Pilates and the Moments In-Between: Transitions on the Reformer

Into the Short Spine Massage on the Reformer

Hey there!

It's a beautiful Valentine's Day here in San Diego! I hope you had an amazing weekend in your part of the world.

Thanks for taking the time to join me for another day on the Pilates Path.

Department of Foot Corrections Recap

Ball of the Foot on Foot Corrector

Two weeks ago I proposed a challenge I fully expected to fail.

Good news! I'm halfway through this monthly challenge, I've managed to do my exercises at some point every day and I've nearly got a brand new pair of feet.

Well, they look the same but they're definitely more talented!

I thank you for playing along.

TBH there were a couple of nights I was lying abed about to fall asleep and I bolted upright, realizing I'd neglected to do my exercises. Yikes!

Good save.

Day 9 connected my stomach to my feet for perhaps the very first time. I kinda get stuck gripping in the hips and buttocks. By Day 10 I lifted out of that stuck place and my back tells me I'm on the right track.

Thanks, Foot Corrector!

And on Day 11, I placed a whole new pair of feet onto the footbar to start my Reformer workout.

Wow. I did not expect that.

Or did I?

All the little balls were lined up like they knew exactly where to go.

And we're only halfway through the month.

Imagine if I were to adopt this habit daily. Or for the foreseeable future…

Thank you, thank you, powerful Pilates method.

How is it going for your feet? Drop me a comment below and share your progress. Feet are exciting!

Transitions on the Reformer

Out of Swan into Pull Straps on the Reformer

Adding transitional moments to your Reformer workout is not easy to do. This requires mental and physical control.

You must first be proficient in the 2 exercises you are connecting.

Next, you must know where you're going and get there.

The above transition out of Swan on the Long Box and into Pulling Straps/T-Straps removes one spring and adds a moment of counter stretch. Win win!

Also in life, it's the moments of transition that potentially pose a true challenge.

These in-between moments steal your focus from the tasks at hand.

You're thinking about where you've come from or where you'll be moments from now. It's hard to stay in the moment, in these often awkward moments of transitioning from one space to another.

Enter the Pilates Method

Arches into Heels on the Reformer

Transitions are a brilliant feature of the Pilates System. Early on in my Pilates practice, I enjoyed the specificity of the instruction of how I was to move from one exercise to the next.

You know me, I love a good plan.

Although mainly taught on the Reformer, transitions add an extra layer of proficiency to every piece of Pilates apparatus.

What's the point?

Backstroke into Teaser on the Reformer

The iconic Reformer transitions (think Backstroke into Teaser) can be more difficult than the exercises they connect. You can advance your workout without needing to add any new exercises. Woo hoo!

Benefits of connecting the exercises together into one continuous chain of movement include:

  • new challenges to coordination and balance
  • increased stamina and endurance because you're not stopping
  • increased brain function to think faster and anticipate the next exercise in the order
  • Pilates skill infiltrating into pedestrian elements of the workout (reaching for springs, picking up the box, etc…)
  • time available to eventually add more exercises!

Is the goal of transitions to do fancy spring changes while you balance on top of the box?

Not quite.

As you move through your exercises, it's easy to anticipate the end, drop your energy and connection to your body, only to have to scrape it all up off the floor again to rally for the next exercise.

Who wants to do that? That not only sounds hard to do but is also inefficient.

All your precious connections into your center, graciously given to you from your Reformer will stay intact and ready to serve you when you've achieved an efficient transition.

Transitions ultimately can:

  • efficiently take you from one exercise to the next without unnecessary movements
  • feed your progress into the next exercise rather than hamper it
  • please you as you utilize a hard-won skill
  • challenge your focus and concentration
  • surprise and delight you with new capabilities: look what I can do!

My Favorite Transitions

Out of the Hundred and into Overhead on the Reformer

There are several categories of Transitions in your workout.

My favorites are what I like to call ‘personal transitions.' They are not prescribed and often reinforce skills that you've achieved over time. It's a moment of proficiency in your workout – a new skill that now takes you from one exercise to the next.

Examples include:

  • rolling up into a Teaser without using your hands after the Hundred to drop 2 springs for the Overhead
  • placing each foot exactly where it goes (without fidgeting!) when mounting the Reformer for Side Splits
  • stepping up for the Tendon Stretch exactly on the edge of the carriage without sitting on the footbar
  • any precision challenge you give yourself as you arrive at the beginning or end of an exercise

I've been enjoying personal transitions on the Foot Corrector as well. Placing my left foot on top of the Foot Corrector is a challenge to my balance. It's amazing how much that foot is disconnected from the rest of me – meaning my stomach. Losing my balance brought my awareness to this lack of center.

Now I know that I am not in control of this transition. Look! A “new exercise!”

Control and precision can be your friend for life.

Transitions on the Reformer: An Online Workshop

Into the Rowing Series on the Reformer

It's a pleasure to teach my February workshop dissecting the Complex Reformer exercises. Next month my online workshop will tackle all those elusive moments-in-between. On the Reformer and elsewhere, time permitting.

Transitions. The moments in-between. This is where the stuff of life happens!

Picking up a bag of groceries. Reaching behind you. Getting in and out of the car.

Transitions are a part of everyday life. And that's when you really need your Pilates workout.

For the unexpected.

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll examine getting in and out of all your standard Reformer exercises. You'll set yourself up for success!

Transitions on the Reformer will meet 4 Thursdays in March: March 4, 11, 18, and 25, 2021.

Class time will be 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Reformer, classical apparatus preferred
  2. Pilates experience

Space is limited. Reserve your spot today.

More Transitions! Transitions!

Into the Backstroke on the Reformer

A few years ago I created a series of posts and videos all about these beloved in-between moments.

Check them out on the blog:

Or watch the playlist on my YouTube channel.

Until next week: Stay efficient, my friends!

“We are what we repeatedly do…”

Joe Pilates Quote

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

If you're a new subscriber to the blog – welcome! Thanks for joining me on this wonderful roller coaster of a ride called The Pilates Method.

Foot Department of Corrections

Last week I threw down the gauntlet – to myself as well – to visit the Foot Corrector and the 2×4 every day in the month of February.

“Why do I do this to myself?” wafts through my brain as I struggle to make foot exercises a habit one day at a time.

I almost failed my own challenge on Day 3.

By Day 6 I had an epiphany. I think my stomach actually connected to my feet when I used the 2×4.

I usually do the Foot Corrector exercises first, followed by the 2×4.

On Day 7 I “accidentally” did the 2×4 first. What a difference it made for my connection to my feet! I'm gonna use this order for a while to see if it teaches me further.

How's it going for you? Hit me up in the comments if you're playing along. Go nuts and give yourself a pedicure!

Jay Grimes Strikes Again

Recently I read this blog post by Nathalie Gonthier-Thomas, a teacher at Westwood Pilates in Los Angeles. The owner of the studio, my friend Daniela Escobar, shared the post via Instagram.

I urge you to give it a read.

In a nutshell, the author shares a story of her experience in class with Jay Grimes. As she works a particular exercise, she feels that one body part really wants to take over. When she comments about feeling the exercise in this way she is expecting to be guided by Jay to work more correctly.

To her surprise, Jay turns the tables on her asking “What are you going to do about it?”

I witnessed another version of this comment as well.

Years ago at a Pilates conference produced by the lovely Amy Kellow of Everybody Pilates, one of the workshops included Jay teaching a first-time student.

Jay taught a young, coordinated, reasonably fit woman. She really caught on to how he asked her to work the exercises. He could see she was smart. She soon realized that what Jay was looking for on the various apparatus she visited – Reformer and the Mat – was similar in many ways.

When she got to the High Chair for the Pumping exercise toward the end of the lesson she told Jay that when she pushed the pedal down her back came away from the back of the Chair.

“Well, who's fault is that?” he asked with a smile.

The next time the pedal went down her back stayed against the Chair.

Jay has a way of sending a clear message that only you can create true change in your body. He is merely a guide.

The Virtual Pilates Studio

One of my favorite things about our current era of online teaching is that it helps me curb my people-pleasing ways.

I'm often too happy to help. Or I hover when I don't need to. I have also been known to enable…

Now, with clients in their own space, the ball is literally in their court. I can suggest and guide, but you're truly on your own in your designated Pilates space.

I like how this situation quietly sends the message of ownership.

Jay is right. Unless you know your workout and claim it as your own, there cannot be real change.

The Open Leg Rocker in your Workout

I've got a few super motivated and nerdy clients. Frankly, they're all awesome.

One, in particular, is extremely diligent. Janet practices her Mat exercises daily.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Daily.

This dedication –  this devotion – to Pilates and to her well-being has sky-rocketed her understanding to nerd cult status. You know, no correction too esoteric, no exercise too insurmountable. On the Mat.

Recently, we've been working on perfecting her Open Leg Rocker.

We are just beginning to do the exercise without the assist of foot straps on her feet.

Open Leg Rocker with Strap Assist

In the Pilates studio, you can use the foot straps from the leg springs for this assist. At home, lots of everyday items can serve you: a folded-up towel around each foot or a longer stretching (or stretchy) strap work just as well.

For a while, used regularly (every time you practice), this simple assist can open up the entire back of you.

In Janet's most recent lesson, I suddenly realized she was not using the straps to assist and her hands were nearly all the way at her ankles.

It's steadily getting better over time, over many months.

In addition to the Open Leg Rocker, we've been talking about the lift in the trunk of her body since Day 1.

Open Leg Rocker in your Life

I nearly swooned last week when Janet told me a story about noticing a new skill in her body.

I love when that happens.

We've often bonded over being similarly sized humans.

We're short. About 5'3″ but, you know, sorta…

Post showering, evidently many people hang their towel over the shower curtain rod to dry. I do this too.

Historically Janet could never reach up to the top of the curtain rod to stretch out the towel if it gets a wrinkle in it. Vexing, I agree. How will it dry like that?!

Turns out now she is able to reach up there with no problem.

I know you know all this, but this is why we do the Pilates exercises. To hang up our fricking towels in high places like it's no big woop.

Sure! Open Leg Rocker is a great ice-breaker at parties – and the next party I get to attend I'll be sure to bust one out – but if you can reach and bend to get stuff, that is where the money is folkx.

Rant. Over.

Meanwhile, how's it going with your feet?

Use this video to give your toes some love this Valentine's Day.

Foot Department of Corrections: 28-Day Challenge!

Heels on the Foot Corrector

Jay Grimes is a treasure.

He’s given me numerous corrections over the years, which I often “understand” at the moment only to realize years later their full ramifications system-and-body-wide.

Like the ones about my feet.

I do use the Foot Corrector and the 2×4 regularly.

But not every-damn-day regularly.

And I always manage to slack off right about the time I show up in front of Jay.

“Have you been doing your foot exercises?” he says before hello.

Translation: “I see you’ve NOT been doing your foot exercises.”

Yup. Every time.

In my defense, I know they’re good for me. And I “know” what they do for the rest of my body.

Well, I thought I did.

Like everything in Pilates, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Until you do.

#footprobs

See, I don’t really have any arches. Well, I kinda have one, but it’s not much to write home about.

And that Foot Corrector is perfectly named. Use it regularly and you’ll suddenly stop mid-stride, shocked to feel an arch! Right there in your foot where there never was one! It's brilliant.

Oh yeah, it’s that good.

Turns out arches are supportive (insert shrug emoji).

While you're at it, next time you find yourself on the balls of your feet, check to see if you are actually on the balls of each of your toes (especially the tiny ones!) or just on that in-between nowheresville which is neither toe nor ball.

Also turns out you need balls to have arches.

No doubt.

Upon finally discovering my arches, imagine my surprise to feel a whole bunch of other shit I don’t have control of light up like a fucking Christmas tree.

Arches are powerful stuff, man.

Foot Fetish February

In the spirit of harnessing the power of what a pair of arches can do for your Pilates workout, I’m dedicating the month of February (and beyond hopefully) to a daily foot fetish ritual workout.

I hope you’ll join me.

It takes mere minutes to do the Foot Corrector basics and a couple of extra goodies on the 2×4.

If you don’t have a proper corrector you can substitute an appropriately sized firm ball like a tennis ball.

2×4 exercises can also be done on the floor.

No excuses.

The Plan

Foot corrector:

Ball

There are many standing positions for these exercises at the Foot Corrector. I prefer a lunge stance for this first one so I can stand evenly on both sides. I have tight calves so if I stand with my feet side by side as I do in most of these exercises I kinda fall over…

You’ve got a few options with regard to the standing position and what to do with your arms LOL

Ball on the Foot Corrector

Heel

I find this exercise to be super satisfying. The pedal spring is considerable and I love how it fosters so much lift in the whole body.

Heel on the Foot Corrector

The Massage

Enjoy! Keep trying to lift up and away from the pedal as you hold it steady during this serious massage of the whole foot. Hard to do, but well worth the effort. I add socks or a towel for The Massage for more slideability (I'm sure that's a word…).

The Massage on the Foot CorrectorThe Massage on the Foot CorrectorThe Massage on the Foot Corrector

Arches 🙂

Lift your arch up away from the pedal and see what else in your body comes alive.

Arches on the Foot Corrector

On Top

I find it super challenging to isolate the ball of the foot on top of the Corrector. When I do find it, the pedal often bangs around noisily. Coincidence?

On Top on the Foot Corrector

2×4

Tendon stretch

Keep your lift on the inside even as you descend in space. Try not to get shorter!

Tendon Stretch on the Pilates 2x4

(And for you overachievers, don't forget to do the One Foot Tendon Stretch)

Combo

I should do this one hands-free.  You can see my poor arm trying to do the whole exercise… well I've got a month to work on that.

See this one in action in this video.

Foot Exercises on the Pilates 2x4

If you’re one-foot-challenged like I am use a pole to help you balance so you don't fall to your death.

Throw in a few Toe Corrector exercises if you’re on a roll.

Further Foot Fine Points from YT and the Blog:

Read: 

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

Fix Your Feet, Fix Your Powerhouse: The Pilates 2×4 Exercises

Watch:

A Short Tutorial on the Pilates Foot Corrector.

Treat your Feet: A Pilates Toe Corrector and 2×4 Workout

Last Chance, Fancy Pants!

The Complex Reformer Project is set to begin in mere days.

If you've enjoyed working your Pilates Project POV in my most recent workshops, the Complex Reformer Project will land us smack dab in the middle of the Baby, You're a Star! kind of exploration.

How do your years of toiling in fundamental exercises on the Reformer all culminate in Joe Pilates' show-off exercises: Snake/Twist, Horseback, Control Balance Stepping Off, and (of course) the Star?

Reserve your spot today. The fun begins on February 4.

Added bonus: Jump on board for this Foot Corrector challenge and I bet you'll find out how much a supple and lifted pair of arches will help all your Reformer exercises.

I ❤️ Jay Grimes. That guy is always right.

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.

The Pilates Apparatuses: What’s in a Name?

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Lately I've been spending considerable time with my Foot Corrector.

Although there are countless exercises one can do with this lovely device, I've been focusing on the basics: the foot positions we also use for Footwork on the Reformer.

  • Toes
  • Arch
  • Heel
  • Tendon Stretch – Which on the Foot Corrector I call The Massage. How nice.

For more details about these 4 exercises check out this recent post.

It's working!

I am amazed at the power of this little device to correct my feet.

I've known for years that my left foot has a fallen arch and poor alignment with the joints of my leg. In my training program I was encouraged to lift up the arches of my feet when standing.

Well you know, these things take time.

To coerce the arch of my foot to lift (or move at all) or what muscles would even be in charge of said action was a big ol' mystery.

Enter the Foot Corrector.

Repeated use of this humble device is teaching me how to pull up my arch into my center. Oh yes, it's all connected…

Literally correcting my foot.

Did you just hear that sound?

It was my mind. Blown.

I love when that happens.

So get out those Foot Correctors and experience the magic.

I have been working just the 4 exercises I mention at least once every day. If I have a long day of standing, I might do them a few times throughout the day.

See what you think 🙂

Wait! We have other Correctors…

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

If you've been reading here for a while you'll remember my love for Joe's other device, the Spine Corrector.

I have a great respect for Joe's apparatuses which happen to include the word ‘corrector' in the title.

Clearly he wasn't kidding.

Joe Pilates' brilliant Spine Corrector is an anti-gravity machine worthy of a daily habit.

Check it out in these related posts:

The Toes Knows

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Oh the cute tiny apparatus. Pocket-size, travel ready and with a spring!

Also called the Toe Tensometer, Joe's Toe Corrector lives up to its name: both of them.

Tensometer

(from Wikipedia)

It is usually a universal testing machine loaded with a sample between two grips that are either adjusted manually or automatically to apply force to the specimen.

3 exercises I enjoy on the Toe Corrector:

(oh dear, the whole name thing…)

  • Single Toe Pull
  • The Bunion Eradicator – a classic.
  • Seated Single Leg Pullcan you long the back?!

Single Toe Pull

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

  • Sit up tall with legs long out in front of you.
  • Hold one side of the TC with an index finger. Put the other end over each toe one at a time. I like to start with my left pinky toe and work left to right until all toes have had their turn.
  • Pull each toe forward 5x with the goal that only the working toe moves and the others are still. This probably will not be what you see happening.
  • Persevere.
  • Work to locate the muscles of the center that move each of the toes. This should keep you busy for some time.

The Bunion Eradicator

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

Classic Toe Corrector magic, this one.

It can be done as above, legs long out in front of you. I enjoy the seated version.

  • Sit tall on the edge of a chair or Reformer with feet planted firmly on the floor.
  • Press all the toes firmly into the floor.
  • Place the TC on your big toes either above or below the joint. I like above.
  • Keep all toes on the floor and pull the big toes evenly away from each other 5x.
  • Hold one bog toe in place and move the other away from center 5x.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Single Leg Pull?

The Pilates Apparatuses: What's in a Name?

I love a daily dose of Pilates déjà vu…hmmm haven't we been here before?

  • Keep the TC in the same place as for the previous exercise.
  • Hold one toe down on the floor and bring the other knee up toward your chest.
  • (Your big toe will pull upward on the TC)
  • Hey look Single Leg Pull!
  • Lift your waist up out of the hips and work to find length in the back in this exercise. Not easy…

See what you think 🙂

Enjoy this short video tutorial on a related subject: Footwork on the Reformer!

Stay tuned for further tutorials on the  Footwork series.

Got a question you want covered in the discussion?

Lay it on me in a comment below.

Hey Southern California…

Saturday January 21, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching in Michele Tandy's beautiful studio. Just a couple spots available for private lessons, contact Michele to book. Register for the 10am Mat class here.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Here’s a bit of what’s cooking for 2017:

Thursday – Sunday May 11-14, 2017 Equinox, London UK

Contact Jayne O’Brien for more info and to register.

Friday – Sunday September 22-24, 2017 Pilates Mödling, Mödling Austria 

Join me in Mödling, Austria just 20 minutes from the capital city of Vienna. This is an event not to be missed! I’ll be offering lessons, mat classes and workshops. Workshops include: The Teaser: The Truth will PrevailOn the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and 3 Chairs + 3 Barrels = 2-way Stretch and more.

Contact Andrea Seipel for more info and to register.

Saturday + Sunday October 7-8 2017 Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth UK

Contact Amy Kellow for more information.

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.