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.

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

The Neck Pull belongs to a group of Pilates exercises we all love to hate.

Perhaps it's even top of the list.

If you're not a fan of the Roll Up, you'll have nary a kind thought for the Neck Pull.

Promoted as the ‘Move of the Month' at Real Pilates NYC, you've still got the rest of your lives to perfect your Neck Pull. Your stomach and your back will love you for it.

Your ego may hate us…but please, persevere.

The Battle of the Body Parts

My personal journey through the Neck Pull remains vivid in my mind to this day. I first learned this abominable exercise in a Mat class at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC.

You may notice in the photo above I am on a proper studio Mat with a strap and handles.

‘Twas not always so…

Learning the Neck Pull in a Mat class – sans strap – with a tight back and a less-than-stellar Roll Up, this exercise soon became my nemesis. As I began the exercise I watched my lower body in horror. I quickly got stuck and flailed about, my legs lifting into the air.

#mypilatesnightmare

I was terrified to receive my first Pilates diploma due to my inability to do the Neck Pull on the Mat at all, really. I assumed if I were ever to run into criminals in a dark alley they would demand the Neck Pull in exchange for my life, and my odds of surviving said encounter were slim.

And I'm really out of luck if they also demand I twist.

Worst-case Scenario

For many Pilates practitioners and teachers, there's no torture quite like the Teaser. For me, well, I guess I was much better at cheating on that one.

The Neck Pull didn't offer as many options.

After completing my initial teacher training I was assigned to teach an Intermediate level Mat class at the studio. Gulp. This class of course included the dreaded Neck Pull.

What if I should have to demonstrate the Neck Pull?

I knew this situation was unavoidable.

OMG someone may have a question.

Would I have an answer?

At the time I also had a client, perhaps 20 years my senior, who did the Neck Pull very well. She had issues with other exercises, of course, as we all do. But I would watch her do her 5-6 Neck Pulls and think “I got nothin'…look at her, DOING the exercise.”

As it turned out, an actual friend of mine was in my Mat class and struggling with the Neck Pull.

“I'm not getting it. Can I see you do it?”

Thanks, friend…

…and the sweating begins before the exercise.

That day I learned the degree to which the mind can impose its will upon the body. Who's in control here, anyway?

It was the first successful Neck Pull I had ever done.

Yes.

I know how to suck it up and get the job done.

No way was I going to choke while my class of 15 people all watched me.

#neverletthemseeyousweat

Here's a similar story of Pilates willpower: same exercise, a decade later, Jennifer Kries style.

In recent years I have added the Neck Pull to another group of exercises that, once odious to me, I now love love love with all my heart.

I hope you'll enjoy these 2 short tutorials on the Neck Pull.

What Luck! Even more great info on the Neck Pull from Alisa Wyatt here.

Thank you for watching!

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Save the Date! Saturday February 7, 2015.

I'll be teaching at the California Pilates Center in Oceanside, CA. 

Sign up for my awesome Mat class here!

Let's workout. You know you want to.

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Sure, I can workout by myself.

I'm quite good at kicking my own ass.

Soundly.

But it's still just me.

I am beholden to myself only.

Oh yeah, Mat classes and private lessons…

Private lessons and Pilates classes taught by OTHER TEACHERS are fantastic in so many ways:

  1. Focus and planning are required: you have to make an appointment or consult a schedule.
  2. You are held accountable: there are consequences ($$$) if you bail at the last minute.
  3. You will get what you need: your teacher will include exercises you'd avoid if you were alone.
  4. You'll be more on display: Keep it together. Suck it up. Just do it. Never let 'em see you sweat.
  5. You'll surprise yourself and do something you thought you couldn't do.

Take it from me, it's a great lesson to learn (again)

Wait, I could do MORE?!

What a positive boost of energy. Not to mention, the heady afterglow of “Hey, I did that!”

And even better if it's some dreaded, necessary exercise. Speaking of…

Hello, Neck Pull

Perhaps I've mentioned it before (like 1000 times)

I was terrified to receive my first Pilates diploma due to my inability to do the Neck Pull on the mat at all, really.

I assumed if I were ever to run into criminals in a dark alley they would demand the Neck Pull in exchange for my life, and my odds of surviving said encounter were slim.

I really used to dislike the Neck Pull on the Mat. Oh, I'm being kind…

I f**king hated it.

I was like an insect that had gotten stuck upside down and couldn't roll itself over again.

The good news is that now I kind of like it.

Thanks, Joe Pilates!

Moreover, I like the Neck Pull even when I take a Mat class and must be parted from my best friend the strap at the end of the studio mat. I take it as a challenge and tackle the Neck Pull with pride as I am much better at it now.

Evidently even more so than I realize.

The weight of your teacher's gaze

Jennifer Kries is just about the loveliest Pilates teacher you'll find. She has a wonderful warm and encouraging demeanor as she leads the class. Somehow she becomes more cheerful and uplifting as the exercises get harder. Just when you need it.

How nice.

Except when viewed through the lens of the Neck Pull.

True, she was very warm and encouraging. Yet firm. Relentless, even. Unwavering in her directive:

Keep your heels on the Mat.

Neck Pull #1 goes by. Legs are basically still on the mat, but the heels do lift a bit. But it seems fine, not a disaster.

Your heels. Don't let them leave the Mat.

Neck Pull #2: pretty similar to the previous one. She's right, the heels are definitely lifting.

Is she standing closer now?

I begin Neck Pull #3. Our eyes meet, she is now right in front of me. Clearly, this is not her first rodeo.

Keep. The heels. Down.

Is it hot in here?

The room fades away and my focus hones into a singular beam of willpower and righteous indignation. Surely I have power over my heels, yes? Keeping them on the Mat is my only concern now.

That and proving to Jennifer that I do indeed speak English.

Concentration pops out more sweat all over me.

When did it get so hot in here?

But guess what. My heels stayed on the Mat.

It was actually possible, look at that! It took way more focus than I thought I could muster to accomplish it, but it HAPPENED.

I can do more!

Ladies and Gentlemen, yet another gem of the Pilates Method:

Wait, there's MORE.

Have you surprised yourself in a class or lesson recently? I hope it made you feel like a Pilates Rock Star!

Share your success in a comment below.