Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Side Lunge Challenge

If I were a fear-based marketer, I would start this blog post in the following way

“Strength generally remains relatively high until 50 years of age when decreases of about 10% per year begin to result in a loss of function and independence;”

Source: The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 330รข€“338.

So if you are approaching 50 the decline is inevitable unless you do Pilates!!!!!

Luckily for you I have a pet peeve about statistics taken out of context and then distributed to instill  fear, so instead we shall start the blog post like this:

The Pilates Studio announces The Side Lunge Challenge

The Pilates Side Lunge on the Chair is one of the most challenging leg exercises in the Pilates Repertoire.  It builds leg strength and function! AND it is hard!  It will make you sweat and it will make you happy!

This past Sunday when we were doing the teacher’s circuit (that moment in time when the teachers at The Pilates Studio make sure they work out too) Christopher LaFleche did the side lunge with no hands.  We all got a great kick out of it because previously he had vividly described the fateful moment in his teacher’s exam where his examiner yelled across the room “No hands!”  So vivid was his description in fact, we decided we needed to send a video of Chris’ very much improved Side Lunge to his examiner.  She of course loved it! 

Little did we know that the Side Lunge Challenge would develop from this brief moment in a very ordinary teacher’s circuit!

Why let people know about the magic of movement through fear when you can have a contest instead? Do you remember our balance challenge?  Well this is going to be just as good!  If you can do a Side Lunge on the chair with no hands, show us!  You can post a video to our facebook page! You can come to the studio and we will take a video for you!  You’ll get your name on the mirror!!!!!

How many people can we get to do the side lunge with no hands?  This question actually sent me to the chair to make sure that I could do the side lunge with no hands.  We pride ourselves in the pilates world to practice what we preach.  How am I to expect everyone to do a side lunge with no hands if I can’t myself.   

Phew I can do it, but there is certainly room for improvement…Let the games begin!

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A, PMA-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Keep your Fascia Young

The other day I was working with a young man, who came to me with intense pain in his lower leg.  His gastocnemius (calf muscle) seemed to spasm after walking for a ½ hour.  After watching his gait and then looking at the structure of his feet, I surmised that while walking he wasn’t articulating through his feet, and thus the gastrocnemius was working too hard.  As I was watching him walk I was already lining up the exercises in my head that I thought might relieve his pain and change the movement pattern.  The intention was to add lift to the plantar fascia.  I knew that the exercises would relieve his pain over time, but something unexpected happened. 

This young man (seventeen years old) did the exercises with me once, and then when I looked at his posture again, his arch had lifted before my very eyes.  A half an hour of foot exercise changed the appearance of his foot.  I was flabbergasted.  I had never seen so much change so quickly. If I had a better poker face I would have acted like I knew exactly what was going to happen.  “Of course I knew that, because I am that good.”  But alas I am often too amazed at the magic in the world to not express curiosity.  And I was definitely curious.  Why did the fascial structure of his feet change so fast?

Just a few moments later it hit me.  This kid was seventeen years old.  His fascia was vibrant and young.  His body had not suffered the years and years of dehydration, and immobility.  He was not dependent on coffee yet.   He hadn’t partied hard through his twenties.  His fascia was hydrated and healthy so all he needed was a little bit of movement. 

This session led me selfishly to the Internet.  How do I keep my fascia young?  I was looking for the magic bullet, the fountain of youth.  I was searching for seventeen-year-old fascia…

I found many ideas…The internet is abuzz with ways to keep your fascia healthy…But of all the blogposts that I read only two things seemed like the thread to healthy fascia.  Move and hydrate.  Neither of these things by themselves will work as magically as the combination of the two.  Luckily, my job is movement.  I move all of the time.  I move in varied planes of motion I squat, I twist, I flex, I extend.  My body is moving…But that isn’t enough…

I need to drink water as much as I move.  This leads me to The Pilates Studio’s water challenge; at The Pilates Studio we are trying to consume 3 Liters of water a day.   Of course as has happened many times before, I texted my business partner that I was going to try and drink 3 liters of water a day and of course she was thinking the same thing and she sent me this picture.  And now at the studio we’ve tried the basil strawberry infused water as well as the lemon mint infused water. 

This sent me to the internet again in search of benefits of infused water…Once again the internet is abuzz with ideas (which makes me feel like I’m a little late to the game, but better late than never)  Infusing water is about hydration!  But there are other benefits to this stuff. 

First of all dehydration can lead to things like

·      Fatigue (seriously I’ve skipped coffee three mornings this week, and if you know me you know that that is definitely something)
·      Headaches
·      Muscle cramps  (When people talk to me about muscle cramps as if I am working them too hard.  The first thing I ask, “How much water have you had today?”)
·      Joint pain
·      Digestive problems

So why not try strawberry basil water

Proper hydration aids in
·      Nutrient transfer
·      Organ function
·      Temperature regulation (according to one website especially in the winter)  What!!!  I might be warm this coming winter!
·      Fascial health and thus pain reduction

Now lots of benefits of infused water are out there, but I did not find many studies referenced but one was quite interesting.

Lemon infused water has been shown to improve

Ph control
Kidney health
Immune system boost
Cancer fighting antioxidants

Why not stop by the studio to try our lemon mint water?  If we keep moving and keep hydrated maybe it won’t be such a mystery when the arch of a foot gently lifts before my very eyes!

Monday, April 28, 2014

10 Fun Ways to Move at the Office

I often like to think what the perfect world would be if I had my way!  It’s a fun game.  I get to imagine iced coffee fountains instead of water fountains, because of course in this perfect world iced coffee is a natural hydrator.  When I play this game sidewalks are trampolines and people are bounding down the road with abandon grinning from ear to ear.  Okay I realize sometimes when I play,  “If I had my way” my thoughts aren’t the most practical; they’re daydreams after all.  I suppose the risk of concussion from full body collisions on the sidewalk trampolines would be a liability in any city.  And a school with kids hyped up on coffee might not make the jobs of our educators any easier.  However, not all of my “if I had my way” ideas are all that bad. 

For instance, if I had my way every office and place of business would have a culture where recuperative movement is considered an integral part of productivity.  If I had my way every person who works at a desk would allow herself to get up and move for ten minutes every hour.  She would spend part of her day standing at her desk on one foot and then the other. I’m doing this right now at the coffee shop where I’m writing.  The picture is incomplete because I am too shy to ask someone to take it, but if I had my way what I’m doing right now wouldn’t be considered weird. 

If I had my way each person would try to type at least three emails standing with his feet in line heel to toe and his eyes closed.  Okay, right now I am typing this sentence in exactly this fashion, and I am both improving my typing skills and practicing my balance.   If I had my way our bodies would be the highest priority.  Our health would be more important than our deadlines. If I had my way every office cubicle and workplace in the world would also be equipped with the following: A foam roller, two soft balls, a gigantic ball, and a small spiky ball.  AND I am confident that if I had my way our economy would be better, our work more important and the communities in which we live would be safer, healthier, and happier.  But alas I don’t always get my way…

I am constantly hearing stories about the stress that we are under.  I am constantly meeting amazing people that are doing fabulous things for other people but not taking time to care for their own beings.   What if everyone that is reading this post committed to doing three of the following activities everyday for the next week?  Wouldn’t it be a small step in the right direction?  What if everyone that read this post added two more of the following activities the following week?  What if at the end of six weeks we had offices filled with people balancing on one foot with their eyes closed.  Would we start a wellness revolution?  I think it’s entirely possible.

Here are ten ideas to add movement to the office, but really the possibilities are endless!

1. Try returning emails while lying on a foam roller.

2. Plan your next presentation while balancing on a big ball.

3. Have a meeting in which everyone is standing on one foot. 

4. Attend your next conference call while lying with the soft ball under your hips.

5. At your next brainstorming session pass around a ball while standing on the foam roller.  Whoever has the ball has to spout an idea.

5. Return phone calls with your eyes closed while attempting the following balance challenge.

6. Perform the following lunge while writing your next report.  Be sure to switch sides.

7. Use a dictation app while doing a plank series.  Here’s a video if you’re interested.  
8. Every time you need to think of the right word hang upside down over a big ball.

9. Pack a lunch so that you can also take a walk at lunchtime

10. Roll the bottom of your feet on a spiky ball while filing.

What else can you think of?  Feel Free to send me pictures of things that you are doing to move at your office.  Together we will start a revolution!

Katrina Hawley CMA, PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Monday, April 21, 2014

Three years running…And again there are no words

There are no words to express how grateful I am to do the work that I love…There are no words to express the joy I feel when I hear that my client has a new grand baby…There are no words to express how much fun it is to move every day…No words that describe how high I feel after a session filled with problem solving…No words to describe the feeling I get with the realization that other people understand how special The Pilates Studio is…There just aren’t words, yet once again I am struck with the desire to find the perfect words because people of the Pioneer Valley voted The Pilates Studio as the best in the Valley Advocate’s readers poll. And I want to say Thank you with those perfect words!  It’s a lucky conundrum in which to find myself, but a conundrum nonetheless.
First Year Bamboo

Our bamboo has turned into a bamboo forest
Laurie and I are about to enter our fourth year as owners of this place…WHAT???? No really it’s true!  In our first year, I took a picture of our bamboo that keeps us company at the front counter…I rattled on about the bamboo that hears all of our stories, that feels the joy that people feel when they are here.  The bamboo witnesses Laurie and I at our most productive collaborative meetings or when we can’t stop laughing…Or when we sit in silence working in parallel but similar worlds.  The bamboo also witnessed us as we watched the screaming goats video…that was a funny day.  I am so lucky to do what I do while working with amazing people, and it is this fabulous valley that makes it all possible…Thank you to anyone and everyone that has put trust into the people at The Pilates Studio.  I am beaming with gratitude…But I still haven’t found the perfect words….

All I have are the pictures of the bamboo.  It’s a small snippet of where I go everyday, and for me it helps me remember that we are not just a place for pilates.  We are a place where whimsy is celebrated as an avenue to health and happiness. I strive to have a playful life and because of you it is not a struggle.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Finding Balance during the Holidays Part II

I find it fitting that my second installment of balance exercises happens to be written and posted on the day of the first ice storm of the season.  Today walking out of my house I had to do the familiar “ice on the steps” shuffle to make sure that I didn’t land on my rump.  Scraping off my car required using my ice scraper like a hammer while taking very careful steps to each window.  Luckily, I did not fall,  and I’ve made it to work just in time for the power to go out at The Pilates Studio, but never fear, my laptop battery is fully charged and I am excited to share this week’s balance challenge exercises with you. 

You remember last week’s exercises.

Have you been doing them?

This week we want to progress each of these to increase the wobbles.

For the standing exercise, instead of standing with your feet right next to each other, decrease your base of support by standing with your feet in line.  Stand with one foot in front of the other, with your front heel touching your back toe.  Once you have found this stance see if you can then close your eyes and maintain your balance.  Of course, the next step is to try the other side.

Next it is time to progress the foam roller exercise.  Last week we balanced with one foot on the floor and three limbs in the air.   Now that’s a pretty unstable base, but you better believe that we can destabilize the base even further.  Try putting a pillow or a ball under the foot that is on the ground.  And then let the arms float into the air one by one, and if you still aren’t wobbling, then simply start moving the arms around. 

Last week we balanced on our side with the longest possible spine.  This week we are going to add a 75cm exercise ball and a leg lift to this exercise.  To start make sure that you are barefoot so that you may find traction.  Lie sideways on the ball with your arms overhead.  If this is your first time with this exercise start with your feet lined up on the floor with your heel to your toe.  This may be enough to induce some very satisfying wobbles, but if you are as still as a very balanced statue, the next step is to stack your feet one on top of the other.  If that doesn’t bring on the wobbles then simply lift that top leg and let the wobbling begin.  Be sure to do this very fun exercise on both sides.

This week our final balance exercise is also standing, and will not only improve your balance; it will also strengthen your legs.  First, start standing with one foot in front and one foot behind you.  Allow both toes to point straight ahead.  Bend both knees to find a lunge position, and then shift your weight forward and finish standing just on the front leg.  Repeat by finding the lunge again, and then transfer the weight to the first leg.  If this exercise seems easy, simply try it with your eyes closed.

There you have it.  Our second installment of the balance month is done.  You should be ready for these exercises and if you practice them all week, I am sure that you will be ready for what I have in store for next week.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A PMA- CPT
Director of Instructor at The Pilates Stduio

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finding Balance During the Holidays at The Pilates Studio

It’s official the holidays are upon us.  We are all striving to find the balance between family and friends, work and parties, vegetables and cookies.  And for some reason the holiday season makes this age old grasp for equilibrium a little bit more challenging.  At the Pilates Studio, we want to stand up to the face of unsteadiness in the world with movement.  We wonder at the possibility of creating balance in our bodies, and allowing that balance to bleed into our lives outside of The Pilates Studio.  We wonder if a woman who has 25 gifts left to buy, might find it less stressful if she can also stand on one foot with her eyes closed for longer than two minutes.  Might she benefit from the awareness of breath and wobbles that is required to stand on one foot when she is in the check out line?  What about the person that has to figure out how to attend two holiday parties, while at the same time be present to see holiday pageants and band concerts, all of which happen to be scheduled with in the same two hours on a Thursday night?  Might this person reap the benefits of lying on the foam roller with three limbs in the air allowing one foot to root down to the earth?  Not to mention the fact that it is about to be winter in New England, and each and everyone one of us need the practical skills that are necessary to navigate the inevitable snow and ice that will soon be upon us…

Is it too far fetched to think that improving proprioception in our bodies will reduce stress in our very busy holiday lives…Maybe…It would be nearly impossible to design an evidence based study that definitively proves that improved balance makes the check out lines less annoying, but luckily proof is not necessary for the word TRY…At least not at The Pilates Studio.   Each week this month, I will write about a few exercises that might give you the wobbles.  Each week the exercises will become more challenging.  I always say to people if you are doing an exercise that is intended to improve your balance and you are not wobbling, then you are no longer improving your balance…So for this week try the following four exercises, every morning and night.  See what happens, and if you feel so inclined, report back!

First find a standing position.  Stand with your feet together, and by that I mean your big toes, big toe knuckles, and heels should be touching.  Once you find this position close your eyes.  Yes that’s right close your eyes and continue to breathe   Allow your body to negotiate the narrowed base of support and become aware of which muscles keep you from falling over…If you feel really unstable be sure to try this exercise next to a wall.

Next use a foam roller and lay on your back on the roller.  Allow one knee to float into the air…Are you wobbling?  If yes, then simply breathe here and allow your body to negotiate the wobbles…If not, then allow the opposite arm to float into the air so that it is above your shoulder with your fingertips pointing to the ceiling.   Wobbling yet?  If not then allow the other arm to float to the ceiling, and if there are still no wobbles then allow your arms to move back and forth between the ground behind you and the space towards the ceiling.  Continue to move, remember improving balance means finding the wobbles and then negotiating your balance!

Now for this week’s third balance exercise lay on your side.  Find the alignment between your hips, ribs and head, and then extend your hands and arms towards one wall and your legs and feet towards the opposite wall.  How long can you maintain this position without rocking back and forth?  

Finally, it’s time to stand on one leg with your eyes closed…This exercise is almost guaranteed to bring on the wobbles.  Start standing with your feet next to each other.  (Very similar to the first exercise) then simply shift your weight to one side and allow the opposite leg to float into the air.   And then (you guessed it) close your eyes. How long do you last before you have to put the foot down?  

There you have it…December is the month of finding balance at The Pilates Studio.  Be sure to practice these four exercises this week, because next week, the balance challenge will surely progress, and soon the entire community at The Pilates Studio will be ready for the holidays and the impending winter.  The ice and snow will be no match for our calm bodies.  We will be able to enjoy the festivities of the season with the fearlessness of a perfectly balanced body.

Happy Holidays
Katrina Hawley C.M.A, PMA® - CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day at The Pilates Studio

For me Veteran’s day has always been about honoring my dad.  He was an air force pilot.   My childhood was filled with stories that led to life lessons. They were real life parables if you will.  From these stories I learned to be honest when you make a mistake., that it’s always better to stand up for yourself, and as long as you are working hard and honestly things will be okay.  In high school I commandeered the hat from his flight uniform because I thought it was fashionable.  I grew up knowing that my dad was a pilot and I thought that was awesome!

When I was 17 my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Which brings me to the reason that I’m writing about my dad on the Pilates Studio’s blog…Throughout my entire adult life I have watched a horrible disease rob my dad of his strength and agility.  I have also witnessed the strength in his spirit, which persists in spite of his failing nervous system.  I have watched him work in physical therapy to maintain as much activity as he can.  This past month my parents came to stay with me for a few weeks.   I live on the second floor of a two family house, and it is an understatement to say that my   My couch is an old futon that can make the simple act of standing and sitting much less simple.   At one point during the visit, I was trying to help my dad turn around so that he could sit on the couch.  I had gone into professional cueing mode…”shift your weight to the right foot, let that foot root into the ground so that we can move the left, now shift your weight to the left foot…” My dad simply paused and said sweetly, “Shall we dance…” 
house was a challenge for my dad.

On another day I was trying to help my dad stand up.  This requires two hands and a good understanding of counterbalance.  I plant my feet and send my weight to the back of my body so that I can help dad stand…neither one of us thought to consider that I have wooden floors and that my dad was wearing socks.  The result was my dad and I finding the perfect point of counterbalance.  We were both holding hands with our toes touching, each of us in a squat with 90 degrees at the knees.  The only problem was that we were so perfectly counter balanced that we were no longer moving up or down.  We were still like statues.  I believe we both realized the problem at the same time because we caught each other’s eye and burst out laughing.  And then had to call my mom for help because well we couldn’t move. 

It just so happened during their visit a past roommate of mine visited, and we were able to reminisce about a previous visit of my parents which included installing a dryer tube.  The process which included my dad using his own skills in counterbalance to hang Nancy out the window by her ankle.  By the time I got home from work, it was all a funny story to which I could only say, “Nancy, he’s not too steady…”   

With all of these stories, I want to show the spirit of my dad…His life is hard, harder than a lot of people but he still finds time to laugh and be jolly.  He also understands to importance of movement.  Below you’ll find a video of my neighbor and I (it takes a village) moving with my dad.  Recently he has been doing Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, and we had a blast doing “The Bigs”

The lesson here: No matter what life throws at you keep moving!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A – PMA ® CPT
Director of instruction at The Pilates Studio

Floyd Hawley (My dad) wrote the following:

The Shaky Monkey

I have this nemesis I’ve acquired.
He’s every where I go
He tries to help me with my life
But he is very slow

He tries to help with morning chores
It’s sometimes quite un-nerving
Ten years he’s always done his best
It isn’t too disturbing

He travels with me everywhere
To points throughout the nation.
And many people never see
His disturbing vibrations

Sometimes I wish he’d go away
But that is just a whim
He’d never make it on his own
He’d probably take me with him

“It could be worse” I tell myself
I am well medicated
I can still accomplish things
If I stay dedicated

My monkey doesn’t drink or smoke
He’s not a party hack
Some would conclude he’s not much trouble
But he’s always on my back.