for the majority of the hour. I bet there will be a trip the to Wunda Chairs and perhaps a Wham Bam! finishing sequence.

Like the Mat Class, you'll get to be more independent in your workout although you'll probably receive specific instructions as well like the Private Lesson unless the class is large.

Sharpen your listening skills and be ready for the journey. Sometimes it can be nice to allow yourself to simply follow directions and be a student again. Remember why you started this whole Pilates adventure in the first place?

Enjoy your workout!

The Independent Workout

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

For the devoted and consistent student you'll finally arrive at the Independent Workout! Years of hard work and dedication (and quite possibly a Teacher Training Program) have led you to this moment.

Working out solo often puts the voice of your favorite Private Lesson teachers right in your head to guide you. At some point your own voice may even replace that of your teachers. Enjoy this focused hour of mental and physical control.

In the Independent Workout I find it helpful to pick one element of your workout to focus on each time you will workout. As a way to streamline the mind and get moving perhaps your most-heard correction (from your Private Lesson!) may be a good starting point.

By yourself you have the luxury of an uninterrupted hour to devote to even the most challenging aspects of your Pilates workout.

Pilates Playtime

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

I use the term ‘Pilates Playtime‘ to cover any little mini-workouts which are often unplanned and sometimes just happen to us.

If one of my clients is late I will start my “workout” while I wait. I know I'll soon be interrupted. But I can seize the moment and maybe even do more exercises than I had anticipated.

Or maybe one exercise in your lesson becomes new or more valuable and you'd like to try it out again. What was the correction again? How did it feel?

Of course. Use my stomach…

Sometimes if I have a jam-packed week my only workouts will be Pilates Playtime!

But even little bits of Pilates done frequently is better than no Pilates at all.

PS. Make sure to schedule a lesson or a class!

Come workout with me!

In the spirit of committing to our own Pilates workouts I'm offering a new online class.

It's called Move Now. Talk Later.

In this 60-minute class we'll explore all the apparatus in the Pilates System. The class format will be 45-50 minutes of working out followed by a 10 minute discussion and questions.

Each week we'll pick a different apparatus to explore.

The class will meet on Wednesdays at 9am PST.

There will be a maximum of 6 people and the cost will be $50.

This week will be a Reformer workout. There are still a few spots open so snag them if you can!

Here's the link to schedule:

https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=12715947&appointmentType=6385798

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

And here's where to find me in 2018.

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 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