In this Issue
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
It goes without saying that a Pilates class makes you feel great. But there are some instances when exercise of any kind can aggravate an existing health problem. So how do you know when you should go to class or stay home when you’re battling a cold, migraine or backache? To set the record straight, we asked the experts to give us their rules of thumb.
PROBLEM: A cold
Stay or Go? It depends. If your symptoms are mild, a gentle workout may help you feel better faster. “Moderate exercise, like Pilates, can stimulate immune function,” says Julie Chen, MD, an integrative physician in San Jose, CA. But if your cold is full-blown, skip exercise altogether. “If a walk or other basic functions leave you feeling tired, you don’t want to further wear down your body,” adds Chen. “It’s better to stay home and rest.”
Stay or Go? Go. “Just don’t wear anything too fitted, which may rub against your sensitive skin,” says Lillie Rosenthal, DO, a specialist in physical medicine based in New York City. It’s also best to shield your skin from the sun until it heals, she says, so indoor exercise, such as Pilates, is a perfect option.
Stay or Go? It depends. Experiencing tightness or pressure across your forehead? Chances are you have a tension headache, and a Pilates class can relieve the stress—and throbbing. But if you have a severe migraine, chances are going to class will just make things worse. Have a severe headache that you haven’t experienced before? Chen recommends checking in with your physician to make sure that a more serious issue isn’t triggering the pain.
PROBLEM: Back pain
Stay or Go? It depends. If you’re not experiencing radiating nerve pain, exercise can help increase circulation and lessen the ache. “A stronger core can help to stabilize the spine,” says Rosenthal. You may want to opt for a private session, where the instructor can pay closer attention to your form. Experiencing intense zings? See a physician instead of trying to push through.
Stay or Go? Go. “Since Pilates is mostly done indoors, it’s a great way to exercise without exposing yourself to more allergens,” says Rosenthal. Physical activity can also open your airways, so you may leave class breathing easier.
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Over the past few years, stand-up paddleboards (SUP) have become a fitness sensation. Standing up while you paddle on a floating board challenges your core, arms and balance. And Pilates instructors have taken notice: There’s a new trend of Pilates classes done on SUPs. Using the large board as a mat adds an extra challenge, says Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of SUPilates and Dunedin Pilates in Tampa Bay, Florida. “It’s similar to practicing on a BOSU ball.”
Classes are generally held in bodies of flat water, such as lakes, bays and even pools, and cost anywhere from $20 to $50 for an hour- to hour-and-a-half session. Want to give it a go? Outfitters, such as these below, are popping up across the nation:
SUPilates (www.supilates.com) Mirlenbrink teaches an hour- to hour-and-a-half classes at Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Paddle the Mitten (www.paddlethemitten.com) Based in Livingston County, Michigan, Pilates instructor Linda Brown leads 75-minute classes on a local lake. Bonus: As part of the Yoga For Vets (www.yogaforvets.org) program, the first four classes (of SUP Pilates, mat Pilates or yoga) are free for veterans.
Helios Center for Movement (www.heliospilateschicago.com) This Pilates studio holds an hour-and-a-half- to two-hour classes on Lake Michigan in Chicago on Saturdays throughout the summer.
SUPFIT (www.supfit.com) To find a class closer to you, log onto this umbrella site. You can search for an SUP Pilates class in your area, and then book through their scheduler.
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& A with Rael Isacowitz
Q: After typing on a keyboard all day, my wrists often hurt. Are there any strengthening moves that can help?
A: I often say that sitting at a desk and typing all day is an often unavoidable curse of modern-day living. It’s at times inevitable, but undesirable: There are many negative repercussions, and wrist pain is one of them. For instance, painful and weak wrists can affect the execution of many Pilates exercises, including weight-bearing exercise on the upper body, both on the mat and apparatus. There are far too many to list them all, but to name a few: Push-Up, Leg Pull, Leg Pull Back, Bend, Up Stretch, Tendon Stretch and Twist.
As a longtime, avid windsurfer, wrist and forearm strength has always been of prime concern to me. One of the best exercises that I have done specifically for this goal is simple, requires no expensive apparatus and can be done anywhere:
Take a wooden pole about 12 inches in length. Tie a five-foot length of thin rope to it and hang a five-pound weight at the end of the string. Hold the pole and place your arms by your sides and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. (Some people prefer to do this exercise with the arms reaching directly forward parallel to the floor, but in this position your deltoid usually fatigues before anything else.) With your fingers facing downward, do repeated wrist flexion to lift the weight up to the pole, and then slowly lower it to the floor again. Repeat three to five times. Now, turn the pole around and do wrist extensions to lift the weight up to the pole. Slowly lower it back down; repeat three to five times. It’s astounding how quickly the forearm will fatigue.
Remember that you shouldn’t work the wrist when there’s pain and inflammation. Once the pain has subsided, you can also do weight-bearing exercises, such as the Push-Up, Up Stretch and Leg Pull. You may consider using a wrist support. To keep your wrists in alignment and alleviate stress, you could use handles specifically made for push up-type movements. These make it easier to keep the wrist in alignment and alleviate the pressure on the wrist. Also work on a firm surface; using a soft mat can increase stress on the wrist. If the pain doesn’t improve, please seek advice from a medical practitioner.
Rael Isacowitz, MA, has been practicing Pilates for more than 30 years and is recognized internationally as an expert in the field. In 1989, Rael founded BASI Pilates®, a comprehensive Pilates education organization represented throughout the world. For more information, visit www.basipilates.com.
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Close Up: Rocking Stretch
by Andrea Speir; photography by Eric Kaufman
In the May/June issue of Pilates Style, Pilates pro Andrea Speir explains how Pilates complements cycling: Moves that strengthen and elongate the transverse abdominal and lower-back muscles can improve performance and prevent injury. Here’s one more exercise that actively stretches your quads, hip flexors and shoulder rotators. Try it before you hop back into the saddle.
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Setup: Lie facedown on your stomach.
Begin the move:
1. Bend your knees and reach your arms around to take hold of your ankles.
2. Press your feet into your hands and pull softly with your hands to lift your body up into a bowed position. Stretch your chest by drawing your shoulders down your back.
3. Return to the starting position. Do 3-5 reps.
Tips: Make sure your shoulders are rotated onto your back and not curling forward. Keep your feet actively pressing into your hands and your hands actively pushing back to maximize the stretch in your quads and hip flexors.
Modification: If there’s too much pressure on your lower back, don’t lift your legs and chest; simply hold your feet and softly press them into your hands.
Advanced: Lift your head closer and more actively toward your legs, essentially making a “bow” out of your body.
Power Pilates-trained Andrea Speir finds strength and joy through physical fitness and loves teaching others the beneficial method of Pilates that has greatly impacted her life. A Pilates teacher in Los Angeles, she recently released her first app with Appcession, which has topped the iTunes Top 100 Fitness App list, as well as her first DVD. Both are called Perfect Pilates Body.
With the thermostat rising, chances are the last thing you feel like doing is turning on that hot stove. No sweat! “You can whip up delicious meals without heat,” says Matthew Kadey, a dietitian and recipe developer in Ontario, Canada. Inspired by summers spent in his second-floor apartment (without air-conditioning!), Kadey created 101 mouthwatering recipes for his new book, The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook (Ulysses Press, 2013). Follow his advice—and a recipe for a refreshing peach gazpacho—and you’ll never have to resort to a bowl of cornflakes for dinner again.
1. Make oatmeal overnight. Instead of simmering those oats, simply pop them in the fridge with an equal amount of milk before bed. After soaking up the liquid overnight, they’ll have a soft, slightly chewy texture. (This trick works for steel-cut, rolled and instant oats.) Top with nuts, fruit and flaked coconut for a ready-to-eat breakfast.
2. Choose the right protein. The trickiest part of heat-free cooking is getting enough protein if you usually rely on meat, fish and eggs. For ready-to-eat sources, look to canned beans and fish, prosciutto and deli meats, and thawed frozen shrimp. Silken tofu also adds a protein boost to smoothies and desserts.
3. Create no-bake treats. To make “baked” goods and piecrusts, use a base of dates blended with nut flour, such as almond. The dates bind the dessert, while the nut flours are more flavorful than wheat.
4. Put the chill on soups. On a steamy day, nothing’s more refreshing than a cool bowl of soup. Along with interesting twists on gazpacho, like the recipe below, try experimenting with other flavor combinations. Think: chilled carrot or avocado-coconut soups.
2/3 cup water
2 pounds ripe peaches (about 6 medium), pitted and chopped
1/2 English cucumber, chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
1 jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small red bell pepper, diced, for garnish
1 small peach, diced, for garnish
1. In a blender or food processor, add water, peaches, cucumber, green onion, jalapeño (if using), basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend together until smooth. (If you’re using a small blender, you may need to do this in batches.)
2. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
3. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with red pepper and peach.
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