Putting the work back in your workout

July 20, 2009

By Kathryn Ross-Nash

A few days ago I was teaching a group of clients who had been students for many years. Instead of suffering through the Hundred…they looked comfortable. COMFORTABLE IN THE HUNDRED! That’s when I realized that they had gotten so strong that the goal position was no longer enough to challenge them; they would have to learn to create the challenge within their own bodies.

The Pilates method is based on creating oppositional forces in the body radiating from a strong center. This means the work is never-ending if you know how to create these opposing forces. Obviously we could spend hours (months!) discussing how to do that, correctly and efficiently, in great detail. But in a nutshell, here are four ways to create opposing forces:

1. Squeeze the juice out of an exercise: As you move through flexion and extension (the basis of the work), push the limits of the movement. For example, in Double-Leg Stretch, as you extend, reach as far as you can between your fingers and toes, make the waist and long and strong as possible. Then, when you bring the arms and legs in, make the ball as small as possible.

2.Pick a principle: Each time you teach, pick one of the six fundamental principles to be the focus of thworkout. You’ll be amazed at what happens. For example, the workout changes when you focus on fluidity instead of precision. The dynamics change when you concentrate on breath or centering (that all comes from the powerhouse). The challenge is different when you bring your full concentration (awareness to everything you are doing) to the work and when you focus on the control over the body and do not allow gravity or momentum to take over. Different Principle: different workout; different muscular response, full benefit of the work!

3. Mix it up: Change the rhythm of your work. For example, on the Single-Leg Stretch, play with the counts. Hold each position 4 counts 2 times, 3 counts 2 times, 1 count 2 times.

4. Alter your attention: Always engage your powerhouse first and align your box second: but then what? Some days focus on keeping the waist long in all your exercises, other days focus on using your bottom or engaging the back of your legs. The possibilities are endless.

Above all else, keep the work in your workout! That is how after 26 years of practice and 18 years of teaching I have never had a moment of boredom in the studio.