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How To Choose A Pilates DVD

I recently started writing articles for a fabulous website www.blogcritics.org. Here’s my latest article just posted on Blog Critics yesterday!

Many pilates beginners are not sure what it takes to start doing pilates. It really takes nothing more than your body and a little bit of space. As a pilates instructor, I often get asked about pilates DVDs and got a few specific questions over the weekend about choosing a pilates home workout. What are some good pilates DVDs I can use at home? And how do I know if they are good DVDs?

First of all, here’s what I look for in a pilates DVD:

pilates dvds1. Reputable Pilates Company: I’m not putting down workouts by top fitness professionals, but when I choose a pilates DVD, I want to make sure it’s not just a workout that they happened to put out in addition to their salsa routine. I want to make sure that the person on the video actually teaches pilates. A good way to find this out is to ask your pilates instructor for a recommendation, which brings me to another point — take a pilates group class first to make sure you know what the pilates moves look & feel like. Get corrected by a pilates instructor before you go it alone.

2. Good Reviews: Read reviews on Amazon.com and other Web sites. All you have to do is search for “DVD title review”. There are a ton of places to find reviews. Often, pilates instructors will go in and review DVDs as they try them out themselves. This is the next best thing to having a pilates instructor. Again, you can also ask a pilates instructor you trust.

3. Room To Improve: Make sure the DVD has different levels that allow you to progress and improve your pilates moves — and also to give you a little bit of variety. I have a few DVDs that have two or three workouts on them. Those are the ones I go back to over and over again, because I get variety in my workout or might need to go back some pilates principles. When you are at home, it’s easy to get bored, so having room to grow is a big benefit.

Now that you know how I choose my pilates DVDs, here are my top three picks for pilates DVDs that I do myself when I’m at home. The instruction in these DVDs is amazing and easy to follow. I could have listed a few more, but these companies or actual pilates DVD titles are ones I revisit regularly.

  1. Pilates for Dummies with Michelle Dozois. This one of the first pilates DVDs I purchased, even though I had been using pilates books for a few years prior.
  2. Pilates on the Go with Master Trainer Maria Leone. Maria is amazing. If you come to LA and can get to her studio Bodylinela.com you must take a class from her!
  3. Stott Pilates — All of the DVDs I’ve seen so far are great. Easy to follow. Great for teachers looking for inspiration and different ways to cue your client. You can get these from Netflix to do a preview of them before actually buying them. So worth it!

My favorites in the Stott library are:

One final word about doing pilates at home.  Start Now.  If you can’t afford a pilates class or their are none in your area, start doing it at home.  Most people will benefit from even the most basic pilates workout.

Feel free to comment below if you have a specific body issue and need help finding a DVD that suits your needs!  Also, if you’ve been doing a pilates dvd, why not try one of my group pilates classes to improve your home workouts.

Check out my other articles on Blog Critics.  Also, take a look around the site and you’ll find articles & reviews on a variety of topics that might interest you.

Pilates and Breathing …

I’ve received a lot of questions this week about the importance of breathing during pilates. People always wonder if they are breathing correctly or at the right time. There are many opinions about proper pilates breathing. For me — since I see mostly beginners, I am more focused on whether my clients are actually breathing or not. If you do too much belly breathing, yes I’ll stop and encourage you to breathe more into your ribs, but most of the time, if you are breathing to enhance your movements, I’ll be happy. Some people hold their breath which as even bigger issue I think. So, just breathe!

Why do we focus on Breathing?

As many of you notice, I always give a breathing direction before I instruct you to move your body. Why? Breathing is the foundation of your proper movement. It helps center you, relax you, and stabilize your body for movement.  Focused, conscious breathing also does many more things for your body and mind…read on!

What specific benefits does breathing consciously do for you and your body?

Check out this excerpt from a long list of ways breathing supports every system of the body:
(reprinted from breathing.com)

THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

Gives you more energy.
Reduces mental and physical fatigue.
Reduces chest pains due to tight muscles, thus the tension causing anxiety of “heart attack potential” is reduced.

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM

Improves blood circulation and relieves congestion.
Increases supply of oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. Major organs such as brain, and eyes need copious oxygen.
Eases the strain on the heart by increasing oxygen to the heart.
Helps increase the supply of blood and nutrients to muscle blood and bones.

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

Better breathing can calm or stimulate the nervous system, balance or unbalance brain hemispheres, depending on the technique.

THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

Diaphragmatic action acts as a pump to massage the internal organs, aiding their *function.  “Rest, digest, and heal.”

THE SKIN

Given a complex carbohydrate diet, toxic CO2 waste is eliminated more directly through breath.
Wrinkles can be lessened due to improved circulation and blood oxygen flow.
Radiant skin is observable and more pleasing to look at.

BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT

Relax deeper.
Look more rested.

MOVEMENT

Relaxes muscle spasm and relieves tension.
Helps increase flexibility and strength of joints; when you breathe easier you move easier.
Sounds amazing, right? The list goes on too! I’ll put the link to this specific page at the end of the article.

Here’s a simple breathing exercise you can do right now:

1. Sit in a dining room chair – not the couch. Find a stable chair.
2. Close your eyes. Place 1 hand on chest and 1 hand on belly. Begin to breathe naturally. But notice how your chest rises a little as you inhale and your belly hollows in a bit as you exhale. Try to breathe like this for a few few minutes.
3. Now put your hands even with your chest but around your ribcage. Index fingers are around the front and the thumbs around around the back of the ribcage. Now imagine breathing to open up the sides and to the back of ribcage. Do this several times.
4. Now sit on the floor with you knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Round forward with arms curled around your shins. Head and neck are also rounded forward.
5. Inhale and Exhale naturally. On the exhale tighten your abs and try to keep them engaged. On the next Inhale try to keep your abs engaged and inhale as if you are breathing into the back of your ribcage. Each exhale, slightly tighten and contract your abs a bit more. Do this a few times.

Make sure you breathe deeply – if your breathing is too shallow you might hyperventilate or get light headed.

Now that you know some reasons why we breathe, tomorrow I’ll talk more about WHEN we breathe in pilates.

Ready to start breathing more deeply? Come to a pilates group class or get a customized online workout.

Excuses Be Gone!

In honor of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s most recent book and lecture series, I’m calling this section Excuses Be Gone! You get the idea.  No more excuses.  Take responsibility for your health now.  You can get in shape and lead a more active life today — even with no extra money or extra time to do it.

So, let me share the freebies first:

Free Newsletter From Anne – 🙂 Every Month, I will provide you with at least one short exercise video that you can do every day, several times a day, several times in a row like a circuit or whenever you can’t make it to a class.

YouTube – Look up any body part, any type of exercise, and you will probably find a few videos that you can do at home…FOR FREE.   If you’d like some pilates video suggestions, let me know, and I’ll point you in the direction of ones that I actually love and do at home.

ON DEMAND – If you have an On Demand feature with your Digital Cable service, dive in and look for the Sports & Fitness Section.  Then, find Exercise TV section.  They have videos for pilates, yoga, circuit training, cardio…and you’ll even find well known instructors like Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper.

Ok, now the inexpensive and free online ones that I really like:

1. Spark People – Free Membership to an exercise/diet website.  They have forums too, so you get a built in support system of people who are working toward their goals too!

2. Jillian Michaels Online – Jillian has many free resources on her site.  The free newsletter alone is a great reminder to workout and she always gives nutrition tips too.

3. Bob Harper – If you don’t know Bob from The Biggest Loser, check out his site’s free tools and resources.

4. Yoga Glo – This yoga studio in Santa Monica, CA offers an online membership to get yoga classes that just happened LIVE in their studio!

5. Ultimate Pilates Workouts – There are several different memberships to get full pilates routines – the mat workouts are offered in the FREE membership.

6. Valerie Waters –  I started off by doing her Red Carpet Ready program with AMAZING RESULTS.  Valerie is my guru right now on getting in shape at home.  She has a great program set up where there is a community of people who are always there to support you.  She updates exercise circuits all the time.  You never feel alone.  I love it.

*This is an excerpt from an issue of my newsletter a few months ago in my bi-monthly health & fitness newsletter.   People are always looking for places online they can go for health & fitness motivation.  This small list should get you started.  If you’d like to know how to receive my newsletter, please submit your name/email in the box on this page.

Also, check back soon for my complete health & fitness tools I use page!

My Pilates Fitness Formula

Ok this pic was taken about a month ago with my daughter on the beach – my body is toned all over, my normal pale seems a little more ivory-ish. I am not a tanning type girl (maybe someday), but I think you can see I’m out of the bathrobe and out in public again.  It was a beautiful day and I love looking at this picture to remember that feeling!

Pilates Fitness Formula

Pilates Fitness Formula

As I mentioned, I started doing Valerie Waters’ Red Carpet Ready program, joined her RCR club, and did mat pilates exercises — I do teach pilates, so this was a must for me!

My first 6 weeks on the RCR / Pilates  program, my workouts looked like this:
3 Days of Strength Training Circuits – Full Body Circuits on Alternating days.
2 Days of High Intensity Interval Training Cardio – on treadmill mostly
2 Days of Full Mat Pilates Routine

Now, my workouts look more like this – but it’s mostly because I’m very busy teaching pilates.

2 days of Strength Training Circuits – These are full body circuits I do at home.  They require stability ball, stretchy bands, and dumbbells, and my trusty Valslides.
2 days of High Intensity Interval Training Cardio – I have a few different treadmill workouts I do as well as plyometric training I just starting doing at home.  I also walk with my daughter a few times during the week.

I try to do pilates 3x a week – on the mat and the reformer.  Some weeks I only do mat pilates if I can’t make it to the studio! I often do the pilates mat exercises and valslide moves with my clients to get in a little extra if I know I can’t do stuff during the week.

If you want to know the specific pilates exercises I do and more information on Valerie Waters’ Training Systems, please feel free to email me.  I can give you information on both.  Also, I’ve finally been able to integrate this same type of combo training with my pilates classes.  I use the same techniques I used to get back into shape with my clients.

….this is a process…so for now this is what I do and I’m really happy with the results.  Stay tuned for updates to my progress.  I like to add new things to my home workout program to shake things up and keep me motivated.  One huge piece of the puzzle for me is sharing my results and process with others.  I’d love to know what you are doing to stay in shape and live a healthy life.

See you tomorrow to share the exact workout I did and how I combined 2 really effective programs to finally look/feel healthy again!