Muscle

The Benefits of Pilates for Beginners

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The Benefits of Pilates for Beginners

As the national battle against obesity in the US continues to gather momentum, so does the fight in the UK. Hardly a week goes by without a new brand or food item being placed under the microscope. This week it was soft drinks giant Coca-Cola's turn in the UK media spotlight, with their controversial plans to fund a £20 million anti-obesity fitness drive in 70 of the country’s regional parks. This is despite the fact that soft drinks such as Coke are considered to be key contributors to the rise of obesity in the UK.

While the debate surrounding unhealthy food and drink items continues to rage, there is ample opportunity for individuals to make informed decisions about their fitness and nutrition, developing a more active lifestyle. Exercises methods such as Pilates offer a relevant case in point, as they can be easily learned and practiced from the comfort of your own home.

UK Retailers such as Fitness Warehouse carry the specific items of equipment you will need to start your home exercise program.

Consider the following benefits of pilates for beginners.

Improve your Posture and Alignment

While the majority of us exercise to lose excess weight or improve our strength and conditioning, there are other benefits of enjoying regular physical activity. One of the greatest benefits of Pilates is that it helps to improve your posture, by aligning and balancing your skeleton so that each individual muscle is held at its ideal length.

Should you live the majority of your life with your body out of alignment, there is a significant risk that you will place undo strain on your ligaments, joints, and spine. This can cause significant pain when you are older, so it is important to consider this from an early age.

Enhance Movement and Flexibility

If you are an avid weight trainer, you may already be on the way to developing a strong and well-conditioned body. However, it is important to develop a balance between strength and flexibility when exercising. Pilates offers an ideal opportunity to focus on this balance.

Pilates will help to loosen your muscles and improve mobility as the strengthen, which in turn minimizes pain and assists you in developing greater levels of stamina. This will also help you to negate the physical impact of aging.

Improve Levels of Physical and Mental Endurance

On the issue of endurance, Pilates is an excellent way of improving your levels of physical stamina and mental performance. After all, endurance is often drawn from your reserves of mental strength, and by consistently practicing Pilates you will develop greater levels of focus and enhance your capacity to complete a range of physical activities.

Pilates therefore enables you to operate from a foundation of strength.

(in collaboration with Fitness Warehouse)

Fitness Falsehoods, Celebrity Edition

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Fitness Falsehoods Abound In the World of A-List Celebrities

If you think that regular folks like us have issues with our bodies and fitness, you have only part of the story.

Just when I thought I had heard all of the brain-exploding double speak and craziness in the fitness world, one of my pilates clients pointed me in the direction of the latest "Spring Break Edition" Goop newsletter, courtesy of the lovely and talented actress, Gwyneth Paltrow. This issue features an interview with her uncertified fitness trainer, Tracy Anderson.

"Lynda, you have got to read this week's Goop. Seriously, Tracy talks about puréed food as being pre-digested. You'll love it!"

Here are just a few of the myths I found in this interview.

1. Crash Diets Are Fine - IF You Also Workout Every Day

Q. We know crash dieting isn't ideal, but is there a safe and effective way to speed up the loss of 5-10 pounds?

A. Of course there is, but I'm not a fan of this, as I really want people to learn how to plan. Everything you choose to put your body through has a direct impact on your health, appearance, and mental function. For example, I do not advocate people juicing to drop a quick five pounds if they cannot yet show up regularly for their workouts. Otherwise, you will lose five pounds and then gain eight to 10 pounds back the next week. [I bolded that.]

So drastically reducing calories and food consumption is only OK if you also exercise? There is NO EVIDENCE that exercising while fasting or juicing will help keep that weight off once you start eating again.

FACT: You are better off eating a balanced diet, exercising, and slowly losing the weight (1-2 pounds per week) in a way that is maintainable.

2. Puréed Food Is Pre-Digested and Helps Weight Loss

I created a pureed menu years ago as an alternative to juicing so that people could have access to more nutrient-dense, freshly-made foods that are pre-digested but still fiber-filled. Pre-digested food slows the digestive process without stopping it.

This is the infamous "Baby Food Diet" that was floating around a few years ago. Puréed food is easier to digest (that's why we give it to babies), but is not "pre-digested".

FACT: Frankly, vomit is pre-digested food. We have all watched momma birds go off, eat food, and return to the nest to vomit the pre-digested food into their babies' mouths. I will just leave that for you to think about.

Adults should eat whole foods, unless they are sick.

3. You Are NOT OK Just The Way You Are

If something is out-of-balance with my health or in my body, I don't believe in embracing it—I believe in fixing it. This is a tough conversation for all of us to have with ourselves, and a hard middle ground to find: It's easy to alternate between wanting to accept ourselves as we are, full stop, and then becoming obsessive, or seeing this as an exercise in vanity.

Somehow, this idea that we can fix obesity, illness, and other imbalances in our bodies simply through good old hard work is still floating around. This view ignores other important factors, such as endocrine (hormonal) imbalances and environmental and emotional factors.

FACT: Negative judgment promotes negative body image and self image. It does not promote a healthy body weight and fitness level. Love yourself!

4. Traditional Functional Strength Training Promotes Imbalance

The brain maps muscle movements, which means that muscles get very smart, very quickly. Performing new patterns that have the same outcome but different ways of getting there is powerful. Performing new patterns of movements that all have different outcomes is messy. Performing the same patterns while adding weight leaves room for weaknesses and builds strength in an unbalanced way.

First of all, muscles don't get smart. The brain controls muscles, and I am not sure what "mapping" means in this context. In fact, this entire paragraph is meaningless.

FACT: Functional training prepares the body for movements it will have to do in daily life. For example, squatting teaches you how to sit down and stand up, which is helpful for getting up and down from the toilet. Lunging helps with stairs, walking, and kneeling to pick things up. Shoulder presses help us put boxes on higher shelves, or bags in overhead compartments.

Unless you can pay people to do chores for you, functional training is key!

5. Muscle Sculpting Is More Important Than Strength

When you just lift heavy weights with your limbs as a lever against your core there is a depletion, which causes micro-tears in your muscle fibers. Training muscles by lifting heavy weight creates a cycle of repairing, rebuilding, and ultimately, muscle growth. Yes, this creates strength—but in isolation, and in a compartmentalized way. I pair certain resistances with certain movements for certain people very carefully—after all, our muscles are tools to create incredible art with our bodies.

This makes me feel like how I look is more important than how I function. And that is just plainly false! This also equates lifting heavy weights to getting bigger, which for the majority of women is just plain wrong. Finally, the idea that we can spot-tone has been debunked time and time again over the past 30 years.

FACT: Lifting heavy weights will not make women larger. Lifting heavy weights will strengthen your muscles and your bones. Muscle is denser than fat, so it takes up a lot less space. And bone and muscle strength is crucial for avoiding osteoporosis and joint degeneration.

Lift heavy and focus on form!

 

 

Shoulder Bridge Helps Ease Back Pain

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The shoulder bridge is a highly effective exercise to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, abs, and back muscles. Add the shoulder bridge and any of its variations to your exercise routine and you will see improvements in your back strength and alleviation of back pain quickly.

The shoulder bridge shows up many times in pilates, yoga, and strength training. There is a reason why it is so popular - bridging is effective.

This video will take you through basic and advanced bridging exercises. Enjoy!

httpv://youtu.be/HWby-jYUa5I

5 Pilates Tips to Improve your Workout

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Here are 5 Pilates tips that will improve your workout.

It's almost the end of January, and we are still seeing a steady stream of new clients coming into Real Pilates. Since I see so many newbies taking classes and privates, I thought I would give everybody five easy ways to improve your Pilates workout.

1. Don't press your lower back down constantly.

I know, you hear the words "scoop your belly" or "navel to spine" and it seems like you should be flattening your lower back all of the time.

Not true!

Your spine has a natural curve, and the lumbar vertebrae are built to curve slightly forward, towards your navel. So when we Pilates teachers say "pull you navel to your spine," we mean for you to keep that natural curve and just pull your abs closer to your spine - not flatten your curves!

2. Breathe consciously and often.

Most people I know tend hold their breath when exercising. This actually makes things harder instead of easier, and can put you more at risk for injury. Your ribs, which comprise a full half of your spine, move along with your breath. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and ribs to take full breaths, and I view breathing as a primary, basic abdominal exercise.

Since Pilates helps with spine mobility and abdominal strength, the breathing part is crucially important to the system as a whole.

If the prescribed breathing pattern doesn't work for you, ignore it and just breathe.

3. Keep it simple.

Most good Pilates teachers will offer several versions of an exercise, each a little more complex than the last. If the basic exercise is ridiculously hard, don't move on until the basic version feels do-able. Doing too much too soon can cause injury.

4. Work your back.

If you went by how people tend to characterize Pilates, you would think it is all abs and no back work.

Not so!

Joseph Pilates knew that all of the muscles in the body need strength. A weak back is just as bad as a weak front, and puts you at risk for injury.

5. Work your butt.

I see so many folks who have extremely weak gluteal muscles (butt muscles). Our glutes help to extend our hips (so important for proper gait in walking), support our legs, and keep our lower backs stable.

Use them! If your hamstrings always cramp when you bridge, for example, I guarantee that you are using your legs too much and not your glutes.

Keep these tips in mind during your next Pilates class, and you will have a more efficient and effective workout.