UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

When I started my blog a few years ago I dreamed of a world in which all of my loved ones came to cherish our beloved Pilates Method.

I even wrote a post about my dream.

Now nearly 4 years later you've read about my father-in-law, Bill and his commitment to his Pilates Mat exercises.

I further documented his progress in a follow-up post .

In North Carolina with the Fam

I regularly travel to Raleigh to visit my family.

Last November I was thrilled to present my workshop On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises in Raleigh, NC at Laura Browning Grant's beautiful home studio.

My sister, Fran and her best friend Sandy each took a private lesson with me while I was in town.

How lovely.

Fran, Fran, Fo-fan, Banana-fana fo-fan, Fee-fy-mo-man, Fran!

My sister turned 60 last year.

Without a regular exercise routine, she wanted an enjoyable workout which would serve her well going forward.

Fran has a stressful full-time job, she checks in frequently on our aging parents and she's got 3 young grand-daughters that keep her on her toes.

And like me, it's hard for her to sit still.

We share a love for organization, direction, order, precision and excellence. Naturally, I thought she would really take to Pilates.

And it turns out she did. She's been having private lessons twice a week with Laura since December last year.

And I'm super proud.

Unlike Bill who prefers to workout by himself at home, Fran needs the structure of the private lesson in the studio. I keep pushing my YouTube channel at her, but she assures me that working out at home on her own is not gonna happen.

“I like the Hundred!”

Now after 6 months of Pilates Fran is feeling the love – and the results! – from our beloved Pilates Method. 

She has more energy, she sleeps better at night and our mom has noticed a huge change in my sister's posture. We've got a bit of the “slumpy gene.” 

And yes, Fran really likes the Hundred. And all the “ab stuff.”

I should also note that this is the very first time Fran has been able to commit to doing something for herself.

It feels good for her to carve out time for herself in the midst of her demanding job and essentially caring for everybody else.

While catching up via Skype Fran couldn't resist showing me her new muscles: “the guns” and her back muscles.

Woo Hoo!

Now that Pilates has given her shapely arms it is surely time to administer the Kool-aid…

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

Fran is hardly in this age-group, but these concepts and exercises will serve every one of us well in our journey on the Pilates path.

An esteemed colleague of mine, Nicole Marcione, (who holds a BS and MS in Gerontology and is currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC) enabled me to share her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

In today’s post we’ll cover Functional Reach. Stay tuned for more of Nicole’s tips in part 3, Balance in the near future.

Functional Reach

The term ‘functional reach' refers to reaching your arms overhead. Nicole explains that this skill is not even on our radar as younger people.

You probably don't even think twice about putting a dish in the cupboard or storing a box on the top shelf of a closet, but we can lose this skill as we age.

We must help our clients keep their shoulder joint mobile, stable and strongly supported by all the surrounding muscles.

In Pilates we are working on this skill in every exercise.

We all know that our arms start from our backs so we will want to focus on the back-arm connection throughout the entire session.

No prob.

Use the following exercises (as well as countless others) in our beloved Pilates Method to perfect your functional reach.

Arm Springs Lying Down on the Cadillac

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs exercises done lying down are nearly at Scrubbing Bubbles status.

Exercises here include Straight Down, Circles, Triceps and Side Arm.

With the mat behind you for feedback you can feel what's going on in your back muscles.

The support of the Cadillac also encourages clients to use their entire body to execute these “arm” exercises.

Full. Body. Workout.

Arm Series on the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

The Arm Springs lying down help us locate our back muscles.

Now the Spine Corrector and Small Barrel will enable us to lift our back and reach it up and over the Barrel.

It's true that for delicate clients the Barrels may present an extreme challenge or even be inappropriate.

Know that you can do the same exercises lying down on the Mat without a Barrel. It's a nice maneuver for myself as well.

Can you also see the very beginning and finishing moments of the Roll Up here?

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60


UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

Slowly I am understanding that the Pedipole is no joke.

It's the Arm Springs lying down, but SO MUCH more demanding.

It's the Wall on steroids.

Probably not for most of the 80+ crowd, the Pedipole is only for those that can keep their balance.

Another great place to work on the back-arm connection is of course the Arm Chair!

Sitting Side Bend with the Magic Circle

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Fran, 60

Throughout my Pilates career I have underestimated the power of side-bending exercises.

We're all tight in our sides and waist, especially if you are 75+.

Side bending is also a delicious way to stretch up and out of the hips.

The seated pre-cursor to the Side Bend with Magic Circle (in the photo above) is a lovely safe place for your older client.

I love this exercise myself for addressing imbalances.

Use the Magic Circles to find the back muscles and then proceed to the Side Bend.

UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project, Fran 60

There are great side-bending exercises done kneeling with the Push-thru bar and on the Wunda Chair as well, but keep in mind that not every older adult can kneel.

Thanks for sharing your expertise, Nicole!

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.

How do you best serve your older clientele? Have questions?  

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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  1. I’ve been teaching Silver Sneakers mat Pilates classes since December and have seen tremendous improvement with these clients. In particular their stamina has increased. As a measure, they could barely do the Hundred, let alone 25- now we do the Hundred and flow right into Single Leg Circle and Series of Five without stopping. As the majority have osteoporosis, I omit the rolling and offering a flat back modification instead of forward flexion exercises for them. There is still plenty of exercises to work on. The ages range from 60-82 on a regular basis. Admittedly, the pay from Silver Sneakers is terrible, but the payback I get in satisfaction working with this lovely group is priceless!

    • Hi Deborah,

      Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts here. Yes, this population is very rewarding to teach. Your Silver Sneaker classes sound great – keep up the good work 🙂

  2. ANgel davis says

    So happy that Fran is getting her Pilates on these days. Funny my moms name is Fran. Wish I could have her doing Pilates! Fantastic piece. So relevant for me and I imagine so many teachers who have older clients. Always have to remember it’s their function that’s important!! Btw you are looking fantastic…. Tiny(are you eating?)and so fit!! Thank you for not taking summer off your blog❤️❤️❤️

    • Hi Angel,

      How are you? Thank you so much for being an awesome blog subscriber! I hope we can see each other again soon. Thanks for the kind words – I am actually on vacation this week so I appreciate your observation that I look fit and tiny as I have been eating my way across San Diego this week LOL. I always have to laugh when I take a photo of a straightforward, or fundamental Pilates exercise – I always realize that they are bloody hard to do well (and photograph) and I need to do them every day ha ha! And yes, the blog must continue…! Another reader was happy that there was a post on Monday July 4 – holidays make Pilates all the more important I think. Hope you and your family are well and I hope we’ll meet up again soon. Any chance I might see you when I am in Washington DC in December? I have had an inquiry about teaching in Atlanta perhaps next spring, so I will keep you posted if that comes to fruition… xox

      • tessa Millis says

        Can you say where you are in Washington DC? Is it at a venue open to all? I also would go to Atlanta to meet my new e-mentor extraordinaire! If you can also say what venue that would be – that would be great too! I’m a little new to teaching Pilates, to you and what your extra work involves and enjoy all the information on teaching seniors. I have taken that on in addition to my private Reformer clients. Keep up the fantastic blog! So helpful!

        • Hi Tessa,

          Yes, I will teaching at Excel Pilates in DC (Brookland neighborhood) on Dec 1,2,3. The event is for any Pilates teacher that would like to attend. Here’s a link for more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591740821150365/?active_tab=posts

          I will be teaching an advanced Mat class, lessons and workshops on the Reformer, the Mat and the Cadillac.

          I am just in the very earliest of planning stages with regard to Atlanta, so I don’t have any info on that one – when I receive more information or confirmation I will of course announce on the blog 😉

          Thanks again Tessa for your kind words on the blog and I hope I get to see you in DC! That would be awesome!! xo

  3. Go Fran! Banana-fana-fo-FAM!! This was just the list of exercises I needed to do today after the ol’ Mat. Ahhhh, feels great prepping for the future…he future is now…or as Patti Smith said on the last night of CBGB’s “what remains is future.” Great post, thank YOU Andrea!

    • Thanks Corrie – I think I kicked my own ass as well by using my stomach and reaching my arms overhead – I needed those too! Thank you always for being such a prolific practitioner, reader and commenter – love all around to you!! xox

  4. Alessandra says

    Great post Andrea!! And well done Fran! It’s great to hear stories about people benefiting from The Method, perhaps later in life than others! I discovered Pilates in my more mature 40’s ???? and have loved it ever since!! These days I get so wrapped up in the intricacies of The Beloved Method (you might just have noticed!) that it’s nice to be reminded that we are really just teaching folk (and ourselves) how to move in their day to day activities, whatever that might be, safely and without pain. Movements that we take for granted like getting out of a chair (or climbing onto the
    Cadillac!!) can be challenging for a number of reasons for some people!
    Luckily, we have The Method to sort that out!
    #themethodrocks ???? as do we!!

    • Hi Alessandra 🙂

      Thanks so much again for your kind words on the blog – and yes, as we delve deeper into life and into our beloved Pilates method it seems our every action can be a Pilates exercise. How lovely! As teachers we can be distracted by how to make our Teasers more awesome or tackling the Flying Squirrel, but these are for our entertainment and keep us alive and interested while the everyday Pilates in our bodies does its magic! I agree #themethodrocks ! #wedotoo Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts here – until we meet in LA… xox

      • Alessandra says

        Yes!! I’ll be in LA soon!! Yay!!
        Thanks for your comments above.. meanwhile I have another question please! ???? Not quite sure where this one fits in, maybe with your strategies for a tight lower back, but do you have any thoughts on how to approach tight/strong hip flexors? This seems to be a common issue, myself included???? . I find exercises that open up the front body -like those on Mr Spiney C certainly go towards helping, but wondered if there was anything more specific that you do? Especially for weaker or beginner clients?
        Thanks as always !!
        Alessandra xoxo

        • Alessandra – hello!

          This is another great question, and very much in keeping with our theme of the tight low back. Often they go together – the tight low back and the tight/too strong hips and thighs. I struggle with this myself.

          The Spine Corrector is pretty much the go-to apparatus for these things – I also have success using some exercises to encourage the back of the body – the SEAT!! – to work properly and share the load.

          I am currently working on the 4th post in the tight low back series and it is all about getting to the bottom of things LOL. There are some nice exercises on the Cadillac and chairs for finding the seat: single Leg Springs and the Footwork on the Chairs are some of my favorites. Most are appropriate for beginners to steadily whittle away at the problem without a lot of talk. Stay tuned! And as always thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and questions here 😉 xox

          • Alessandra says

            Hurrah!!! Another installment in the tight low back series!! Can’t wait for that one ????????????????????????????????????
            #pilatesgeeksunite #rockon Andrea ????????

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