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 ūüôā

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

For Tessa

Thanks so much to everyone who attended my Cadillac workshop this past weekend at LauraBPilates studio in Raleigh, NC.

It was a pleasure to meet and work with so many awesome readers. You guys rocked it on the Cadillac and the Standing Arm Springs!

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Gifts from Joe Pilates

Joe Pilates has bestowed numerous gifts upon us. My favorite one is of course the gift of repetition. Do your exercises frequently and your body will reap the benefits. Even if you don't think you're particularly good at your exercises, it's the doing it anyway that counts.

And you're probably better than you think…

Lately I've come to feel a kind of Pilates déjà vu in my workout.

Hmmm… I've been here before…

The Tree is chock full of moments just like this.

See if you can find the moments of Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, the Roll Up, Single Leg Circles, Double Leg Pull and High Bridge all jam-packed into one workhorse of an exercise.

Thank God for the Tree

Early on in my Pilates journey I was decidedly NOT a fan of the Short Box Series.

The Tree was the exception.

A fundamental exercise in our order of the Reformer exercises, the Tree, succeeded in making the entire Short Box Series just that much more bearable fun. 

The Tree is a versatile exercise that continues to grow and blossom along with our Pilates practice.

Even the basic version is not easy.

Later on you can turn on the jazz with your first taste of High Bridge.

Tree Time

If we distill the Tree down to its very essence it could look like this:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Sit up as tall as you can and reach your leg as much as possible without sinking in the back.

Your lift inward and upward must increase as your leg reaches further away from center.

Further progressions could include just setting up your Tree position:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the TreeThe Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Maybe you control yourself into this position and then return upright 3 times.

Later you'll learn to lower your upper body away from the center – just a little bit at a time. Remember to only roll backward as much as you can successfully return.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Over time you'll work your way all the way back and into the well if you are able.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

And once you're completely comfortable upside down you've got some fun options:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Reach for the frame and pull everything in toward your center.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Ultimately you can add an empowering precursor to the High Bridge with lovely support from our friend the Short Box.

Here you may add the Single Leg Circles from Pilates Mat fame.

Holy stomach exercise, Batman!

And it's all leading up to where we began very simply: a global stretch of the back of the body in our final moment of Tree:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

What's going on here anyhow?

Take another look at our final moment of the Tree. Every exercise in the Short Box Series is leading to this point: a global stretch of the back of the body.

That final moment of the Tree is the money note, the big kahuna, your raison d'√™tre…

Often in this exercise we become preoccupied with stretching the back of the leg. We all feel so incredibly inflexible in this exercise, even the most loosey-goosey among us.

The back must take precedence over the leg. And the more lift you find in your back – ooooh that tight leg will get a fantastic stretch! See what you think.

Further Reading

Want even more info on the Tree and the Short Box Series?

Check out these related posts – you know I'm completely obsessed with all things Short Box…let's see if you are too!

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 6!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 6!

Welcome to the 6th installation of Transitions! Transitions!

We’ve been working our way through the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

The Short Box Series¬†oh how I love thee, let me count the ways…

The Short Box Series presents us with yet another opportunity for efficient pace and tempo within an exercise series.

You’ll strive to connect the exercises as though they were one continuous movement.

It's helpful to be efficient in your set up for this series as it is quite accessorized: box, pole, pad, straps – ok GO!

Post Tendon Stretch and into the Short Box Series

Not sure why I haven't labeled this one The Big Transition as well, as there are several components to set up.

  • Keep the pad from Tendon Stretch where it is – you'll need it in a moment.
  • Get the box and pole and place them onto the Reformer.
  • Add the pad to the top of the box – you'll sit on it. It will help you keep your position solid on the box.
  • Reach down and take hold of the 2 black straps under the front of the Reformer.
  • Sit on the box and place both straps on your ankles.
  • Press the legs apart to tighten the¬†straps. They should remain taut during all of the exercises.

Now you have arrived atop the box.

This is often the place where it seems okay to get chatty in your workout. I don't want to chat during this challenging series, but often people do.

Therefore it's nice to encourage flow and movement here.

During the exercises you are essentially in the same place on the box. So if you get too pick, pick, picky about the positions there is no moving going on.

Challenge yourself to move through the 5-6 exercises on the Short Box with a deliberate steady pace.

  • Round¬†– a nice massage
  • Reach¬†– some real lifting and work for the back
  • Side to Side – a juicy stretch if you can get it
  • Twist/Reach – a strength-builder and very challenging to maintain the tight straps on your ankles
  • Around the World – better have a good Twist/Reach for this one…
  • Tree¬†– countless benefits in this one really…one-sided, back strength, global stretch of the back body…

I do like to dawdle now and then, when I get obsessed with perfecting one of the exercises. But again,

Just. Keep. Moving.

Want even more Short Box? Be sure to check out this post.

Enjoy this short video tutorial. 

Questions? Please leave them in a comment below.

Thank you so so much for watching!

In case you’ve missed one…

  • Check out¬†the first Transitions! post¬†to learn the purpose of an efficient Pilates transition.
  • Catch up on¬†the 2nd post¬†as well and move smoothly through the¬†Rowing Series.
  • The 3rd installment¬†will enhance your scoop and take you successfully into the¬†Backstroke.
  • We hashed out the Big Transition into the¬†Long Stretch Series¬†into shape in¬†post 4.
  • Transitions! 5! took us deep into the rhythm of the Stomach Massage Series.
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