The Short Box Series: I Stand by my Pre-Judgment.

Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Welcome to a brand. New.Year. And the rest of your life!

A big thank you to everyone who joined my January workshop, The Cadillac Project. We are a full class of 10 and I'm super excited to get to play Pilates with you on Thursday.

So many Cadillac exercises there are. I watched a bunch of Star Wars movies over the holidays.

Yoda talks about control A LOT.

“Control! Control! You must learn control!” and also another goodie “Your path you must decide.”

If you missed out on this month's workshop, check out my February and March workshops (both on your favorite apparatus, the Reformer).

Also, I've got a new offering in the works that I will share with you very soon.

Meanwhile, back to the Reformer…

Today's post has been a long time coming.

If you've been following for a while you know that I continue to be fascinated/frustrated by The Short Box Series on the Reformer. I have spent considerable time building my Short Box proficiency and I've shared my thoughts with you here, here and here.

I talk about The Short Box Series everywhere… here's an old one I wrote for Pilates Style Magazine.

Kiss Today Goodbye…

Twist on the Short Box

I am a big fan of applying my Pilates workout to balance out all the zest and pleasure I pour into my life. And in the midst of the 2 biggest holiday weekends of the year, oh, Reformer exercises, how I love thee!

Let me count the ways!

This Christmas season I didn't travel (shocker) and Joe and I created our own traditional Italian Christmas Eve Feast of the 7 Fishes. As a family of two, we only made it to 5 fishes, and it was delicious.

After a few days of lying around, binging the aforementioned Star Wars saga (well most of them) and finding myself permanently attached to my wine glass, I needed a dose of the truth.

I try not to judge my workout too harshly when I really just need to MOVE. That's the beauty of Pilates. those exercises are working even if you don't think you're particularly good at them. And really, it's the sucky ones that can be magical. Evil magic for a while tho…

Back in the Day

Kinda goes without saying here, but I love the Pilates Method.

I love the exercises, the specified apparatus, the way there is a protocol for getting on and off of the apparatus, the order! I have loved the way the exercises make my body feel literally since my very first Mat class way back in Washington, DC.

A big shout-out to all the amazing peeps at Excel Pilates DC!

I loved my Mat classes and later, when I became apparatus-curious, I enjoyed all the “new” Pilates exercises I got to learn in my small group apparatus class. Hey, I can do that same crazy thing over here on the Reformer?? Sweet!

I loved it all.

EXCEPT for those damn Short Box Exercises.

All the fun of straps and springs were nowhere to be found and I was stranded up there trying to make things happen in my body: Round! Now Tall! Bend to the Side! Twist and REACH!!!!

At least during the Tree I got to be upside down for a little bit… but too little too late. And then when Tree got super interesting along come more fricking leg circles?

WTF, Joe Pilates?!

Although make no mistake, Leg Circles are the gift that keeps on giving…

Aw Crap, Back to 2020…

Round Back on the Short Box

Each time I visit the Short Box exercises in my workout, I try to talk myself down from the ledge.

This stuff is good for me, and you always gotta love the exercises you don't like…

My mantra continues…

And as a Pilates teacher, I understand the value of the exercises on the Short Box. Everyone needs these exercises!

We need to learn how to sit up and lift ourselves and move in all planes of motion, and globally stretch the back of us.

Blah, blah, BLAHHHHH…

But last week, in the midst of a recent romp on the Reformer, I had HAD it.

I didn't know anything about the Pilates System or my body all those years ago. All I knew was that I REALLY didn't like the Short Box Series.

I stand by my pre-judgment!

It's like Joe Pilates created this series just for me. On the Short Box, I'm confronted with the most challenging skill I will encounter in my workout:

There's nothing to stand on. I gotta figure out that part right off the bat.

And with nothing to stand on, there's no supportive carriage, footbar, etc… to lift up and away from. I gotta generate it ALL.

OMG it's like a test! Do you have it? Often I do not.

All the help I expect from the Reformer in lots of the exercises is nowhere to be found.

And sitting on that box? It's a recipe for a grip-fest.

Does this sound familiar? Well, I've got an idea…

It's time for a noble Pilates experiment!

I knew you'd be excited.

Attention all Order Nerds:

Rocking on the Reformer

All of you, dear readers, have enjoyed my most viewed post, On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

This post examines the reasoning behind what I'm gonna call ‘the old skool order' of the standard Reformer repertoire from Joe Pilates.

The ‘old skool order' assumes that once you get on the Reformer, you will do it all.

Doing it all includes the Second Long Box.

Fess up now if you never include this series in your Reformer workout.

Guilty.

If the existence of the Second Long Box is truly news to you, welcome to the longest series of 3 exercises since the Teaser (or the Horseback).

And when you include the Second Long Box, the Short Box Series gets “saved” and plops down right afterward.

Therefore you are really warmed up and perhaps a little tired.

In any case, I want to see what happens to my Short Box Series if I place it later in the order – not randomly, but where it goes in the later part of the Reformer exercises.

Will I have more skills in my body by that point in the workout?

Or will I be too pooped to care anymore?

The suspense is killing me.

The Best Laid Plans…

Any deviation from your usual order of exercises shows you that old habits die hard.

A ton of mental activity must run concurrently with your workout to successfully move stuff around and not forget anything.

Like the Second Long Box and the Short Box Series.

Yeah.

So much for my brain getting a workout.

Sometimes you find out that the Reformer is smarter than you are.

Ok so here's how it went down.

The Plan

The Reach on the Short Box

  • My Long Spine Massage is in the shop (Cadillac) at the moment, so I planned to put the Frog and Circles at the end, right before the Mermaid and the Knee Stretch Series.
  • I'm including the Headstands as well.
  • I also wanted to put in the Headstand with the Straps instead of the Backbend after Thigh Stretch for now.

Other than those bits it was all going to be in there: from Footwork to the Russian Splits.

Lately I've been setting a timer for 1 hour and willing myself to finish before the timer squeals at me. As a reformed slowpoke, knowing the clock is ticking helps prevents me from micromanaging certain exercises (I'll bet you can guess).

It was going so well.

When I finished the Russian Splits I looked at the timer:

5:52 minutes remaining!

I tidied my apparatus and contemplated an ending sequence: a few rolling exercises or a couple of Cadillac exercises or…

Wait a minute.

In the tenuous moment of inserting Frog and Circles for Long Spine Massage, all my thoughts of Second-Long-Box-then-Short-Box went out the window.

Blast.

But I've got those extra minutes. Plenty of time.

And technically the Short Box Series was still (very) late in the workout.

Another Pilates problem solved!

So how did it go?

Tree on the Short Box

The premise: Would my Short Box skills be more available to me if I use the “old skool” order of exercises which places the Short Box much later in the workout?

The simple answer is yes. I did feel more prepared for Short Box. The skills I needed from the Reformer were more in my body. I didn't have to desperately search for them quite as much.

Now granted, I essentially ended up doing the Short Box after the workout.

But it's not like I'm never getting on the Reformer again… I'm about to hop on again in an hour to see if my brain will be better this time round…

Here are the extra exercises between where I planned to put the Short Box Series and where I actually did it:

  • Frog and Circles
  • Mermaid
  • Knee Stretch Series
  • Running
  • Bottom Lift
  • Control Push Ups Front and Back
  • Star
  • Side Splits
  • Front Splits
  • Russian Splits

Looking at this list now I feel like Tree is your splits-before-the-splits exercise.

On the Reformer in 2021

Thank you so much for joining me for this noble Pilates order experiment. The Pilates Method gives such riches. You are always rewarded by diligent practice.

The Reformer also has a quiet way of making you check your ego at the door.

Join me in February for more Short Box FUN!

We'll take a hard look at all your fundamental Reformer exercises and determine how they prepare you for the complex exercises “conveniently” placed in the latter part of your workout.

That's right, It's a workout just to get to them LOL

Your fundamentals are the building blocks for all those exercises with a bad rap: Overhead, Snake/Twist, Star and the list goes on.

If all this sounds like your kind of fun as well, reserve your spot today.

And stay tuned for my March workshop where you'll link it all together with transitions!

Got questions about exercises or wondering if these workshops are for you?

Hit me up in the comments and let's chat 🙂

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The Cadillac of Apparatus

Swan on the Cadillac

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me on the wonderful journey that is the Pilates Method of Exercise.

The reinvigorating of my personal Pilates workout – fewer distractions and more time for daily workouts – has been a true silver lining of this year at home.

And my new plant friends.

The green healing color, as well as learning about their care and feeding, has helped me to stay calm and roll on…while I Roll Up and Roll Over.

Our current stay-at-home orders in California also give me plenty of time to commune with my Cadillac.

And it's just a couple of weeks before the start of my January workshop: The Cadillac Project!!

There are just a couple of spots left (Don't worry you can still snag your spot here).

And if you thought The Wunda Chair Project was fun…

Oh, the places we'll go!

I've been sprucing up my outline and reviewing the myriad of exercises Joe created for one of his most impressive apparatus, the Cadillac.

What a sh** ton of exercises!!

Also lots of moments when I think hmmm… that is interesting. It's made me look at the apparatus itself with new eyes.

Over the next 2-ish weeks I'll be sharing a few tidbits to tide you over until January.

Exercise Relationships

By now you've surely heard someone (or me) say “Pilates is a system” or even “Trust the Work.”

And your quest, should you choose to accept it, is to apply the Pilates System – the body of work that is the Pilates Method – to yourself and/or the body in front of you.

No prob.

It's so easy to say, right?

For this reason, it's helpful to notice and seek out the relationships between exercises.

We've only got one exercise and countless variations. Often you find yourself in a familiar place or position only to “suddenly” discover that you've been here before…

Pilates Confession #296

Shoulder Roll Down on the Cadillac

For the last few years, I've been working diligently to rid myself of a bad movement habit.

My habit really shows up in a particular group of exercises that requires the same skill despite having a different level of support, a different relationship to gravity, and/or a different apparatus.

Here's my exercise relationship du jour:

  • Reformer: Long Back Stretch, Short Spine Massage, Semi Circle, High Frog
  • Mat: High Scissors and High Bicycle
  • Cadillac: Airplane, Leg Springs in the Air, Tower, Shoulder Roll Down (Sari)

And I'll probably find a whole lot more of them.

Lifting up the entire back of the body with integrity is one label we could use for this skill.

I also think sometimes it's hard as humans to imagine that the lower body begins somewhere higher up than our hips and legs…

What other similarities do you see in my list?

Pop a comment down below and add to my list, I'd love to know.

Up on the YouTube!

Thank you so much for your kind words and great feedback on my YouTube channel.

I've just surpassed 6K subscribers and I can't thank you enough for watching!

More videos will be coming your way soon. Please let me know if you've got Pilates topics or Pilates exercise requests. I love them!

Recently, I thank you for bringing to my attention all the mid-roll ads you ran into while trying to work out with my videos. I've since taken care of the problem. You should no longer be pelted with ads in the middle of my videos – you will still see advertisements at the beginning and the end of the videos.

Thanks for your patience – and thanks for subscribing 🙂

Recent videos you may have missed:

  • If you're a twisted sister too, check out my “Scissors workouts” here, and here for a ton of 1-sided fun.
  • And here's a fun Wunda Workout where I try to never get off the Wunda Chair until the end!
  • Also check out this Cadillac workout for a preview of my January Workshop: The Cadillac Project.

Join me in January for The Cadillac Project.

Reserve your spot today.

Happy Holidays!

The Cadillac: Simply the Best

The CadillacOne of my favorite elements of the Pilates System is that nothing is arbitrary.

“There IS a reason,” says Joe Pilates, for all of our protocols and exercises and apparatuses.

Each apparatus in the studio has a special purpose or it wouldn't be there, right?

All the apparatuses exist to assist and support your efforts. And of course, they mingle their help with challenge, like everything else in this brilliant method.

Joe Pilates' First Invention

What niche does the Cadillac fill in the Pilates studio?

Like so many things in the Pilates Method – the Teaser, the Hundred – the Cadillac has a reputation.

She's the favorite “feel-good” and “stretchy” workout your clients demand. Who cares about the oppressive Reformer, that unforgiving Mat or those impossible Chairs?

And it’s always the Cadillac who welcomes you when you “just want to wake the f*** up…”

The Best of its Kind

It's rumored that Joe Pilates called his invention the Cadillac after a mid-20th-century advertisement proclaiming General Motors' Cadillac automobile to be the best of its kind.

A couple of years ago I investigated this story.

And does anyone complain about having to use the Cadillac? I've only heard glowing reviews from clients – the Cadillac is decidedly more popular than the Reformer… or the Mat… or anything else in the studio really…

Cadillac as Laboratory

The repertoire of Cadillac exercises is vast.

And there's something for everyone.

On the Cadillac, you'll find…

  • …an easy place to lie down if you can't get down on the floor.
  • …a mat that offers full-body support and is a template for your tall standing position (lying down).
  • …a place to get assistance to learn how to roll your body up and down on the Mat.
  • …a boatload of exercises which can be straightforward places to learn not-so-straightforward exercises on the Reformer and Mat.
  • …a place to advance your standing exercises with assistance from a spring.
  • …a nice place to hold on while you balance on one leg.
  • …a great place to invert the lower body for beginners.
  • …a fun place to invert the entire body for advanced practitioners.

Oh gosh there's so much to do here! So many possibilities within the canopy of the Cadillac

Pilates Confession Time

I've never liked the Leg Spring Series on the Cadillac.

Nope. Not one bit.

It's not that I don't do them… I've been doing them for years. They're not great, but little by little they get better.

Curiously, I love love LOVE the Frog and Circles on the Reformer.

What makes the same exercises done on different apparatus so…different?

And by ‘different' I mean vexing.

See what you think:

 

The Cadillac version

Frog in Leg Springs on Cadillac

 

The Reformer version

Frog on the Reformer

Looks kinda the same, right?

But looks can be deceiving.

What's the same?

  • The position of most of the body is the same. In both exercises, you have each foot in its own strap.
  • The choreography is the same.
  • The support you receive from the apparatus is similar.

What's different?

  • The Cadillac is not a moving platform.
  • On the Cadillac, each foot is directly attached to the spring. The Reformer connects you to the spring system which resides underneath the carriage. On the Cadillac, this direct attachment to the spring makes control more difficult.
  • The position of the upper body and the arms is different. On the Cadillac, the arm position is advantageous to help lift and engage the entire trunk of the body. It's also the most solid support you get in the exercise here.
  • And look at the position of my ribcage. Never underestimate the power of the headpiece on the Reformer.

Think about the Footwork series we do (everywhere) on the Reformer.

It's very reminiscent of the Frog, yes?

That footbar is so solid and supportive. Yet fleeting.

Joseph Pilates giveth and Joseph Pilates taketh away…

Over time, you'll ween yourself from Footwork done with the stout footbar to the less supportive long black straps for the Frog to the foot-directly-connected-to-spring instability on the Cadillac for the Leg Spring Series.

“These things take time,” Jay Grimes tells me.

Where are we going?

Think of the Cadillac as a stepping stone from the compressive support of the Reformer and Wunda Chair on your way to going it alone on the Mat.

Some support you'll receive from the Cadillac will be considerable: All that stuff with the Push Through Bar. It's probably not an accident the push-thru springs are the heaviest springs in the studio.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Cadillac: the Roll Down Bar…I smell unstable support here!

The Cadillac Project

You know how much I love a good Pilates Project. In September my workshop focused on the Wunda Chair.

Join me in January 2021 for a deep dive into the vast repertoire of the Cadillac. On the Cadillac, there are so many ways to enhance and challenge our Pilates workout all around the studio.

Go full-on remedial to reinforce fundamentals, or channel your inner circus performer with gravity-defying exercises hanging from the canopy.

I love to work the system via the lens of a good ol' Pilates Project.

Currently, I've got 2 projects in the works for my body – I'll bet you can guess LOL

My Cadillac Project #1: Building Symmetry

  • Leg Springs Series
  • Leg Springs Series – One Leg
  • Airplane (with the Airplane board)
  • Roll Back with One Arm
  • Tower
  • Tower – One Leg
  • Monkey
  • Monkey – One Leg
  • Shoulder Roll Down (the Sari)
  • Push Thru
  • Push Thru One Arm
  • Standing Stretches in the fuzzies
  • Standing Boxing
  • Standing Lunges
  • Squats
  • One Leg Squats

Wheee!

This one's a wild ride that takes me from lying down to the one leg squats.

All is possible on the magnificent Cadillac!

My Cadillac Project #2: Creating the Round Back Shape

What makes a round shape? It can be a struggle for me. Notice some exercises even make both of my projects!

  • Leg Springs – One Leg
  • Airplane
  • Roll Back
  • Tower
  • Push Through
  • Reverse Push Through
  • Seated Tower
  • Half Hang

What kind of Pilates Project will you create on the Cadillac?

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll explore the fundamental forces of 2-way stretch as you experieince as many of our meat-and-potatoes Cadillac exercises as time will allow.

You'll build a Pilates Project of your own along the way.

The Cadillac Project will meet 4 Thursdays in January: January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021.

Class time is 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Cadillac or Tower Unit
  2. Pilates experience

Just a few spots remaining.

Use this link to join in the fun:

Yes! I love the Cadillac!

Get a glimpse of The Cadillac Project in this week's video.

Thanks for watching!

The Wunda Chair Project: A New Online Workshop

Wunda Chair Pilates Project

Hey there!

Lately, I've ventured away from the Reformer and gravitated toward the piece of apparatus that often gathers dust in my studio. Sad, but true…

Maybe this sounds familiar?

It's the Wunda Chair I've been consistently spending more time with and, oh boy, is it making me smile and use my powerhouse!

Joe Pilates and the Home Workout

Well before Covid-19, Joe Pilates knew you needed a piece of apparatus perfectly designed to use at home, even in the smallest of New York City apartments.

Enter the Wunda Chair.

Each August, Joe closed his studio to escape the oppressive heat in the city. In my understanding, Joe would encourage/badger/force his clients to purchase his Wunda Chair to exercise at home while the studio was closed.

Joe selected a handful of exercises appropriate to the client to help them maintain their workout until September when they could return to the studio.

It's this story about Joe (plus a new amazing book on the Wunda Chair) that was the inspiration for my current Wunda workout (book review coming soon!).

I Smell a Pilates Project…

If you've been reading and following me for a while you know that I am quite the crooked sister.

No one is perfectly symmetrical and imbalances provide a challenge: do the exercise on one side and then on the other side. This gives you a ton of information about your body, right?

In daily life, I find I don't stand evenly on my feet. Instead, I shift my weight mostly onto my right side when sitting or standing. Especially standing.

It's amazing how much I don't stand on my left side (insert eye-roll emoji here)…

But wait.

I could create a Wunda Chair workout to address this issue!

Excellent…

I LOVE a good Pilates Project! Read about a few of my previous PPs here, here and here.

My Wunda Chair Pilates Project includes about 20 minutes of exercises done standing with one or both feet on the pedal. As a warmup, I've added the Hundred and Footwork, and since feet are on the pedal in the Footwork series I've also included Footwork 1 leg.

Wait this sounds familiar…

As a teacher and/or practitioner of the Pilates System, you learn over time which exercises you do well and which exercises present the most challenge to your body.

Maybe you've also learned these challenges to the body are traditionally addressed in the latter part of a Pilates session in a part I like to call ‘This is for you.'

Think of the ‘this is for you' exercises in your own workout.

It's these exercises that are your personal responsibility; these are the exercises that may not make you feel proficient in your workout, that point directly to your weaknesses, and that you love to forget about and do all the other “fun” exercises instead.

But wouldn't more proficiency in your worst exercises make the “fun” ones better too?

Yes, YES and YES!!

So suck it up and join me for some ugly Pilates!

Using the Wunda Chair exercises below, I've created a new Pilates Project, for my precise ‘this is for you' situation.

The Exercises

  • Hundred
  • Footwork
  • Pull Up
  • Pull Up 1 leg
  • Side Pull Up
  • Table
  • Table 1 leg
  • Tendon Stretch
  • Tendon Stretch – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Chair
  • Frog Facing Chair – 1 leg
  • Standing Pumping Front
  • Standing Pumping Side
  • Standing Pumping Crossover
  • Going Up Front
  • Going Up Side/Side Mountain Climb
  • Achilles Stretch
  • Mountain Climb
  • Down the Mountain
  • Star

Watch the video at the bottom of this post to see the first version of my Wunda Chair Project.

You can do it too!

In September, I host an annual Pilates Party in my home studio, just north of San Diego. The week-long party includes lessons, open studio group classes, and a new workshop. There's also a lot of eating, drinking, and socializing after long days in the studio.

This year, it's unclear what September will bring, and gathering a bunch of people together in person doesn't seem like the best idea.

But, let's party on anyway, virtual style!

This September I hope you'll join me each week on Thursdays for a 90-minute exploration of the most challenging exercises you need, the greater Pilates System and the Wunda Chair.

Join me this September

The Wunda Chair Project will meet 4 Thursdays in September 2020: September 3, 10, 17, and 24.

Class will meet 9am-10:30am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Wunda Chair
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love the Wunda Chair!

Thank you.

I look forward to sharing this new workshop with you.

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