This is a picture-heavy post! Allow time for it to load, especially if you're using a smaller device like a phone.
As requested, here are some resistance band exercises that can mimic the work of the Reformer, to an extent. Use your familiarity with my cues (Neutral Spine! Pelvic Floor! Shoulder Blades!) and your imagination to help bring these to life. Have fun! (Hover over the photo for a cue.)
A series like the opening leg presses, or footstraps too:
More moves like footstraps:
Here are some like single legs, from the bar or in footstraps, in parallel:
Even when I'm on vacation?? Well, OK!
Turns out I can't figure out how to actually repost an old entry on this blog. But, what I CAN do, is give you a link:
I put this together a few years ago when I went out of town, so no heckling about the longer hair, got it? It's a little mat Pilates routine that should feel familiar, I tried to mimic the Reformer moves.
Hopefully I get another post like this up this week, using resistance bands to mimic the Reformer even more closely, so check back!
At Pilates we've been talking about the things in our lives that keep us going, so here are some highly recommended last minute gift ideas!
Pam: These Sole Energizers are amazing! She brought her set into Pilates for us to try, and I'd say she's lucky she got to take them home again. :) You stand, roll, rest, and massage your feet on them, and Pam says she uses them during conference calls at home.
They are Canyon Ranch brand, and Pam got hers from Rue La La.
Ellen: The Bliss brand shower products she gets at Nordstrom Rack are her favorites. I couldn't find any online to share links or pics, but I've seen them there. Yummy!
Lisa D: This lotion applicator is ideal for lotions, sunscreens, arnica, medicated ointments, or anything else that needs to go somewhere you can't reach.
Lisa recommends this one because it bends, and the washable applicators don't soak up the lotion.
Christine: Wella Bars are her new favorite for when she or her Painting with a Twist artists need a more substantial snack, that will take them through an entire class. I can attest, they are hearty.
Me: I have a few favorites myself. Weleda Arnica Sports Shower Gel is pretty awesome after a hard Barre Burn class. Just saying. It's how I get out of bed the next morning without falling down.
I'm also hardly ever without a layer of Incrediwear to keep me warm. They make base layers and braces that increase circulation, and I have a few pairs of socks and a pair of capris that I keep in constant use all winter. I get them from Holly Hill, link below.
Finally, I wouldn't be me without mentioning my favorite favorite supplement we should all take, Magnesium. Just visit Holly Hill in North Wales. They're known as the Magnesium Store and have not only all the kinds, but also all the information about them to help you decide what kind to take. Haven't heard my Magnesium Soap-Box Dissertation at Pilates? You will!
Happy Merry to you all.
I hear you. In fact, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this. But here’s the good news:
You DON’T have to BE in shape to start Pilates!
In fact, Reformer Pilates is uniquely helpful for people just starting out, or just re-starting. Exercise is hard, but the Reformer can help you. Here’s how:
First, Pilates is You v.s. the Springs. This means your well-trained, eagle-eyed instructor can make quick and simple adjustments to the amount of tension you are experiencing. In non-equipment-based classes like Mat Pilates, it’s You v.s. Gravity, and gravity don’t change, son. When you’re not strong enough (yet) to perform a move, there’s a greater chance for injury or cheating if you’re fighting gravity than an adjustable springload.
Second, you’re lying down! Much of Pilates is done lying down on your back or belly, and another large part is done sitting. Yes, there are lots of moves where you’re standing, or kneeling, or doing other strange things, but those don’t usually show up in a Beginner Pilates class. The Reformer will support you- let it help you.
Third, Pilates is low-impact. Those poor joints you’ve been neglecting for so long can have a hard time transitioning from their current lifestyle into suddenly running 5 miles a day. Pilates puts very little to no impact on your knees, ankles, shoulders, etc. Instead of banging around, you are using focus and deliberation to perfectly execute every repetition. Every single muscle in your body is being recruited to help, so every single muscle is getting involved with moving you during your Pilates class AND during your regular life. This makes moving around in your regular life easier and more enjoyable.
Fourth, as you get stronger and fitter and better at Pilates, you’ll gain confidence and motivation and self-assurance. Now that your brain and your body are in sync, you can try all those classes you’ve been peeking at in the Group Fitness room. Kickboxing, TRX, Spin- the world is your oyster!
Welcome to Pilates. I'm your instructor, Paula Billig. This is your first Pilates class? Great!
Here are some tips before you start, based on my 10 years worth of teaching new students. I teach Reformer Pilates at Wholistics in North Wales PA, but these are the kinds of things that should help newbies at most any Pilates studio.
1. The Clothes Make the Workout. Sort of.
Some people find that cute matching outfits, pants and tops and jackets and sports bras and hair ties and water bottles all coordinating, seriously motivate them. If that's you, super. You've found your muse.
Me, personally, I don't care if you work out in your pajamas. Holes, stains, mismatching socks, lack of pedicures- they don't affect your workout or me. The only thing that bothers me are stinky feet, and there's soap in the bathroom if you find yourself in an unfortunate footwear situation.
What does matter is Range of Motion. Pilates clothes should give, without being baggy- you don't want them to catch on the machine's moving parts.
You can wear tights, yoga pants, even tight shorts or tennis skorts, though be aware that rear zippers can be sharp and you may need to put something between it and the machine.
Tops run the gamut from tight exercise tank tops to the free giveaway tee shirts everybody ends up stashing in drawers. Long sleeves, jackets and fleece tops also make seasonal appearances.
It's also worth noting that we'll do big stretches and leg circle work, so making sure you have real exercise pants, and not footless fashion tights that go transparent at full extension, is a good idea too.
2. Flexible Footwear Only
No shoes here! Pilates is practiced barefoot, or in grippy socks, or in fuzzy socks with pompoms, or in fancy foot coverings with ribbons up the ankles.
You'll be doing footwork to stretch and strengthen your all of you, including the 33 odd bones and joints in the feet and ankles. Shoes are designed to immobilize (aka "support") your foot. Pilates and shoes don't play well together.
Plus, eww. Your feet will go the same places you'll sit, lean, and lie on. No bird poop or asphalt dirt or other outside bits on the Pilates machines, please.
3. Arrive Early the First Time
You'll have forms to fill out. At Wholistics, I have a Pilates form for you, and the center has one that you'll need to fill out too if you didn't already. (If you signed up online you already did.)
This also gives you a chance to check out the center, find the bathroom, and observe the ease and joy with with other clients sign in and prepare for their classes! What a wonderful place you've found! Such bliss, and so accommodating and supportive!
4. Ask the Stupid Questions
I try to anticipate what you're experiencing so I can correct or validate what you're doing. But when something doesn't make sense, or what I've said isn't computing, pleasepleaseplease ask.
This goes for questions like, "The ill-ee-oh-what??" Or, "When do I breathe again?" But also for, "Where is the ball of my foot?" and, "Isn't this my right hand? Oh, it's not..."
There are no stupid Pilates questions. I have clients that have been doing this for years suddenly realize they just don't remember a what, where, or why. Let's clear it up right now! Plus I LOVE answering questions and getting to expound upon just about anything. Bonus points if I get to pull out my Anatomy textbook. Seriously. Ask your classmates, they'll roll their eyes. But they know where the sciatic nerve goes and what the iliopsoas is...
5. Any Level Can Start Pilates Today
You're not too old. Or uncoordinated. Or inflexible. Or anything. If you can make it up the few stairs to Wholistics' front door, you can do Pilates. (Using the ramp after class is optional!)
I say this only partially in jest. If your knees or other parts don't let you take 5-6 stairs, you may need more initial help than I can give you. Not to worry, though, Wholistics has a wonderful physical therapist who does both PT and medically-based personal training to get you ready.
Most people start Pilates with our 2-class Introductory Session package, though some prefer private sessions. The Intro sessions allow you to experience our small group or "semi-private" classes. You'll be in a real live Pilates class, and I'll make sure you don't fall off the machine or anything.
But you really will get to try 2 real classes, with all the variety and permutations that entails. (And no matter how uncoordinated or silly you feel, rest assured that no one can see you anyway since we do so much lying down.) After your first class, doing strange movements will be old hat.
Our Pilates clients run the gamut of ages (20's to 80's), activity levels (never exercised to athletes), injuries and recovery stages (just post-rehab to decades-old aches), even interest levels ("my Dr said I have to" to "I've always wanted to do this!") It's easy to fit in, since everybody is there with their own differences.
6. Tell Me If It Hurts
I am a connoisseur of 'hairy eyeballs'- the dirty looks people throw me when they're working reeeely hard. I love em, the hairier the better. You can yell at me, or complain, or just lay there and sweat. It's all great.
But when your back hurts, when your neck strains, when the knees aren't right, when something hurts in the wrong way, we need to stop that quickly. It's much better for you to end a few reps early, or to take a break, readjust, and return to the set properly, than it is for you to push through with bad form and bad pain.
You're in Pilates to learn, among other things, control and stability. Some days one or both stayed at home in the bathroom cabinet. There are endless modifications for everything, and you don't need to feel that by modifying an exercise you're necessarily making it easier. We'll make it easier for what isn't working right that day, but the rest of you will still work!
7. There's No Prize for Speed
Pilates isn't competitive; or if it is, you're only competing with yourself. How much smaller can I make my pulses? How much more can I lengthen that leg? How much higher can I curl? How much better can I do this thing without forgetting to also do all the other things?
You'll learn precise control, amazing control, of your whole body. Everything from your golf game to lifting a basket onto the conveyor belt at the grocery store will feel different and be executed more strongly. Sitting at work becomes a practice in posture because it's more comfortable that way. Yes, your clothes will fit differently and your body shape will change with Pilates, but the inside of your body will change too and that just feels cool.
Take Pilates at your own speed. Do your moves more slowly till you learn them. Try them faster to challenge your control. Then slower again because that makes it harder. Then try them on lighter springs because that's even more difficult. I tell my students frequently, "The lighter the spring, the more the core."
So there's no prize for rushing through a sequence to just get it done. But you'll love the prize you get for working as much of you as you can, as best you can, on every repetition. Until you experience it for yourself, just take my word for it. Or don't, and ask your classmates! Drop a little question like "So what do you think Pilates is doing for you?" into a quiet moment and see what you get. It's hard to explain but everyone loves trying.
Are you already loving Pilates? Feel free to share your own nuggets of wisdom. Words from Pilates students and devotees really resonate with their experiences.
"Somehow, there's something about Pilates that makes you forget where your elbows are."
Ahh, it's in the air... eh, you know all the cliches. Actually, for me, it's in my lips! Last week, in the middle of the day, suddenly I knew the season had shifted and WHERE IS ALL MY LIP STUFF??
All summer I was finding assorted Burt's Bee's Peppermint and Bloomsburg Fair Maple Syrup lip balms (anybody going to the fair? Will you pick me up a new Maple Syrup balm, up the aisle to the left of the main gate?) and tossing them into the dish on my dresser, wondering where they all came from, happily forgetting the desperation I would feel when first I needed them again. And then snap! The need was at work, the lip balms were at home, and I realized autumn had arrived.
Last night was the Autumnal Equinox, so I included a little essential oil and Autumn Intention observance in pilates classes yesterday and today. We sniffed Black Spruce and/or Sweet Orange, and I posed some questions during class such as:
* What have you been sowing all summer, that you can harvest now?
* What are you missing, that you can look for, or forage for?
* What do you appreciate?
* What do you long for?
* What do you want to purge or cut away this season? What won't store well over the winter?
* After Samhain/Halloween, we're done with the harvest. What kind of energy do you want to take into the rest of the season until Winter Solstice in December?
* What do you want this Autumn?
Another thing that comes with Autumn besides chapped lips and intentions are colds. Yucky, cold, drippy colds. Sheesh. But there are lots of things you can do to help move them along:
So harvest up the last of your tomatoes, pull out your ankle boots and long sleeved t-shirts, and let's welcome our next season. I'm sure there will be some warm days ahead to say goodbye to Summer, but there are pumpkin whoopie pies and fresh apple cider (spiked with a little caramel vodka!) waiting for me. Welcome, Autumn!
Please permit me an indulgence. You see, today is July 1.
Yesterday was the last day of my lease at my old pilates studio. It was my last chance to move things out, my last chance to look around and hear echoes of my past.
I'm very pleased with how my life has changed in the last 6 weeks, but there's still a sense of nostalgia knowing I won't climb those stairs again, or count them to descend in the dark. I won't see the evidence of the expansion that happened a few years ago thanks to the energy of a motivated friend. I won't have to look at the sagging ceiling panel, or struggle with the old windows again. I also won't have a second-story 90 degree view of trees and a field, windows on 3 sides to catch breezes, or risk being startled by a helicopter as it floats by at almost eye level checking the high-tension power lines in the spring.
It was also fitting that, since I canceled the power company already, I couldn't vacuum the space one last time. So I grabbed the OLD broom and swept all 958 square feet by hand, as best I could. Out the door, down the stairs, and onto the pavement, I sent the last evidence of my occupancy into the world.
THAT life is all behind me now, and I'm satisfied.
You can do this for the holidays, when a little one is home sick, in addition to your regular workout, when you had the extra glass of wine, any time!
So there's a break in your classes, and you don’t want to lose everything you’ve built up at pilates Well, here you go- a simple, straightforward mat routine that targets your abs, butt and thighs. You can do as many of each move as you’d like- normally between 5 and 15- but make sure you do the same amount on both sides if it’s a split move!
If you're a pilates student, you know the drill-
*Make fun of these photos and just see how many "arms to a T" welcome you back!!!!
Lay on your back with the feet on the floor, knees bent, back neutral, arms overhead. Draw the arms forward and curl, maintaining neutral.
Do it again, with the legs straight out in front, anchored to the floor and back still neutral.
And again, with the legs straight up to the sky and, you guessed it, the back still neutral. From your last rep, do reverse curls.
Now you’ll do it all over again, with the arms in a diagonal. The top arm comes up and over, reaching for an invisible center line extending from the knees or toes up to the sky. Do all one side, then the other.
The hips stay square, and reach from the obliques.
Legs in tabletop, NEUTRAL!, tap one shin then the other to change without rocking
Oblique Knee Changes
Fingernails to the forehead, palms open. You’ll twist into these knee changes, but think RIBCAGE to knee, not ELBOW.
Click READ MORE to continue loading the exercises
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.