Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

I dearly love my Pilates workout. Last week I was on a family vacation and I got in an invigorating Pilates Mat workout each morning in the lovely hotel fitness center.

I've got ample time for my Pilates workout when I am away from my studio. Sure I miss the Reformer, but daily Pilates is luxurious.

How can I aspire to a daily workout at the top of a busy workday? This is my conundrum.

“I can't do anything in less than an hour!”

Yes. I can. And you can too.

My beef for years was how to get in the full-on hour workout – a big Reformer workout – during a super-packed busy day. My morale runs high in the morning, dips around lunch time and at the end of my day I've really got my sights on dinner and not the Hundred.


My Go-To Pilates Workout for Busy Days

Today I'd like to share with you my new plan to workout little by little throughout your day.

And you'll still feel fabulous!

At the end of my day I'm also more inclined to want closure for the workout I started earlier. Usually it feels too daunting to begin my workout at 7pm.

And I'm hungry.

3 Cheers for the Small Apparatus!

In today's video I share the apparatus and exercises I use daily. I will change up the major apparatus, whether I'll be doing Mat, Reformer, Cadillac or Chair. But the small apparatus ritual at the top of my workout remains the same.

For now.

If I've got more time I will do all of my small apparatus exercises, and if I am running late in my morning it only takes about 5 minutes to do a pared down version.

A couple scenarios…

No time to workout? There's an exercise for that.

Busy Day #1


Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

You'll finish in about 4 minutes.


Foot Corrector: all the exercises included in the video

Mat: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, Roll Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, Scissors, Lower Lift, Criss Cross, Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, CorkScrew, Saw, Swan, Single Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick, Thigh Stretch, Neck Pull

In about 20 minutes you've done all your Foot Corrector and jumpstarted your Mat exercises.


Mat: High Scissors, High Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, Spine Twist, JackKnife, Side Kick Series, Teaser, Seal

Yes, you could finish up all your Mat exercises at this point at the end of the day, but dinner is often a real concern…

Or maybe you'll workout on the Reformer:

Busy Day #2


Foot Corrector – all the exercises included in the video

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

Reformer: Footwork, Hundred, Overhead, Coordination

In just 15 minutes you've visited 2 small apparatus. You've also gotten the ball rolling with your Reformer.


Reformer: Long Box (Pull Straps, T, Backstroke, Teaser), Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant, Long Back Stretch, Stomach Massage Series

In about 20 minutes post-lunch you can complete Long Box 1 Series, Long Stretch Series and the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe you can get it done in 15?

Not too shabby.


Reformer: Short Box Series, Short Spine Massage, SemiCircle, Knee Stretch Series, Running, Pelvic Lift, Side Splits, Front Splits

Mat: Roll Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Seal

At the end of the day you'll finish off the major exercises in what you may know as an Intermediate Reformer workout followed by an invigorating rolling ending.

Well done!

Give it a try and see how you do. Share your tips and successes in a comment below 🙂

I hope you'll enjoy this workout as much as I do.

Thanks for watching! 

Oh and about this video…

My body generally avoids the Shoulder Bridge on the Small Barrel. It's always my intent to include this exercise after the Bicycle but alas, as I edit this post I realize my body has gotten the best of me AGAIN and I “forgot” to include Shoulder Bridge in the video.

Bad Pilates Teacher!

You should still do it (and so should I).

Let's help each other…

Classes, Private Lessons and Much Much MORE!

October 5-8, 2017 I'll be in Portsmouth UK at Everybody Pilates. Private lessons are filling up! Reserve your spot by using the link below:

Everybody Pilates Mind Body Online

I look forward to seeing you there.

And here's where to find me this Fall.

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

In last week's post I threw down the gauntlet.

I've given myself a 30-day posture intervention on the Small Barrel.

Today makes 7 days in.

23 more to go…

What I've been doing…

Today's video workout features my 30-day Small Barrel workout. I do my exercises at least 2x each day. I like to do 1 time in the early morning before I start my day and another time later in the evening after work.

I've done my exercises as late as directly before bed.

That's nice too.

What I've noticed so far…

  • I now feel back muscles that run up and down the center of my back. It feels like I've convinced them to work to hold me up better.
  • My back feels fantastic.
  • I've become hyper-aware of how I hold myself in daily activities: when I look into the mirror to apply makeup I have particularly bad head-forward-crunchy-neck-posture…how NOT beautiful.
  • I curl my body up when I sleep. These exercises done first thing in the morning feel amazingly invigorating: such wonderful wake-up exercises!
  • In this video my shoulders are more flexible overhead than I have ever seen in photos of myself. Interested to see how this develops over the next 23 days.

Observations from others…

Body awareness during everyday tasks has been a big eye opener for other Small Barrel Project participants.

How we use our bodies during our daily lives is a big part of our day, right?

And generally we do these slumpy things to ourselves. How nice to have our round apparatus to help us stay upright. Thanks Joe!

Exercises in this video…

Circles (with 1lb. weights)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Breathing (with bar)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Change position on Barrel


The Small Barrel Project: One Week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hip Twist

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!


The Small Barrel Project: One week in!The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Enjoy this short workout. 

Join me for 30 days and let's see what happens 🙂

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here's where to find me in 2017

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

for Joy

Zen Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China in the 12th century and has had a profound cultural influence.

“The aim of Zen is to achieve sudden enlightenment through meditation in a seated posture, usually under the guidance of a teacher and often using paradoxical statements to transcend rational thought.”

OMG that's Pilates!

As a new Pilates student, the Stomach Massage Series is among the first exercises you'll learn on the Reformer.

If you're in the habit of using the names of the exercises in teaching them to clients, you know what a potential disappointment this series is with its use of the word “massage.”

Most people at least get a chuckle at the name.


Oh you'll have to work for it.

The Stomach Massage Series is a wonderful opening and lifting of the back of the body. You'll use the 4 exercises of this series to prepare you for huge amounts of lifting to come on the Short Box.

You've really got it all here: opening and lengthening of the entire back of the body, a brisk tempo to give you a steady rhythm to build stamina. This one moves!


In each of the 4 exercises in this series the stomach must be fiercely involved with every move.

  • Stomach in: press the carriage out.
  • Stomach in: reach the heels away.
  • Stomach in and lift: lift the heels up.
  • Stomach in and  lift: bring the carriage home.

This concentration of abdominal action results in a deep massage of our internal organs.

Those organs don't know how good they've got it.

The Stomach Massage Series repeats the action that we also see on the Mat with the Single Leg Pull and Double Leg Pull. I have previously described these two Mat exercises as “wind-relieving” for the same massage they offer our abdomen.

You know I'm dying to write a post about the myriad benefits the Pilates workout offers our digestive system…don't get me started.

The Stomach Massage Series:

SMS#1: Round

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

All the springs give support to this tall lifted curve. If you are sway-backed like me, this a wonderful daily opportunity to open up the low back, to see how lifted up and un-sinky you can be!

Perhaps, also like me, you have learned that the goal of this exercise – of the whole series really – is to be able to sit very close to the front edge of the carriage.

This may indeed be the ultimate goal of the exercise.


On this particular day with yourself or the body in front of you, you may find more success in the exercise by sitting a bit further back.

Find a spot where you can really have access to the lift up and out of the low back.

The springs should not sink you backward when you push out – and it is a lot of spring in this first exercise, so pick an advantageous location.

Keep your lift and back solid as your lower body is moving. Your head should not bob in the breeze… 🙁

It is in this first exercise that you'll set the tempo for the entire series. So get moving and then make sure to keep up with yourself!

SMS#2 Hands Back

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

Stomach Massage Series #2 gives you a support to find even more lift in your back.

But those hands are not for leaning, make no mistake. You can use them to push down to get your back to lift higher, but not to prop yourself up.

Think that your arms are connected to your back (because they are), not just to your shoulder.

If you are in doubt, just lift your hands off the shoulder rests a fraction of an inch and see what happens. You'll find out in a hurry what should be holding you up.

Pants Off Dance Off

It may come to pass that during this lovely Stomach Massage Series #2, you start to slide back on the carriage and your pants start to…well, come off.

Through the years I have heard a few theories about why this happens in this series and, more importantly, I've learned how to keep my pants on.


One former co-worker suggested that it's really your undergarments that are to blame for the de-pants-ing. If one were to go commando and workout it would no longer be a problem.

Uhm…and if this theory is an epic fail, then your ass just hangs out?

This is not a solution in my book.

And I did NOT test this thesis.

Keep your pants on!

“So why do my pants come off?”

I have heard teachers answer this questions numerous times thusly:

“If you use your stomach, your pants will stay on.”

While I do believe this to be true, it's not quite the whole story.

To work this exercise well (and avoid wardrobe mishaps) use this recipe for maintaining a well-fitting pant:

  • Press your feet firmly into the footbar.
  • Press your heels fiercely against one another.
  • Find your upper stomach and your seat. Use them to push into the footbar and move the carriage.
  • If you can work primarily in the powerhouse (stomach and seat) and less in the legs, you'll have a great chance of keeping your pants on.
  • Give it a go!

SMS#3: Reach

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

Look Ma, no hands!

Now you'll find out how just how much support the Reformer afforded you. Here you must be just as lifted in your back without holding onto the carriage AT ALL.

The lower body retains its brisk and connected pace throughout the series and now it's all you've got.

See if you can keep your lift and fight against the carriage to stay up, up, UP as it closes. The carriage should never push you backward in this exercise.

Fight to stay upright.

SMS #4: Twist

Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series

Ah look at that: a new element of twisting.

SMS#3 will get you totally dialed into the footbar. Keep the connection here and you'll be a twisting machine.

  • Keep your lower body straight on and centered and lift tall in your Twist.
  • Push into the footbar to help lift your back even taller.
  • Think of this as a multi-way stretch exercise with everything reaching out from the center: legs, top of head, fingertips stretching away from each other.
  • It can be your Star before the Star exercise!

The Order of the Universe

In the Order of the Reformer Exercises, the Stomach Massage Series fits neatly between the Long Stretch Series and the Tendon Stretch.

You'll see components here from the earlier part of your Reformer workout. The lower body movement echoes the Footwork series only now you also have the influence of the Rowing Series to lift you up into a seated position.

In the last part of the Stomach Massage Series you'll challenge yourself further with our first introduction of rotation: Twist.

Check out last week's post for more on pace and transitions in the Stomach Massage Series.

Thanks so much for reading!

Got some love for the Stomach Massage?

If you hate it with a passion leave your rant in a comment below 🙂

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Exercises

The above quote from Joe Pilates appears in The Eighth Avenue “Contrologist” by Evelyn S. Ringold, an article published in the New York Herald Tribune in 1964.

It's one of my favorites.

I have come to understand the myriad benefits of even the very first Pilates exercises. And I always assume Joe is referring to the first 5 Mat exercises (because I love them).

How nice would it be if everyone in the world could feel invigorated and positive? All of us at peace with ourselves and with the world around us.

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

In my very first Mat class at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC, we learned ‘the basic 5.'

The Basic 5:

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

  1. The Hundred
  2. The Roll Up
  3. Single Leg Circles
  4. Roll Like a Ball
  5. Spine Stretch

These are wonderfully effective when I've procrastinated my time away for a larger workout until dinner time. It looks like a workout is not going to happen and my gosh, I still need to fucking stretch out.

5 in less than 5

These are my 11th hour go-to exercises. Get a good workout in just a few moments. I usually finish the basic 5 in less than 5 minutes.

And I feel virtuous. You can really dig deep into these exercises and they can be thorough.

From one of my very first Pilates teachers, Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis:

My first and passionate thought about the basic five is this. It is the template on which most everything in the Pilates method is built.  Each of these exercises serves as a building block to other more complex exercises and concepts. 

And within the “basic” nature of each exercise lies sophisticated concepts upon which advanced knowledge can be applied by the long term Pilates practitioner.

How amazing are these 5 exercises? Let me count the ways:

  1. They make a good goal for new clients to practice at home. These exercises will increase their strength, their memory and retention and they'll soon be on their way to figuring out what exactly you're asking of them in their lessons.
  2. It's a good way to begin working out on your own if that's not something you regularly do. Build your daily or every-other-daily Pilates habit little by little. After a few weeks of just the basic 5, you'll want to add a few extra exercises.
  3. They are extremely difficult to do perfectly. You'll be sweating if you apply yourself.

Use these practice videos to perfect your Basic 5. If the exercises are new to you use the more deliberately paced workout first. Then challenge yourself with the uptempo video.

Deliberate Pace:

Brisk Pace:

Got an extra minute?

If you've got an extra minute you can add 2 more exercises giving yourself a basic 7:

  1. Single Leg Pull

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

  1. Double Leg Pull

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

Start with 5 repetitions of these 2 exercises. You can even increase the reps to 8 or 10 to get an extra infusion of strength in your stomach.

Also included in this next video is the 3rd exercise in the order of the Pilates Mat exercises, the Roll Over.

If the Roll Over isn't an exercise you currently do, just leave it out and proceed to the next exercise, Single Leg Circles. If you do it and you've got a moment to spare then by all means have at it!

How many minutes does it take to feel awesome?

Get your Basic 5 on and report back!

VIDEO BLOG: What has Pilates done for me lately?

What's been buzzing in my mind about our beloved Pilates Method?

So. Many. Things.

However, disparate items on my “checklist” are beginning to hone into a solid laser-focus.

Let's unpack that…

Zen and the Art of the 2-way Stretch

My Pilates workout enables me to be in my body in the present moment.

Mind chatter subsides. I am deep inside my body and looking around to see what's new.

Or what's new today that may not be as I left it.

Blissfully there is no time for considering/fretting about the past or the future.

How exhilarating!

Keep it simple, keep it moving

  • The order of the exercises: For most of the hour, you have a structure in place which paves the way to a deeper connection in the execution of the exercise. Unencumbered by the burden of selecting random exercises, you are free to allow today's experience of the exercise to take center stage. Maybe another related exercise will pop into your head for a hot minute. Duly noted for later. Oh yes, you WILL do it later. But for now, just keep moving!
  • One focus for the hour: Pick only one, lest you get distracted or bogged down in a slow-mo micromanagement of your workout. Use a correction you're working on from a previous lesson or even a new moment in an old exercise that makes all your exercises a little better.

The Spine Corrector Challenge

I truly believe we should all take the Spine Corrector challenge.


Run. Do not walk. To your Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel…you know who you are…)

There are so many gifts from Joe Pilates in this one brilliant apparatus.

Video Blog: What has Pilates done for me lately?

Small Barrel, Spine Corrector and Ladder Barrel: there's one that will be your perfect match.

Or why not enjoy all three?

A word about the exercises done on the Spine Corrector:

I take the name of this apparatus very seriously. There are many exercises that can be done here, but the original and most important ones emphasize the true purpose of this apparatus: Spine Corrector.

Used correctly (ha ha see how I did that?) your exercises here will open up the hips, thighs, low back, upper back and shoulders.

Doesn't that sound fabulous??

I started doing these exercises on the Small Barrel (being petite and on-the-stiff-side) and now work on the Spine Corrector as well. What a dynamic Posture Duo the Short Box Series and the Spine Corrector are for our bodies.

Three cheers for keeping it up and forward!

Stay tuned for more on the Short Box in next week's post.

The exercises

Part 1: The Everyday Basics

Arm series

  • Circles
  • One arm up/One arm down
  • Hug
  • Breathing

Leg Series

  • Circles
  • Scissors
  • Bicycle
  • Thigh Stretch/Shoulder Bridge

Part 2: Let's ratchet up to full-on invigoration!

All of the above exercises plus:

  • Helicopter
  • Leg Circles onto the Head
  • High Bridge
  • A couple pop-up Teaser moments

Finish both series with some rolling and a short rest.

Join me for a Spine Corrector basic series everyday for 2 weeks.

Or bump it up to the invigorating level and kick your own ass. Whadaya say?

See what changes you see/feel in your body.

Share your successes in a comment below.

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