Learning from Exercises you HATE: Humble Pie Edition

Side Sit Up on the Ladder Barrel

Hey there!

I've been thinking about you. Thanks for sharing your time with me and for becoming a subscriber.

Did you get a chance to read my bonus blog post How to Fall in Love with Exercises you HATE?

I hope so.

Click here to subscribe if you missed out on this little gem…

Walking the Walk

I've always had trouble working on exercises I don't like. It's true. Sure I visit them during my Reformer and Mat workouts. Joe Pilates knew exactly what he was doing when he prescribed his order of exercises.

How did he know I couldn't be trusted to “keep faith with myself?”

Go ahead: take a long, hard look at your own workout.

What exercises instill the most fear, eye-rolling and elevated heart rate in you?

Maybe it's upside-down exercises, or – aaarrgh – rolling exercises…

Or maybe you're a crooked sister (brother) of mine and can't stand the sight of one-sided exercises?

Those are truly my NON-jam.

What's the fancy technical word for it? Oh yeah…

Unilateral.

See?

I can't even remember what to call them!

I've known the word bilateral forever. From science, right?

Yet I hear the word ‘unilateral' and each time I think – What? What's that??

It's like I can't hear it. It doesn't compute.

Finally, I've looked it up:

 

u-ni-lat-er-al

Having, or relating to, one side.

 

You've probably known this word for a while. I'll bet you even use it in conversation.

The Pilates Method includes specific exercises that address the body unilaterally.

Yeah whatever…

Two Exercises in One!

The Pilates workout definitely gives you your money's worth.

Sure there're lots of reasons to strengthen and stretch the body one side at a time, but for full-on asymmetrical folk it's like getting 2 difficult and very different exercises when you really only bargained for one. If you even want to do it in the first place.

So what's changed?

I'm here to help you learn from my Pilates mistakes. It's taken me nearly 20 years of Pilates to come around to these terrible UNILATERAL exercises and actually do them.

What a concept!

And by ‘do them' I mean to do them more than once in a while.

On my own.

Without someone making me.

Oh boy (rolls eyes).

The Unilateral Suspects

A little while back I told you right here on the blog that I would be doing 3 exercises on the Ladder Barrel every day.

I challenged you to do the same and to report back whether you got bored or better at them.

*Crickets*

Not just from you.

TBH I did do them. A little. If I had time. When I was feeling sub-par or super stiff. Like they're some magic pill or something.

I didn't do them consistently, every day.

But then something happened.

I learned something.

The Ladder Barrel: It's where the Magic Happens

Romana Kryzanowska would tell us:

If you learn one new thing every day you will be a genius.

It's also empowering and can open your mind to new possibilities.

New ways of thinking.

One moment on the Ladder Barrel opened up a whole new world of unilateral exercises.

Only this time the landscape looked exciting.

Full of possibility.

Maybe even a little bit FUN.

The Ladder Barrel Three

Side Sit Ups

Side Sit Up on the Ladder Barrel

The Side Sit Ups has never been a favorite.

Here I work on standing evenly on both of my feet. It's so difficult to stand on my left leg I even took the other one away for a bit to see what would happen.

Side Sit Up One Leg on the Ladder Barrel

The rungs of the Ladder Barrel are rigid and supportive which is a blessing!

I'm shocked to say it was even a little bit fun. Fun slash fraught with the peril of falling onto the floor in a heap may be more accurate tho…

Side Stretch

Side Stretch on the Ladder Barrel

Side Stretch has the added benefit of feeling amazing – after you finish. During the exercise, it's hard as balls and my legs feel like they weigh 500 pounds.

My lower body was the anchor in the Side Sit Ups which prepares it nicely for the active reaching it must do now. I also work to lift my bottom and back up to help push into the rungs of the ladder.

The side-lying position of the body will want to wiggle around so do your best the channel your Side Kick Series position to keep yourself on the front edge of your side.

More on that whole Side Kick Series thing in a bit…

Backbend

Backbend on the Ladder Barrel

The Backbend on the Ladder Barrel used to be a favorite of mine.

Now I know too much and it's very hard to do properly and not just throw my legs around.

Gosh I love to do that.

Here's where your Roll Up skills get put to the test. And your Leg Circles – what do you know? Also not a favorite…

Just push into the rungs of the Ladder Barrel and pull in your stomach.

Prayers help too.

Who doesn't love an Extra Special Guest Star?

I've just started watching Season 3 of The Crown. I'm a huge Olivia Colman fan and I've been an anglophile since…I can't even remember when. The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981?

Perhaps.

Back in Season 2, there's an episode in which JFK and Mrs. Kennedy visit The Queen at Buckingham Palace. The reveal of JFK was beautifully crafted and it literally made me gasp.

Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under, Dexter), a favorite of mine, was a deft bit of casting as President Kennedy.

His presence made the episode all the more magical.

Enter The Ballet Standing Stretches

Standing Stretches on the Ladder Barrel

The Standing Stretches on the Ladder Barrel is an excellent addition to an already stellar lineup.

You'd think with all of my “We Only Have One Exercise” shenanigans I'd be able to spot a helper exercise when I see one, but I assure you it was WELL disguised.

Working the impossible lift of your leg to the Front and Side isn't just torture, it's actually good for you!

And good for your Side Kick Series.

Side Kick Series Front Back

Do you wish you could stand on one leg while the other lifts?

Well, wishing doesn't make it so.

May all your Pilates dreams come true on the Ladder Barrel.

Thanks, Joe Pilates. What a great Christmas present!

Side Kick Series: Not a Walk in the Park – or is it??

Even more important than your Side Kick Series, there's another dynamic balancing skill you must cultivate in our Pilates workout.

Can you guess?

Walking is a vital functional movement that declines as you age.

Use your Side Kick Series and Ladder Barrel exercises well to live (and walk!) vibrantly this holiday season.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Do you know I have a YouTube channel?

Check out this 20-minute Ladder Barrel workout I did a while back. If only I'd known what I was missing…

The Power of Incremental Change: Open Leg Rocker Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010: Christmas Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010

Hey there!

Happy 136th Birthday Joe Pilates! I think of you (mostly fondly) every single day.

Welcome to my new series: The Power of Incremental Change.

As the new year approaches, 'tis the season for Pilates resolutions. What are your workout goals?

Maybe you already know which exercises you'd like to wrangle in 2020?

Will it be a year of the Snake?

What are my 2020 Pilates Goals?

I am just starting to find more lift in my center and bottom and it is exciting. You're always rolling up and down from somewhere, right? It happens in ALL of the exercises.

Gradually my meat and potatoes exercises have expanded into more of my “normal workout.” I pulled myself back from the Headstands and Backbends and Flying Squirrels to get more of my powerhouse in order.

Yes, sometimes you need to use your stomach.

The powerhouse needs shoring up!

In 2020 I want to get back to all of the exercises I have on my Reformer poster.

Yeeesh.

2019 was really the first year I willingly subjected myself to all of my one-sided and side-bending exercises that I have hated hated hated and never would do.

Double yeesh. The ego is delicate…

2020 will be the year of all things Side Kick Series! A scissor is a scissor is a scissor I always say.

And in every Pilates workout, one of them is just an exercise away!

I'll be looking for you to hold me accountable here on the blog: Side Kick Series 2020: You heard it here first.

The Years in Review

Even before I wrote my first blog post in 2012, I had the chance to view a few photos of my Pilates workout. Back in the day, you didn't have a camera/video recorder with you 24/7.

Now you and I can document our workouts more prolifically than even Joe Pilates himself.

Joe Pilates would have loved Instagram!

Back in my performing days – BTW I'm more ‘actor-who-moves-well' than ‘professional dancer' – I would often see photos of myself from dance numbers.

Sometimes what I thought I was doing in my head would match the picture.

Sometimes…

More often what I thought I was doing and the image in the photo was not the same thing at. all.

And wouldn't you know it's the same in my Pilates workout?

In your lessons, if you ever doubt your instructor's eye there's nothing like a video of the Long Stretch Series to help you realize, “Oh…that's what they're talking about…”

You study with teachers whose knowledge and eyes you envy trust.

In your lesson recording, you can literally see what your instructor sees – perhaps for the very first time – and see if you were able to make the correction in your body.

This is vital to your longterm Pilates education.

I thought it'd be fun to check out photos of the same exercise from different years to see (hopefully) steady progress. Use your own photos and social media accounts and play along with me!

This first episode of the series will begin with my favorite Mat exercise, the Open Leg Rocker.

I thought I'd start with a fave and then work up to looking at photos and videos of exercises I hate.

Sound good?

You're always welcome to stampede straight to your nasty exercises…

Open Leg Rocker

I'll start with a few criteria for the exercise:

  1. Open Leg Rocker is a wonderful opening/stretch of the entire back.
  2. You are in the very same position as the Teaser with regard to both the balance point and the back shape which is round.
  3. Your scoop is deep and your arms reach all the way up to hold the ankles.

First up – the Naughty Auties:

2008

Open Leg Rocker on Rocks

What do you see?

I see the shape of my back that is not really round and almost has a wee archy spot – you guessed it – right in the rib/middle back area.

I also see a lack of spaciousness in the hip and thigh area – that leg is all bunched up in there and close to my stomach…

I could also unfurrow my brow, but perhaps it's sunny…

You must start somewhere. Maybe if I weren't perched high up on a rock in this photo my exercise would look a bit different… Maybe not cause check out the OLR from 2010 at the top of the post…

Fast forward:

2015

Open Leg Rocker 2015

Aha! This looks better after just (!) 7 years of the Open Leg Rocker

And all those OTHER Pilates exercises…

#babysteps

What do you see?

I spy a Round(er) shape for sure… still the vestiges of the short middle back/rib area but getting much better.

And look at all that space between my scooped stomach (who could tell in 2008?) and my thighs!

Now to be picky I could look at how my head is plopped onto my body… a bit forward which shortens up the back of my neck as I look up. Keep an eye on this…

Now to drop into the present day:

2019

Open Leg Rocker 2019

What do you see?

I finally see a more rounded and open space in the middle back/rib area! Now the continuous line of the back goes all the way up to the base of the neck.

There is more to be done to continue the length into the neck and head position. Duly noted.

Is that the final frontier in your Pilates practice? Figuring out where your head should sit on top of your body?

I also see even more spaciousness in the scoop of the belly. The upper leg is starting to look more developed on the backside (the bottom) than on the front quadricep side. The bottom has more presence in the exercise.

Oh goody!

My 3 photos from 2008, 2015 and 2019 respectively show that 11 years of Pilates practice have been incrementally perfecting my Open Leg Rocker.

And while it's not perfect, it's is better.

And that's awesome.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

One day at Vintage Pilates we were discussing the usual “clickbait” titles of Pilates videos and online content.

5 Minutes to Sexy Abs!

Long Lean Legs in 10 Minutes a Day!

Have Better Sex with 3 Simple Pilates Moves!

You've seen them.

Maybe you've even believed them.

A longtime client of Jay's – let's call him Adam – deftly weighed in with a zinger. Adam is in his 30s? 40s? and originally came to Jay with a back problem. Today he does an amazing advanced Reformer workout and you'd never suspect he'd had any back problems at all.

His Around-the-World on the Short Box is damn near swoon-worthy…

No one would click on the truth, Jay:

15 years to a Better Back!

Peals of laughter in the Pilates studio.

Roll the tape!

You can harness the power of the technology literally at your fingertips to better your Pilates practice.

At first, it might be tough to watch yourself workout. So much to get over even before you can look at the exercises. Maybe you're not happy with your shape, your hair, or even you in general.

I feel you.

In 2008 I was a brunette. In 2019 I'm nearly an arctic blonde. Persevere. A lot of living goes on in 11 years.

But it's all okay. You're always you to everyone you know and hold dear. In 20 years you'll take a look back and be amazed at how cute you were all along!

And there's power in reviewing photos and videos of your own workouts. And self-love.

And learning for God's sake! You'll use your teacher's eye to better your own. I love a good scroll on IG to work on my skill of looking at the body. Maybe you do too?

There's always lots to see.

I eagerly await the email from my online lesson to review the recording. Grab a cup of coffee or if necessary, a glass of wine. Do what you need to do. What I hear from my teacher during my lessons has to get filtered through my concentration so I welcome the opportunity to hear it all again when I review the recording. I listen much better.

Try it out for yourself.

If you're not taking online lessons currently and you're curious, use this link to book in and give it a go.

You'll get a great workout plus a recording of your lesson. It's a whole extra hour of Pilates education!

Win – Win!

What exercises will you visit from your Pilates past?

What are your 2020 Pilates Goals?

I'd love to know.

Revisiting my Pilates Past

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and shoes

Do you ever wish you could travel back in time to visit your former Pilates self?

What was it like to learn your Pilates exercises for the first time? What were your struggles back in the day?

It's easy to get out of touch with what it's like to be a new student. However, I find with regular workouts, you can strengthen your empathy and get a good dose of Pilates karma.

(Who else gets busted in your own lessons for stuff you tell people all day long?)

Your clients imagine you're a Pilates superhero: you can do ALL the exercises, ALL the time, perfectly and without breaking a sweat.

I won't tell if you won't…

A Blast from the Past

I took my first Pilates mat class in the fall of 2000. My local studio was Excel Pilates. Anyone in the Washington, DC area, please check them out! They are an amazing group of women who will kick your butt and empower your soul in just under an hour.

#truepilatesrockstars

In mid-2001, I was browsing through my local bookstore (remember those?) and came across a little book from Mari Winsor, The Pilates Workout Journal: An Exercise Diary And Conditioning Guide.

Although I documented my lessons and classes for only a brief shining moment, my notes reveal early insights that make me smile.

My observations range from the obvious –

 

The Teaser: position and strength continue to challenge.

 

–  to the ridiculous –

 

I'm really starting to love the Swan Dive. 

 

Awww…how sweet. Who knew I ever loved that thing?

In a recent post, I shared my #1 Pilates mantra: Learn. To do. The Roll Up.

In my first Pilates classes, I could not Roll Up without my legs flying up in the air and heaving myself forward. The Roll Up is an exercise I dearly love now and thanks to my former Pilates self I had a good plan in place –

 

I just need to do the Roll Up all the time. Any spare moment… just relentlessly practicing it.

 

Repetition anyone?

OMG – Love for exercises I don't like??

Excel Pilates' brand image is an illustration of the Sidebend exercise:

I thought it was a just cool abstract drawing…

Then one day it showed up as an exercise in my Mat class.

Clearly I felt empowered to achieve the exercise that inspired their logo –

 

We learned Sidebend: this is a beautiful and fabulous exercise! It felt great to finally do the Excel logo pose.

 

– albeit my cringe-worthy use of the word ‘pose' for a Pilates exercise.

#rookiemistake

And I'm gonna bet Swimming inspired this comment –

 

Still a bit flaily… but getting better.

 

My early notes also reveal compelling evidence of the Pilates Method as the skill-based movement discipline it is.

The value of the exercises in your very first lesson continues to deliver. And even early on I realize what all this strap and springs business is really about:

 

I need to imagine the resistance of the straps and mentally use this image. This is very powerful to correctly do the exercises.

 

What luck! There's even a blog post on this exact topic many years later.

And perhaps the most heart-warming of all comments I didn't anticipate at all:

I really like all the people I have met doing Pilates.

Awww… I couldn't have said it better myself!

Thanks so much for hanging out with me this week!

What gems from your Pilates past do you remember?

The 7th Principle of Pilates: MOVE!

Jumping on the Stomach on the Ladder BarrelThis week's post is an oldie but its topic has even more resonance today than when it appeared on pilatesology.com in 2012. Read Pilatesology's original post even if you're not a member. Wanna join? Use my code Andrea30 and extend their free trial to 30 days.

My Pilates Confession for this week…

Remember your least favorite Pilates exercises we used for our little Repetition test?

Are you bored or are you better?

My few Ladder Barrel exercises have added a 4th friend: The Standing Stretches – also known to Romana's Pilates peeps as the Ballet Stretches.

And I am proud to admit I'm a bit better at them… and what about my 3 other exercises?

I'm sure I am a bit better…but it's too early to tell for sure… more repetition for me!

How did you do?

What are the ‘Principles of Pilates'?

Most all Pilates training programs – mine included – spend the first hour of the first training weekend imparting some basic information about Joe Pilates and his method.

On my first page of notes: Pilates is… (in 3 words) Stretch with Strength and Control.

Okay, cool.

Next my notes tell me what most if not all Pilates instructors also learn very early on:

The 6 Principles of Pilates:

Concentration

Control

Centering

Precision

Flowing movement

Breathing

True, these 6 principles do accurately describe what differentiates Pilates from other forms of exercise.

They do not, however, come from Joe Pilates.

Whaaaaaaaht???

It's true.

Jay weighs in…

Jay Grimes points out that Joe Pilates did not come down from the mountain one day with stone tablets proclaiming the 6 Principles of Pilates.

I always laugh when he says this because I think of Mel Brooks as Moses in History of the World Part 1. Moses comes down from the mountain to announce his 15 Commandments, accidentally drops one stone tablet and quickly changes the number to “…10…! 10 Commandments!”

But Joe Pilates would have had the stone tablets, the tiny white shorts, and a cigar I think, yes?

I know, getting a little off-topic.

So if not from Joe, from whom do we get these 6 lovely principles?

Enter Romana…

The 6 Principles first appeared in The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska.

Originally published in 1980 (more than a decade after Joe Pilates died, yo.).  It “was the first book of its kind – bringing Pilates out of the elite studios and into the lives of millions of Americans.”

The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning

Jogging and running had exploded in the late 1970s. By 1980 a fitness craze was sweeping the country and an obsession with health, beauty, and youthfulness was having profound effects on American culture.

Students Gail and Philip met with Romana seeking specific ways to differentiate the Pilates Method from other forms of exercise.

What made Pilates special?

Certainly, the 6 principles they created are inherent in the Pilates system.

But another more important principle is missing.

Let’s call it the 7th Principle of Pilates: Move!

Who knows, maybe if Joe dropped his stone tablet other precious gems were lost as well:

“Thou Shalt Not Bang the Carriage.”

“Quiet the Clips.”

“What you don’t like, you do twice.”

Try it for yourself.

Let's follow the 7th Principle of Pilates. Move!

All those other 6 principles will happen automatically when you commit to simply move.

Concentration: You'll remember the exercises and focus on what you are doing. As you continue to move you'll have to think faster from one exercise to the next. Moving requires engagement.

Control: You'll move in a safe and effective fashion. The continual movement will challenge your control.

Centering: You’ll be toast without your stomach.

Precision: You'll maintain your form. The continual movement will challenge your precision.

Breathing: You'll most certainly have to breathe… The movement will require you to breathe more deeply and fully. I love it when this happens!

Flowing movement: OMG yes! You are moving!

All this involves TRUST of course.

Trust yourself AND the Work

Trust in Joe's work.

Trust that it is getting the job done without you micromanaging and getting all up in its grill.

Trust to let the body lead you without your mind working overtime, or over-indulging in the breathing.

Perhaps…you know who you are…

Trust.

Let go.

Let go and Let Joe…awww… #pilatespunsarethebest

What's your experience when you commit to move in your workout?

I'd love to know. Share your successes in a comment below.

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

About last week…

In last week's post, I challenged you to visit a few of your nastiest exercises. Did you get bored with them? Or did you get better at them? How did it go?

I'd love to know.

TBH, I decided on my 3 exercises quickly but only managed to visit them a few times… sign me up for another week.

So far I am neither bored nor better.

My 3 exercises to continue to wrangle:

Ladder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercises

Side Sit Ups, Side Stretch, and the Backbend.

Clearly I need to hear Joe Pilates' words again:

“Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you in keeping faith with yourself.

So I'll keep the faith at full speed for another week at least. How'd you do with your exercises?

Meanwhile…

Jump into a new series with me this week!

Nearly 2 decades into this amazing method, I'm finally (mostly) ready to tackle the-most-basic of all basics: Footwork on the Reformer.

Let's. Go.

Footwork at a Glance

In the traditional Pilates system 4 exercises begin our Reformer workout:

  1. Toes – the official name, but dare I say, Balls
  2. Arches
  3. Heels
  4. Tendon Stretch

For the record, I've never been a fan.

Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis, one of my first teachers, used Footwork as her go-to workout on busy days. Not all the exercises on the Reformer, there was no time. 

JUST the Footwork.

She loved it.

Ugh.

Why subject yourself to such torture?

Even my most horrible Mat exercises would be more fun than Footwork on the Reformer all by itself.

#FootworkProbs

At first, I found the Footwork exercises to be frustrating. So much focus on the minutiae of my misbehaving foot, arch and ankle was such a drag. Not to mention I had the quads of 10 men… *sigh*

Can't we just move on to the Hundred and all the fun stuff?

What's really going on here?

I need an attitude adjustment…

Let's Zoom Out

Jay Grimes and Vintage Pilates (and time) have liberated my Footwork series.

I'm more than just a pretty pair of feet…

Joe Pilates was often asked, “What is this exercise for?”

“The BODY.”

Good answer! Thanks, Joe.

Footwork is your first big warmup of the lower body.

Footwork on the Reformer

The Hundred continues this theme of warming up, now for the upper body.

100 on the Reformer

What a pair!

#fullbodyworkout

Mobilizing and lengthening the back is more vital than perfect legs, feet, and ankles – at the moment. 

These things take time.

Most importantly MOVING through this series plucks you out of your busy mind and into laser focus: controlling your body. You may even sort yourself out on your way to the Tendon Stretch.

Joe Pilates has your back on this one.

Literally.

Can you be long, tall and straight like the Reformer behind you? Nope, but it's the trying that counts.

The Footwork series is a great place to take full advantage of your most supportive friend, your partner in crime, the Reformer.

Ready? Set? Footwork!

A whole Pilates studio of apparatus lies in wait to exploit your Footwork skills. Surely all of our 500+ exercises in the Pilates Method will benefit.

Footwork on the Reformer is the very first skill to haunt you (perhaps even taunt you) on every apparatus you visit.

Footwork on the Reformer

It's your very first squat!

Joe Pilates takes it easy on you at first. You are horizontal, fully supported by the apparatus and free from pesky gravity.

Check out these Pilates morsels! See if you can find their inner Footwork

Frog on the Reformer

Frog, in many iterations and on multiple apparatuses, is the ultimate Footwork clone.

Pumping on the High Chair

Pumping on the High Chair puts our Footwork (and our Frog) upright. I find changing the relationship to gravity can be a huge help in honing our Footwork skills.

Centering on the Ped-o-Pull

Focusing on your inner Footwork can make even grueling exercises on the Ped-o-Pul possible. In the photo, I am using a bit of Footwork to help with my Centering exercise.

Wow! The scope of the Footwork exercises makes it a whole lot more fun.

Now for something completely different (NOT)

Our Footwork series also provides a strong foundation in formidable exercises:

Greg Swan on Barrel

Swan done on the Ladder Barrel puts the strength of your Footwork to the test.

Headstand 2 on the Reformer

OMG it's a moment of Tendon Stretch from our Footwork series smack dab in the middle of the Headstand! An old familiar friend despite the challenging position…

Tower on the Cadillac

And you can clearly see some Footwork skills in my personal nemesis, Tower on the Cadillac. Thanks, Joe Pilates, someday I will learn!

Lights! Camera! Footwork?!

Joe Pilates starts you off right away with the fundamental skill of the Footwork series.

Visit your Footwork and all your fundamental Reformer exercises in these videos:

Use the first one for a detailed deliberate pace and the one below for the same group of exercises done at a brisk pace:

Need help finding your bottom and actually using it in your Footwork series?

Check out this video as well:

Have an amazing Pilates week. You got this.

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