Did the end of the year sneak up on anyone else? Happy New Year!
I might have told you before, but I’m one of those people who love New Year’s Eve/Day. I use it to take a bit more time to think through what I’ve done and what I’d like to do. This year feels more challenging with a toddler, an infant coming soon and navigating a new city. How do I push forward, but still acknowledge the personal struggle? And how in the world do you find that godforsaken balance everyone keeps talking about?
2017 was so emotionally charged. It was a year I slowed down and felt everything – how hard it was to be a new mom (both working and then being at home), recovering from the stress of my partner’s second life-saving liver transplant and finding my way through the massiveness of LA while pregnant.
So for 2018, I am committed to finding a bit more balance. My short checklist above may seem contradictory, but I’m reminding myself to: Be Grateful for this life, Be Selfish and take care of myself first (or even second) and Stay Focused on what’s important right now and on my big long-term goals (instead of that short-term panic that I’m not moving forward). Oh, and a sleeping baby would be really awesome too!
In an effort to start now – Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all my friends that called, texted, wrote (well you get the idea) – I may not have always responded, but I needed that love a lot.
Oh hi, yep, it’s me! I only fell off the face of the Earth a little. Truth is, we moved to L.A. for Nick’s job, got knocked up, attempted to unsuccessfully work at nap times and evenings, and have been transitioning to our massive and disorienting new city. But I find myself missing this Pilates/fitness/happy piece of my life. So I’m back. If I could high-five myself I would.
Here is what I know for certain. Transitions are H.A.R.D. and it feels harder when kids are involved. I imagined exploring Los Angeles with my lovely, well-behaved toddler, but in reality, tantrums, potty training, and a lack of sleep (ugh toddler bed) have completely thrown me off my center. I finally have a Pilates session on the calendar for the first time since moving.
Transitions are a big part of the Pilates repertoire as well. As you become a more advanced Pilates student, you begin to learn how to smoothly transition from one exercise to the next. This allows your session to be continuous and thus more difficult – no more breaks. Try it out – no talking, no stopping, no delayed counting….just moving.
While subtle, this transition is a game changer for your body. Similarly, life transitions can bring monumental change. This post is a reminder to step out of the details to be kind to yourself, stand in the sun, take a breath, and to be proud of what you are doing.
And if you happen to be a parent, I’m going to leave this reminder right here for you, “You’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.”
It’s tough, but we’re tougher. Thanks for sticking with me here, xoxo.
I love that my son is a Pilates kid. I love that he already asks to teach me Pilates (which consists of telling me to lift my legs and arms). He knows the studio and can’t wait to reach the footbar on the reformer.
I want him to be in his body; something I personally rely on heavily. To be able to feel off in my body and connect it with what’s going on in my life mentally has been invaluable. And something I would have likely ignored if it had just been in my head (it’s actually a super power of mine).
However, I am also very aware of teaching him about positive body image for boys, girls, men and women. I think it’s equally important for girls and boys to appreciate all bodies. I don’t want my son to have unrealistic images of how bodies should look, but if I’m honest, I’m always striving to be fitter, stronger and healthier.
What’s the line between teaching a healthy lifestyle, but not teaching them about unrealistic body images? I’m not too worried at two, but it’s something I keep in the back of my mind.
We spend a lot of time talking and putting effort into our food, we climb and hike as a family and we try to avoid celebrating with sugar. So far it’s been manageable, but we are still the sayers in this relationship (lucky us). Is it enough to talk about healthy vs unhealthy or is it just as important to talk about issues in our fitness world that aren’t healthy or realistic?
One of my biggest goals is to be fully happy in my own body so my son can feel the same way about his. When I see myself in the mirror I try to remember all the incredible things my body has done and continues to do so it replaces any negative whispering in the background.
P.S. I’m also convinced that my son is extra bossy due to the fact that he heard me teaching all day while I was pregnant. Any other teachers find that to be the case?!?!
I imagine this is one of the more frustrating phrases I say as a Pilates instructor, “move, but don’t move*.” Say what??? Let me explain…
Pilates is always trying to create more space in the body – we’re the gravity fighters. We are all loosing space within our vertebrae (spine) as we age. One of main goals of Pilates is to always have an oppositional pull. So even if you’re sitting, your sits bones are grounding you on the floor or chair and the top of your head should be lifting towards the ceiling or sky. To do that correctly and with effort means that your abdominal muscles have to work to support that lengthening of your spine. Make sense?
Sometimes, you don’t need to move your body in space, you just need to put more effort into lengthening your spine or reaching your legs from your hips more. It’s maybe a millimeter of movement, but that is where the real work comes in. I am often correcting clients to reduce their range of motion and work deeper in their backs and abs.
Many people are capable of making Pilates look decent, but are you using the deepest muscles in your body to get most out of each exercise? I’d like to see those beads of forehead sweat as proof.
Next time you are sitting or in a fitness class, check in with your body. Are you finding length in the movements? Are you pulling your abdominals in towards your spine without changing the position of your back? Are you balanced on your feet?
These checklists are a great way to stay present and get the most benefit.
*Please note: This phrase has been lovingly borrowed from my incredible mentor, Mr. Brett Howard. xo
I’m often asked to recommend a Pilates studio or teacher for friends looking to diversify their workouts or accommodate an injury.
Pilates has very unfortunately been diluted and undefined. Joseph & Clara Pilates did not think to leave their work and legacy with anyone legally. Romana Kryzanowska was his protege’ and continued to teach students and train instructors to carry on the work.
There was an attempt to trademark Pilates as the exercises Joe and Clara taught to Romana (now referred to as classical Pilates), however, the courts ruled against a trademark. The decision made it possible for anyone to call anything Pilates leading to the brand confusion that exists today.
I was trained as a fourth generation [from Joseph Pilates} classical instructor. It took me almost three years to complete my apprenticeship. My method defines variations on the original work as contemporary Pilates. I believe both methods are valuable as long as you work with a qualified instructor.
So, what should you look for in a studio or teacher?
- Certified instructors that completed a 600+ hour training program. That means your instructor had to go through seminars, tests, observation, student teaching and likely some basic anatomy education. You should be able to find this on the studio’s website.
- Small class size. It’s pretty hard to make sure everyone is safe and effective in a group larger than 8 people. Personally, I don’t usually teach more than four students at once. Mat classes may accommodate more, but keep it small when you’re working with springs. I’ve been to an amazing amount of classes and been forced to close my eyes to avoid seeing a future injury. Often injuries happen over time so please be careful out there – it’s a jungle.
- Sweaty or tired clientele leaving after a session. Pilates may look easy, but it’s super hard work and aims to access your deepest muscles. While you dictate your own effort, a teacher should guide and push you safely and with control. Be honest about your fitness goals with your instructors. All teachers want to help you achieve your goals.
There are so many incredibly talented instructors. Working with a great teacher will change your entire perception and enhance a foundation of movement that will serve you well in your everyday life.
Good luck pilates goers
Many people don’t realize that Pilates comes from the founder, Joseph Pilates, and that it has been taught since the early 1900’s. Mr. Pilates wrote a book in 1945 titled Return to Life, which described 34 mat exercises. Every March, the Pilates community dedicates each day to one or two exercises. I decided to film each day.
Even though it only took a minute or two, I felt better than I had in months taking time to move everyday. It taught me that no time is too short to squeeze in some movement. I also learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect, even though I’d really like it to be. And now my son desperately wants to teach me Pilates which is probably the cutest thing I have ever seen.
Here’s what my 31 days looked like.
And here is the list of each exercise in the original order:
Happy New Year beauties!
Last year was all about adjusting to a new life with a baby and keeping my husband healthy. 2017 is all about making the best choices to pursue the life I want to live. And I CANNOT wait for it.
The nutrition and fitness world are making some big strides forward as well. They are intersecting more than ever, which duh – why’d it take so long?
Here are some trends I’ve been following and think you should too.
- Alternatives to medication: Now that 26 states have legalized marijuana in some form, the medical research world is slowing gaining insight into the medical benefit. My husband’s doctors are talking about it more (but cannot legally recommend it) and really like having an alternative to Class 1 narcotics. To have a more mild yet successful pain management alternative seems like a no-brainer. Speaking of Class 1 drugs, CBD oil unfortunately got added to the list. While it’s great in the form of validation, it’s not so great in the form of accessibility. My husband has tried it and loved the benefits. The list seems to be growing – read Ben Greenfield’s summary of benefits.
- No sugar: This one has been on my radar (and every other fitness/nutrition enthusiast) for years, but it thankfully continues to gain momentum. A big game changer in our house was eating more fat and using a Monk fruit sugar when we “need it.” Check out Lakanto for the sugar. If you need motivation to stop the sugar, pick up a book, watch a documentary on Netflix or listen to some nutritionists on podcasts. The evidence is terrifying.
- Fat-Fat-Fat: You guys, this is taking a while to go mainstream, but all of the progressive food science makes a critical case to eat good fat, stop cooking with most oils (use ghee, coconut oil and animal fat) and ensure you are getting omega 3s. Eat avocados, olive oil (uncooked), omega 3 and 6s, coconut oil and butter and ghee pretty please.
- Mind space: Our world is getting faster, more productive and thus more stressful. More than ever, people need to take time to be a little introspective, scan your body, breathe and check in with yourself. Start with 5 minute meditations or set a timer and just sit and breathe. It’s totally fine if your brain thinks 1,000 thoughts – just notice and breathe. I use the Headspace to squeeze in a 10 minute meditation during my commute. My husband listens to Holosync audio therapy which induces the brain wave patterns of deep meditation. I’ve tried it and love it too.
- SLEEP: 8 hours, go. It heels your heart, blood vessels and your brain. New parents, hang in there – hopefully your babes will sleep soon – and yes, it’s as good as you remember it.
- Heart rate: Know your resting heart rate and know how to push it to a safe level. I’m purchasing a heart rate monitor this year so I can keep better track during my workouts. Orange Theory actually taught me a lot about monitoring my heart rate throughout my workout. I love HITT workouts and how it’s designed to increase your heart rate for a controlled amount of time to benefit for a longer length of time. Time is extremely scarce these days. I can’t swim for an hour + more than one day a week so these are critical for keeping me healthy (and sane).
- Core muscle strength: I’m a pilates instructor so of course I’m going to say core right? But here’s my slant this year. First, your core are not just your abs – it’s every muscle from your shoulders to your hips. Second, how many people complain about pain these days? It’s NOT NORMAL! I watch everyone’s bodies and most people duck walk (toes out) and don’t or can’t stand up straight. It’s a serious problem that standing desks alone will not solve. Slow, intentional exercises to strengthen your core are essential. You may not sweat as much as you do in Soul Cycle, but if you do it right, I promise to get a few beads of sweat out of you and a much stronger body. If you can’t get to a studio, try Pilates Anytime – it’s awesome for every level.
Please feel free to add more to the list! I’m always interested.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, xo
You guys – I don’t even know where to begin. My.Husband.Is.Healthy.
Three months ago, Nick received a liver transplant. The difference is indescribable.
It was a long road that escalated suddenly when Nick started internally bleeding (although we didn’t know it at the time). He waited four long days at the top of the list while in ICU. Thankfully, he accepted an offer for an organ and made it through a very long and difficult 10 hour surgery.
I cannot say enough about our family, friends, doctors and nurses. Our family and friends made us feel more loved and supported than seems humanly possible. They were my rock so I could be Nick’s. The UCSF doctors are heroes – really, they perform the impossible and we were lucky enough to have the same surgeons from the first transplant. That alone made a huge difference.
Words will never accurately describe the appreciation and love for our donor and his family. They saved mine and grateful doesn’t even come close.
Now most days are filled with overwhelming gratitude. I highly recommend it. It’s a lovely way to spend our days.
I hope your holidays were filled with an overwhelming amount of love.
Many healthy and fit posts to come.
It happens a few times every year – I re-strain my low back. My injury is completely unpredictable. Once I finally stopped trying to figure out why it kept happening, I finally felt less frustrated by it.
My back injury is a muscle injury as opposed to an issue with my vertebrae (well technically, it’s affected, but that’s too complex for a rookie). Ironically, the only thing that really seemed to help was pregnancy – seriously.
Here’s my theory about my injury: It stems from a lifelong posture and imbalance issue. I have a dramatic low back curve. I do a lot of work to strengthen my feet, my deep abdominal muscles and I have to be very careful to engage my abs in extension.
I re-injured my back this week so I’m all about TLC. I still need to be a parent and an employee – two very hard tasks when you can barely get off the floor. I wanted to share my process of re-habing my back.
Note: Back injuries are like snowflakes – no two are exactly alike so please be careful. These injuries can also get better for a short time and then return with a vengeance so make sure you’re consulting experts (I am not an expert).
- ICE ICE ICE – heat does not help me at all. I need to get that inflammation out of my body and fast so I ice for 20 minutes a few times a day.
- Ibuprofen – this also helps with inflammation, even though I hate taking it.
- Keep your spine in neutral – when my back is spasming or close to it, I stay in a neutral spine. I do the same for my clients.
- Back brace – these are a bit controversial, but I like my back brace. It feels like it triggers my abs to engage more when I’m sitting for long periods of time. It is rubber and velcro’s around my waist.
- Move when out of spasm – once my muscles aren’t freaking out, then I move. Here are my go-to exercises:
- Cat/Cow: on hands and knees, I round and arch my back. I keep my range of motion small and my abs pulled in tight.
- Pelvic tilts: On my back with my knees bent, I press my low back into the floor and then arch it over and over and over again. Again, I keep my abs in toward my spine so it’s a very small movement.
- Leg lifts: I try to fire my deepest ab muscles quickly. I lie on my back with my legs up towards the ceiling and squeezed together. I lift my head, neck and shoulders and lower and lift my legs a few inches (this can also be done with bent knees).
- Leg Pushes & Pulls: On my back, I lift my head, neck and shoulders with my knees bent into my chest. Then I press my legs out (to where I can control keeping my hips and tailbone down) and pull my legs back in. If that’s too much, start with one leg.
I repeat this system until I finally feel better. I know to listen to my experience rather than my body. My body always thinks it needs lots of stretching and heat, but that always makes it worse.
There are way too many of us with back pain. If you’re like me, I hope those reoccurrences are few and far between.
Hello Summer Beauties!
It’s been a busy June vacationing and playing, however, I recruited some family members to help me film my Summer Leg Series*.
Try the workout and let me know what you think! Next up is an arms workout to fulfill my maid of honor duties.
Thanks for working out!
*The Summer Leg Series was created by one of my mentors, Melissa Marks. If you’re ever in NYC, go take a session from her. Your body will be forever changed!