Week Three of Isolation – Pilates workout.

April 16, 2020

Week three of isolation has come around. I hope to introduce you to another form of exercise that will help not only your fitness, but also your posture.  At the moment, we have got a great opportunity to look at building better habits.  It is important to make any activity fun.  Take the stress out of everyday activity, tone down the anxiety and pressure.  Fun is why most athletes start doing sport and training in the first place.  So find a happy place – maybe do exercise with the family.  Find something that you enjoy and is mixing relaxation with exertion (if that is possible?).  Find a good time to exercise, whether that is early in the morning, to start the day off well, or go about doing your daily tasks and use exercise as a break from routine.

Pilates is a way of exercising that consists of low impact flexibility exercises which also help to develop strength and endurance.  It emphasises proper postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance.  A lot of people probably think of Pilates as an exercise program that is performed using equipment.  This is far from the truth.  Pilates can be done at home, with nothing but a soft mat or carpet to lie on.

Pilates can be as gentle or as challenging as you want it to be.  The benefits are many and include flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone of abdominals, lower back, hips and butt (all the so called ‘core muscles’ of your body).  It is also a great form of exercise for those of us who suffer from back pain as it helps to strengthen the deep ab and pelvic floor muscles which help support the back.

Movements are meant to be SLOW, PRECISE and using CONTROLLED BREATHING.  It is a full body exercise and is a great foundation for anything else you would like to do.  Align the spine and ensure that all movements are performed slowly and controlled.

As a mum, teacher and coach I have always been someone that looks at how young children, stand, sit, walk and run.  I have always stressed to athletes that I have coached, posture is extremely important, not only when you are doing exercise but in everyday life.  The way you stand, the way you walk, the way you rest, the way you sit at the computer or at the desk at school and so on.  The list is endless.  Do you walk pigeon toed, do your feet splay so toes point outwards, are you knock kneed, or bow legged, or are you so called ‘normal’ with legs in alignment from hip, through the knee to the ankle.  All these traits will apply different pressures to muscles when you do activity and will affect how you perform. I find it much easier to coach an athlete when their feet are in proper alignment, this means, toes facing forward where the ‘push’ comes through the ball of feet.

The feet are the foundation of the body so when standing upright no matter what activity you are doing, which means that any misalignment of the feet will cause issues up the kinetic chain.  A good way to check is to see the alignment of the Achilles tendon from the back when someone is standing bare footed.  The tendon should be perpendicular (or in a straight line), to the ground.   The body’s centre of gravity is important in any alignment along with the weight distribution during the exercise.  Because we are all different heights and weights, exercises can either be challenging or relatively easy so it is easy to move slowly and precisely.

Here we go.  I will go through 15 relatively easy exercises which you can do at home on the floor just thinking of posture, trying to become tall and long and go steady.

Breathing is important – exhale when you are exerting or doing movement, inhale when at rest or holding the position.  Repeat each exercise 5 times.

  1. Pelvic Curl. On back with hands by side, feet on ground, knees bent.  Draw in abdominal muscles and lift pelvis off the floor.  Keep still at top of movement then lower.
  2. Chest lift with leg across knee of opposite leg. In same position as Pelvic curl, place ankle of 1 leg across the knee of the other.  Lift chin to chest and arms around legs.  Draw legs towards chest and hold.  (Curl)
  3. Supine Spine Twist. Lying on back with arms in crucifix position.  Lift knees up so lower legs are in horizontal plane and gradually lower the knees towards ground on one side.  Then back to middle and then down to other side.
  4. Lie on back with arms stretched behind head, thighs perpendicular to ground with knees bent.  Lift upper body towards legs, bringing arms either side of legs, straightening legs.  For a count of five, lower legs and pump arms gently by body.  Exhale while performing the lowering.
  5. Leg Circles. On back, arms in crucifix position.  Lift one leg horizontal to floor pulling toes to shin.  Circle leg while maintaining a stable pelvis.  (Try not to take hips off the floor).  Circle leg 5 times then reverse circle.  Bend leg to the chest and return to starting position.
  6. Roll Up. On back, arms stretched above head.  Palms facing each other and shoulder width apart, engage abdominals and begin movement with arms over head towards feet.  Try to push back into the floor and roll up to a sitting position.  Then return to starting position rolling down slowly.
  7. Rolling Like a Ball. Sit on floor holding each leg at the ankle. Try to pull chest to knees so spine forms a ‘C’ position. Allow your weight to move backwards which will allow you to roll onto your back and then forward again.  Repeat the movement so it becomes a dynamic, balanced position.
  8. Roll over. Lying flat on back on floor, arms either side of body. Start with legs at around 60 degrees to the floor.  Lift legs to 90, then round back to see how close you can get the feet to the floor behind your head.   Reverse movement to starting position.
  9. Control Balance. Perform the roll over (if possible), and remain in this position.  Hold onto one foot and extend the other towards the ceiling.  Switch legs simultaneously keeping pelvis and trunk as still as possible.  After changing five times, place feet on floor and roll back down to floor.
  10. Side Leg Lift. Lie on floor on side with lower arm stretched in line with body and under head.  Keeping the legs together, lift both legs by flexing the upper body. Lower the legs but do not touch the floor.  After five pulses, lower to the floor.
  11. Side Kick. Lie on side leaning on the elbow of the lower arm and the hands behind the head.  Lift the upper leg and swing as far forward as possible pulling toes to shin.  (Try to keep body as straight as possible by tightening butt).  From the front, swing to the back as far as possible.  Repeat five times and then change to other side.
  12. Lying on stomach with arms reaching forward and legs together. Lift chest, arms and legs slightly off the floor.  Alternate lifting right arm with left leg and so on as if you were swimming.  Repeat this five times before lowering to floor.  Rep
  13. eat this five times.
  14. Lying on stomach, bend knees and reach back with the arms to hold the ankles by lifting chest and legs into an arch position. Exhale and rock forward and backward.  Repeat five rocks, five times.
  15. Lying on back, draw the knees towards the chest.  Support the hips with hands under the pelvis with elbows on the floor.  Extend one leg while the other bends and repeat as if you were cycling.
  16. Kneel with chest on the thighs and the pelvis resting on the heels.  Place your forehead as close to the floor as possible with arms out in front.  Whatever is more comfortable.  REST and breath deeply.

I hope that this gives you another way to exercise with the fundamental emphasis today on stretching, breathing, moving slowly and ensuring good body position.