Do you wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free on most days?
Did you know that’s even possible?
Lots of clients tell us they’ve always been tight, are living with aches and pains, and assume they always will be.
Because that’s what happens when you get older, right?
You’re not destined to a life of stiff or sore muscles, slowing down, and eventually falling and breaking your hip.
Stiff joints, sore muscles, and fatigue are all signs of over-training (or over-doing) and not giving your body enough rest or recovery time between your workouts and activities.
Your body needs time to work its magic…to heal and repair itself.
Stiff, sore muscles are also signs you need to work on your mobility or flexibility.
The truth is…
You can win the battle against gravity, sitting, adhesions from old injuries, and the impact exercise has on your body’s flexibility as you age.
It’s possible even if you’ve never touched your toes.
It’s about technique and knowing what to target.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can see how easy they are to sprinkle into your day.
The pill-free way…
So, how can you stop struggling with stiff, sore muscles and fatigue?
You can stretch.
You know that thing you skip when you're trying to squeeze in a quick workout.
But, here's the deal.
Healthy tissue isn’t stiff. It’s elastic. Bungee cord like versus rope like.
Is that how you feel when you move right now?
If not, it’s OK because it’s never too late to improve your flexibility.
The first step…
Stretching is the first step to bringing the spring back into your tissue (after having good hydration and sleep habits).
And it doesn't take a lot of time when you know what to target and what to do before and after you stretch.
Just like we’ve evolved from flip phones to smart phones, we’ve made advances in stretching that’ll make a lasting impact on your flexibility and posture.
If you feel pain with stretching, you’ve gone too far…
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing an athlete on the sidelines getting his hamstring cranked on by a trainer. There is such a thing as over-stretching.
Bottom line: if you have pain with stretching, your body will tighten up more. The body’s response to pain is to protect, tighten up, guard.
And since you’re the best judge of what’s painful or not, you’re the one who should be the stretch “super star” of your body.
You can help your body stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age when you know # 1 thing to target with your stretching and how to stop over-stretching.
We’ll show you how in our FREE training, MINI MOVES: How to have more energy, ease, and flow in your workouts (& life).
In this free mini training series, you’ll learn:
READY TO BE ACTIVE & AGILE AT ANY AGE?
The technique we’ll share with you can benefit everyone. We’ve used it on clients with chronic neck or back pain to professional athletes.
Our pros always seem to achieve their personal best after a treatment (i.e. no hitter, new race time).
Are we promising you’ll become as flexible as a prima ballerina if you stretch daily? No, anatomy and genetics does play a role.
But it’s never too late to improve your flexibility…
if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes a day on simple self-care stretches and moves.
Let's get you stretching with (lasting) benefits!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Sign up before 6/10/19 to get the free Mini Moves training – it's in 3 short parts (just like your stretch self-care can be) to help you feel better, move better, and ultimately live better.
Do you ever wish you had more energy to train?
Learning how to balance training with rest will not only boost your energy but improve your performance.
We grow at rest NOT by pushing harder. This includes growth in the areas of your strength, healing and energy both mentally and physically.
There are 3 easy steps to follow to make your own Recovery Training Plan that will increase your strength and energy while decreasing your overall stress level and your risk for injury.
If you missed our previous blog that shared the benefits of recovery plan, which types of recovery are best to improve performance, and how important it is to plan your training around a recovery day each week, you can find it here.
Which recovery techniques work best to help you recover faster from training? It depends!
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
PRO TIP: The challenge is to feel good while getting stronger and more flexible!
Although there are a variety of tests used in research and some training facilities (i.e. jump test, blood tests- high levels of muscle enzyme creatinine kinase- delayed onset muscle soreness, questionnaires) to monitor recovery and post exercise fatigue, you don't need fancy tests or equipment to figure out what your body needs.
You just need to listen to your secret weapon- your body's signals- to help guide you.
We've created a Spring Training Recovery Guide (free download) to help walk you through a 3 step process to learn how to tune into the signals your body gives you each day to make your own recovery plan.
Take the pressure off of yourself and think of this as: a journey and an experiment. Fitness is about progress not perfection.
3 STEPS TO SET UP YOUR PERSONALIZED RECOVERY PLAN
*Get recommendations for managing symptoms in the free Recovery Guide and Planner.
3. TUNE IN:
BEFORE YOU BEGIN TESTING: GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY FIRST!
We recommend a Pre-Test to find your baselines for your resting heart rate, sleep, hydration, nutrition, fatigue and pain. This will give you something to compare to each day.
The Recovery Guide with Planner will walk you through getting your baselines. Once you’ve got your baselines, you can start testing recovery techniques.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START TESTING?
Sleep is #1 place for everyone to start no matter what sport, type of exercise you do, your age, or gender.
Sleep is when we produce the most growth hormone and when new information we’ve learned and memories are saved. It’s when we filter out the garbage as well.
Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep consistently? If so, is it quality sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake up?
If not, this is where you should focus your energy initially.
PRO TIP: If you are experiencing frequent injuries or not making progress despite your best efforts, you may want to have your physician check your thyroid function. Also consider decreasing inflammation using recovery tools and diet modifications, increasing rest, and/or consulting with someone on your rehab/medical team.
OVER TO YOU:
Ready to get started? Download the Spring Training Recovery Guide with Planner and Daily Tracker to help you get stronger & have more energy without injury and overwhelm – it’s FREE!
Go Test, Train & Tune In!
Team Core Power
A strong foundation or “core” helps decrease your risk for injury, promotes good posture, and improves coordination and power during sports. It’ll help you walk, run, bike, row, and move better.
There are 3 key exercises you can add before or after a run to help you build a strong core and turn on your hip muscles:
THE BRIDGE, FRONT PLANK AND SIDE PLANK
Runner’s Core Sequence
BRIDGE AND MARCH:
Lay on your back with feet in line with hips. Lift hips evenly off floor into a bridge position. Press hands into floor, pull belly up and in as you lift a foot a few inches off the floor. Shoulders and neck relaxed. Keep hips level as you alternate lifting one leg off floor into a table top position like you are marching. Do 5-10 reps each leg.
FRONT PLANK ON ELBOWS:
Press your forearms down into the floor as you lift your hips and knees off the floor until they are lined up with your spine. Slide shoulders down toward your hips. Pull belly up and in and tuck your booty. Gaze at floor slightly in front of your hands. Feet are in line with your hips. Hold 10 seconds and breathe or alternate bending knees slightly while keeping spine/hips steady.
Lay on your right side with left leg slightly in front of right leg and inner thighs squeezing together. Press down through right forearm as you lift hips off floor a few inches. Your head, shoulders, spine and hips should be lined up once you lift off floor. Place your left hand on your hip. Pull your belly up and in. Squeeze your inner thighs. Hold 10 seconds and breathe. Repeat other side.
REPEAT THE ENTIRE CORE SEQUENCE 2 MORE TIMES
New to these exercises? Remember to:
1. MODIFY AS NEEDED
Bridge: you can start by just lifting your hips up and down and progress to foot off then to marching.
Planks: you can start them on the floor with your knees down and progress to knees off.
You shouldn’t begin these exercises if you are pregnant and new to them or have a recent injury. Consult your health care provider for guidance.
2. FOCUS ON FORM
During all movements, you want to:
3. THE GOAL
Add these 3 core exercises before or after your Running workouts 3 days a week. Overtime build your endurance to holding planks 30 seconds and 15 reps of bridge for 3 sets.
Got a running or workout buddy you think would enjoy these exercises? Please share this blog post with them.
Get Stronger, Run Longer!
Team Core Power
P.S. GO PRO TIP: Add the runner’s lunge stretch to open up, activate and reset your hips before or after your run.
You’ve done your research and found your Pilates studio and instructor. You're ready to take your first class but aren't sure which one to start with. Here are some things to consider before you sign up.
MAT OR EQUIPMENT CLASS?
Pilates exercises are performed on the mat and on equipment. The classical (“traditional”) exercises are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.
There are traditionally 34 Pilates mat exercises but many ways to modify them for your fitness needs and body type.
There are also 100’s of variations for each piece of Pilates equipment (Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel or Spine Corrector as well as additional tools/props).
Keep in mind as you join classes that not every piece of equipment is appropriate for everyone all of the time.
Investing in an experienced instructor will not only help you build a strong foundation but teach you how to modify the exercises and guide you to the right equipment for your current fitness level.
When I started Pilates, I was rehabbing from a back injury so I spent a lot of time on the Barrel and Cadillac. As I healed, I added more exercises on the Reformer which requires more stability.
Ideally you'll learn both the mat and equipment exercises. Once you know the mat work, it can supplement your equipment workouts.
In order to prevent injury, you should always be encouraged to master beginner exercises before moving onto intermediate or advanced levels no matter your fitness level. Every exercise builds on itself.
Aim for 2-3 workouts a week when starting out.
You’re going to hear some common cues when you are taking a Pilates class. Let’s decode some of them.
Pilates Common Cues to Master
Stop and regroup if you lose your form during your workout. Watch that you’re moving symmetrically. Keep your hips and shoulders even. Make sure you’re not:
I know. It’s a lot to think about. That’s why Pilates is mind body exercise.
You have to be mindful while you do the movements otherwise you're just going through the motions and won’t see or feel changes in your body. The more you practice, the easier it is to focus on your form.
I recommend you learn to do a head to toe mental checklist while performing each exercise. I actually start at the feet and work my way up to the head during each movement to check that I’m in the correct position. Download this VIDEO to get the sequence I use.
Pilates is about quality not quantity. Low reps with good form and a variety of movements will make up a good workout session.
When you can coordinate your breath with the movement, you’ve most likely mastered that particular exercise. It’s the more challenging aspect of Pilates but also the most healing. The breath work is calming for your nervous system and gets your circulation going which helps keep your tissue healthy and release toxins.
In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body- Joseph Pilates
Pilates is an excellent form of exercise to build a strong foundation and a more balanced body but what you do outside the studio can have a bigger impact on your overall posture and performance.
Want to truly transform your body and take Pilates concepts and cues into your day, gym workouts, or running?
Download this free video on the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST that I made to help you reset your posture (and identify some of your tight spots) throughout your daily activities.
P.S. Don't forget to share the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST video download with your exercise buddies.
OK, you’re ready to transform your body with Pilates but not sure how to find a good class. Learning Pilates is like learning a new language. It’s going to be much more effective and beneficial if you go to a great teacher.
Since anyone can call themselves a Pilates Instructor these days, it’s good to know what to look for.
How do you find one? Here’s a secret… they’re usually hanging out at great Pilates studios.
First, if you’ve never stepped foot in a Pilates studio, don’t panic. The equipment can be intimidating at first glance and remind you a bit of a torture chamber but I promise it won’t feel that way.
Pilates equipment has springs that provide proprioceptive feedback to your fascia, muscles, and joints that can help “turn on” more efficient movement patterns. Your body and brain will love it so let’s find the perfect studio for you.
8 step checklist to finding a great Pilates studio:
Be aware if you're allowed to jump into a group class without a private session.
Most Pilates studios require 1-3 private sessions for new clients before you can join a group class not only for safety reasons but to get you the best results. This will also include new clients who have taken Pilates before as every studio and instructor’s teaching style is different.
Investing in a private session with an experienced Pilates Instructor is totally worth it.
Great Pilates instructors typically go to private sessions with an experienced instructor to get regular tune ups. Even though they know the exercises, there’s nothing like having someone’s expert eyes on you while you go through the movements.
Your Pilates Instructor doesn’t have to look like a ballerina but they need to know the exercises and be passionate about teaching them.
Anyone can teach the exercises but a great instructor will have the ability to design and adapt a workout for you based on how you walk in the door each session. They can take one look and go “OK we need to work on your shoulders today or your hips look tight, let’s do some barrel work.”
The great ones also have the ability to speak and cue you in a way that makes sense to you. If their cues aren’t clicking with you, they should be able to give you a different one so you can execute the movement properly.
If you’ve ever taken dance classes with a choreographer, this is similar to how it should feel during a Pilates workout with a great instructor. They will guide you through the movements.
Your instructor’s cues will help you make corrections, modify the exercises, and progress them as you get stronger. You're always learning in Pilates so it’s important to find a teacher that’s the right fit for you.
8 step checklist for finding the perfect Pilates Instructor:
It’s not about the burn…
The goal of a Pilates workout isn’t sore or burning muscles, sweat soaked workout clothes, or vomiting like in a boot camp. It’s about getting in a state of flow, a moving meditation, where you engage your mind and body in a coordinated, graceful way.
Yes you’ll feel taller after class but your body should also be “turned on” because you’re more grounded, centered, present, calm yet empowered and energized!
The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power- Joseph Pilates
It’s powerful stuff for sure. Once you’ve found your studio and instructor, you need to start learning the language of Pilates or “cues” you’ll hear in a Pilates workout. I’ll decode some of the more common ones in my next blog post.
Subscribe so you don’t miss out on the “Head to Toe Mental Pilates Checklist” to help you not only improve your posture in your Pilates class but also when you're running or playing your sport.
P.S. You can download a summary of the 8 step checklist to finding a great Pilates studio and instructor here.
I’ll admit it. I’m a Pilates snob. I’m picky about my instructors, the equipment I use, and the studio I go to.
It all traces back to how I started my Pilates journey in the bottom of an old Houston Firehouse at a time when you couldn’t use the word Pilates.
It wasn’t fancy but everyone in the studio was focused and dedicated to their workouts on these archaic looking machines. It was just before the trademark dispute settled in 2000.
Studios all over the country were teaching Pilates but couldn’t call it that from 1992-2000 because of a lawsuit over the name.
Once “Pilates” was freed up, it exploded. It was everywhere.
You know what that means. Overtime, the exercises start to get watered down or adapted. The Pilates Method wasn’t immune to this phenomenon.
With the craze of group fitness classes, it’s easy to miss out on the full benefits of Pilates if you didn’t learn it through private lessons in a fully equipped studio with an experienced instructor.
Done right, you’ll walk out of your Pilates session a different person than going in. You’ll feel taller, calmer, centered... EMPOWERED.
Pilates is an art form like martial arts or dance so knowing the history and purpose behind the exercises will help you experience the full benefits of it.
Just like dance, the more you practice Pilates, the more you perfect it.
The first step is learning the movement pattern for each exercise then you progress to focusing on your form from head to toe while executing each exercise.
The goal is to eventually become your own coach. You can’t do that without having a good instructor to help you learn how each exercise should feel on your body.
"Pilates is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace & skill that will unmistakably be reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work" - Joseph Pilates
Pilates is defined as a movement system that uses spring-driven machines as well as a series of floor exercises to increase strength, flexibility, stamina and concentration. Joseph H. Pilates was the German inventor of the Pilates exercise method that he originally called “Contrology.”
Joseph Pilates was a sickly child and he believed exercise could heal and keep us healthy. He created his exercise method by combining the mental focus and breath of Yoga with physicality of gymnastics and other sports as growing up he was a diver, skier, boxer and gymnast.
He perfected his method and designed his equipment working with injured German soldiers and eventually the NYC ballet. His wife Clara continued his training method at their NYC studio after he died in 1967.
“Be in control of your body and not at its mercy”- Joseph Pilates
BENEFITS OF PILATES
We all have muscle imbalances from being right or left handed, swinging a tennis racket, carrying a baby on one hip, or holding the phone to one ear that effect our posture, strength, flexibility and make us prone to injury as we age.
Pilate’s exercises are full body movements designed to improve posture, build a strong core, and improve balance and coordination without stressing our joints.
The more balanced your body, the more efficient your movement can be.
Pilates is not only a fun way to exercise but it can change your body overtime and can be adapted for injuries or sports training.
It will improve your performance for fitness, sports or life.
How is this possible? Most people think of Pilates as just a good core workout but it’s more complicated than that.
Pilates is mindful movement and each exercise involves 6 key principles: breath, concentration, control, centering, precision and flow.
1. Breath- you never want to hold your breath during Pilate’s exercises. Keep it flowing. Typically you inhale to prepare and exhale during the movement.
2. Concentration- As you master the exercises, you’ll become better at performing a mental checklist head to toe for your form noting what is correct and incorrect and fixing it as you move. A Pilates instructor’s cueing is critical when you’re first learning to help you become more aware of the feel for the correct positions and movements.
3. Control- you’re learning how to control your body with your mind which trains you for life or sports and decreases your risk for injury.
4. Centering- in Pilates, all movements flow from a strong center. Basically, you turn on your core first and then move arms and legs with each exercise.
This is probably the easiest principle for people to grasp but takes a lot of mental power to do it properly during the entire exercise or workout.
You’ll hear the cue “scoop your belly” (or something similar) in your Pilates class but do you really know what you are supposed to feel or do?
Let’s break this down since it’s so important.
Your core involves a complex series of muscles from arm pits to hips and helps keep the spine aligned during movement.
In Pilates, you’re targeting the stabilizer muscles of your core- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, and low back (Multifidus).
The Transverse Abdominus muscles, your deepest abdominals, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your pelvic floor muscles.
During each Pilates exercise, you want to turn on your core by focusing first on contracting your pelvic floor muscles or doing the Kegel exercise. It’s an up, back and in motion.
The Kegel should help the rest of your core muscles fire properly. If I’ve lost you, refer to my blog post on how to do a Kegel. It’s key to building a strong foundation with Pilates exercises.
5. Precision- you’re focusing on perfecting each movement by being precise in your focus and form.
6. Flow- you concentrate on moving with ease and grace during each individual exercise as well as connecting each exercise together like a dance to improve balance and coordination. You avoid jerky motions, holding a position or stopping between exercises. Just like your breath should keep flowing so should your movement.
In order to master these 6 Pilates Principles and transform your body, you’ll need to find a good Pilates studio. I’ll share my tips for that in my next blog post.
Subscribe so you don’t miss out on my “Finding your Pilates Studio Checklist” then go practice your Kegel!
Mollie Miller, PT