Getting Away From Everything…Except Pilates

August 19, 2009

By Kristin McGee

Pilates has become so much a part of my life now that I just can’t seem to take a vacation from it. Tim and I just returned from a weeklong getaway in Maine. My student, Pip, has an incredible house on the beach in Kennebunkport and he offered to lend us his home for the week that his family was away. We were so excited for the opportunity, especially since Tim has to head back to Carnegie Mellon for his second—and last—year of his MBA program. Tim insisted we keep his laptop at home and that I refrain from checking email or doing anything work related. I struggled a bit with the idea but agreed it would be best to have a break from being online, and this way we could really enjoy each other’s company and the magnificent beauty that surrounded us. The computer could stay in NYC, but the Pilates Power Gym, on the other hand, simply could not!

The beautiful Maine shoreline

The beautiful Maine shoreline

I’m very fortunate to be the Pilates expert for the Pilates Power Gym on the Home Shopping Network. The Pilates Power Gym is like a miniature Reformer/total-body gym all in one piece. The company discovered me through my Pilates presence and acting background, and ever since October 2008, I’ve been going to HSN almost once a month. I absolutely love to see how popular Pilates has become and I really support any kind of equipment that can bring Joseph Pilates’ brilliant method to a wider audience. If you feel like having a laugh and seeing me on HSN in the future, I’ll keep you posted on my next air dates through my blog and on twitter.

Anyway, I was hired to shoot a new set of DVDs to go along with the Pilates Power Gym and I needed to work on my routine. I figured with a whole week off of work in Manhattan, Maine would be the ideal location for me to have a little bit more space (instead of my tiny New York apartment) and free time (my teaching schedule is insane). I asked the company if they wouldn’t mind shipping a unit to Pip’s home and also told Pip it would be a house gift once I left. He was fine with it—but Tim was slightly upset. He could not believe I was having the Reformer shipped to Maine. He threw a stink for a little bit, but in the end he really supported me and gave me time to do some choreography and get some incredible workouts in. I felt amazing after each morning, moving on the machine and working all angles of my body while Tim lounged around. (I especially love using the leg straps and doing Leg Circles.) Afterward I could spend the entire day with him and I was a much happier fiancé. It also helped me stay connected to my core when we did our runs on the beach and our rowing in the kayaks on the ocean.

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The Rules of Engagement

August 3, 2009

By Kathryn Ross-Nash

What sets the Pilates method apart from all other types of exercise? Why does the method consistently work for all types of people training at all different levels, with all different needs and from all different walks of life? The movements that are executed are similar to so many other movements used in fitness, and the number of repetitions much less then most other workout routines. Plus, the body really only moves correctly in so many ways: So why is this method head and shoulders above the rest?

It’s simple. It all comes down to “the rules of engagement.”

In the Pilates method, the powerhouse must be the first area to be engaged. It is the beginning, middle and end of each exercise. I think that this is probably the most difficult thing to get across, as most Pilates practitioners (myself included) have deeply ingrained movement patterns. It’s typical for many people, especially newer students, to try and initiate an exercise using their extremities. But what happens? You wind up strengthening already-strong muscles. When you retrain the body to use the powerhouse—or girdle of strength—with each breathe, you protect your spine and strengthen one of the most vulnerable areas of your body.

As instructors and practitioners, we need to search for ways to find the powerhouse. Here are three techniques I use to help myself and my clients turn their power hut into a powerhouse.

1. Imagery: Using verbal cues, try to help the client find something he or she can relate to. For example, when trying to help them find their backs along the mat, suggest they imagine sinking into warm sand on the beach. Or invite them to imagine they have a corset on and the only place free to move is the powerhouse.

2. Physical Cues: I will place my hand under the hollow of the client’s back and have them press in and up on my hand. The tactical feedback of my hand is easier to feel then the flat of the mat. As the client begins to move, you can easily feel if they release the pressure and have begun to use another part of themselves and are no longer focused on the core.

3. Reference. Try mentioning another exercise they already do and understand. For example, if the client understands Spine Stretch Forward and is now learning Horseback on the Barrel, you can point out how these exercises are the same, just done in a different place (the man was a genius) and make this new exercise an old friend.

Two small points to leave you with. First, always beware: Just because someone looks as if they are doing the “movement” of Pilates, it does not make it Pilates. And second, always remember this: powerhouse first; box, second—and then use the movement of the exercise to challenge the integrity of the rules of engagement.