I've been practicing pilates for almost 20 years now. Religiously. Every day. In everything that I do. It's simple, all I need to remember is to move with intention and control- to emphasize the strength of my core and the oppositional reach of everything else as it moves away from the center and then back in! That's it! We have a ton of choreographed exercises in the system to help commit it to muscle memory, but by your third mat class, you shouldn't feel like you have mastered single straight leg stretch- or any of the exercises. It takes years "to get it" and every time I do a basic workout, I learn something new! Now, does that mean you need to spend years to benefit from pilates- absolutely not! When taught properly, the movements in the system flow from one to another- we go through flexion to prepare for better extension and vice versa. There is a method to the method!!! If you can learn, in your first five classes, that you are the one IN CONTROL of your body- that your brain can tell your legs what to do, that your torso can move without having to depend on your shoulders, that is what is important- who cares how it looks? You didn't run a marathon the 5th time you laced up your sneakers or hit a hole in one the 3rd time you golfed. Practicing pilates is a journey- where we get a little more control over every muscle each time we practice! As long as you are engaging the proper muscles that your teacher is poking or pointing to and telling you to use, AWESOME! That's all we ask! Even if you never master Jacknife- our goal as pilates instructors is to get you out the door with the lessons learned in our sessions so that you are better golfers, runners, cyclists, moms and dads, students, dancers and citizens of the world!
On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wore silk dresses- with heels- and a cocktail ring to cook. It was" just family", but I really don't believe in dressing down out of ease and familiarity. I think we owe it to our families to show how much we care about them by treating our too infrequent holiday get-togethers with the utmost importance! I would rather have my family know that I put in the effort for them- when it comes down to it, they are the people that are always there for us! Save your jeans and sweatshirts for the red solo cup parties!
So why not get fancy and eat on special things! We had dinner served on our china, using our silver- I could have cared less about washing it after. And who cares if a piece broke? If I kept it in the cabinet for fear of breaking it, just WHY?!? And we had Mexican food! And pies and real butter on our cornbread and cookies and cake and mimosas and wine and champagne. And the highest quality ingredients I could find! Because the Christmas season only comes once a year. And it is super important to remember how incredibly amazing and special the season is to your kids. So when we are getting stressed about calories and wrapping and having too many things to do, embrace the chaos, understand it is always going to be like that. Accept responsibility for what you can handle and don't stress the rest! But, celebrate, stop complaining- put in the effort, make it as amazing and important as you can for your kids- to them, this is magical.
A couple pieces of my heart are heavy- Alex goes to middle school next year and we will probably have to break the Santa story, so this could be our last Santa year. A friend of mine with kids in Westford once told me the story about how his 6th grade daughter found out when her teacher mentioned, "Myths- you know, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny." I really wouldn't have wanted to be that teacher during conferences! So, I'll let you know how it goes in August. We were among the taller kids in the Santa line at the Burlington Mall, BUT, there were plenty just about Alex's age...I think 20 is the appropriate age for candor when it comes to Santa now that I am a mom! Truth be told, my type A 3 year old self figured it out, but kept the secret- I think we were hoping my sister Sarah would believe until she was 15- she let us have a couple years for fun!
And, I got the news on Christmas Eve that one of my very first friends in life had passed. At 41, to a heart attack. He had just written on my Facebook wall to congratulate me on my ultra-marathon and we were reminiscing about the awesome neighborhood that we grew up in. They don't make neighborhoods like Puritan Drive anymore! Another classmate and friend passed the week before in a tragic accident- doing the job that he adored- taking photos. And a third passed mysteriously earlier in December. All 3 were 41 years young and didn't get to celebrate this Christmas. I also lost one of my very best friends in the world last March and can't help thinking about her kids and parents and husband this holiday season. And that is why it's so important to take the time to celebrate with the family that you love, or the friends that are like family- don't take them for granted. They are what's most important!
2012 had its ups and downs, but I am darn lucky to be able to celebrate it with the people that I love. And for that reason, I say, get out your fancy clothes, shoes, dishes, linens, jewelry and make the effort! We can back to the gym and tax season in January! Cheers!
Am kind of obsessed with my new "toy", my Fit Bit One. It's actually my second device- I lost the first on a trail run and had become so in love with it, I ordered a new one the same day.
The beauty is that it is pure honesty- we all should walk 10,000 steps a day and sleep 7-9 hours a night (hahahahah!) It keeps track of both without you having to do ANYTHING, just wear it! It synchs right to the iphone or computer and you can input H2O intake and food and it is just a really cool little tracker. It tells you how many calories you are burning/can eat/need to intake for your activity level, because at the end of the day, regardless of what anyone promises you in a book or infomercial or in a blog- a calorie is a calorie is a calorie- and if I take in less than I burn, I lose weight- if I take in more, I gain weight- whether it is a Twinkie or kale- too many calories means extra pounds. You'll feel awful if you just eat processed foods because you will lack in vitamins and minerals, but it is a numbers game and anybody that claims that it isn't has something to sell you. Don't buy it!
But, I think too many folks are running around without really understanding what they are 1) putting into their bodies 2) doing with their bodies on most days and 3) giving their bodies time to rest. I certainly am a glutton for #3- it seems like the only time I get to do something that is not essentially urgent or going to cost me thousands of dollars if it doesn't get done happens between the hours of 11PM and 2AM- while the rest of the world sleeps. SO, I've got the step thing really covered - I'm on my feet normally from 8AM-9PM most days and I may not be perfect, but I have a pretty good idea of how much I need to eat on the days I run 20 miles versus the days I run 3 and teach for 8 hours- it's that sleep thing that I need to work on!
So my new Fit Bit is my new conscience- kind of like a little wellness mom! I love it!!!! Highly recommend!
I feel like it was June just a moment ago and now, here we are, WELL into September! If you have missed your workouts- head back over, we would LOVE to have you! But please remember to choose the correct level- if you've been out for three months, it might not be a good idea to start back in the Intermediate 2 class! Ouch!
We have added some additional Gratz equipment to the studio and are on our way to becoming an Authentic Pilates studio! If you haven't noticed yet, we are becoming more and more particular about the way that you are performing your pilates exercises. This is in your best interest for safety and for the overall effectiveness of the pilates workout, so please take note of the cues and corrections we are offering- we'll make you stronger!
We have added an additional Barre Boston class at 7:30PM on Monday evenings- Laura and Julie will be alternating this class and we will plan on offering a teacher training for Barre Boston this fall! Please let us know if you are interested.
I was super busy over the summer- became an RRCA certified running coach and trained the Artists from the Cirque du Soleil's performance of Totem during the 8 weeks they were in Boston- it was a truly amazing experience and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity. Hmmmm....just think, if Pilates allows the Artists to achieve the mind-blowing acts that they perform, what could it do for you?
Do you have a young athlete at home that could use some cross-training help? I put this together for my 10 year old son's hockey team! Enjoy!
I rant about preservatives all the time! One of the reasons why I shop at Whole Foods is because under their "Quality Standards" tab, they have a bullet point that says the following:
We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.
And on their Quality Standards page, they state the following:
Unacceptable Ingredients for Food
The following list contains ingredients that Whole Foods Market finds unacceptable in food products.
And they list 83 ingredients!
Of the 83 ingredients listed, I have very severe reactions to 2 products, one of which is found in some energy replacement gels specifically designed for endurance athletes to replace carbs and electrolytes on the run. Which is why, I choose to shop at Whole Foods for these. Or, I did. Like EVERY product that I buy at a regular grocery store, I flipped the Hammer Gel on the Whole Foods shelf over and it listed potassium sorbate as an ingredient. I was horrified. To a runner that is dehydrated and intolerant to this preservative, this could be a lethal mix. So, I sent the following and received this response. Had I not been looking for this, I would have assumed the blend was all-natural and it is not. And, there are a number of companies (all of the Clif products) that make energy gels and sports beans and drinks without these two dangerous preservatives. I am extremely disappointed in this response from Whole Foods and I have lost much of the confidence that I previously held in shopping there.
Thanks for your question.
We do allow sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate in our liquid supplements as an exception to our quality standards. This is because potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate are some of the few preservatives available to prevent microbial contamination in liquid supplements. These ingredients are unacceptable in the foods that we sell.
If you have any further questions please use our on-line response form.
Julie Campbell | Whole Foods Market | 550 Bowie Street | Austin, Texas 78703
Here is the original message we received from you on May 16, 2012 at 7:54am:
From: Julie Erickson (email@example.com)
Store: Cambridge, MA - Prospect St (CAM)
Message: I noticed that on your website you list potassium sorbate as an ingredient that cannot be used in the foods that you sell. However I have noticed every time I go into the store that the hammer energy gels that you sell and associated products do have potassium sorbate in them as an ingredient. And I'm wondering why this is the case.
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IWhen I first learned pilates, I remember hearing, "Don't use your hip flexors!" on exercises like teaser and the rollup. Huh? That direction couldn't be further from the truth! The hip flexors FLEX the hip which means they bring the thigh closer to the chest and/or the chest closer to the thigh and are integral parts of pilates exercises like the rollup and teaser. Hip flexor flexibility is important in performing exercises like swimming correctly. Learning to work the hip flexors properly and keeping them STRONG AND FLEXIBLE is key.
My son is ten and plays soccer, baseball and hockey pretty seriously and dabbles in tennis and golf. Baseball is his favorite and we take his training very seriously. He has stretches that he does (is supposed to do!) every night and strengthening exercises like the one above which is a rollover on the small barrel with hip extension. In pitching, which he likes to do, hip flexors are involved from the initial lift of the leg all the way through to the step forward after the ball is released. My goal in giving Alex this exercise was to allow him to find the full range of hip flexor extension- over the barrel- through the concentric phase of lifting the legs against gravity and bringing the thighs closer to the chest on the rollover portion.
The hip flexors consist of the iliopsoas, rectis femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae and pectineus. Some sources add a few more, but these five are generally referred to in a group as the hip flexors. Because of our lifestyle, where most of our day is spent in a seated position, our hip flexors tend to be shortened and weak. Because the hip flexors have other jobs like stabilizing the pelvis, moving the spine and rotating the femurs, tightness and weakness in this group of muscles can be devestating to a body! Sometimes this affects the position of the pelvis, pulling it into an anterior tilt, the lower back, increasing the curve inward and the abdominals, the belly pooches forward. Yuck! Not what we want!
In pilates, we try and work the hip flexors in flexion and extension. A good teacher will explain that, on the rolldown phase of the rollup, we are in fact lengthening the hip flexors as we elongate the spine back to the mat. Exercises like lower and lift are great ways of working the hip flexor to support the weight of the legs. Flip yourself over and you have exercises like swan where the hip flexors remain in a lengthened position while the body rocks forward and back.
As a test, stand on one leg without leaning back and pull the other straight leg up so that it is parallel to the floor. How long can you hold it there? Now still standing tall, reach it behind you without bending either knee or arching your back...how far can you go? If you can stand for a minute, great! If you can even get a couple inches back, great, but it is pretty unlikely you can do so without a lot of help from a floor or a hand to get there! Our side kick series in pilates is a pretty good teacher for this range! In yoga, crescent lunge is a great stretch, especially if the knee goes to the floor, the pelvis is tilted posteriorly and the student attempts to increase the stretch in the hip flexor by holding the hips stable and straightening the leg to lift the knee off the floor. Roman chair lifts in a traditional gym setting are another great way of developing hip flexor strength and control- as long as the lowering of the legs takes twice as long as the lift!
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a post on the past couple weeks and quite honestly, it has been a very emotional time. I’ve had to think a lot about cancer for most of the time. I’ve been running back and forth to pilates training and in and out of the state in cars and on planes away from the studio for a number of glorious and a number of sad reasons. I think I’ve averaged 5 hours of sleep a night and had a 4AM wakeup call this morning, so I am happy to be back in MA, although I did get a flat tire on my way home from the airport and the positive flip side is that, I now have time to do a blog post!
As some of you know, my younger sister is battling brain cancer. She’s 35 and has two little guys- James and Phillip and they live in sunny FL, right outside of Miami. They found the tumor in 2009 and three craniotomies, a whole bunch of treatments and radiation later, she is at the point where her checkups are every six months in Boston. When my father called me to tell me that her tumor was malignant, I didn’t believe him- I told him that he couldn’t have been right, Sarah and Todd must have heard the doctor wrong- I would be over to BWH to clear it all up. But sadly, he was right and life has changed for all of us since then- we lost our mother 10 years ago, so it’s up to the three of us to keep the family updated and going. Sarah’s a fighter, just like my mom, but brain cancer is a formidable opponent.
Yesterday, we ran a 5K to raise money for brain cancer in Florida. The race was early, the weather was beautiful, the group assembled was very focused and the event raised over $130K for brain cancer! Sarah was asked to give a speech at the event and she did a fantastic job! Our group was “Sarah’s Knockouts”, there were forty of us running and walking on her team and it was absolutely wonderful to see that she has such a strong and dedicated group of friends to help her out. There were over a thousand participants in the event and everyone had a story to tell. The hardest part of the event for me was when the organizers asked Sarah to call up the survivors.
At most events that I have attended, there are usually many, sometimes hundreds, depending on the venue and the occasion- most are participating in the event and are among some of the top finishers. There were four survivors that came up to the stage when my sister invited them- one man was in a wheelchair and the group congregated around him. Those four included my sister. All had scars and marks on their hairlines that distinguished them. I wasn’t prepared for this. I then started to look at the shirts on the groups around us. Nearly all were running “In Memory Of”. The tears that had started during my sister’s speech had turned into hiccuping sobs as I sat with Phillip and continued to video Sarah. The gravity and seriousness of brain cancer sometimes gets away from me- it has to, the reality is far too much to deal with. Nobody wants to talk about brain cancer and quite honestly, when I mention it, most people turn very pale, offer an “I’m so sorry” and change the subject.
What gave me lots of encouragement at the event was that so many of the victim’s families and friends had turned out to raise thousands of dollars, to walk in the Pam Beach county sun and heat and continued to care even after their loved one’s battle had ended. They obviously still felt a need to encourage additional efforts to fundraise for brain cancer and I was so grateful to these people that told their stories on t-shirts and posters and to the local news! Even a little more awareness is important and I plan on becoming a bigger part of the plan to raise more funds for our grey ribbons! Of course, I wanted to win the race- I came in 4th place instead and had a fantastic weekend with my sisters and can’t wait to do it again!
Last week, one of my very best friends from high school lost a valiant, courageous and fierce battle with ovarian cancer. She was 36, two little kids- Calia and Nolan. I was lucky to have seen her last year when she was being treated at Mass General- it was her second battle with the terrible disease. When her little boy put his hand on her casket during the funeral, I couldn’t breathe. She was an only child and the world is such a lesser place without her, especially for her parents, husband and children. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without her friendship. She touched so many lives during the short time that she was on this earth and her funeral was standing room only- which she would have loved. She was loud and excited and beautiful and so much fun.
Cancer is horrible. I’ve never seen something do such terrible things to the bodies of people that I love. The types of cancer that have touched my family and friends don’t have thousands of survivors. Many brain and ovarian cancers are found by accident and too late- there are no simple, inexpensive, recommended screenings for either. I know that I am just one person, but everything has to start somewhere, right? I don’t have a great plan, but last year I took a course on teaching yoga to cancer survivors. It hit so close to home, I spent a lot of time in tears during the training- one of the teachers was in her thirties and had stage four breast cancer. At Endurance, we spend a lot of time making already finely tuned bodies even better, I think I need to work on something to help those whose aren’t. Stay tuned.
Ahh! vacation time! Time for students to get away from the day to day. Not time to stop working out- in fact, you should try and incorporate even a little more fitness into your vacation. Bring your sneakers and your workout clothes! Why would you stop working out with the change in scenery? It's even more important to keep your fitness in mind- you are a role model for your family whether you are vacationing with your kids or parents, all generations need a little motivation!
Just because you are not at home gives you no excuse to stop working out and thinking about your nutrition. Over-indulged? Set that alarm and get a run in before the kiddos wake up to ski or swim! We lose fitness after 2 weeks of neglecting our regular routine. When you are on vacation, you don't have the work deadlines, the pickup and dropoff schedule and the "I'm so busy" excuses that we make. Now that you are away, what better reason to lace up for an extra 4 miler. If you're a regular exerciser- why not get in a two a day workout? What morning wakeup feels better- the soreness from a great day of activity or the sore tummy from a late night and fast food? Maybe if you are in Paris and dining at the restaurants earning 3 Michelin stars, I'll give you the pass and say go for the glutton (just for one night!!) otherwise, come on- I know where the kiddos like to dine! And really, is feeling bloated from the Outback worth it? There are plenty of healthy options on that menu! Order a side dish and a salad or split a dish! Fill up on water and limit the bread basket!
What better time than a vacation to incorporate even more fitness into your schedule with your family. Get that early run in, then a hike with the kids, a swim after lunch and a walk on the beach after dinner. Go snow shoeing before the lifts open and finish the day with a race back to your room! Jump on the treadmill after dinner! You have plenty of options and it is your choice as to how you spend your vacation. Who wants to come home to an extra five pounds to work off?
The March 2012 issue of Runners World has an article on Pilates Exercises for Runners! They asked me to help with the article, choosing the exercises and providing the cues! I was quoted in the magazine and was absolutely thrilled to help out! Here is a link to the video that they produced for the Runners World website: Link to Runners World
Some of you have asked for more information and I am so happy to share! Pilates does wonders for my running- it is what allows me to survive high mileage weeks! This is the original document with pictures and cues that I provided to the editor for the exercises and a little bit of info about pilates to share with all of the athletes at our studio! For the limited space in the print version, I needed to choose just four mat exercises, but I am currently working on publishing a series of videos and a book for athletes about pilates including equipment exercises. Look for our workshops at Endurance later this winter and get in for some mat classes! We have several marathoners and endurance athletes (men and women) in all of our regular classes that love to swap tips on nutrition, injuries, races, PRs and anything athletic! Hope to see you soon! Enjoy!
Why should runners do pilates?
Pilates works what is not moving, the local stabilizers in the body. As runners, we LOVE to work our big muscles- hamstrings, quads- the big movers! When pilates concepts are applied properly, the body’s moving parts move better/more efficiently. In pilates, we seek to elongate the waist and create distance between the ribs and the hips and to find and train muscles that aren’t easily worked- the pelvic floor and transverses abdominis. These two muscle groups technically make up the core muscles that support the trunk along with the multifidi and diaphragm. Like any other muscle in the body, the TA takes practice to strengthen the muscle and to increase its endurance. Doctors prescribe kegels to women to strengthen their pelvic floor
muscles, how come they miss strengthening the TA? It is just as important! The abdominals- rectus abdominus and internal and external obliques are the spinal mobilizers that move the trunk in all of its different directions- these are the outermost layer of trunk support- they are what many “core” exercise programs claim to strengthen- wrong group to start with for runners!
1. Swan Prep-this exercise utilizes all of the back extensor muscles which oppose the abdominals and are incredibly weak in many individuals. The back extensors are an extremely neglected group of muscles because of lifestyle, work an environment and our tendency to slouch! It is also extremely important for students to keep the deep core muscles engaged throughout swan in order that the back muscles are doing just the job of extending the spine and not over-working because of a deficiency of strength in the core. For runners, especially when faced with fatigue, we tend to let the upper body round forward and concentrate on keeping the legs moving us forward, neglecting our posture for the sake of a PR!
To do swan prep:
The student lies on her belly with her arms out to the sides of her shoulders in a 90 degree angle or “goal post position”.
She starts by looking up and "pushing a peanut away with her nose" and then continues to extend the spine, pulling the shoulders to the back of their sockets and the shoulder blades in toward the spine. She continues to peel the front of her body away from the mat until her belly is lifted, but her pubic bone remains on the mat. Maintaining this extended position in the spine and the stretch in the hip flexors, quads and abdominals she bends the elbows to rock forward like a rocking horse, lifting the legs to keep the position and returning the legs to the mat as the elbows straighten without changing the shape of the spine.
2. Side Kick- this exercise challenges the torso stability in a side-lying position against leg movement, momentum and gravity. The ideal exercise for runners! Not only does this exercise challenge torso, spine, shoulder and pelvic stability, it encourages stretching and lengthening in the back and forth movement of the leg- increasing length in hip flexors and hamstrings and encouraging control with a possibility of developing a longer stride.
To do side kick: The student lies down on her side with the hips and the spine in a neutral position, She lengthens both sides of the waist including the bottom side. Pulling the belly in and up and lifting up on the pelvic floor muscles to create a corset like feeling (with spanx on top of the corset- sucking that belly WAY in) to completely stabilize the upper body, the student reaches the right leg as far forward as possible and then as far back as possible, ensuring that the leg stays parallel to the floor, the torso absolutely still and getting as much reach forward and back with the leg as possible. Repeat on other side.
3. Leg pull front-this exercise works controlled mobility and stability in the torso, pelvis and shoulder girdle. It is the first exercise of this group where gravity is pulling down against core muscles so is a very challenging way of forcing the pulling in and up feeling of the TA and pelvic floor muscles. It is also very easy to see weaknesses quickly. The straight line neutral
positioning of the shoulder girdle, spine and pelvis are very challenging to maintain especially against the ankle and shoulder
To do leg pull front: The student comes into the top of a pushup position with the legs either hip distance apart or heels together toes apart. Her head is in alignment with her neck, gaze a few inches in front of her fingers. She pulls her belly in and up and lifts up on the pelvic floor to createthe corset/spanx feeling in the torso and engages every muscle in her body to assume a strong, lifted start position. Keeping her body like a blade, she lifts her right leg away from the floor, with a dorsi flexed ankle, creating a long line from heel to head and shifts her weight back extending both wrists and shoulders and plantar flexing her right ankle , pointing her toes. Returning to the start position with a flexed ankle, she switches sides.
4. Double leg stretch- this exercise demonstrates what pilates is about- core strength and oppositional reach or stretch. Every muscle in the body is engaged throughout this entire exercise- the legs work on the way in as well as the way out. The focus is on keeping the internal core muscles, abdominal muscles and shoulder girdle stability muscles working as that stability is challenged by the weight of the legs and the arms pulling away from the center of the body. A great one for runners to start with as the exercise is done in a supine position and can be easily modified for beginners. ***The version shown is the way that Joseph Pilates taught the exercise- in most classes, the double stretch is taught with the arms reaching straight behind the head which increases shoulder girdle stability.
To do double leg stretch: The student lies on his back with the belly button pulled in an inch and up an inch to engage the TA; lower back lengthened toward the mat which will engage the lower part of the rectus abdominus and the obliques to maintain this flexed position.Placing a block or a small weighted ball just below the belly button is a great reminder to students that
the muscles should be pulling in and not “pooching” out. The student lifts his head to gaze to the navel, pulls his knees into the
chest and lengthens the arms toward the ankles keeping his chest open and his shoulders back and down. He then reaches the arms to the hips or behind the head and the legs stretch out as low as the trunk can stay stable, the lower back lengthened toward the floor as to ensure the engagment of the core and abdominal muscles.