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5 Habits You Should Break if you Attend Group Pilates Classes

I’m always trying to think of ways to make my pilates classes better — for the students and also for myself. I realized that no matter what I do to give you a good class–whether I add new exercises or change the order or focus on certain areas of the body… ultimately you are the one who needs to do the work and get the most out of it.  Since I try to offer you solutions to fitness roadblocks, I’ve decided to share the things that often break the flow of a pilates group class…If you are guilty of doing some of these things, I’m not saying that you should never speak in class, I just want you to be aware of your actions and how that affects everyone including yourself.

Habit: Request Lists to your Teacher

Now, I know there are some things that feel great and you want to do them, but try to restrain yourself from blurting out exercises you want to do during class. I know that in my case, I always plan in advance the basic structure of a class. I also know that I have to alter that structure already if there are any new students or people who need modifications. It’s very disruptive and also distracting to have yet another “change” to make during the class. Be aware that if you really love some exercise, you can most likely do it at the end of class.

I will say, though, that I get to know what people like and do try to weave those exercises into class. Some people like the butt blasters – hips/butt series on the side, others really like Short Spine, and still others want to do additional arm work. I’m okay with getting your likes…just be respectful of the other students and me too!

Habit: What’s this do?

I love educating people on what exercises do for the body, but the truth is…in a large class or even in a small one, it takes my attention away from everyone to answer one person. Keep in mind that your instructor needs to focus attention on every body to insure everyone is getting something out of the exercise. If no one seems to be getting the exercise at all, I try to adjust my instructions or simplify the exercise. If you are one of these people who needs to know specific reasons for doing certain exercises, make an appointment for a private lesson or again, ask the instructor after class.

Habit: Counting…

Some people really love making sure we do no more or less than 10 reps on every single pilates move. The truth is, I’m looking for a certain number of good form repetitions. Also, if I see a class in general looks tighter in their hamstrings or hips, I might let them do a few more leg circles or some other lengthening exercise for the back of the legs. If I see a class of people that look like they need a bit of tightening in the bum, I might do more footwork then normal.  Conversely, if I know the class consists of people who have some form of lower back pain, I probably won’t do certain exercises in order to avoid further injury or strain.

If it makes you feel better to count, do it, but don’t yelp out to the class, um, that was only 5. Their just might be a reason for only doing 5.  Instead, try to make each one of your repetitions count.

Also, sometimes I am horrible at counting because I’m watching your bodies or adjusting a machine for 1 person –I’ll admit it, so if you like to count and I notice it, I’m going to make you do it for me! Hahahah….so beware!

Habit: Holding Your Breath

This is a simple one…I don’t care when you inhale and exhale. Just do it. And let me hear you! You don’t have to do dragon breath or lion breath (not sure what the yoga breaths are called, but I think you know what I mean), but try to inhale through your nose and then exhale through pursed lips. The breath gives you power and helps you stabilize your body. Check out 2 of my earlier posts on the benefits of breathing: Just Breathe and Pilates Breathing For Beginners.

Habit: Beginners Rule!

If there’s something I see often…it’s beginners who want to take on pilates all at once. I try to tell them to dip into the practice slowly or at least with a little bit of patience. I encourage people to understand that it seems easy at the beginning…and then when they understand more, they will naturally challenge themselves. Don’t add weight to the reformer too quickly. Try to wait before you add props to your mat workouts. Try to stay in the moment, breathing evenly, listening to the instruction…and ask questions if you have no idea what you are doing.

Beginners – the best thing you can do for yourself to really give pilates a good shake is to take a few private mat or reformer sessions, so you can start the journey the right way. Once you “get it”, you’ll be able to take your own workouts further and get more out of them.

Now, it’s your turn…. Please leave a comment below answering these 3 questions:

1. Do you prefer the class to move quickly or slowly…or it doesn’t matter?

2. What’s your favorite exercise to do in group reformer class?

3. Do you like a class that is all business, all chat, or a nice combo of both?

I look forward to hearing your responses!

25 Days of Pilates For Me!

It’s my turn to take a little more time for myself.  Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been on some wierd auto pilot where I wasn’t doing some of the crucial steps to achieving your goals (fitness or otherwise).  One of those things was spending time working on pilates.  I realized that I needed to get my Pilates Mojo back…so here’s what I started doing this week.

Each day, I chose a specific trouble zone or type of exercise or challenge for me personally within my own pilates practice.  I wrote down the problem, the potential reasons for the issue, and ways to overcome the issue.  Some are really simplistic things that I’ve already started adding into my daily life & other workouts.

Day 1 |Mid-Back / Thoracic Tightness – I focused on my tight mid-back area. Actually, to be honest, I think it’s tight in some respects but also over stretched in others.  My posture suffered quite a bit during the first year of motherhood and really I did nothing to counter act the natural rounding of my back.  So, on Day 1, I focused on stretches to release the tightness and also exercises to strengthen my upper and mid back.  Good thing I’m already doing some of the work in my Action Hero Babe workouts.

Day 2 | Torso Flexibility – This might seem really focused, but there are a few “simple” Pilates exercises that have always given me trouble.  So, I worked on torso rotation mat pilates exercises like Saw and Criss-Cross. Moving through exercises slowly and putting a lot of attention on breathing really helped me feel where I was the tightest.  I also did Mermaid and some variations which stretch the torso and increase side-bending movements.

Day 3 | Get It Done – Another simple day. Get the Basic Mat Pilates Program Done.  I went slowly through the basic pilates mat routine, trying to remember the flow of the exercises without looking at a manual first!

Day 4 | Hip Tightness – I am not talking about hip flexors, but more the hip rotators and that area at the sides of my bum.  Instead of trying to blast through a challenging Butt Blaster routine.  I did several stretches for the piriformis area – all variations of crossing my foot over the other knee and pulling the knee into my chest.  I also stretched hamstrings out with a simple forward/flat back stretch (the same one I do at the beginning of all my Valerie Waters workouts.  Then, I went onto the foam roller and did some rolling back and forth on the area.  I already felt better – and decided to NOT do the butt blasters after all, but allow my hips to be loose and relaxed for once.

Day 5 | Kyphosis Symptoms – My chest muscles tend to be tight and the mid-back tends to be overstretched due to my daily computer use, carrying my daughter Mila and just forgetting to stand up straight (and then proceeding to lift things). So, I did a simple stretch which you might have done in yoga.  Bridge with hands clasped behind back, slowly pressing the shoulders back, as if underneath me.  This always leaves me feeling energized!  Other exercises I do include back extension work, laying on my stomach and putting forearms on the ground.

Day 6 – Coming soon!

How to Get Back On Track After An Illness

I cannot believe a week and then some has gone by…

Ok, so first of all, I apologize for not sharing the pictures from Thanksgiving dinner!   There are a few posted on my flickr page you can check out.  After Thanksgiving, life kind of got a little crazy and all of my best laid plans were sidelined.  My 21 month old got sick…then I got sick…then my husband got sick…then my daughter decided to start having sleep problems…

My lovely somewhat structured days became complete mayhem! I was canceling classes, clients, and meetings…no blog posts got done.  I even strayed from my normal healthy eating — but only just a little.

Even in the mayhem, I stopped to think about how this fairly normal thing like sickness got me off track — in many areas of my daily life.

I realized that I’ve been living the high life lately.  I’ve been moving along nice and evenly…almost on auto-pilot. No crazy changes to my schedule. Mila’s behavior was steady and I was able to prioritize each day — including my workouts, my food, buying food, preparing food.  But then, BAM! Mila got sick, then  me…then my husband.

Today I was complaining about all of this — whining really, then it hit me.  I need to follow my own advice.  I realize that I’ve been giving so many people ideas/tips on creating their own healthy lifestyle that I completely forgot about doing what I need to do to keep my own life in order and moving forward.

So, last night I made some plans and took some action to turn things around:

1.  Did a challenging but not super strenuous new Red Carpet Ready workout Valerie Waters released to her membership club.  It focused on posture, but also on some different exercises to isolate the butt & hips.  As a side note to this, I re-watched her current season of Red Carpet Ready TV which is a must see if you want some quick motivation and excellent tips on staying fit & healthy.

2.  Sat down and created a food plan for the week. I did a lot of copy/paste because I probably won’t be creative this week, I just want to stick to it.  I did manage to eat clean throughout my few days of being sick (I ended up eating way less due to my sensitive tummy).  Today, I ate 100% clean. Re-affirming the 25 days of Clean Eating for holidays challenge set in motion by my friend Mary Bess (check out her blog post here!).

3.  I also decided to join my new friend Sheila of Live Well 360’s 25 Days of Self-Appreciation.  For me this is going to be really challenging.  I don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about the things I’m happy about myself.  I’m not sure why that is, but I know that when I do take a moment to reflect on my strengths, my spirit is definitely rejuvinated and I get pumped to get moving again.
Even though it’s after the 1st…this will now take me into the new year!  Join in for a little self-appreciation and see how it can affect your life!

Check out what happened on my Day 1 of the challenge…What gift did I give myself on the first day of Christmas?


4.  As if 2 of these 25 Day Challenges wasn’t enough, I’m also doing a 25 Days of Pilates for Me Challenge.  I am challenging myself to do a pilates workout or focus on challenging pilates exercise for myself each and every day for the next 25 days…and do what my body asks me to!  This is really a way for me to re-ignite my passion for pilates.  Just like everyone else, teaching the same ‘ole exercises, the same ‘ole way gets boring…the best way to amp that up is to do new workouts, breakdown the moves in the workout and then share with others.

5. And guess what I’m going to do this week (in fact I’m starting probably as you read this!) – PLAN & TAKE a little downtime.  I was not taking enough time for myself to just veg out and do nothing! No more email reading late at night or even tweeting. Sorry guys!  I am going to watch Dexter, play World of Warcraft, or maybe just sit and watch the steam rise off a hot cup of tea.

You can see that when I get an itch to plan and create a strategy for my success, I don’t stop at one area of my life.  I like to make sure that multiple parts are covered.  I’ve been kind of surviving on auto pilot for about a month now — not really taking my own advice, reviewing my goals, re-newing my intentions or even taking time to think about what I want out of life.  So, after this past week, this type of “holiday house cleaning” was in order!

I hope you all take the time to do the same — I already feel a little more calm knowing I’ve paid myself some needed attention. If you realize that your workouts, your eating, or maybe even just your own downtime has suffered, take action immediately to get back on track.

Now I’m off to do my pilates for the day.

**One final word…I just realized something cool!  My Challenges fit really well with my whole theme for living these days Mindset, Movement and Clean Eating – well, in broad strokes of course.

See you soon with updates on my 3 December Challenges.

I’m Getting Hungry Already…

I just finished a great Fat Burning workout from Valerie Waters and am definitely feeling like an Action Hero Babe!

Next up, I’m getting ready to head out to the grocery store.  The plan is to pick up my thanksgiving ingredients today in the morning before the mad rush hits later this afternoon!

I promised I’d share with you my Clean Eating Thanksgiving Menu — so here goes…

Keep in mind that I’m only cooking for myself, my husband and my daughter…this seems like a lot of food but the amount I cook will be a little less, so we don’t waste too much but still have enough left for yummy leftovers.

I took most of my recipes and inspiration from The Healthy Irishman and Live Well 360 websites.  I have cooked many of their recipes and am always happy with the results!

Turkey – Doing a Stuffed Turkey breast from The Healthy Irishman

Not sure yet whether I’m doing the Rice & Herb stuffed or the Persimmons/Couscous stuffed…

Basic Stuffing – My husband wants me to just make good ole stove top, so I’ll have to oblige!

Mashed Potatoes – They aren’t a huge trigger for me, but my hubby wants these.  Again, I won’t go overboard, but I do enjoy me some mash taters sometimes.

Green Beans/Almonds – very basic and fresh!

Home-made Cranberry Sauce – also a recipe from The Healthy Irishman and featured on Red Carpet Ready TV a few days ago.

>>doing one other veggie dish – but it’s gonna be a russian one – so maybe a beet salad.

Dessert will be:
Pumpkin Cheesecake from Live Well 360.

Check back for pics of my dinner and a few after dinner surprises!