So, I’m obsessed with the Olympics. It would be a huge challenge and dream come true to train or even work out with athletes of that calibre. Though I’m no sports expert, here’s what I would work on with these inspired athletes to ensure that their training keeps them balanced and functional in life. Click on the links to see videos!
Variations on Swan: Rowing requires a slightly flexed spine and tons of abs, so I would make sure their thoracic spine gets some good extension as well.
Single Thigh Stretch on Reformer and Extensors on the Chair: These athletes train for hours sitting with their legs out in front of them. It’s important for them to stretch the hip flexors and continue to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.
Standing Cadillac work, Side Splits on Reformer: Being in the water creates a different pull on the body than when moving through real life with gravity. I would focus on functional movements to increase balance.
Back Rowing: I would take advantage of these athletes’ grace and choreographic strengths. This exercise also mobilizes the spine fluidly, hopefully releasing them from the sometimes rigid lines they must maintain when in the air or balancing.
Mermaid/Side Bends: Though I am sure they have strong obliques, I’ve been watching any and all gymnastic events and am surprised by the lack of true lateral flexion in the spine (side bending). These exercises isolate that direction and sculpt the waist.
Teachers might learn a lot from the acting world. The one thing I’ve found to be imperative in both my acting projects and teaching Pilates: Commitment.
I’ve been working really hard (I’m a workaholic)–reading, practicing, teaching, watching others practice, observing and taking class at all kinds of studios. Guess what: I still don’t know everything that’s out there to know in terms of Pilates.
1. The body is complicated.
2. New research on the subject is infinite and always changing.
3. There are so many different opinions and styles of the method.
Still, I know a lot more than the average person does about Pilates. And yet, my classes still seem to be hit or miss.
I recently taught a class of 28 people and was forced to speak loudly, move quickly and take over the room. I said cues like they were FACT and not only suggestion. Even adding drama on the last few reps seemed to engage people more fully. That same day I taught a class of 6 people that felt messy, clouded and, quite frankly, boring.
I’m learning that I don’t have to have ALL of the answers to be a good teacher. It’s my job firstly, to be safe, and secondly, to tell my students everything I do know so that they can get the best workout possible. Commit to what you do know and joyfully seek out answers for the rest. Speak like you have a class of 50–not 10, be present so you can be clear with your words, get excited and rock these people’s bodies. Commitment and excitement are key in creating solid classes. I can only go up from here!
In observing classes during my training and teaching classes these past few months, I’ve come to realize that a Pilates class can be totally useless if your teacher does not explain basic Pilates terminology. As with any sport, hobby, or skill, there is a universal vocabulary that makes it easier for Pilates instructors and other folk to communicate.
Don’t worry, no need to take notes. A great instructor will be able to guide a beginner with excellent cueing and will continue to refine the advanced student, but I thought I would outline a few of these basics in layman’s terms for those looking to get the most out of class.
Let’s start with the spine, which is a central point of focus in Pilates. Joe Pilates said:
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
PARTS OF THE SPINE:
- Cervical-Neck area, upper seven vertebrae
- Thoracic-Middle, next twelve vertebrae
- Lumbar- Lower, bottom five vertebrae
SPINAL FLEXION: Similar to a cat stretch; the head and tail are curling to the front of the body, engaging the abs (in any position).
SPINAL EXTENSION: Similar to a cow stretch; head and tail are reaching up and back from the body, engaging the back muscles (in any position).
SPINAL ROTATION: Wringing out the waist and rotating the torso to one side while maintaining a stable, still pelvis.
Next Up, Part 2: The Pelvis.
Don’t forget: We will have a Pre-Patty’s Pilates for Performers on March 17th at 11am at Ripley Grier. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP, or like heels together, toes apart Pilates on Facebook.
If the weather ever gets cooler (and stays that way), one of my favorite things is to step outside and inhale a breath of invigorating, sharp air. That breath of fresh air can’t happen without the exhalation before–which is a passive action in our daily lives.
In exercise and in Pilates, an active exhalation is vital to getting the most out of an exercise. Typically, the exhalation is on the most active part of the exercise, also known as the the “work.” This is meant to help you!
When you voluntarily force air out of your body, certain abdominal and thoracic muscles have to contract to bring the abdominal wall in and the ribs down. We tend to lose our rib cage and abdominal connection when we get tired, so exhaling is a simple way to keep those things engaged and get your mind off of whatever else might be burning! Also, exhaling expels all the bad stuff (tension, impurities, recycled and unusable air) and creates the room to inhale again and give your muscles the fresh oxygen they need.
So, my advice to you is to USE that exhale. Make it noisy! Try to blow out a candle in the middle of your exercise, sigh a Pilates sigh, practice your Pranayama, give a gentle or great giant grunt…Whatever breathing method you choose, don’t underestimate the power of exhalation.