Healthy Habit #4: Pilates

Pilates @ 82Did your Grandpa look like this at 82?Joseph Pilates was an amazing guy. He used his life experiences, first as a chronically sick kid, then later as a diver, wrestler, boxer, and gymnast to teach himself about the dynamics of the human body. He was largely self-taught, which inspires me, as it should inspire you. That means with enough drive, motivation, focused attention, discipline and commitment, we can all become master students of our own unique bodies.

One reason Pilates has grown so much in popularity in recent years is that it is extremely versatile. I teach mat Pilates classes and I can’t tell you how well it has supplemented the other modes of exercise I teach. Mat Pilates:

1. Strengthens core muscles that support all movement and protect the back
2. Enhances dynamic flexibility (muscle/tendon elasticity and range of motion)
3. Improves posture, coordination and spatial awareness
4. Can be performed almost anywhere with just a mat and a small space

Here are two Pilates exercises I like that work different muscles in a balanced way.

This one is called “Bird-Dog”. Starting on your hands and knees, hands below your shoulders and knees below your waist, slowly and with fluidity, extend your left arm and right leg so that they are both on the same plane as your spine. Return gracefully (as gracefully as possible!) to your starting position and switch sides. Try to hold the reach for a full second. Do 6 – 15 repetitions but stop if you feel a strain on your back.

Another one I often include in most classes is “Criss Cross”.

The idea is to gently support the neck with your fingertips (don’t pull it forward hard in your laced hands) stabilize the torso and turn the shoulders smoothly back and forth as you bring your opposite knee toward your elbow (no fast, bouncy, jerky pumping of your legs back and forth.) This one can be tough for folks new to core work so you can make it easier by kicking out the extended leg higher (rather than closer to the floor) or keep the knees bent. If that version is still too tough or hard on the back, keep your feet on the floor and just keep the upper body movement going.

Always be sure you have cleared any challenging physical activity with your physician and stop if there is any joint pain or sharp, localized muscle pain.

The best way to learn Pilates is to attend a class at a local gym or get a private session or two. It’s now the cool-down activity for all my clients, and, in my opinion, a perfect compliment to the more aggressive modes of training like cardio and strength work.


Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer

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