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?

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better
It's no secret I spend considerable time thinking about our beloved Pilates Method.

My favorite aspect of our system is, well, that whole ‘system' thing… I truly enjoy that we have a specific framework in which to workout.

Order! Order!

Our classical system has a specific order of exercises on the Reformer and on the Mat.

Combined with ‘We only have one exercise‘ Joe Pilates has literally built crucial skill-building into his method.

Repetition is truly the mother of all learning.

Pilates as a skill-based exercise regime is more akin to a martial art than it is to traditional fitness.

Like martial arts, Classical Pilates is “deeply rooted in philosophy… and tradition.” But “it [also] teaches discipline, focus, and respect.”

Often the Pilates method is promoted as fitness but it's different.

It is a practice, so you've gotta practice, am I right?

Won't I get bored?

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better
In last week's post I shared one of 2 exercises I'm working on in my current Pilates Proficiency Project: Rolling Back on the Cadillac. Working this exercise each day is bettering my Roll Up skills and creating more proficiency system-wide.

Repeatedly visiting the exercises allows the apparatuses to be our teachers too.

Plus, the Pilates Method is experiential so I invite you to consider starting your own Pilates experiment to find out for yourself:

  1. Choose a small group of exercises
  2. Choose a time frame – 2 weeks, 30 days, etc… (at least 2 weeks tho)

Limit the number of exercises you choose so you can complete them in just a few minutes.

Do your chosen exercises Every. Day.

I've done this experiment here before with my Small Barrel Project and also with my Foot Corrector and 2×4 exercises. If you've got a couple of exercises you really hate but know are good for you – those are the ones to choose!!!

You can decide for yourself if you're bored or if you get better day-by-day at your chosen exercises.

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

You know what? I'm gonna jump in right now.

I've got a trifecta of Ladder Barrel exercises which aren't my favorites and are ripe for just this kind of ‘noble experiment.'

My 3 horrible exercises on the Ladder Barrel:

Side Sit Ups – aaaargh kill me now…

Side Stretch – maybe you know this one as Fish??

Backbend Hanging – probably this one has a bunch of other names as well… it used to be a fave but not sure anymore…

Stay tuned here for next week's post to find out how it's going.

Also If you're not a blog subscriber, click here. You'll receive a new post every Monday and you'll also receive a bonus blog post all about How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate.

You'll see how many exercises I don't like and maybe you even hate them too.

But it's no fun to be a hater…

Won't my clients get bored ??

Serendipity led me to find this image on IG:

Variety social share

Consistency yields big dividends. It's a great feature of our beloved Pilates Method.

If you are consistent, it works. You don't even have to be that great at the exercises.

Just do it.

Joe Pilates takes care of that whole ‘variety' part for us. It's in there.

Joe presents us with the same demands in multiple scenarios all around the studio.

Getting Bored vs. Getting Better

Creating consistency in your clients' workout will better their skills, change their bodies and empower their minds.

You become a team!

And while this is not a guarantee that every new client will jump on board with you… you will find your people. There are plenty of clients who are perfect for YOU.

Remember: The exercises stay the same and familiar as your body goes through monumental change.

Check out this recent video collaboration I did with the amazing Lesley Logan.

Thank you for reading!

Check out @Pilatay on IG and cast your vote for Best of Pilates 2019.

If you like what you read here use this link to vote for me as Best Pilates Blog 2019.

Thanks so much!

Learn. To do. The Roll Up. and other Pilates Mantras…

Joe doing the Roll Up on the Mat

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey that is our beloved Pilates Method.

I've been thinking about you and as always, I've got the Pilates exercises at the forefront of my mind.

Where'd you go, Bernadette?!

Thank you so much for all of your sweet emails and comments expressing your love for the blog and your concern that you've not been receiving my once-weekly emails.

There's nothing wrong with your subscription or your inbox.

The short answer is that my surf lessons have absorbed the time in which I would write my weekly posts…

But that's not the whole truth… and as of yet, I've not become a surfing expert…

The real story is I've been experiencing a huge learning curve in my workout and therefore in my teaching as well. I dearly wanted to share this with you but I wasn't sure how best to go about it.

To be frank, my body used to LOVE the Pilates exercises. Every last one of them was a total. Feel. GOOD. Experience.

Since my most recent post in May '18, I've found that my body has grown intolerant of my movement patterns and pointed me with a neon red sign toward my imbalances and compensations.

“So what are you going to do about THAT??!” my body cries.

Don't blame the exercise!

This is an important point at this juncture: there's nothing wrong with the Pilates exercises or my body. After careful thought, movement and consideration, my body is pointing me in the direction of my weakest points and demanding I address them.

And you know how change is not comfortable? I felt reluctant to testify about Pilates with you. The blogposts got started but alas, were never completed…

So thank you, dear readers, for your patience, support, and love. I'm back – I hope a little bit wiser – and completely humbled by our magnificent Method.

Meanwhile…back at the Roll Up

Jay Grimes is straightforward in his direction.

Here's one of my favorites:

Learn.

To do.

The Roll Up.

Pretty simple right?

This. Means.

YOU.

It was a big day in my mat class when I did my first successful Roll Up.

In my first class, I could NOT roll up.

Nope.

I should have stopped right there as my One Leg Circle was not much better…

Fast Forward 18 Years (not a typo)

Now I've done the Roll Up for decades so I am golden. I'm all ready to move beyond the humble Roll Up and onto more exciting stuff…

…like the Neck Pull

Good times.

This is where the journey gets uncomfortable interesting…

With more proficiency comes greater responsibility, my friends!

Don't just get it done… was that a heave-ho in there?

It's called the Roll Up

not the Throw Up.

(also Jay Grimes)

What would it take to REALLY do the Roll Up?

These things take time…

In my very first Pilates Mat class all those years ago at Excel Pilates, I could NOT roll up.

Today the Roll Up is one of my favorites. Now it's time to peel more delicious leaves off the artichoke.

Hard-won exercises can take us to the next level of proficiency over time.

Lately, I've been working hard to perfect a couple of the Roll Up‘s kissing cousins on the Cadillac.

Can you guess?

I know, we're always rolling up or down from somewhere, right?

Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Andrea doing Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Early on in my physical life, I found it “helpful” to compensate for my swayback posture by essentially tucking my pelvis all the time… you can kind of see it in the above photo from January 2018.

And boy do old habits die hard…

Now I know my tucked pelvis was a quick fix for not using my stomach effectively in my Pilates workout.

Rolling Back has helped me to keep lifting everything that sits up on top of the Short Box while my deep scooped belly starts the rolling back part. Rolling Back is even an exercise I like!

I don't have to tell you my Roll Up has gotten so much better (insert mindblown sound effect here)!

Which brings me to my second fantastic exercise on the Cadillac: Push Thru Front. 

Andrea doing Push Thru Front on the Cadillac

This one I have never liked…

I've spent many years not practicing the exercises I don't like. But now at least there's LIFT!

The photo above was taken last month (October 2019).

Here the Cadillac apparatus gives my body parameters which increase the difficulty. Push Thru Front is even more truth serum for my body.

The deep scoop of my belly must take me into that sharp turn of the exercise (right in my weakest spot!) and continue as I push the bar forward. Remember there's no crying in Pilates!

So how's that Roll Up going?

Working to initiate Rolling Back in my low low center has helped my Roll Up become much stronger.

And longer!

These 2 Cadilac exercises have helped me locate that deep-scooped-belly connection in so many of my other exercises. It's no joke how learning to properly roll up and down can strengthen our Pilates workouts.

Since I have been “learning to do the Roll Up” I've increased my proficiency in MANY other exercises:

I have built strength in my Roll Over, Rolling Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Corkscrew, Jackknife, The Short Box, Tree, Short Spine Massage, Swan, Neck Pull, and the list goes on…

When one exercise gets better, they all get better: we only have one exercise!

Thanks so much for reading!

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Now let's workout! You know you want to…

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