Learning from Exercises you HATE: Humble Pie Edition

Side Sit Up on the Ladder Barrel

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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.

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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…



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:



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.


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 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?


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…

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  1. Lovely! Thank you so much!

  2. Unilateral. I see…. WHY so hard WHY!!?? LOL!! I dunno A, you make them look pretty easy. I’ve been FORCING myself to do LB Standing Stretches BEFORE every Mat or Reformer. See, if you get the torture done first then the Mat and/or Reformer feel much easier ;-0 But for real, for me, if I can pre-stretch those tight unilateral 😉 bits my workout is SO.MUCH.BETTER. So why then is it so hard to “just do it.” Funny how our brain/body works. Ok, now for a #PNERD question. Platform on the LB. Is this strictly a height thing so your hip isn’t hiking up and therefore lower back isn’t doing weird things? Just curious when/why to use. (wo)Man, I love your blog 🙂 x

    • Alessandra Niccolai says

      I agree about pre-stretching the tight bits, I often like to start on the spine corrector to open up my back before doing much else… especially before teaching! I’m sure I would really enjoy the ballet stretches if I had a ladder barrel…. 🤷🏻‍♀️ That’s on my Pilates shopping list too..👍🏼 It’s getting to be quite a long list these days… 😂

      • Yes if you think of the anatomy of a lesson you have your ABCD – C being the ‘this is for you’ section – so you can also visit your ‘this is for you’ before you start your workout (the A/B part). I have been working on a Guillotine workshop for the end of January and by the time I finish planning my workshop I am going to really want a Guillotine LOL. The Pilates shopping list is neverending I fear…

    • I agree! Why so hard??? Thanks for thinking I make them look easy LOL. I have been visiting the Standing Stretches on the Ladder Barrel OFTEN and it has made a big difference in so many other things. The platform on the Ladder Barrel is actually for both of the things you say. I have been using the platform for myself for both reasons – I am short-ish and my hips are tight so I have more luck of keeping everything square on the platform. I also do it without the platform. The platform helps with the lifting of the leg for sure – and that’s what so helps the Side Kick Series! Yay! Awww… thank you for the blog love xox to you friend. And keep up the good work!

  3. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Yes.. learning from the exercises we hate 😬 what a great title… my most disliked exercise is still shave (slightly less hated on the baby chair, but still not a fave😳) , and now it has a new friend called BREASTSTROKE 😱😱😱😱…OMG I cannot fathom it at all! But then I realised what both these exercises are telling me… stop using your shoulders and START USING YOUR SEAT! the reason I don’t like them is because I feel all ‘shouldery’ when I do them and I simply cannot locate where the power comes from… of course it should be my powerhouse, which seems to elude me in these two beauties (not!)… #pilatesproject🤓 I shall persevere 💪🏻 Love your blog 🙌🏻🥰😘

    • Oh God I hate the Shave too! Yes I like what the exercises are saying to you! And thanks for articulating that because they need to say that to me too! LOL You’ve been a great help 🙂 And thank you so much for the blog love my friend. Keep on nerding!

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