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Have you ever contemplated getting studio Pilates equipment for your home workouts?

What if I told you that you may already own something that lends itself wonderfully to Pilates work? This month I’ll share with you a Pilates workout that I designed to be performed on…an Ottoman!

Perhaps you don’t have the money or inclination to purchase big Pilates equipment for home use. Well I’ve discovered to my delight that my padded ottoman is the perfect surface for so many Pilates exercises. Here’s a way to do some Aging Strong Pilates® in the comfort of your home and notch up the level.

The video below is my personal quick and dirty ~15 min workout that I do in my bedroom before or after a shower about 2-3x a week. I do it in my underwear for maximum skin to leather traction so I have good grip and don’t slide. Some of the exercises are extremely challenging so proceed with caution. They are safe but difficult, so listen to your body and proceed at a level and pace that matches where you are today.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included a full written list of the exercises so you can print it and repeat on your own with your choice of music.

Note: Your ottoman should not be on wheels or have a base that swivels.

My ottoman has a slope to it. Depending on the direction your lying on it, the slope can make a particular exercise easier or harder. If your ottoman is sloped, try and drape yourself on it in the same angle I do in the video. I demonstrate the exercises at the angle that facilitates each movement.

For example, for the beginning chest lift core series I’m positioned on my back with my buttocks on the low edge and the lower tips of my shoulder blades at the top of the slope. This is the easier orientation but you’ll see quickly that it is by no means “easy”. If your ottoman is level, that’s fine as long as it has nice padded edges so it doesn’t dig into you. If you choose not to do it in your underwear then add a shelf liner to the surface so you don’t slide.

This workout includes all ranges of motion, Flexion (just from Extension (back bending) to Neutral (straight line) so it’s safe for conditions where flexion is contraindicated) Rotation, Side Bending, and Extension. I incorporate wonderful stretches after working the muscles in all these planes of motion.

I have to admit this is one of my favorite routines. It’s a Bad A_ _ Core workout that energizes me and makes we feel worked in a short amount of time!

The planks are extremely challenging but if you have stiff feet or bunions that make it difficult to curl your toes under for planks on the floor, having your feet elevated makes that part actually easier since you don’t have to tuck your toes under. Remember, the more leg you have on the ottoman, the easier it will be, so position yourself wisely.

 

The two sections that I do face down (opposite arm and leg reach, swimming and swan) are great for strengthening the muscles that strengthen the hips and support good posture. Firing those upper back muscles has the added benefit of stimulating bone growth in the spine.

 

Here’s a full list of the exercises so you can repeat them on your own with your favorite music. Note that as you see in the video – you don’t have to do a lot of repetitions to make it count. If you want to get feedback from me on your technique, purchase a 30 minute online Skype session and I’ll ensure you’re moving safely and effectively!

Go slowly. Be Precise. Breathe. Have fun!

Ottoman Pilates Exercise List

On your Back (face up)

  • Big X Stretch
  • Chest Lift Series
    • Center
    • Oblique twisting toward the lifted tabletop leg
    • Advanced: knees lift, lift, lower, lower, alternating lead leg
  • Finish with Big X Stretch to lengthen the abdominals

On Your Belly

  • Opposite Arm leg reach (ottoman under pelvis and belly)
  • Swimming
  • Final extension hands interlaced reaching toward feet-rotating head as you breathe w/ease
  • Child’s pose/Rest position (knees open wide if you have osteoporosis or herniated discs)

Side Lying

  • Leg lifts (bottom foot on floor, top leg lifts and lowers) Waist positioned at middle of ottoman
  • Side Kick top leg, keep hips stacked vertically.    Shift body so hips at middle of ottoman
  • Hover body parallel to floor and hold (head in line with spine)
  • Top leg lifts and lowers
  • Side-Lying Stretch (shift yourself so it’s comfortable for you, grab top wrist with bottom hand)

Repeat above on the other side

Face Down

  • Planks (first with lower thigh and shin on ottoman) Hold position
  • Add pushups if desired
  • Walk further out so less leg on the ottoman-increased challenge
  • Side Plank (one on each side-move slowly and hold/breathe)

Face Down

  • Swan (begin with breasts/chest hanging over the front edge, hands on the floor, feet on floor against base of the wall) Activate core and legs then Inhale as  you rise, Exhale as you lower
  • Child pose/rest position

 

 

We all have our postural faults, especially if we lose focus. Mine is rib flaring, that tendency to jut the bottom ribs forward in a faulty attempt to open the chest or lengthen the body. This often results in excess back tension and pain.

With mindfulness and an awareness of this tendency, I can better control this common error and so can you!

The secret is, no surprise, “connection”.  I like to use the image of 2 vertical bungee cords connecting my front bottom ribs with my pelvis.  Watch the video to test if you’re a rib flarer and learn 2 exercises to help fix it.

Teresa Maldonado Marchok, physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor, shares BoneSmart Pilates® Healthy Supported Sitting Tips when you want to sit at the back of a chair.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month is in May and I wanted to give you plenty of notice for my workshops in the area.  I provide ongoing support as an educator for American Bone Health to increase community awareness of strategies that promote safety and improve bone health

Freedom from Fractures Presentation in Mountain View, CA
When: Wed. May 2 at 7pm
Where: 2500 Grant Rd at El Camino Hospital
Main Conference Room F/G
Cost: free

Freedom from Fractures Presentation in Palo Alto, CA 
When: Friday, May 4, 1 to 2:30pm
Where: “Avenidas” at Cubberley Community Center
4000 Middlefield Road Building I, 2nd floor
Cost: Free
To register call 650-289-5400 visit us online at the Avenidas website.   Here is a direct link to registration:  Class number 5808 – Register here

Having a husband and son who are hard core hikers,  I’ve  had to figure out how to keep up. With much encouragement  (and trepidation on my part) I made it up Yosemite National Park’s iconic Half Dome for the first time just 4 years ago.  Since that extremely challenging hike which literally wiped me out, I’ve discovered the magic of trekking poles and it’s made subsequent hikes so much easier!

What are some of the advantages of trekking poles?
  • Stability and balance-you’ve just added 2 more points of contact on the ground in addition to your 2 feet.
  • Power-as you pull yourself forward with your upper body, it creates more power and force to propel you
  • Integrated workout– you find you’ll use your upper body, core and hips in an integrated full body work out as you propel yourself forward in space.
  • Strengthening myofascial connections-For those interested in fascia, the connections of the posterior oblique fascial sling are magnified as you engage your latissimus dorsi on one side simultaneously with the gluteal muscle on the opposite side of your body. As the right arm extends back-you fire that right latissimus muscle, at the same time you are extending your opposite hip (left) gluteal muscle. They work in tandem in a powerful way to propel you forward.
  • Aesthetics-you look sporty!
When I ascend a steep hill, I’m working both my upper body and my hips and legs. The extra support from the poles and recruitment of my upper body almost feels like someone is offering me a boost from behind. It’s a tremendous help.
When I descend, the poles take some of the weight off my joints helping relieve possible overuse and stress to my knees.
Since incorporating trekking poles into my hikes, I feel more powerful, have better endurance and feel more stability with the enhanced balanced provided by additional points of contact with the poles to the ground.  I’m more sure of my footing as I’m able to test the terrain with my forward pole.
The mechanics of walking with the poles is simple but requires awareness and practice.  As you step forward with your right heel simultaneously the left pole touches done in front and vice versa.

Try this now with me.  As you step forward with the right heel, your upper body is rotated toward the front (right) leg-left pole on the ground in front.  Then your left lats fire as you pull back w/your left arm, rotating your upper body to the left as you shift your weight onto your rt leg and your left leg swings forward.

The kinetic chain continues with firing of the opposite right gluteal muscle in a diagonal pattern.  This is the myofascial posterior oblique line of connective tissue in action, firing in a coordinated fashion to promote healthy gait.

Recently my husband and son hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in 1 day.  Though I had no desire to put myself through that, I joined my daughter and the rest of our friends for some challenging hikes offering breathtaking vistas and with every facilitated step I was grateful to have the poles ease impact on my joints during the descent and have the poles assist me to power my ascent.

The collapsible poles that I own provide absorption of forces, increased power to propel myself, and more stability and balance to reduce the risk of falls.  Poles come at set heights and adjustable heights.  If you’re buying ones at a set height- make sure your forearm is parallel with the ground when you’re holding them (elbow at a 90 degree angle).  If you want to share your poles, it’s better to buy adjustable poles where you can vary the height.

For me, the features most important were collapsibility (to 24 inches) and weight. I wanted to be able to tuck them in a backpack or hang them from a carabiner on my fanny pack and wanted them to be very lightweight.  I have no ties with any trekking pole company. I just wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might inspire others to get moving more and enjoy the amazing beauty we have at our fingertips.

Stay tuned for my next blog post and video where I’ll share helpful stretches and warmups for hiking using the trekking poles.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear – I just don’t have time to get to a fitness class as often as I want to.     Here’s a quick workout that you can do in your kitchen.   It’s a short, time efficient standing workout you can do in your kitchen between latte’s! This workout targets hip and leg strength, core, flexibility and balance – great for when you’re tight on time and want a quick fix!   Let me know how you like it!

If you, your mom or dad would like to weave in some hip and leg strengthening while getting in and out of a chair, watch a short video below of my mom as I cue her in this process.

What do we know for sure?
Resistance exercise stimulates not only muscle but bone formation.

How?
When you do resistance training that’s more intense than what your muscles come to expect (like lifting more than your purse), the tendons that attach muscle to bone, pull on your bones stimulating the bones to respond. Depending on your age and the workouts, “it can either increase or maintain bone mass density” according to Steven Hawkins, PhD, professor of exercise science at California Lutheran University.

Which is Better-Weights or Bands?
Resistance training in all forms is good for our bones and in one Connecticut study, it didn’t seem to matter whether you used weights or bands, they all produced positive results for bone in general. Evidence by a recent a study in Taiwan of women over 60 y/o doing resistance band training for 40 min 3x/wk for 12 weeks demonstrated that elastic resistance band exercise resulted in increased bone mineral density.

Lots of Options
There are many options out there to increase strength such as: machines at the gym, dumbbells, your own body weight and resistance bands.  In my BoneSmart Pilates® Osteoporosis and Aging Strong DVD’s, I chose to use resistance bands versus weights to build muscle and bone strength for a simple reason. Bands are lightweight and portable (so you can travel with them) and they’re inexpensive compared to gym equipment.

What is weight bearing exercise?
Weight bearing exercise is exercise in which you are supporting your own body weight through your feet and legs or hands and arms. Weight bearing exercise is proven to be essential for maintaining and building bone. When we combine standing weight bearing exercise with resistance band training, we challenge our balance, agility and coordination-key components for preventing falls. Falling is a concern for us as we age, including those of us with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Remember that 1 of 2 women over 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime (NOF) and most of those fractures result from falls.

It’s important to note that after we hit 30, our biological balance of bone building and bone breakdown tips towards bone loss. If you’re sedentary and not getting adequate weight bearing and resistance exercise, your bones will pay. Add to that the arrival of menopause, where a drop in estrogen causes a big drop in bone density and you have a recipe of swiss cheese for bones.

The good news is, studies show during post menopause that with just 2 resistance workouts per week, we can slow down or even halt our bone loss. As we age we need to be vigilant about our overall health in general and our bone health in particular.

My BoneSmart Pilates Aging Strong series targets areas of decline as we age – including hip and leg strength, spine strength, bone strength and balance. The workouts in all my DVD’s capitalize on resistance to build muscle and bone strength. With my researched approach as a physical therapist, “Movement becomes your Medicine”.  The workouts are designed to be safe for people with osteoporosis, herniated discs, chronic pain or general back and joint issues.

The BoneSmart Pilates® Aging Strong Enhanced Prop Bundle that accompanies my Aging Strong Pilates DVD’s includes among other things:

  • 3 resistance bands of varied strength, for increasing upper and lower body strength (and flexibility) These 5 foot long resistance bands are low-protein and powder-free, reducing skin irritation and making them ideal for sensitive users.
  • 2 resistance ankle loops of light and stronger resistance. These smaller cousins of the long bands pack quite a workout for your hips and legs and because you’re not tying a long band around your ankles, there’s no risk of tripping on a loose end that could come undone.

To summarize, Bands do Build Bone. I still include hand weights and Pilates machines like the Reformer and Cadillac for my studio clients for interest and variety but there’s nothing like putting your bands and loops in a zip lock bag, slipping that into your purse and having your workout with you wherever you go!