We Can Work It Out (Or Can We?): The Pros and Cons of Working Out Through an Injury

August 27, 2009

By Jennifer Farthing of the BuddhaBabes

It’s been a busy summer for both of us BuddhaBabes, but especially for me. My finance and I eloped in Provence in July, had a reception with the family in August, and have a party with friends in NYC coming up in September–so it’s hardly the time to skip working out! That said, I battled a hamstring pull earlier in the summer, and because I didn’t take time to rest it, I ended up with a nasty case of sciatica. Once the worst of it was over, I got back to working out, but I was far from back to normal.

That was hard. Not the painful injury so much, but the taking a step back from my usual level of activity at a fairly advanced level. My regimen (or was it my vanity?) dictated that I maintain my visits to the gym and studio no matter how I felt. The teacher in me knew that I should rest and/or modify like crazy or risk even greater downtime. My inner yogi backed that up and told me to fight the ego-urge to muscle through it. But still, I overextended myself. And predictably, I hurt myself even more.

Then I came to my senses. I modified. I slowed down. And guess what? When I did my Hundred with bent knees, I curled higher–and I felt it more, right in my core. When I made my Leg Circles smaller, I worked my transverse abs and extended through my psoas, feeling that long, lean line. My Cobra was smaller, but my lowest belly was decidedly uplifted—feeling that deep ab work where it counts. Since I couldn’t run, my hips relaxed and I felt greater flexibility on my Side-Lying exercises. My posture in the exercises improved, my face was not tense. My bad habits, like holding my breath in Teaser (yes, even teachers have their moments), melted as I calmly maintained my bent-leg version longer and better than ever. I ignored the perfect straight legs next to me and focused on the right posture for me, right now, in the summer 2009. (Noting that it, too, would pass.)

The take-away: When you are hurt, it never hurts to check in on your form. Take a break from the full or advanced pose. Straight legs and the highest curl are fantastic goals, but when it’s not right for you, listen to your body and grant yourself permission to take it down a notch.

If your lower body has a twinge, an ache or a pull, focus on your neck, shoulders and collar bones–eliminate the tension from your face, drop your shoulders away from your ears, relax and re-engage those back muscles–and concentrate on the top part of your body when the lower part is sore.

If you have pain in your neck, rotator or along the back, be even more careful. Favoring one side can make matters worse. Consider a break from the machines and the mat, and if the weather outside is fine, get out there and walk, if it feels right. There’s plenty of time to get back to your exercise regimen. If you’ve been doing Pilates for a while, you won’t lose your strength while you recover. Harness that strength, be well, and come back better than ever. You’ll thank yourself later for the break, trust us.


Lose 5 Pounds in 5 Seconds!

August 14, 2009

By Jennifer Farthing and Tracy Campoli

“Sit up straight!” Do you remember that constant reminder that you got every time you were caught slouching as a teen? It turns out your mother was right; improved posture impacts the way you walk through the world, both the way others see you and the way you feel about yourself. Consistent Pilates training (as you all know) gives fantastic core strength and supports the development of a balanced body, but get this: When your posture is in alignment, you really can look up to five pounds slimmer. In just seconds, you can look and feel your best. Here’s how:

TIP-TO-TOE POSTURE CHECK

This is a simple and easy scan that you can do literally anywhere. This quick visualization practice has the added benefit of helping you let go of stress as you realign your body, and who doesn’t need that? Let’s mix it up and start from the top:

HEAD: Imagine balloons attached to the tips of your ears, assisting you as you lift and balance your head equally around the neck.

NECK: Visualize tiny air pockets making room and creating extra length between each of the bones of your spine helping you to greet the world at your full height.

COLLAR BONES: Shrug your shoulders and come to rest with the collar bones wide open. Imagine writing your full name across those collarbones. Be sure everyone can read who you are from across the room.

CHEST: Now that you’ve announced yourself, shine that proud chest and open heart for the world to see. Take a deep inhale and exhale.

(You’re nearly halfway there: Don’t sink or cave in to your ribs!)

SHOULDER BLADES: Feel the shoulders gently gliding and sliding down your back, toward your pelvis and away from the ears.

SPINE: As you breathe evenly and deeply, lengthen the spine and imagine creating more of those extra cushions of space between each of the vertebra.

RIB CAGE: Feel the ribs separate from the pelvis creating space at your sides and torso. Absorb that great feeling of length.

ABS: Lengthen up and in. The only time those abdominals should be fully released is when you are sleeping, so take care not to lead with your belly.

GLUTES: Release your booty into the lower body. There’s no need for squeezing or tucking here. Tensing means contracting, the opposite of length.

LEGS: Imagine you can peel away the layers of skin and muscle to reveal your bones. See them stack in an organized and solid manner. Feel your sitz bones (at the bottom of your pelvis) lengthening down to the heels. Create a grounding sense of weight in the legs, and feel those heavy bones making a firm foundation for you to walk through the world.

FEET: Spread the bones of your toes and feel the feet like roots of a tree going down to the earth. Become aware of each toe, the ball of the feet, and the heels firmly and evenly on the ground.

Finally, from that deep, grounded feeling, draw an imaginary line from the base of your spine to the top of your head. You are simultaneously grounded and lengthened. Feel those oppositional forces, and just like that, a willowy, winnowy, winsome you!

For a quick(er) posture check: in your car, on the bus, at your desk, focus on the top half of the scan, down to your seat, and notice how much taller you’ll be sitting in no time! Think posture scan as you greet each day for a taller, slimmer more confident you!