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Archive for the ‘pilates’ Category

Focus Is A Good Thing…

October 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been struggling with a pretty annoying disease for the past 6 months…I’m a blog-o-holic.  I have so many random blogs out there that it’s driving me insane!  I love writing articles for each one, but there is seriously not enough time in a day or week to write articles for every single different blog.  That said, I’ve loved this wordpress blog.  I was overdue for a hosted wordpress site, so I’ve started one where I hope to pick up where this one leaves off.  Check out the first few posts and leave me a comment and let me know what new articles I should be posting.

My new home will still have articles on yummy recipes I find or the latest workout that I’m doing (besides pilates) and ideas on how to stay motivated.  The one thing you will find more of as the days go by is more pilates! Go figure!  Also, since I’m a geek as well, I’ll often talk about new technology that I’m using to make my life easier…

So, without further adieu, please visit me at my new home – yes, it looks like a messy desk with a coffee and iphone on top… www.annesamoilov.com.

*Editorial update:  I have added this blog to my Posterous Autopost feature.  What that means? When I find cool stuff, it will still post here automatically! If you haven’t checked out posterous…do so now! www.posterous.com will save you a lot of time playing around on your social networking sites!

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What I’m Eating, Reading, and Loving…

September 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Ok, I’ve been gone way too long from this blog. All of the sudden I got very busy teaching, with Mila and just generally with life! I’m back though…so I wanted to share with you some of the things that I’ve spending time doing and eating recently.

Here are my top picks for this week:

What I’m Eating:

I’m going to make this today.  It’s a Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza.   I’m always trying new recipes from the Healthy Irishman…This looks right up my alley. Never really cooked with figs before, but he had me at goat cheese, so I figured I’d venture out. Sadly, I don’t have a neighbor with a fig tree like he does. Check out the post for the recipe on the Healthy Irishman Website.

What I’m Reading:

Reading, well that would be the Second Book in the Sookie Stackhouse series: Living Dead In Dallas.  My copy is a little beat up and colored on – thanks Mila! I’ve also been listening to the audiobook Tribes by Seth Godin. I had to chill on the True Blood books though because I was spending too much time comparing the show to the books…it was driving me crazy…

What I’m Loving:

Ok, I am in love. Addicted. Can’t stop playing with it and generally discovering all the fun things I can do with…
My IPHONE. Yay, Denis and I finally got to our upgrade date. We walked into Apple, they set us up in 20 minutes with our wiggling Mila in hand. Thankfully it only took that long since we totally forgot to bring the stroller. Nice arm/back workout for Daddy!

I won’t go into why Iphone is so super duper amazing.  In fact, I was actually resistant to getting one, but the more and more I use it…I can’t believe we didn’t get one sooner.

And finally, I can’t end a post without saying WHAT WORKOUT I’M DOING:

I am doing pilates of course, but lately I’ve been pushing through the Real GI Joe Workout from Valerie Waters.  I need to get as strong as possible to handle her upcoming “Action Hero Babe” program.  I know it sounds crazy, I am so excited for her latest program.  She has really helped me change my body! Now, I can do some of the harder pilates exercises!

Pilates at the Office… a.k.a. How to avoid back and neck pain.

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

darwin_hunch

A few days ago I posted the Thirty Day Challenge workout.  Even though this was a light-hearted attempt to get the 30dc challengers away from their computers for a moment, the message is a serious one meant for all heavy computer users.
Here are a few more tips for people who spend long hours at their desk, at a computer, all day long.  These are the most important things to remember in order to make your chair, your desk and your work area are as comfortable as possible and will cause the least amount of strain and stress to your spine, your neck, and your limbs.
Number #1 The Right Chair

The obvious advice is to find a chair that is supportive and comfortable.  Make sure the chair supports your back completely, especially the curve in your lower back.  If there is a space between the chair and your lower back, roll up a towel or some other soft object and put it behind you for more support.  Make sure you test the chair by sitting all the way back into it so that it supports your entire spine. Don’t sit at the edge of the chair, or forward…try sitting all the way back into it.

Number #2 The Height of your Armrest

Most office chairs have adjustable arm rests.  Make sure you get one of these and then adjust the armrests so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. To test it out, sit in the chair and rest your arms — they should be relaxed and close to the sides of your body. Oddly enough, this helps to take the strain off your neck, your shoulders and your upper back.  With your elbows in close to your sides and relaxed, you will be less likely to slouch forward in your chair.

Number #3 Check your Thighs

Do this simple test to take any pressure off your lower back.  You should be able to slide your fingers underneath your thighs at the end of your chair.  If you can’t, prop up your feet on a footrest, a stool, a small box or adjust your chair so that your thighs are 90 – 120 degrees with the floor. One other thing…if you cross your legs, uncross them!

*Sometimes if you have any hip issues, you might want to do the opposite where you sit on a pillow to lift your hips higher than your knees – even slightly.  If you are pregnant and have any impinged hip flexors, try this.

Number # 4 Check your Calves

We’re not done yet.  Now sit in your adjusted position and try to push your first between the back of your calf and the front of your office chair. If you can’t do this easily or at all, the office chair might be too deep.  Try adjusting the backrest forward….or get a new chair.

Number #5 Computer Monitor

Pilates foundation principles tell you to keep your  head and neck in a neutral position. Your screen screen should be at eye level and your eyes should be aimed at the center of the computer screen. Keep your computer screen 20-40 inches from your eyes.  If you are looking down to a laptop or up towards a too lifted monitor, you should adjust it to avoid additional neck and eye strain.

Number #6 the Mouse

Again, pilates always advises you to keep your body parts in neutral. That includes your wrists.  Your wrists should be as straight as possible when using the mouse. Purchase a mouse that has a low arch to avoid over-extending the fingers or bending the wrists. I find Laptop mouses smaller and they fit in the palm of my hand and you can get them wireless so you never fuss with wires. Now, your arms should be resting on the armrests, close to your sides in a comfortable and neutral position. Avoid excessive extending of your arm while using the mouse to avoid shoulder and upper back pain.

Laptops are a much bigger problem to adjust.  Adjusting the height of the screen increases the distance from the keyboard and then adjusting the distance to the keyboard lowers the height of the screen.  If you can afford it, you might consider purchasing an external monitor and an external keyboard, preferably with a tilted keyboard to create a more comfortable working set up.  I sometimes stand up with my computer on a high counter – just to change it up a bit.  Too many long hours in front of my laptop have caused many a headache and upper back stiffness.
Even with the most ergonomic office/computer setup, sitting for prolonged periods of time in front of a computer still causes strain in the neck, shoulders and lower back muscles. Remember to stand, stretch and walk.  Try to get up and move around every 30 to 40 minutes to keep the stress minimal.  Moving and stretching on a regular basis every single day will help keep you flexible and help you avoid the potentially inevitable chronic pain.

Send me pictures of your office set up – AFTER you make these adjustments!

Switch It Up!

August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday my abs were so sore!  I kept saying, “wow, these are really sore!”  I think I was so shocked because I normally don’t get that feeling anymore.  Then, I thought back to the previous day’s workout.  I did a fairly new set of 3 circuits, but I think it was the last bonus circuit I made myself do which was really just 2 exercises.  I did that final bonus (haha, now that I think about it…how crazy am I to even call it a bonus!)…

Here’s what the exercises were:

Ball Pass – Put a ball (squishy small one or a larger stability ball) between your ankles.  Stretch your arms and legs out. Then lift both arms/legs/head & shoulders up to a V and pass the ball to your hands. Go back out to the extended position and then back in – switching to your ankles.  If your back starts to feel weird or arches too much, keep your knees slightly bent the whole time.  10x!

Pike on Stability Ball – Hands on Floor, Ankles up on stability ball. Start in a  straight plank position.  Pull your butt up into the air, creating a v with your body.  You might not be able to go up too far — do what you can. 10x

*If you are feeling saucy….try do Knee Tucks with your ankles on the ball.  Shoulders stay over wrists – ankles on ball. Pull knees in and out.  Try not to move your torso too much.  It will go up and down a bit, but try to remind yourself of our pilates classes.  Keep the torso as still as possible.

Adding a 2x through a circuit like this at the end of your workout will really shake things up.  You will feel it the next day if you’ve focused on keeping your core tight and “pulled up” in those plank positions.

Have a great day and let me know if you feel it!

The Turned Off Beginner

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The Turned Off Beginner

Jul 28 2008

You know what to wear, you bought your mat, you went to your first few classes and you… are bored?

In my experience with the pilates method, both as a teacher and a student, I have seen and taught students who are so interested in pilates that they want to jump right into the intermediate or advanced level. They want to feel the burn, walk out of class exhausted, and sweat buckets! They want grunt-style pilates with a side order of long and lean muscles – to go. Are these folks wrong?

Beginner’s Series

Well, why is it that pilates studios often request beginners to enroll in a beginner’s series before jumping into the open group mat, reformer, or springboard classes? Allow me to use an example: Driving. When you were 16 and so eager to jump behind the wheel and take off with Dad or Mom’s shiny car, you were sad to remember you had to endure the dreaded driver’s education classes first and pass a test. Otherwise that first drive would most likely have wrecked the car. Maybe your body awareness was a little more tuned than others and you could steer the car just fine. But, you might not have known that a double solid line meant no passing, and reported back to the folks with a ticket, or from the hospital.

Learning Curve

With pilates, like any new task, there’s a learning process and there are rules. In pilates the same concept applies, like when to use an imprinted and neutral spine, to avoid injury and complement the exercise being worked on. Beginner’s classes do not serve to make a newcomer climb any strange hierarchy, but instead to educate them on the rules and principles of pilates. Not only at this level is a student learning how to avoid injury, but more importantly, a student is learning the principle building blocks which all of the exercises are based on.

If you don’t know that an inverted red triangle means “yield to other traffic”, you might wonder why cars keep honking and swerving every time you merge. With pilates, students who opt to dismiss basic level exercises or classes will often not feel what they are supposed to feel because they have not been educated on how to find the principles within their own body. And this is key. It is at this point that – because the student doesn’t “feel it” – he/she thinks pilates is boring/useless and never returns. A student can read about principles and know they are major assets to his/her practice, but the key is being able to find the principles and healthy alignment in his/her own body. This is what takes time and attention, and what some people don’t have patience for.

Pilates Principles Are The Key

So are impatient, gung-ho students wrong? Not entirely; they’ll still get a workout. But are they really doing pilates? My answer would be, not really.
Pilates is a unique system that involves exercises meant to be anatomically healthy for the body and be executed with flow and precision. To attain these types of movements you have to put your mind to the task, and do some learning along the way. Also, if the principles are skipped, then the student will not end up with exercises which facilitate aligned posture, stronger muscles, and a centered body. With pilates like any other complex skill, one reaps what one sows.

Really learning and applying pilates to your body is kind of like baking a cake – you have to follow a recipe. If you only put flour and baking soda into the oven you will end up with flour and baking soda. But if you put in the eggs and the rest of the recipe, you will end up with a cake. How good a cake depends on practice and correct repetition.

Rolling Like A Ball

Concrete example: When I teach a class there is one exercise with which I can quickly tell who in the group has taken time to study the principles within their own bodies, and who has not. Rolling Like A Ball looks easy and fun – and it can be. But if done correctly, it is a truly challenging exercise. Many students just throw their weight backwards to initiate the rolling in the exercise.

The correct way to initiate the exercise is to deepen the lumbar flexion while drawing the navel in towards the spine. The rolling, both going down and coming up, should be seamless, smooth, and controlled. Instead, it’s often a bumpy ride, and on the way up there is a visible/audible clunk which happens through the lumbar region, indicating the student has no control over the movement. Lastly, engagement between the shoulder blades should be maintained throughout the exercise – and it usually is not.

When a student does this exercise by throwing their weight back and haphazardly rolls back up, they miss the work in the deep abdominals, hip flexors, spine stabilizers, and shoulder blade stabilizers. These students tend to think this is a throw away exercise, but really it should be quite a challenge.

So… when I overhear that a beginner student wants a faster class or a more challenging video, they are often searching for a cake made out of flour and baking soda.

Boosting the Beginner’s Workout

Remember, slower paced in the beginning does not mean always-slow-paced. Concentrate on what the instructor is saying and focus on finding the principles within your own body. If you want extra work, ask the instructor if there is something you could work on throughout all of the exercises that you might be having a more difficult time finding in your body (e.g. shoulder blade engagement or neutral pelvis) so you have something extra to focus on in class.

Paying attention to precise detail in the essential exercises and principles, and putting them correctly into your own body will lead you quickly to the intermediate level of pilates, and beyond. Re-align your focus… and your spine will surely follow.

Peace,
Zoe

An interesting article on how on the experience of a beginner to pilates. It’s a great reminder on how to help a beginner understand how to get the most of a beginner pilates workout…and also remind them that pilates isn’t about “feeling the burn”

Pilates and Pregnancy

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve spoken about pregnancy and pilates before, but I wanted to take a bit more focus today to really remind all of my pregnant friends and clients why pilates is so good for you!

Exercise during pregnancy is usually safe and beneficial to the mother. Pilates is a gentle, low and sometimes no impact exercise that doesn’t require the mother-to-be to bear any more weight than the little bean growing inside.  The popularity of prenatal pilates and yoga has grown immensely in the past few years.

As you might know from your regular strength training workouts, the act of exercising releases endorphins and increases other positive hormones. Reducing stress levels will help stabilize mood — obviously, many pregnant women feel the hormonal fluctuations in the body ; this all leads to massive mood swings–thus, their spouses get to see these fluctuations in full force. Maintaining a fitness routine will also help boost energy and stamina during the birth.  Once the baby is born, a steady exercise routine will help the mom bounce back to her pre-pregnancy physique…and increase her mental clarity.

Specific benefits from pilates are sometimes invisible to the outside world.  These “secret” exercises tend to focus on strengthening the stomach area and the pelvic floor muscles, both of which can be weakened by pregnancy. Now, obviously, you can see your stomach and see it flatten and tighten with exercise and diet.  The “secret” is in the strengthening of the Pelvic Floor.  Exercising your pelvic floor muscles can help with the second stage of labor (the pushing stage).  Pelvic floor muscle exercises also increase the circulation of blood which can aid in healing after birth. Pilates does also help prevent stress incontinence during and after pregnancy.

Several Pilates exercises for the pregnant woman entail resting in a quadruped position on your hands and knees. This is a great position to workout in during the later stages of pregnancy as it can encourage the baby to turn head downwards and get into an ideal position for labor. Pilates has also been shown to reduce both back and pelvis pain, which is a problem most pregnant women suffer from to some degree. Many physical therapy programs focus on relieving this pain with a combination of pilates-based exercises and manual muscle work.

One such company in Los Angeles has a unique program developed for prenatal and postnatal women.  Bebe PT is a wonderful organization really dedicated to helping women prepare for motherhood and to relieve the pain of pregnancy.  Try to find a physical therapist in your area that focuses on pregnancy related pain and also strengthening areas that could get stressed during pregnancy.

Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program during pregnancy. As long as your pregnancy has had no complications there should be no risk to either the mother or the baby. Also, try to get a recommendation from your primary obstetrician and/or find someone who has additional training in prenatal pilates.  I actually suggest that if you have never tried pilates

Additional rules pregnant women may want to remember to keep themselves safe while exercising are:  1) During the 2nd & 3rd trimesters try to avoid any exercise which requires lying on your  back for too long, as the weight of the baby pressing on the spine can restrict blood flow. 2) Drink plenty of fluids, particularly during summer months, and try to exercise in a well ventilated area. Stop if you feel dizzy and call a doctor if the dizziness persists. 3)Find an experienced trainer or therapist who has worked with other pregnant clients.

If possible, try to take private classes with a certified trainer.  You can also attend a Pilates class specifically for pregnant women –this way, they will focus on strengthening problem areas for mothers to be and avoid exercises which may be difficult or can potentially cause injury.

Pilates also teaches some basic relaxation techniques and improves the ability to focus the mind which can help towards a more positive birth experience. Consider starting a program before you get pregnant or early in your pregnancy.  Any new exercise program should not be started at the end of the 1st trimester or later.  So start today!

Pilates and Yamuna Body Rolling

August 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Try Yamuna Body Rolling!

I posted a few videos of my friend Izumi’s Yamuna Body Rolling workshop…now, here’s an article from Pilates-Pro.com talks about Yamuna.  You’ll learn how it can work really well with your pilates classes.

Also, here’s the class I attended taught by my friend and colleague Izumi.  She’s having another class this weekend – August 22 from 3-5pm.  Go To Her Website for More Details:  http://www.izumibodylogic.com