Survive the holidays like a fit pro with these three tips for avoiding weight gain, staying sane while traveling and perking up your slumping posture!
The Flat Belly Pilates blog is filled with helpful health and fitness information, practice tips and tutorials.
The Hundred is a classical Pilates warmup exercise that's great for strengthening the upper and lower abdominal muscles. Try the Hundred for your next ab warmup to your Pilates practice. To warm up your body, lie on your back with your legs in tabletop position, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee. Lift your head and shoulders. Reach your arms towards your feet. Pump your arms above the abdominal wall. Inhale for five breaths and exhale for five breaths. Repeat for nine more cycles until you have reached 100 breaths. For a challenge, extend your legs out to a 45-degree angle.
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The holidays are never easy on waistlines with the endless parade of treats, sweets, comfort foods, and cocktails. Here are three tips for avoiding weight gain during the holidays.
PLAN & PREPARE
Plan your workouts in advance and have a plan B for weather or technology snafus. Being well-prepared will prevent you from being at the mercy of your surroundings. Having a plan for possible pitfalls will make it easier to stick with your healthy habits and fitness routine. As the saying goes, "failing to plan is preparing to fail."
WORKOUT IN THE AM
Waking up early and working out allows you to literally put your health first before the rest of your day can derail your efforts. The early bird gets fit!
SPREAD THE WORD
Social networks have a great influence on your healthy (and unhealthy) lifestyle habits. When your friends, family and coworkers learn about your goals, they will support you, hold you accountable, and check in with you often to hear about your progress. Make a decision to commit to your health today and share your goals now.
Ready to begin? Start your practice with this free guide filled with helpful practice tips and a 10-minute workout.
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When you travel, don’t take a vacation from your workout too. You may not have the time, space or energy for a full Pilates practice when you're traveling but commit to a quick workout even when you're away.
Got other travel tips? Share them in comments below!
Want to perk up your posture? Remedy your slouching with these two easy poses.
From the Hundred, lie on your back with your legs on the mat and toes pointed towards the ceiling. Float your arms above your head. As you inhale, peel your head, shoulders and upper body off the mat bone by bone. Exhale over your body. Inhale and exhale roll down with control to the starting position. Complete 8 repetitions. Remember to use full inhalations and exhalations as you move through this pose.
Lie prone with your forehead resting on your stacked hands. Anchor your hip bones. Lift your abdominal muscles and your upper body. Return to the starting position and repeat. Complete 8 repetitions. For a challenge, place your hands behind your neck.
New to Pilates? Keep reading to find out exactly what you need to know for your first session.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
During your Pilates practice, you should wear activewear that feels comfortable and allows you to move easily such as a tank top and a pair of leggings.
WHAT DO I NEED?
You’ll need a great “sticky” mat for practice. A sticky mat is an exercise mat with non- stick grip that prevents you from sliding during practice. These roll-up mats are also available with extra padding for individuals who have back issues or prefer more cushion during rolling exercises. For your appointment with Flat Belly Pilates, we make it as easy as possible for you and will provide you with everything that you need including a mat and any other equipment that will be used during your session. All you have to do is show up.
WHAT'S A PILATES SESSION LIKE?
During your session, your instructor will guide you through a series of 20-25 poses with verbal cues and physical adjustments. During your sessions, feel free to speak up and ask questions like “Where should I feel the work?” or “How can I relieve the tension in my neck?” You should never feel strain or pain in any pose. If you feel an exercise is too strenuous, ask your instructor for a modification. She should have multiple options that are safe and effective.
SHOULD I TALK TO MY INSTRUCTOR ABOUT MY HEALTH?
Do you have an injury or a physical condition such as pregnancy, high blood pressure or recent surgery that might affect your ability to practice? You may feel that those issues are private but your teacher needs to know to guide you through a session safely by offering modifications to avoid putting stress on the affected area.
HOW MANY TIMES PER WEEK SHOULD I PRACTICE PILATES?
Two to three times per week is recommended. When practiced consistently, benefits of Pilates may include a refreshing mind-body workout, development of strong core muscles, improved posture, increased flexibility, and decreased stress.
WHAT IF I NEED TO RESCHEDULE?
In honor of your time and your instructor’s, please be on time and ready to workout at the time of the appointment. If you need to reschedule an appointment with Flat Belly Pilates, please do so within 48 hours to prevent the loss of your deposit.
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New to Pilates? Keep reading to find out what the buzz is all about!
WHAT IS PILATES?
Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. He called his method Contrology which refers to the way the exercises encourage the use of the mind to control the muscles. These exercises focus on awareness of breath, alignment of the spine, and strength of the core postural muscles.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PILATES?
There are many benefits to Pilates that may include improved core strength; increased flexibility and strength; and improved posture, balance and stability; flatten belly and toned body; and increased well-being and state of mind.
IS PILATES JUST FOR WOMEN?
Did you know that Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates for men? When he first opened his New York studio, many of his clients were men who were boxers, wrestlers and other athletes of varying disciplines. Despite its slow, careful movements, Pilates isn’t just for women. Many men including professional athletes benefit from practicing Pilates. It is a challenging workout that emphasizes the importance of core stability, strength, balance and flexibility to prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Many men will be surprised at how sore they are after a Pilates session. Pilates is one of the most challenging and rewarding workouts given how it can transform your body.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Pilates is not suited for everyone. Before practicing Pilates, discuss your medical history and fitness goals with your physician so that you can make an informed decision about your health.
If you choose to practice Pilates, remember these tips for practicing safely.
First, breath is an important part of your Pilates practice. It involves inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Full inhalations and exhalations are important because they aid in movement control during difficult abdominal exercises. Avoid holding your breath at any point during your workout. As you inhale, breathe in slowly and allow the air to fill the upper part of your chest to your ribs to your lower back. Take care to inhale without allowing your chest or shoulders to rise. As you exhale, let go of the breath with control. You can also try to practice this breathing exercise off the mat when you have a moment while driving in traffic, working at your desk or taking the dog for a walk.
Many beginners unknowingly limit their breathing when they become tense in their upper body and face. Shoulder and facial tension can limit complete exhalations, preventing you from expelling carbon dioxide. You'll be less efficient and tire much faster. Holding your breath can also raise blood pressure and, as a result, you may feel lightheaded or even pass out.
Never hold your breath in any pose. Be aware of how you are breathing throughout your practice and use it as a guide. Are you holding your breath? Can you hear your breath as you breathe in and out completely? Are you inhaling and exhaling at the appropriate times? Relax your shoulders and face and try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Be sure to use full inhalations and exhalations to aid movement control as you move through challenging poses. Breathe out as you exert effort and breathe in when the pose is less challenging. If you feel your breath become jagged, that's your cue to back off and try a modification. Ask your instructor for a modification if you feel a pose is too strenuous. She should have multiple options that are safe and effective.
Second, neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when the body is in proper alignment. To find neutral spine, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms alongside your body. Inhale and as you exhale push every back bone into the mat. Inhale and as you exhale and arch your back allowing for enough room to place your hands under your back. Again, exhale and imprint every bone into the mat. Inhale and arch your back. You will find neutral spine somewhere between these poses. When you’re in neutral spine, there will be only enough space for a grape or two or three fingers in the hollow space (also known as the “grape space”) under your lower back. Try to maintain neutral spine throughout your practice.
Third, the powerhouse primarily consists of your core postural muscles including your abdominal and back muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms alongside your body. Inhale and allow your belly button to drop towards your spine. Then, pull in your abdominal muscles and breathe normally. Your powerhouse should always be pulled in and up, in this way, like you’re trying to pull on a tight pair of jeans.
Finally, move only in a range of motion that you can control. For example, if you find that it is difficult to make large circles during the One Leg Circle exercise, try drawing small circles the size of a dinner plate on the ceiling.
You should never feel strain or pain in any pose. If you feel an exercise is too strenuous, ask your Pilates instructor for a modification. She should have several options for safe and effective practice.
That’s it! Follow these tips for safe and effective Pilates practice. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to Flat Belly Pilates by commenting below or connecting on Twitter or Instagram.
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ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HIP-STRENGTHENING EXERCISES?
Give Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) and Tree (Vrksasana) poses a try for stronger hips. These standing yoga poses will strengthen your standing leg and hip. Try to hold the poses without fidgeting for five breaths.
Got a question? Post a comment below!
HELP! MY LEGS FALL ASLEEP WHEN SITTING CROSS LEGGED.
I would recommend a few yoga poses but begin with a warmup or after your usual workout. You may like to try Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Runner's Lunge/Lizard and Garland Pose (Malasana) for more open hips. Try to hold the poses without fidgeting. Work up to holding it for five breaths (about 60 seconds). Progress takes patience and time.
CAN YOU RECOMMEND A NON-SLIP MAT?
At a recent yoga conference, I had the opportunity to try Zebra flooring and I was really impressed. It is larger than a yoga mat, looks like regular flooring but has tons of cushion underneath. If you're looking for a more mobile yoga mat that provides cushion and won't slip, try Manduka's pro mat. I have their lite version.
Short on time? Master this no-equipment Pilates pose for a full-body workout. You'll love how little time it takes to build strength, improve flexibility and flatten your abs with just this one move!
From a standing position with your feet hip distance apart, fold forward from the hips into a full forward bend and place your hands on the floor. Bend your knees, if necessary, to place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands out to a plank position. Check to make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders so that they are close to your body.
Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine, glide your shoulder blades down your back and pull in your powerhouse. Inhale and lower for a Pilates pushup. Be sure that your arms remain alongside your body and your elbows point towards your feet, not out to your sides. Exhale and return to the plank position. Complete two more pushups.
Walk your hands back towards your feet and slowly roll up to a standing position. That's one rep. Complete three reps. Finish this pose by rolling your shoulders back and standing tall.
Like this pose? Try the Pilates Plank Challenge! This mini class will quickly build strength in your upper body, arms, shoulders and core.
ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNEVEN TIGHT HIPS?
I've noticed this in my own practice and in working with clients that every side is different and one is always a bit more flexible than the other. I would recommend a few yoga poses but begin with a warmup or after your usual workout. You may like to try Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Runner's Lunge/Lizard and Garland Pose (Malasana) for more open hips. Try to hold the poses without fidgeting. Work up to holding it for five breaths (about 60 seconds). Progress takes patience and time. Be humble enough to respect the process, practice frequently and you will make progress. Your muscle imbalances and tight hips will ease over time. Stay the course.
I NEED SERIOUS HELP WITH MY HAMSTRINGS. WHERE DO I START?
Try Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana) and Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Feel free to bend your knees during these poses. Keep your abs engaged. With every inhale, lengthen your spine and reach the crown of your head forward. With every exhale, fold a bit deeper.
You may also like to try Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Triangle (Trikonasana) and Wide Leg Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) for your hamstrings.
Progress takes patience and time. Be humble enough to respect the process, practice frequently and you will make progress. Stay the course.
Got a question? Post a comment below, pop over to Twitter or Instagram, or send a quick note to Flat Belly Pilates.
Got a question? Get answers to your questions here. In the coming weeks, Flat Belly Pilates will share recent FAQs. Stay tuned for answers to all your burning questions.
Summer's long gone and fall is nearing its end but that's no reason to let your fitness routine fall by the wayside. Try these variations of Shoulder Bridge for a toned backside. With this pose, you'll begin to feel confident even when baring it all.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor and your arms alongside your body. Inhaling, slowly lift your hips up towards the ceiling forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, activating your glutes. Hold for five seconds. Exhaling, slowly roll down bone by bone like you're laying down a string of pearls. Repeat eight times.
For a challenge, lift your hips and bring your right knee into your chest. Then, lift your right foot towards the ceiling and slowly lower until your foot is just hovering above the mat. Repeat eight times on both sides. Make sure your hips don't dip and your bottom doesn't sag!
Short on time? Get the body you want in only a few minutes a day with Press Play Pilates! This online class will quickly build strength in your upper body, arms, shoulders and core. You'll love how little time it takes.