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It’s no secret that Pilates and dance have a long history together. Although Joseph Pilates worked with and developed cross-training exercises specifically for many different types of athletes, including boxers, soldiers and circus performers, it was his relationship to ballet and his protégée Romana Kryzanowska that solidified Pilates into the method that we know today.

Romana, who was a ballet dancer herself, worked extensively with Joseph Pilates. At one point in her career she suffered an ankle injury; this first meeting turned into years of work and development with Mr. Pilates on his method of “contrology”.

Related: here to sign up for a complimentary Pilates session!

Pilates in Practice

Although Pilates rightfully believed his method to be fitting for every body, dancers seemed to benefit especially from his “contrology” method. From years of stretching, external rotation of the legs from the hips, knees, and ankles, and dynamic ranges of motion, dancers are left with highly flexible muscles and joints.

While these physical attributes may be aesthetically pleasing, they leave the dancers’ body compromised – much like many sports. Joseph Pilates’ method is built on 4 principles that start with s: stretch, strength (muscular), stamina and stability. While most dancers have “stretch” nailed down, it’s the other three “s’s” that dancers need and get through cross-training: strength, stamina and stability.

Related: read the account of this instructor’s life-changing transformation through Pilates, pre and post-hip surgery.

Aiding with Injury

Because of the work that dancers do, they are at risk for many injuries. Injury is a part of the life of the dancer. Women who dance en pointe struggle often with foot and ankle issues, and any dancer who jumps frequently may struggle with Achilles tendonitis. Many male dancers have to lift other dancers, sometimes fully lifting another dancer’s body weight over their head, in a move called “Le Grande Pressage”. These dancers often struggle with lower back issues after years of lifting in rehearsals and during performances.

Pilates can help these performing professionals overcome and safeguard themselves from these injuries. The Pilates workout is a core-distal workout, which means the exercises work from the core muscles out to the extremities. Dancers (and any person, really) benefit from this workout by strengthening the core muscles which help to align the skeleton properly, which in turn makes everything else in the “system” (the body) work as it should.

Cross-Training Claim to Fame

As athletes strengthen themselves from the center out, all of their movements become more economical, thus creating a way of moving that reduces the stress incurred on the body and reducing injury. It is this cross training that not only dancers, but athletes (especially professional athletes like baseball and hockey players), runners, golfers and many others have come to depend on for minimum physical risk and maximum reward.

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Pilates Instructor Wade Schaaf.

About Wade

Wade Schaff FFC Lincoln Park Pilates instructorWade Schaaf is a certified Pilates instructor, a certified RedCord instructor and is also a Pilates teacher trainer in the Classical Pilates Formula FFC program.

He specializes in all types of work, with a focus on Pilates for athletes and dancers, and Pilates for injury, recovery, and especially back injury. Want to set up a complimentary Pilates session at FFC? Email him at wschaaf@ffc.com!

You’ve read articles and seen the news – Pilates is one of the best workouts you can do. With benefits ranging from increased mental strength and improved attention and motivation to a better golf swing, a stronger core for running and more, it’s easy to see why Pilates is one of the fastest growing trends in the fitness industry. Pilates is beneficial for everyone – even Jake Arrieta, of the Chicago Cubs, and Jonathan Toews, of the Chicago Blackhawks, practice the ways of Joseph Pilates. But it doesn’t stop there! Here are benefits to practicing Pilates after (or before) pregnancy.

Pilates After Pregnancy

Pilates is perfect for helping new moms through the process after pregnancy and strengthen important muscles necessary for recovery. Benefits include:

1) Draws your abdominals (specifically your transverse abdominis) back together after being stretched for 9 months during pregnancy – also great for strengthening.

2) Strengthens your upper back and opens your chest, which can get tired from carrying and/or nursing your little one.

3) Strengthens your inner and outer hips to help support your pelvis after it was stretched and relaxed from all the hormones running through your body.

Related: sign up to try a free Pilates session on us at FFC!

4) Encourages proper, slow, yet precise, strengthening of your abdominals, hips and back, which helps relieve lower back and pelvic floor discomfort from pregnancy.

5) Stretches tight muscles that haven’t been used in a long time.

6) Can help repair diastasis recti, which is a split down the center of your abs (a common mistake is doing sit ups and planks right after you have a baby).

7) Gives you some well-deserved ME time.

Related: 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger.

Post written by FFC Boystown Pilates Coordinator & Instructor Jamie Loger.

About Jamie

Jamie is the Pilates coordinator and senior instructor at FFC Boystown and specializes in pre and postnatal work,in addition to core training and post-rehabilitation. Want to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jamie? Email her at jloger@ffc.com

Joseph Pilates believed that we are only as young as our spine. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Joe Pilates created a complete system of exercises that, along with your Pilates trainer’s eyes and years of experience, can transform your body into an efficient well oiled machine – just as it was intended to be. Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.

Pilates Can Help With Muscular Imbalance

After working with many individuals, one common issue of muscular imbalance occurs in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Actually, when I ask my students if there are any special exercises they would like to do, neck and shoulders are always on the list.

In our current lifestyle, we find ourselves using our bodies in less than optimal arrangements (i.e. looking down at our handheld devices, sitting at computers and driving for extended periods of time.) All of these daily, almost unavoidable activities cause an imbalance of the upper back, shoulders and neck, and ultimately, a forward tilt of the head.

With the constant gravitational pull on the head leading forward, our shoulders begin to roll inward (internally rotated), creating a collapse of the chest and a rounding of the upper back. If this posture goes unchecked, it can lead to a condition known as kyphosis (illustrated in the image below.)

“Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.”

The shoulder joint has multiple functions and the muscles of the shoulder joint all work in concert to perform routine movements, so when one or more muscles are weakened from poor posture or when we develop imbalances in the core, some muscles become hyper-active to compensate for muscles that are weak due to being inactive or dormant.

This inefficient alignment can lead to pain in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Chronic neck and shoulder pain often cause many people to discontinue doing their favorite sport or activity.

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to redeem!

Are You Rounding Your Shoulders?

Want to know if you are involuntarily rounding your shoulders forward? Here is a simple exercise to check:

While standing in front of a mirror with the heels together, toes slightly apart and your hands at your side, glance down at your hands.

  • Ideally, your thumbs would aim forward indicating correct postural alignment.
  • If your thumbs are turning inward toward your leg, then you may weak muscles in your upper and mid-back, leading to having too much internal rotation in your shoulders and a rounding of the upper back.

To see an example of this test and learn more about the anatomy of the shoulder joint, watch this video.

Notice an imbalance? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can try to help restore proper alignment.

  1. Visit the this website for some exercises you can perform to help restore balance.
  2. Contact your Pilates coordinator to schedule a complimentary session.

Related: believe it or not, Pilates is also great for your brain! Here’s how it makes you mentally stronger. 

Now that you know that Pilates can provide some great ways to restore your body’s alignment, what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to share your Pilates practice with us using #FFCChicago!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Pilates Trainer Charles Little. 

About Charles

Charles Little is a Pilates trainer at FFC Oak Park. He is certified in Balance Body and the Pilates Teacher Training Program. His specialties include flexibility/stretching, weight loss, and toning and shaping. Contact Charles to set up a consultation by emailing him at clittle@ffc.com!

Photo credit: image 1, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kyphosis/multimedia/kyphosis/img-20007874; image 2, http://www.spineuniverse.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery-large/wysiwyg_imageupload/3998/2015/07/27/kyphosis14672520_m_0.jpg

If you have heard anything about Pilates, you have probably heard it makes your core stronger, gets you toned and increases your flexibility. Something you may not have heard is that Pilates makes you smarter – as in more intelligent, improved cognitive function! Pilates can make you smarter by increasing your attention, motivation and your ability to achieve more. It may also improve your overall mood and reduce your stress, anxiety and fatigue. Who knew you could be physically and mentally stronger just by practicing Pilates?! Check out these 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

The 6 Principles of Pilates & Why They Matter

Many of the six principles that serve as the foundation of Pilates relate back to the elements of human cognitive function and can aid in the improvement of these functions. The principles are as follows:

  • Concentration – focus on the mind-body connection to establish more mental and physical benefits from the workout
  • Centering – use your core (Pilates Powerhouse) muscles to help your body’s muscles function and develop more efficiently
  • Control – make precise, controlled, correct movements for maximum benefits
  • Breathing – control your breathing to include full exhalations as each exercise is performed helps with muscle activation and helps with mental focus
  • Precision – work toward the ideal execution of the exercise
  • Flow – ensure that each motion is smooth

Related: not only can Pilates help increase cognitive function, but it can help with muscle imbalances and chronic pain! Check out this post.

Pilates Can Reduce Anxiety & Increase Attention, Motivation & Achievement

So how does regularly practicing Pilates and the principles of Pilates help decrease anxiety and stress and improve your attention, motivation and overall cognitive function – making you “mentally stronger”?

Pilates helps reduce your anxiety by:

  • Increasing your body energy
  • Increasing sleep quality
  • Making your body more comfortable
  • Encouraging proper breathing
  • Improving blood and oxygen circulation flow to the brain
  • Relaxing your muscles

Pilates helps increase your attention by:

  • Increasing the principles of concentration and precision
  • Perfecting the controlling of body movement by the brain
  • Increasing memory-processing speed

Pilates helps increase your motivation by:

  • Improving total mood by performing positive habits and encouraging breathing that helps control emotions
  • Increasing vitality and body energy
  • Offering satisfaction for the basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness)
  • Improving psychological well-being
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Encouraging the release of a certain neurotransmitter which helps to alleviate physical and mental pain

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to sign up.

Pilates improves achievement by:

  • Generating new neurons (the foundation of the nervous system)
  • Increasing neurotransmitters
  • Aiding in the better survival of the neurons responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking

If you would like to be increase your cognitive function, become mentally stronger, and more productive, you should consider incorporating Pilates into your regular exercise routine. Your brain and body will thank you!

Post written by FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer Tsedal Ashby.

FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer TsedalAbout Tsedal

Tsedal is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer at FFC West Loop. She enjoys teaching people who are new to exercise as well as challenging more experienced athletes. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her directly at tashby@ffc.com!

 

 

 

Well, my little baby girl recently turned five months old and I cannot stress enough that exercise and sleep are what will get you through those first few months. I know it sounds crazy… new moms, you’re probably thinking something like, “when would I find the time to exercise, much less sleep?!” It’s not easy, but the payoff is exponential. Here’s how you get your pre-baby body back faster!

Getting Active & Staying Active

During my pregnancy, I kept up with light cardio on an elliptical, strength training, and incorporated prenatal Pilates as well. Exercise was a huge part of my preparation for delivering my first baby. It made all the difference in my recovery and helped me lose the baby weight quickly.

By the time my two-week checkup came after Rita was born, I was already back to my pre-pregnancy weight! So to all other expectant mothers, here are my tips to achieve the best possible recovery:

  1. Keep up with diet and exercise while pregnant

Find what works for you. Some mothers can run while pregnant; I could not. I kept up with my cardio workouts by hopping on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day or by taking a spinning class. Strength training and prenatal Pilates were incorporated in my workouts until I was in my 39th week.

Related: try out a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here.

  1. Rest when you can

This is very important! I felt zero guilt when I would take my afternoon naps during that last week of pregnancy. Your body needs rest for the weeks ahead. Those long nights, whether you are breastfeeding or not, are exhausting. Sleep!

  1. Sleep when they sleep

After the baby arrives, maintain a similar schedule to your newborn. The more rested you are, the better you will feel and the more likely it will be for you to exercise.

  1. Early morning workouts are key

I found that if I woke up and fed Rita early in the morning, put her back to sleep and stayed up to work out, I was able to get it done and out of the way. If I waited to work out until the afternoon, it wouldn’t happen. Something else would always come up! So get up, get it done, and congratulate yourself. You’re doing an amazing job!

  1. Fight the cravings

Remember, you’re no longer eating for two. Breastfeeding does burn calories and you’ll feel hungry, but feed yourself with GOOD calories. What you eat is transferred to your little one, so make sure to stick with lean proteins, lots of veggies and limit your sugar intake (try some of these lower sugar recipes out!).

Whether it’s walking around the neighborhood with baby in tow or doing tricep dips in your living room with the little one in your lap, get yourself in motion. Your body wants to be strong and get back into shape. So keep modifying your workouts until you’re back at your previous fitness level.

From one strong mama to another, you’ve got this!

Post written by FFC contributor, Kelly A. 

Recovering from surgery, or even a minor injury, can be frustrating and discouraging. In the time it takes to recover, the body can change drastically. In 2014 I sustained a hip labral tear and ended up getting surgery to repair it. After surgery, I was in a hip brace for two whole months and, as a result, my body became uneven – I had extreme muscle imbalance, severe tightness and my body was just completely out of alignment. I seriously questioned if I was going to face these issues for the rest of my life. After I graduated from physical therapy at FFC’s East Lakeview NovaCare, my therapist recommended a Pilates transformation.

I knew nothing about Pilates, except that all the apparatuses looked like a bunch of torture devices. Needless to say I was skeptical that these weird machines could actually help me. To be honest, I thought some of the stuff was odd during my first few sessions, but then I started to fall in love with it as I began to see my body transform. All those issues I had after surgery were completely fixed with continuous Pilates sessions.

Related: Pilates makes you mentally stronger. Here are 4 ways.

I was in awe that this method of exercise literally healed me. Pilates ignited a passion in me – it helped me so much that it made me want to be a teacher to help others like myself. Since that turning point post-surgery, I have graduated from the FFC Pilates Teacher Training Program and am a Pilates trainer at FFC South Loop.

Due to pre-existing conditions, I tore the labrum of my other hip and got surgery in 2015. Having practiced Pilates both pre and post-surgery this second time around, I can definitively say Pilates helped me recover faster by reducing the muscle imbalances, alignment issues and overall tightness I experienced during the first surgery.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute Pilates consultation at FFC!

So, if you are hoping to get stronger before a surgery, recovering from a hip (or other type of) injury or just want to improve your overall balance and alignment, here are a few specific ways a Pilates transformation can help you. Pilates:

  • Restores alignment of the body and corrects muscle imbalances
  • Helps correct the body’s natural tendency for overcompensation when trying to cope with alignment or imbalance issues
  • Strengthens and lengthens muscles around the hip area
  • Helps speed up recovery time with pre-surgery preparation and with scar tissue issues post-surgery
  • Enhances overall core strength to assist with balance and confidence in falling
  • Reduces muscle tightness and increases flexibility and range of motion

Both before and after surgery, I experienced tightness in my hip flexors, quads and lower back; my Pilates transformation helped relieve this tightness and brought length back into my compressed spine.

Whether you have hip issues or not, Pilates will challenge your body in a new way and educate you about your own body. If you are apprehensive like I was, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone and try it! If you are interested in scheduling a free introductory session please email me, Jenna Greenfield, at jgreenfield@ffc.com.

Post written by FFC South Loop Pilates Instructor Jenna Greenfield.