Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Choose Pilates Classes?

In this world we are inundated with messages from the media about what kind of workout to choose.  There are the cardio machines and weight lifting pieces at the Gym.  There are fitness classes like pilates, yoga, aerobics, zumba, spin, and strength training.  There are the strength and circuit training activities like Cross Fit and P90X. There are the endurance activities such as running, cycling and swimming, and these endurance activities have also developed into things like obstacle course races and motocross. Then there are the team sports that are available everywhere.  There are also all of the hybrid fitness classes that are out there, strength and cardio, yogilates, piloga, bootcamp.  If this very incomplete list of fitness possibilities seems overwhelming, then imagine being in a room of trainers each vying for market share and telling you exactly why their form of exercise is THE BEST!

That’s what we are all doing right?  As fitness and movement professionals we are all selling a product.  Our method is the best…Our method is the most fun…Our method will get you into the best shape…our method will give you the best body…Our method of movement will make you the most sane…Now imagine that you are a person that doesn’t really like exercise, or you’re a person that is bored with one of the above methods, or some of your friends are also weighing in about their own preferences for movement and exercise…How does one choose what to do?  Really who hasn’t been faced with a decision about which kind of exercise to do, then, when faced with such an overwhelming choice, decided to do something much less daunting like watching tv, going for a drink, or reading a book.

Now as the owner of a Pilates Studio, what I’m about to tell you may seem in opposition to a goal of selling Pilates Classes.  If you are deciding to try a new form of exercise I want you to look at the following questions and once you answer these questions truthfully, the method of exercise that you might choose will seem much clearer.  Tune out all of the people who are telling you that what they are selling is the best.  The entire concept of “the best” is debunked when one takes into consideration the variance and diversity in the human population.  What is the best for one person may most definitely not be the best for the next person, and who’s to say that there is only one method that is “the best.”  After you answer these questions, then decide how strongly you feel about each question, and use this information to decide which activity is right for you.

What is your schedule like?  - Fitting exercise into your existing schedule is much easier than changing your schedule to fit exercise

Do you crave connection with people or space from all of the people you are already connected to? Group classes might appeal to someone who wants to be around people where as a more solitary practice might appeal to those that need to relax after a lot of stimulation.

Have you enjoyed team sports in the past?

How do you feel about adrenaline?

Do you like to sweat?

Do you absolutely hate to sweat?

Do you love the outdoors?

How do you feel about inclement weather?

Is it easier for you to exercise if it’s a scheduled event?

Do you want to exercise with friends?

Are you recovering from an injury?

Have you gotten injured doing exercise in the past?

Are you looking for a cross training activity to balance another rigorous activity?

Are you training for a specific event?

Are you trying to lose weight?

Are you only looking into exercise options because you feel like you “should” exercise?

Now that you have answered these questions, your search for a method of exercise or activity will have more focus.  You want to find a method of exercise or movement that fits you, and gives you what you want.  And there is nothing wrong with what you want no matter what it is…We put so much pressure on ourselves to exercise without allowing ourselves to realize that exercise should reduce our stress not add to it.

Now let’s go back to that imaginary room filled with trainers from the previous paragraph.  If I were in that room, you better believe that I would be making a case for Pilates as an answer for any of the above questions, and in the next post that is exactly what I am going to do.  Not because I am like all of the dreaded traveling salesmen out there, but because I truly believe that the movement efficiency, strength, and flexibility in the Pilates environment is a powerful tool towards all of our desires of wellness.   I also believe that the proof is in the pudding, try and see for yourself.

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director of The Pilates Studio

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pilates and The Active Vacation!

Many of you may have noticed that I have been absent from the Pilates Studio this past week.  A much-needed vacation you might think.  Katrina has been working so hard it’s about time she took some time to herself.  Well don’t worry I’ve been thinking all of these things too.  It’s funny to me.  I enjoy going to work everyday.  I love hearing people’s stories and teaching movement.  I find myself quite lucky to do what I do.  Yet when I got on the plane to fly to Seattle, I was ready to not think about Pilates for the entire week.  I even gave myself a “talking to.”  No work this week! Period!

My beloved raincoat
Well for about five days, that wasn’t even hard.  I didn’t have to tell myself to stop thinking about work.  It was easy…It WAS a much-needed vacation!  I was camping with my sister and her dearest friends in Moran State Park on Orcas Island.  I was the newbie camper, but according to everyone I was quite a trooper…It rained for the first two days…I have never been more cold or wet, but as miserable as that sounds it wasn’t at all bad!  I loved it in fact.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that I am happier when the seat of my jeans aren’t damp, and when my ankles are warm…And with a little problem solving I was able to remedy both of these obstacles (Notice the pants stuffed into the socks in a couple of the pictures, it wasn’t fashionable but really, fashionable has never been an adjective I have used to describe myself) We saw whales, sea lions, bald eagles, and I also witnessed some oyster shucking and well oysters are yummy!

The Sound
Oh and the sites.  What a beautiful place…It was a new part of the country to me.  I just can’t believe the beauty…Also I saw starfishes, I was amazed at the vulnerability of the creature just stuck to the rocks…Did they feel fear when we stuck our cameras so close.  I hope not.  I also saw a seagull eating a starfish.  It was an amazing endeavor for that seagull…I even worried that I was watching a seagull literally bite off more than he could chew, but then the magic of the smart phones let us know that videos of seagulls eating starfish is almost its own genre on Youtube.  I was too far away to get a good video so I couldn’t add my own experience to youtube…I will just have to be satisfied with sharing it in words.  You know those things that used to paint pictures in the imagination…Well this seagull had half the starfish in his mouth and every time I glanced down its throat was larger and the starfish smaller.  We all sat and discussed the digestive process of seagulls…Is there some kind of acid process in the throat of the seagull?  Was it digesting as it swallowed?  We’ll never know I guess.  (Most of our smart phones lost power after this first night!)

My campmates
On this trip, I was also amazed with the people that would remark, “It’s so great to see four women camping together.”  First of all, why wouldn’t four women camp together?  Why is this not the norm?  I think back to the conversations, the cooperation, the division of labor, and the support for each person wherever she was on her journey, and well it seems so very fantastic.  Of course there were four women camping together.  There should always be women that are camping together…

Pilates on Orcas Island
And then on the fifth day (This is where I tie this very nostalgic even slightly self indulgent blog post back to The Pilates Studio)  We were all standing around the picnic table drinking coffee talking about our sore hips from sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground.  I piped up, “That’s the trochanteric  bursa.”  And before I knew it I was leading four women in hip sways to increase blood flow and fluidity through the hips.  Then we went on a hike and the entire time I was hiking, I was thinking about projects at the studio…I’ll even say I might have had an epiphany (More on that in blog posts to come!)  Finally, to end the day I led one of my campmates through a pilates mat class next to the lake…Not because I thought I should, but because my body was stiff and was craving movement and Pilates!   You can take the girl away from Pilates but you can’t take Pilates outta the girl!  Thanks to the lovely ladies that made this trip fantastic!  I hope more adventures abound for us in the future!  And I have to say there is nothing I would rather be doing than sitting in this coffee shop writing and thinking about the studio.  Can’t wait to share more stories with all of the people I love at The Pilates Studio! See you all soon!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director The Pilates Studio

P.S.  I hear the Room Naming Challenge has been a great success.  I can’t wait to post all of the possibilities we have found when I get back.  Laurie was so excited about one of them that she texted it to me…I could picture her giggling!


My sis and the starfish

whale watching (they called me the whale watching ninja

The hike to Mt. Constitution

our campsite

My very contemplative Sister!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Transforming the “kitchen area” is transforming the Pilates Experience in Hadley

All week at The Pilates Studio, I’ve been witnessing something special.  You see, we got new furniture for the “kitchen area.”  Ever since we bought the studio Laurie and I wanted to do something more with this area, until now it was a kind of glorified storage passageway to the bathroom where the water was…(how’s that for an efficient use of space) So when Laurie and I bought the studio we started making plans, and we enlisted the help of our dear friend Sarah Reid creator of the fabulous blog: Small Victories: Where we try to be Victorious
Don't you just love it!

And for the last year small steps have been taken to make this room something more…and now finally we got the furniture and well, something special has happened.  The “kitchen area” is no longer a glorified storage passageway to the bathroom where the water is…It is now the…um…well we don’t know yet.  We are asking all of you to help us name the room…By the way, Laurie and I have already vetoed "the waiting room" because there is something more happening here!

Laurie cleaning off the challenge mirror to make room for the "Name the Room Challenge"
And so the next Pilates Studio challenge has been born (you may get the sense that we like challenges at The Pilates Studio.) We need to name this room, and we need your help.  We need a name that captures how special the experience is.  How it can punctuate a pilates session.  How the conversations that happens as people gather creates community and reduces stress.  How people can have a private conversation in comfort.  How I no longer eat my lunch sitting on the “kitchen area” floor.  We need a name for this room that says all of that!  If you’ve been into the studio lately well, you’ve seen the list of names on the mirror.  We will publish a more complete list later, but for now feel free to make suggestions in the comments!

I found the following quote and it comes very close to describing the something special that is happening in that room:
“A combination of fine tea, enchanting objects and soothing surroundings exerts a therapeutic effect by washing away the corrosive strains and stress of modern life. [... It] induces a modd that is spiritually refreshing [and produces] a genial state of mind.”

Sarah Reid I don’t know how we could ever thank you enough! Please accept our sincerest gratitude!

Katrina Hawley
Co-Director The Pilates Studio

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pilates and the Amherst/Northampton Area Hiking trails

 Its that time of year in New England.  The weather is warmer; people are exiting the safety of the inside and entering the expansive possibilities of the public hiking trails of this fabulous river valley.  Whether they are climbing Mount Tom, or picnicking around the Skinner house, or making the trek across the Seven Sisters, the hikers are out and about enjoying the weather and increasing the activity in their lives.  

It is at this time of year that foot articulation exercises start popping up in pilates mat classes.  On the trails our balance is challenged as our bodies move around stones and tree roots, and we want the intrinsic muscles between our toes to be supportive of this challenge.  It is also at this time that the side leg series becomes even more important.  Increasing strength in the side of the hips can prevent pain in the knees and low back, and of course its time to start ramping up spine extension exercises for the purposes of posture so that everyone is free to take in the beautiful views. 

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or new to the trails the following exercises can help make your next hike even better.  The crisp air will fill your lungs and your body will move efficiently for the best hike that you could have.

The Pilates Studio's next challenge how fast could you do this?
First we want to take care of our feet.  Many exercises can help keep our feet’s articulation strong and so then help our balance.   There are so many foot exercises that I love, but right now my favorite is a pick up exercise, that could even be a game or The Pilates Studio’s next challenge.  To play this game (or complete this exercise if you are not the competitive type) You simply take a bucket of small objects and dump them on the floor, then with your toes try to pick up each object and place it back in the bucket.  This exercise is fun and a great way to prepare your feet for the next hiking adventure.

Kneeling side kicks
Next any kind of sidelying hip exercise accompanied by the side lift will help strengthen the side of the hips, which will prevent knee and low back pain.  If you are a beginner I would begin with the side leg lift, or if you want to progress to a more advanced exercise (Maybe you are planning to climb Vermont’s Mount Mansfield or the Berkshire’s Mount Greylock) simply try the side lift on your elbow.  The kneeling side kicks are also a great way to move beyond the simple side leg lifts.  (Who said training for a long hike was easy?)

Finally extension exercises anywhere from the dart to the swan dive, will prepare the body to carry any pack be it day or something bigger.  All of these exercises will help improve posture so that any view you take in is from the tallest body and safest neck.
The Swan

The Swan Dive
This area is full of fabulous places to hike and move.  The pioneer valley is filled with public recreation possibilities that make the community here one of my very favorites.  As you prepare for your hikes, check out the exercises above, or come to a Pilates mat class at The Pilates Studio which will cover anyone of these exercises and much much more!  

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Director The Pilates Studio  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Community at the Pilates Studio

I wanted to use this blog post to share some community news at The Pilates Studio

This past weekend Laurie and I were excited to attend the Northampton Pride parade.  We love the Pioneer Valley and are always happy to attend these events that make the valley what it is!

Last week I got to be on TV…IT was fun.  I was able to talk about the free ebook that anyone can get access to on our homepage.  What a great experience for the business!  But as I was waiting to go on air (hehe it sounds so funny to say that) I was in a conversation with two lovely ladies who were also going to be experts in segments, and I was once again struck by how fortunate we are all to live in this wonderful valley!  First I spoke with Tracey Levy, she is the director of the survival center in Amherst, MA.  I also spoke with Bernadette Giblin is a Lead Project Consultant for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Some representatives of Prospect Meadow Farm were also on the show.  These fabulous organizations really do add to the value of our home and so at The Pilates Studio we wanted to honor these other contributors to Mass Appeal by sharing their segments on our blog!  Thanks Ashley and Seth for a fabulous morning!

In this segment Tracey Levy talks about a food drive and the importance of the Amherst Survival Center

In this segment Bernadette Giblin talks about organic lawn care

And finally in this segment members of Prospect Meadow Farm talk about its wonderful programs

And then on other community news The balance challenge is coming to a close and I wanted to share our final graph.  What fun we had with this project.  We are thinking of the next challenge right now!  Do you have any ideas?  Feel free to let us know.  Are you curious about the balance challenge?  Feel free to read about it here.
Latest graph for the challenge

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-Owner of The Pilates Studio

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Our teacher Kay came to the studio one day with a story.  Her daughter had came home with a data collecting assignment.  Her class was studying averages and creating a data set.  The assignment: Go home and calculate the time that your parents can stand on one foot with their eyes closed.  Well, Kay and her partner Ann are both endurance athletes, they have both completed the Iron Man, and well lets just say they thought they would have no problem with this challenge.  That is until they tried it.  Kay came to the studio and told us this story and well the “balance challenge” was born.

At The Pilates Studio, we have been “gathering data” (the quotes speak to the fact that this is data gathered with little control and really unreliable iphone timers), and the small data set that we have has led to some "findings…"

First, there is great disparity between the right and left legs. Second, only one person has gotten more than two minutes logged.  Finally, people always seem surprised by their abilities.  Also, the eyes closed thing makes this challenge tough!

What can we do with this pseudo data?  The first thing that comes to mind is track improvement.  We can begin here and then as strength increases we could see if maybe just maybe the balance will improve.  We could try to decipher what kind of workout would improve balance.  IS it merely just practice?  Or does hip strength need to be part of the regimen? 

But apart from the “data” that is being collected, something else very special is happening.  The community at The Pilates Studio is cheering each other on.  There are bystanders applauding as another person’s name goes up on the board.  We all stood in amazement as one young woman stood perfectly still on one foot with her eyes closed for 2 minutes and 36 seconds.  This is the stuff that gives the balance challenge its power.  We can talk about data and we can talk about improvement, and we can try to decipher which workouts facilitate improvement in balance more than the others, but really, the real meat of this challenge is in the community.  We are all working together to improve our balance. 

Here is a graph of our balance challenge so far.  As you can see we are all over the map, but really who cares about the data?  At The Pilates Studio its about camaraderie!

CALL TO ACTION: Join The Pilates Studio in its balance challenge, have a friend time you standing on one foot with your eyes closed.  Then send us the statistics.  We will keep track and periodically post updates.  Join the community at The Pilates Studio as we work to improve our balance!

Follow this LINK to send us your balance numbers!

Katrina Hawley C.M.A, R.S.M.E
Co-owner of The Pilates Studio   

Feel free to try some of these workouts that might just help you with your balance!
The above video will wake up the proprioception in the

The workouts both above and below will help strengthen the side of the hips