Breaking Down The Classics: Knee Folds

Hello All!

I wanted to break down a classic Pilates exercise, knee folds! This is a great exercise to help you establish great form and a super-strong transversus abdominis (the deepest layer of your core that wraps around your torso attaching to your spine). Enjoy!!

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. Also, you should not feel this in your hip flexors. If you do feel your hip flexors kicking, think of a deeper lift through your pelvic floor, and maybe drop your heels down towards your gluts to reduce the lever load of your legs.

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.

Give this exercise a go at home! Let me know what you think, and if there are any other exercises that you would like to have broken down for proper form. Until next time!

xo Lara

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

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!

 

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

My Top Healthy Skin Tips

flower

These are my top 5 tips for healthy, glowing skin!

  1. We’ve heard it over and over, but it’s my top tip because it’s true. Drink more water! Ideally, you should be drinking 1/2 of your body weight, measured in lbs, in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you would drink 75 oz of water in a day. It is important to drink water throughout the day, not all in one sitting. I would also go one step further and say that if you are working out and sweating a lot, add an extra glass of water after your workout.
  2. Skip the toner! When toners were created, the goal was to balance the pH of your skin. I completely understand this. However, the problem with most toners is that they dry you out! We want to have a natural glow and encourage our skin to produce enough oil to be hydrated without overproducing and giving us oily skin and clogged pores. If you are using products that over-dry your skin, your body’s natural response is to create more oil, or sebum, to hydrate itself. If you aren’t over drying your skin, your body will adjust and reduce it’s oil production to balance the skin.
  3. Have a quick shower after your workout. If you allow all of the salt and bacteria to sit on your skin after your workout, the pores become clogged, causing the dreaded acne and back-ne (not a word, but you know what I’m talking about. 😉
  4. The other tip that we’ve heard 1,000,000 times…sunscreen! In your 20s, it may not seem that important, but soon you will start to notice little sunspots and freckles on your skin if you don’t remember to screen up daily. Often facial moisturizers include a sunscreen, but I would go one step further and layer on a separate sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. My #1 fav product is made by colorscience. It is a mineral based sunscreen with zero additives. It is a powder sunscreen (crazy, right?) containing only 2 minerals to block those sun rays (both UVA and UVB), titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. I keep these little tubes in the car, in my purse, and in the studio so I can always reapply. Plus, it freshens your makeup! Double bonus. 🙂 Check it out at www.colorscience.comcolorscience
  5. Eat nutrient dense foods! You will always notice a difference in your skin tone after even a day of eating heavy, fatty foods. Your skin just doesn’t glow like you know it can and should! After a night with a couple extra cocktails, your skin is screaming for a little hydration and nutrition. Eating healthy, nutrient dense foods is great for your body, your mind, your hair, and your skin. Plus you feel more energized and prepared to take on the world! If I feel like I have had a week of lazy diet choices, I love to kick start the system with LOTS of greens, fruits, and raw veggies. I’m loving sugar snap peas, watermelon, and peaches right now. Yum!!!

Benefits of Foam Rolling

Hello beauty!

Today, I want to talk about foam rolling! This is a pretty hot topic in the fitness realm right now. What are the benefits of regular myofascial release…and what exactly is myofascial release? I will also break down a couple of my favorite foam roller exercises.

The goal of myofascial release work is to break up the adhesions in our connective tissue, allowing our muscles to lengthen further, increasing range of motion. Our connective tissue, commonly called fascia is integrated throughout the body. There is connective tissue in between every muscle cell in our body. If you were able to look at the body without any muscles, bones, organs, or blood vessels, we would look like a large spider web. This is connective tissue, also known as fascia. Crazy, right?! Imagine an orange with each little compartment containing a little bit of orange juice. Connective tissue is kind of like that, surrounding each muscle cell.

There are also thicker bands of connective tissue throughout the body. A great example of this is the IT (iliotibial band). This band of connective tissue is connected to the TFL (tensor fascia latae) which is a small muscle on the outside of your upper leg. It is responsible for abduction (levering the leg away from the bodies’ mid-line) as well as stabilizing the knee. It then attaches just below the knee on the tibia.

To release the IT band, you could lie on your side with your left elbow planted on the ground. Place the roller under your left side just below the hip. You can plant your right foot down on the ground in front of your left leg if you are just beginning to foam roll. As you are able to adjust to the sensation of myofascial release, you can stack your legs on top of one another. I’ve pasted both options below. You will then roll the roller down towards the knee and back up to the hip. As an extra challenge, if you find a couple of points along the IT band that feel like knots, you can pause and bend your left knee at those points. This will encourage that portion of the IT band to lengthen further.

 Iliotibial band roll-out Iliotibial band Roll-out stacked legs

Another release technique that I love is for the intercostal muscles. These are little muscles that run in between each of our ribs, connecting them together. I like to roll out the intercostals by lying on my left side with the roller underneath the middle of my rib cage and a little pillow between my head and my arm. I will then find a space between the ribs and start to roll my torso forward and backwards allowing the roller to press into the intercostal. If this is tender or ‘tight’ feeling, I will pause and think of using my breath to expand the left lung, allowing the intercostal to lengthen under the roller. I will repeat this a few more times, scooting the roller up one rib each time until the roller is almost in the underarm. Before I move to the other side, I like to sit up and take a few breaths. If I took my time on the first side, I am able to feel like my left lung is able to expand more than the right as the ribs are more mobile and able to move when air fills the left lung. How cool is that???

 Intercostal roll-out Intercostal rolling forward

There are many other forms of myofascial release work in the body. These are just my top two faves. Please comment below if you would like to learn about some other techniques! Thanks, beauties!

xo Lara

Love Letter To a Green Smoothie

This is a love letter to green smoothies. 🙂 I got married in July of this year and received the greatest gift....a vitamix blender! I have used it literally every day since. I know that the vitamix can be a hefty investment. There are other blenders that still do a pretty good job that don't carry the price tag that the vitamix does. I haven't used it, but I have heard that the Ninja Professional is a good alternative. I used to use a Cuisinart blender and it did the job as well. 🙂

Each morning, I make a green shake with a base of dark leafy greens.  I usually use kale because I like the flavor and it is easy to find organic kale in most grocery stores. Organic swiss chard, rainbow chard, or spinach are great alternatives. Then I will add any assortment of fruit that I have around the house. Today, I used banana, orange, frozen organic pineapple, and frozen organic mango. I like to add about a 1/2 cup of full-fat greek yogurt for protein. As a side-note, I don't believe in using any product that is labeled as reduced fat, or fat free. Just think of what they have to replace the fat with. Usually a concoction of chemicals. Double gross! Also, the fat and protein help keep me full throughout the morning. After I throw in all of the fruit and greens, I add about 2 cups of water and blend it until it is smooth! So easy, so quick, and packed with nutrition. I am always running out the door in the morning, so I will throw it into a large glass jar and drink the shake throughout the morning until lunch time. 

This is one of the easiest ways to eat extra greens. I am a huge fan of a chopped kale salad, but let's talk about how time consuming that is to eat! I know that we all live busy lifestyles. Like many of you, I am often eating lunch on the go and simply don't have time to chew a big salad! 😉 Drinking your vitamins sounds like a great alternative to me!

Speaking of vitamins, kale is full of essential vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. All things that we need in our daily diet. Pineapple contains dietary fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6 and copper, vitamin C and manganese, plus it's delicious and adds a tropical twist to my morning. Mango contains vitamin c and folate. In addition to potassium, bananas are also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. All great things! I believe so strongly that the most direct path to good health is to take care of our bodies from the inside out. Put good foods in the body---body feels better. 🙂 Plus, it is less expensive, and far tastier to eat your vitamins instead of needing to add a supplement to fill in nutritional gaps. 

I am always looking for new variations on the green shake. Share your recipes below, and eat up, Buttercup!

xo Lara