What is Pilates?

Hello and welcome!!!

I wanted to take a quick second and share what my definition of Pilates is, as well as share one of my favorite exercises to get you started with a Pilates practice at home!

I like to define Pilates as a series of movement modalities used to create musculoskeletal balance in the body. Whether you are in great shape, or if you struggle with chronic pain, I like to tailor each session to the needs of the individual client. Pilates can be hugely helpful in managing lower back pain, disk herniations, fibromyalgia or scoliosis. It can also be used to safely strengthen and balance the muscles surrounding your joints.

My classes and sessions are choreographed to focus on the individual needs of my clients with a constant eye on safe and proper alignment. My joy is in pushing my clients to expand their own body awareness and individual expectations. My clients run the gamut ranging from age 6-85, from those who are dealing with chronic pain, to those who just want to make sure that their bodies remain strong and agile. Everybody and Every Body are welcome!

For fun, here is an introductory movement that you can try at home to increase pelvic and spine stability: Knee Folds

Start lying on your back with your legs in a table-top position. Bring your hands to your pelvis and check that your pelvis is square ie: Your hip points and pubic bone are in an even plane. Imagine that you could balance a bowl of water on your pelvis and it wouldn’t spill towards your belly button, or down towards your toes. If your tailbone is tucked under, or your back is flattened into the mat, you are in a posterior tuck. Be cautious of this position if you have a disk herniation–particularly in your lumbar spine. You want to maintain a tunnel under the small of your back. Engage the muscles of your pelvic floor, and draw your navel to your spine to engage your core and maintain stability. Some commonly used images to help with this are “tightening up your corset” or “Zipping up a pair of jeans that are a size too small.” Then you’re ready to start the exercise!

Exhale to prepare. On your inhalation, dip your right toes down towards the ground as though you were dipping your toes in a pool of water. On your exhale, draw the belly button back to your spine, lift through your pelvic floor and draw the leg back into table top. Repeat to the left. 10 reps each side.

Once you are comfortable with single-leg toe dips, you can continue on with double-leg toe dips. The main concern with this version is also pelvic stability. As you increase the lever-load away from the torso, the core (pelvic floor, abdominal, and back muscles) will need to find a deeper engagement to stabilize the pelvis and spine.

Exhale to prepare. On your inhalation, dip both toes down towards the mat again as if you were dipping your toes into a pool of water. Be cautious that you do not arch your back as you lower the legs towards the mat. As you exhale, draw the navel deeper towards the spine and lift through the pelvic floor to lift the legs back up to table top. Repeat the double-leg version up to 10 times as well. Enjoy!

Thank you for stopping by! I’d love to hear your feedback about which exercises you may want to see or if there are any specific health-related topics that you’d like for me to cover!

Until next time!
xo Lara

Breaking Down The Hundred!

Hello All!

Happy Hump Day! I wanted to write a quick post and break down one of the most dreaded Pilates exercises (at least in my book)…the hundred!!! I should say that it is also one of my favorite exercises, because it is so stinkin’ effective!

The basic set-up is pretty simple. Start lying on your back with your legs in a table-top position. I like to start with my elbows planted on the ground and fingers pointed towards the ceiling (this is not a classic set-up). See the picture below! 🙂

table-top hundred starting position

Prepare with an inhale. On an exhale, nod your chin and curl your head, neck, and shoulders up off the mat extending the legs on a 45 degree angle. *Note: Classically, your toes would be even with your eyes. I like to lift my toes a little higher because I think that it is easier to maintain a neutral spine/pelvis. You will then pump your arms from the shoulder pressing the hands down towards the mat–100 times!

hundreds

A couple of things to note…If you keep the tips of your scapula (shoulder blades) on the mat when you curl up, you will target the transversus abdominis (TVA), which is the goal of the hundred. The TVA is the deepest layer of the abdominal wall that runs horizontally to the spine. It is responsible for holding in your organs and supporting your spine. If you curl up and lift the tips of the scapula off the mat, you will target your rectus abdominis (RA)–which is not the goal of the exercise! This is the outer-most layer of the abdominal wall and is responsible for spinal flexion. While I love working the RA, functionally-speaking, it doesn’t do much for you! You need to strengthen your TVA to support your spine! This is a super brief explanation of the anatomy involved in the abdominal wall. I will delve into this deeper in another post. 🙂

Give it a go! Let me know if you would like to see any other exercises broken down.

Until next time!
xo Lara

The Effects of Sugar on the Body

Hi All!

I hope that this doesn’t sound too preachy…You know I love a cookie now and again! This is just a little reminder

It can be easy to overindulge during the holiday season. Now that we are all getting back into a regular routine, I wanted to send out a little friendly reminder about the effects of sugar on the body and how detrimental it can be to our overall health. 

Why is sugar so illusive? When we consume sugar, for a short time we feel great! They call it a “sugar high” for a reason! Humans are programmed to enjoy the taste of sugar because it is calorically dense. Before the rise of the grocery store, energy-dense food was harder to come by, so when we found it, we were programmed to celebrate it! We used to need to literally store up our body fat for a long winter. We are now trying to outrun our primitive response to calorically dense foods!

Here is a basic view of what happens in the body when we eat sugar. When sugar-rich foods hit the stomach, they are broken down by acid and enzymes into smaller pieces. The food is then sent on to the small intestine where it is broken down further into glucose and fructose. Glucose is then sent into the blood stream and liver, spiking our blood sugar level. The pancreas is stimulated and produces insulin to ‘file away’ the glucose for later use in the liver, muscle, and fat cells. This lowers the blood sugar levels that were just raised, resulting in a feeling of lethargy, hunger, irritability, headache, fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety. No, thank you!!!

Consumption of sugar can lead to weight gain. It also wreaks havoc on our liver, impairs brain function, causes inflammation throughout the body, and confuses our metabolism. Excess sugar intake leaves us susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Our hard-working livers are responsible for many functions in the body, including extracting nutrients from foods, producing bile to help the body break down fat, filtering chemicals and toxins out of the blood, and storing glucose. When we eat sugar on a regular basis, our liver can become overloaded with glucose. When this happens, the liver has to export the glucose by storing it in other parts of the body in the form of fat. Fat can also remain in the liver. Over time, this can develop into non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What happens to the brain when we consume sugar? When we first consume sugar, the tongue’s taste receptors are stimulated (as they are with any food that we eat) and the signals from the taste buds are sent to the brain lighting up the reward pathways and causing a surge of “happy” hormones like dopamine. We produce dopamine whenever we eat food, but more is released when we consume sugar, which is where the term ‘sugar high’ comes from. Sugar hijackes our our natural reward hormone pathways, so over time we feel that we need more sugar to recreate that hormone surge. This overexposure to sugar reduces our bodies’ ability to produce dopamine and we feel that we need more sugar to achieve that same happy feeling. This is the same reaction that our body has to drugs, and yet sugar seems so innocent! Super scary!!!

Heavy sugar intake causes a resistance to insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates function of brain cells). Insulin strengthens the synaptic connection between brain cells. A resistance to insulin can lower levels cognition and brain function. Of course, we also know that type 2 diabetes can develop as our insulin resistance increases.

I need a little reminder now and again that food is fuel. It is so easy to get into the cycle of overindulgence. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you NEED the cookie, and that is A-ok! Just make sure that you don’t punish yourself afterwards. That sets up a negative reward cycle that is so tough to outrun. I like to follow the 90/10 rule. Eat nutrient-rich foods that are fuel for the body 90 percent of the time. For the other 10 percent of the time, allow yourself to have the treats that you love!  It’s all about balance. 🙂

I’d love to hear about how you find balance! Comment with your healthy plans/strategies below. 🙂

Until next time!

xo Lara

Voted Most Moving Instructor by ClassPass!

Hi Guys!

I am so excited to announce that I was voted “Most Moving Instructor of 2015” in Denver! Woo Hoo!!! Thank you ClassPass!

Moving Instructorshttp://blog.classpass.com/2016/01/06/meet-the-most-moving-instructors-of-2015-in-your-city/

I love what I do. I love to motivate women to look and feel their best through fitness and pilates! I can’t wait for 2016 and continuing to spread the message that fitness is about pushing towards our each own personal best. It isn’t about trying to achieve perfection (whatever that is), but it’s about stretching our individual expectations and pushing towards our own personal best. Now that gets me excited…Yay health! Yay fitness! Yay Pilates!

Thank you so much for coming to class! In 2016, I hope to see you in the studio, and online! Expect to see lots of YouTube videos with new Torch workouts as well as Pilates technique videos. 🙂

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!

xo Lara

Excited Moving Instructor!

 

New Year’s Fitness Resolution Tricks!

Hello Beauties!

Happy New Year!!! I’m sure that many of you are in full swing of your new years resolution. Let’s be frank…it can be tricky to keep up these perfect resolutions as real life starts to get in the way. You know what I’m talking about! Here are a couple of tricks and tips to stay on track! 🙂

1) Aim for a “a little better” instead of “perfect”
It is so easy to fall into the trap of…well if I can’t eat perfectly today, then I’ll just count this as a “cheat” day and start tomorrow. (BTW…I HATE the term cheat day! If you set up your mindset as cheating vs not cheating, you are set up for failure. Rant complete. ;))

2) Eat breakfast with protein
Every nutritionist is going to tell you to eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day! It is completely true! If I don’t start the day with a protein rich breakfast, I am inevitably starving by 10:30am and ready to run towards a quick energy lifter which is almost always something carb-heavy because your brain is ready for a serotonin bump which is easily and quickly delivered by taking in carbohydrates or sugars. Eat breakfast! Oatmeal with almond butter, apples, and cinnamon 🙂

3) Exercise whenever and wherever possible!
I completely planned to get up early to get in an extra run this morning…but the snooze button seduced me! We’ve all been there. When you miss your workout, don’t beat yourself up or say that you’ll just get back on track later. Instead, take the stairs a couple of extra times today. Need to use the restroom and you work on the 5th floor? Don’t use the restroom down the hall, go down to the first floor and take the stairs back up! Need to fit in a little ab work? Focus on tightening your abdominals in the car on the way home. At stop lights, put the car in park and use the abdominal muscles to lift your knees. Park in the back of the lot at the grocery store to get in a few extra steps. No excuses. 🙂

Come Get TORCHED!!!

New Year’s Letter To My Future Self

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Hello Beauties!

Happy New Year!!!

I wanted to share one of my favorite New Years traditions. Each year on New Year's Day, I write myself a letter that I will open on the last day of that following year.  I congratulate my future self for overcoming specific fears, or achieving career and personal goals, or for having bucket-list experiences. It is a way that I like to manifest my goals and desires for the upcoming year. A longtime client and great friend shared this exercise with me 6 years ago, and I thought that it was such a beautiful idea. I have continued the exercise each year since.

On New Years Eve, I open my letter from the previous year and see which goals I have achieved, as well as which goals I am still in the process of achieving. It is also interesting to see if there were goals that I have outgrown or no longer need. It is so exciting to open the letter and to see how I have grown or changed over the last year.

Every year, there are goals that I haven't yet accomplished...that's okay!!! It is just further motivation to prioritize those goals for the upcoming year.

Give it a try! 🙂 Set your conscious intention for the upcoming year.  Important note...tuck your letter away in a location where you will be able to find a year from now! I have had to hunt for mine in years past, and now hide it from myself in the bottom of my jewelry box. 😉

 

2016 Journal

 

I hope that you all had a great holiday season, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!

xo Lara

Staying on Track During The Holidays

Hello Lovelies!

Ok, this is a super popular blog topic, but I had to throw in my two cents. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read and they all say the same thing. Eat a snack before you go to your holiday parties so that you don’t arrive ravenous. Drink a glass of water between cocktails. Don’t get me wrong, these are great ideas and completely applicable, but lets address a few more.

We have all been to a holiday party and have overindulged. The next morning can be a struggle. After a night out, I am not motivated to get up, get in my morning workout and meditation when all I want to do is get an extra hour of sleep. Here are a couple of tricks and tips to combat that…

1) Drink a tall glass of water before bed.
2) When the alarm goes off in the morning. Don’t fight your bodies need to wake up slowly! Budget the time to set your snooze (Just once!) and lie in bed setting your mindset and plan for the day. Envision your glowing skin after your workout. Envision yourself relaxed and at ease during your drive to work because you’ve completed your meditation and time to center yourself.
3) Only ask yourself for a 10-minute workout. You may decide that you’d like to keep going at the end of 10 minutes, but you set yourself up for failure if you tell yourself that you have to workout for a full hour. It feels daunting, like staring up at a tall hill at the beginning of your workout. Once you get going though, I bet you’ll find that you want to continue to push a little harder. 🙂
4) Get up and drink another tall glass of water…not coffee. Water. Hydrate your skin and gently get your system going. I love to squeeze a little lemon in the glass as well. This is a great trick for starting your day in an alkaline state.
5) Don’t skimp on your meditation. Try the same technique that you used with your workout. Only ask yourself for a 5-minute breathing session. You may feel centered after 5 minutes, or you may want to continue and complete 10-20 minutes.

Have a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy your friends and family, treat your body with kindness, and remind yourself that you can create stillness in the midst of holiday chaos. 🙂
Til next time!

xo Lara

Baby it's cold outside

How Many Workouts Per Week?

TORCH Pilates Workout

Hello Beauties!

This is actually a bit of a tough topic because the definition of a ‘workout’ is completely subjective. A Pilates class could be an intense workout for one person, or complete relaxation for another. Also, what are the goals of your workout? Are you trying to lose weight, or are you trying to gain muscle mass?

If you are trying to lose weight, it is a little tricky because high-intensity workouts may trigger you to feel more hungry…that is a totally separate can of worms that we can examine at another time. If you are trying to build muscle mass, it is a good idea to alternate your workout days. For example, Monday is legs day, so Tuesday should be arms/abs. No need to double your leg days back-to-back. This gives your muscles a chance to heal all of the little micro tears that you create during your workout. Again…another can of worms that we will explore at another time.

I will say that it is crucial to take off one day per week. Your body needs a day to recoup regardless of how intense your workout is. Also, if feel that you are a bit under the weather, listen to your body! Cultivate your intuition and connection to your body. That will be your most important resource.

I have always been a big fan of Pilates as a workout (obviously), but over the past few years I have felt the need to kick up the intensity which is how the TORCH Pilates workout was born. I do this workout 6 days/week and have felt a massive difference in my muscle tone and definition since making that commitment to myself. This workout can be done in as little as 10 mins, or can be repeated for up to an hour. TORCH combines High Intensity Intervals along with classic Pilates movement, and other targeted muscle work for a full-body burn that will keep your metabolism pumping for hours. OK–Shameless plug complete! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’d love to hear about your preferred workouts as well! Share below!

Until next time,

xo Lara

Halloween Health Hacks

candyHello Beauties!

It’s Halloween…the time for lots and lots of treats! It can be super tough to stay on track with such delicious treats. How to keep your cool with all of those delicious temptations around? Here are a couple of my favorite hacks!

1st, Caramel apples are a staple on Halloween. Here is a simple hack to cut down those calories…Start with a Granny Smith apple, which has a great tart flavor. Slice the apple into 8 pieces. Then, melt 3 caramels in the microwave and dip the apple slices in the melted caramels. The caramel is just an accent, and the apples are packed with healthy fiber. Yummy!

2nd, Popcorn Balls are super popular on Halloween. What is my healthy hack for this? Pop your own popcorn in an air popper (You can find these on Amazon). Then you can control that you add to it. Most often, popcorn balls contain high fructose corn syrup. Not healthy at all, but we do need a sticky binding agent of some sort. I recommend warmed honey. Just pop the jar of honey in the microwave for a few seconds, then mix the honey into the air-popped popcorn. I like to add a bit of sea salt for a sweet and salty twist. You could also add a bit of cinnamon, or cardamom for. Delicious!

3rd, how do you just avoid the candy in general? Keep a plate of healthy fruits and nuts out on the table instead. If you are craving the sugar, try to have a few nuts and drink a glass of water to fill you up! If you are still craving the sugar after that, have a candy! After the water and protein/fat from the nuts have hit your stomach, you will be far more likely to have one candy rather than many candies. 🙂

Happy Halloween!!!

For The Love Of Teasers!

Teaser is one of my all-time favorite exercises! It is a fantastic way to strengthen and tone all layers of the abdominal wall as well as the pelvic floor and back.

Pilates Teaser Love!

Pictured above is Teaser 1, a classic Pilates exercise. Start lying on your back with your legs in tabletop and your arms extended towards the ceiling. Take an inhale to prepare. On your exhale, nod your chin and curl your head, neck and shoulders up off the mat. Continue reaching your fingers forward as you curl up one vertebrae at a time until your are seated on your sacrum with your legs extended. Think of slightly tucking your tailbone under to round your low back (lumbar spine). At the same time, you will lift your heart up slightly extending through your mid-upper back (thoracic spine). Curl back down to your starting position articulating through your spine and feeling one vertebrae at a time touch the mat, like you are laying a string of pearls down on the ground. Love it!
If this is a bit much, or you are new to Pilates. You can practice working up to the full exercise by starting in a seated position with your feet planted on the ground, scooping your tailbone under to round your lower back, lift your heart extending through your mid-upper back. Hold on behind your knees and slowly lift one leg and then the other up into a table top position, being careful not to change the shape of your spine. Let go of your legs and extend your arms and legs on a 45 degree angle just like in the picture above. Stay and balance in this position, drawing the belly button back to the spine and narrowing the waist. Try to hold for 30 seconds and then release your feet back down to the ground. Repeat until you feel that you are ready for the full teaser.
I’d love to hear how this goes at home! Post your comments below!
xo Lara