March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

The Side Kick Series and our exercise for March 23, Swimming, deserve to be together in an Another One Bites the Dust post.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Well here we are.

Achieving greater proficiency in a difficult exercise can be a game changer methodwide.

Read about a few of mine here and here.

Another One Bites the Dust

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Side Kick Series shares the same fate as our very-most-favorite leggy exercise, the One Leg Circle. Lots of flashy leg moves distract us from the main event.

Our center. The Powerhouse. All we've cared about in our Mat workout thus far.

Aw, but look: my leg…

The Side Kicks literally turn our One Leg Circle on it's side. Our unsupported backs must remember back to a time when we got to lie down. A simpler time indeed.

Now you must:

  • Keep your back lifted and tall.
  • Will your center to remain steadfast.
  • Don't be content to recline and lounge on your arm.

Side Kicks Series Foreshadowed

Side Kicks Series follows a crackerjack pair of helper exercises: Spine Twist and Jackknife.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Remember the lift in our center we seek?

Spine Twist threatens to twist it out of us.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Next the Jackknife brilliantly connects our lower body into our center – which is awesome – while we control and lift ourselves upside down.

Holy harder than lifting up in a seated position!

Jackknife gets our seat into tip-top shape to wrangle our hips in today's exercise the Side Kicks.

Joe Pilates provides us with all the tools we need.

How nice.

Swimming 2017: Livin' the Dream

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

In 2013 I wrote my most recent post on Swimming. From flail to fantastic, right?

It's all in The System.

All around the studio when we begin our Pilates lessons we have sturdy support for our backs.

Lying down for Footwork on the Reformer, sitting up on the High Chair and lying on the Cadillac for Arm Springs and Leg Springs are all foundational exercises. All offer full support of at least our backs if not even more of our body.

The major tenet of the Pilates Method is to create length and decompression in the back. Joe gives us the support of the apparatus as a template to find exactly that: a long and lifted back position.

Joe Pilates recommends us to

“lie down and try to make the whole length of the spine touch the floor, likewise the shoulders and arms, stretched above the head.

You can't do it, but trying is what counts.”

This neat little trick proves a great help to repeat this skill in exercises done on the stomach like Swan and Swimming.

Try it:

  • Lie down as you would before the Hundred or Teaser.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the nape of your neck.
  • Use your muscles to make you the same shape as the Mat.

(It's impossible. But Joe gives us big points for trying)

  • Now remember what you did and turn onto your stomach for Swimming.
  • Now on your stomach, create the same shape of the mat as when you were lying on your back.
  • Slowly start the exercise without disturbing what you've set up in your center.
  • If you've got it then swim faster like Jaws is chasing you.

The MATness Continues

Now over halfway through the MATness I hope your daily Mat habit is in full swing.

Joe Pilates gifts us The Mat exercises to maintain our bodies. I'm not surprised they are included in a book called Return to Life.

The Mat is the perfect antidote to life's daily onslaught. The exercises here and all around the studio allow us to live – famously – with zest and pleasure.

All exercise photos in this post are featured on my Mat poster. Jaws not included.

And here's where to find me in 2017

Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

The Roll Up

The Roll Up deserves full credit for my immersion in/obsession with the Pilates Method.

In my very first Mat class, it was the Roll Up – the second exercise, mind you – that absorbed my attention in an instant.

OMG, disaster. What is. Happening??!

How could I fail so miserably, so early in the hour? Am I not flexible and strong?

The Pilates Method reveals valuable information about our body. We learn volumes about our strengths and weaknesses. A stunning attribute, really.

However, at first we may not appreciate our new intel.

We're gonna Roll Up like it's 1999

Back in the day, I could only complete the exercise when I wore my heavy Dr. Martens boots. Sadly, I could not wear them to class, but I would sometimes put them on when I would practice at home. Then I could roll up and down no problem and my legs would stay on the mat. I think I found it soothing…

But I agree, not ideal.

Jennifer Kries' The Method Pilates Precision Toning series assured me that someday I would be able to complete the Roll Up, so I kept at it, the Roll Up, and my Pilates classes.

Fast (Up and) Forward

Today, of course in true Pilates fashion, the Roll Up is one of my very favorite exercises. Using the strap on my proper Pilates Mat has really opened up the tight spot in my back, allowing me to find success in the exercise even on a hotel room floor.

Up against the wall

So if you are working at home to perfect your Roll Up, bereft of a Pilates studio mat with strap and handles, what's to be done? Use a wall to get more out of this vital exercise than mere frustration.

  1. Lie down on your mat so that you can place your feet on a wall. Heels on the floor, feet and legs together.
  2. I like to keep my knees just a little bent. If your Roll Up is not perfect (and whose is) sometimes you may find yourself sliding away from the wall as you roll back down. The knees bent helps in this regard. It will help you to open the low back, potentially the culprit in this whole Roll Up debacle.
  3. Push your feet into the wall as you begin your Roll Up. If your back is tight, you may not get all the way up with your feet still pressing on the wall. This is okay. You will probably get a good stretch in your back and over time you'll roll up a little more.
  4. Continue to reach your feet, heels especially, pressing into the wall as you roll all the way down onto the mat. The reach through your heels will help you to find the seat and lengthen the lower back.

The wall is approximating the assist you get from the strap on the Mat, and as such is a bit unforgiving.

But I bet you're up to the challenge. Give it a go.

Pilates: what kills our ego, does indeed make us stronger.