For many, the big 4-0, and the new body that comes with it, can be a wakeup call to step the self-care up a notch. Start with this quickie mat series to better your posture, increase core strength and boost shoulder stability, so you can face 50 fearlessly.

By Ellen Barrett • Edited by Amanda Altman

Pilates is great for so many populations, but for my fellow 40-somethings, it’s perfection. It fixes exactly what needs repair at this stage in life—poor posture, fleeting core strength and mind/body disconnect—and it does so without depleting energy. I’ve been a Pilates devotee since I was 27, and now that I’m firmly in my 40s, I’ve got a renewed sense of gratitude for it. Pilates is fixing 40.

Whether you’re the big 4-0 or beyond, you’ve probably noticed how a few assets that used to be automatic now demand your attention. For me, I never needed to focus on my lower back—it always felt invincible. Now, I’m constantly tending to my lower left side, having been sidelined by back injuries in recent years.

My back situation, which at first glance was an annoyance, has taught me many lessons. For one, I have more compassion for others with back woes. Two, I have gained valuable firsthand insight as to how the body heals. And three, the pain and inconvenience led to an epiphany, that it was time to take my fitness to the next level.

If you want this decade to feel just as good as (or better than) the previous one, Pilates is at your service. Here are the three areas you probably need to focus on:

1. Overall posture. Due to mental fatigue, lack of sleep, commuting and overwork, your shoulders are slouching and head is jutting forward.
2. Core strength. Perhaps from pregnancy and carpooling, or from commuting and a desk job, your powerhouse is lacking power.
3. Shoulder stability. From an on-the-go lifestyle and responsibility overload, your shoulders are especially tight, and your rear deltoids are especially weak.

This quick routine is ideal for daily use and requires no equipment. If done at a mindful pace, it should take about 15 minutes. Because I recommend adding meditation to any Pilates routine, the last five minutes are just that. This segment can be done before or after this routine—or any other time you just need a breather. I hope that it helps you inhabit your body even more.
Consider 40 fixed!


PROPS: none
BREATH: Focus on your breath. By paying attention to your inhale and exhale, you’ll truly inhabit your body.
Reps varies
TIP: Silence your phone and shut the door so you can dedicate your full attention to this matwork series.

Standing Angel Arms with Breathing Focus

PURPOSE: connects the shoulders to the core; promotes proper alignment
SETUP: Stand tall with your feet together, arms by your sides and palms facing inward.

1. Inhale, lengthening your arms straight overhead, rotating your palms to face front.
2. Exhale, returning to the starting position. Do 5 reps, then reverse the direction, starting with your hands overhead,
and repeat.

TIP: Try this in front of a mirror, where you can see the symmetry (or lack thereof!) of your shoulder movement.
MODIFICATION: Bend your elbows if necessary.
ADVANCED: Balance on your tiptoes.

Simple Standing Backbend

PURPOSE: reduces tension in the chest and shoulders; strengthens the back muscles
SETUP: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your lower back.

1. Inhale, “lifting” your rib cage off your waist, then point your chest toward the ceiling. Hold for 30–60 seconds before releasing, breathing deeply throughout.

TIP: It’s tempting to hold your breath here, but make sure to keep breathing.
MODIFICATION: If your balance feels compromised, position your feet wider than hip width.
ADVANCED: Extend your arms overhead throughout.


PURPOSE: improves upper-body and core strength; stretches
the spine
SETUP: Stand tall with your chest lifted, feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides, palms by your sides, either facing forward or inward.

1. Exhale, rolling your spine down one vertebra at a time, bending your knees if needed to grab your ankles, and then place your hands flat on the floor. “Walk” your hands forward to Plank.
2. Inhale, bending your elbows to bring your body into a low push-up.
3. Exhale, pressing back to Plank.

4. “Walk” your hands toward your feet, ending in a Roll-Down position, and roll your spine up, returning to the starting position. Do 5–10 reps.

TIP: When you return to standing, shake out your wrists before repeating.
MODIFICATION: If you are feeling a lack of strength in your arms, you can simply hold Plank instead of bending
your elbows.
ADVANCED: Increase your pace.

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May 3, 2017 at 10:04 am
Category: Articles, Exercises, Teasers
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