One smart strategy FITNESS editors rely on to stay on track with fitness goals: signing up for future active events! (Like the MORE/FITNESS Half-Marathon coming up in April. Have you registered?) Doing so inspires us to train to stay in shape, plus the actual race/fundraiser/conference is a fun way to test your limits and maybe even meet some like-minded new friends.
Interested in trying this approach yourself? We found a great option for those who aren’t big on competition: the Merrithew Mindful Movement World Tour. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Merrithew Health & Fitness (founders of Stott Pilates), they are hosting three-day gatherings in New York, California and other locations worldwide. While certified Pilates instructors will be on-hand to learn new techniques, those who have never tried the core-focused fitness method are invited to try something new with master instructors leading the way.
Click here to learn more about the classes and events offered, and register by February 15 to receive an early bird discount.
Now tell us: What get-moving get-togethers are on your to-do list?
During the summer, I got really into Pilates (still am!) and I began to realize why women are so addicted to it. The long, lean look and perfectly toned muscles you’ll get from a class like this and even the slight soreness I don’t expect to have the day after, but do, gets me super pumped whenever I have a Pilates date on my weekly workout schedule.
I started searching around for a Pilates studio that kicks butt—and stumbled upon Jumping Frog Pilates in Tenafly, New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. Jumping Frog Pilates is one of the most successful Pilates studios in the state and one of the instructors, Alexandra White, a Lululemon Ambassador, is truly a FITNESS magazine role model. Mom to two young boys, Alexandra is also a successful runner who holds training camps for adults and kids, teaches girl’s lacrosse, competes (and oftentimes places) in local half-marathons, 5Ks and obstacle course races like Spartan Race, and is an avid skier. She knows firsthand why Pilates is the perfect complement to all the running she does, so I scouted some moves. What you got was the very awesome Absolute Power workout in our September 2012 issue. Read on to find out a little more about our trainer of the month:
Everyone I talk to seems to have a pre-trainer life. What’s your story?
I went to Parsons School of Design for a degree in graphic design and I was an Art Director for an advertising agency in New York City for 15 years until I switched gears and decided to make my workout hobby my job. I still do freelance print and web design on the side, because I still really love it.
What’s the hardest part about following your dreams?
Giving up knowing what is coming. When you work for an agency, you have predictable hours and rates. Working for yourself is much more unpredictable. I had to get used to having a very flexible schedule and income from week to week. But I’m so much happier now!
During those 15 years, how did you fit fitness into your busy schedule?
Fitness is part of my day no matter what. I work out like I eat my meals. I feel like I have to do it at some point during the day. I often worked out at 9-10pm just to get it in. I still do that now sometimes when my kids are asleep- just get on the treadmill late at night to fit it in. I put my workout first always–and if that means I have to come an hour later to a happy hour gathering, I do.
You’re an avid runner—okay I’ve read your race times border on elite status. Tell me how you got so good?
I wouldn’t say I’m elite by any stretch, but thank you! I usually place in the top 10 of a big race and I’m lucky to get a podium finish if it’s a smaller one. But I have just been doing it a long time—and maybe it’s some talent too! I’ve played sports my entire life that included a lot of running. And I’m too competitive to be mediocre, so I train hard and try to get better each time. You definitely have to put the time in to get the results you want. And yes I’ve won a few races!
Of the races you’ve done, what’s your favorite?
I did a really fun Super Spartan obstacle race with my younger brother. It was fun to break up the running with obstacles and mud!
How did you go from running to being a Pilates pro?
I hurt my back a few years ago and had to do some physical therapy to get it better. I tried Pilates to help strengthen my back and core and since I don’t like lifting weights, I found this was a great way to get my whole body strong without spending hours and hours lifting dumbbells.
Why does a Pilates workout complement a regular running routine?
When you run, your power comes from your core. As soon as you get fatigued, you start to lose form. A strong core helps keep a good body position, which allows for the best running economy. Read more
I had never realized how little I engage my core throughout the day or my lack of a proper posture—or should I say “neutral spine”—until I had the privilege of trying The Dailey Method with founder, Jill Dailey. Slouching, be gone!
With a background in dance and Pilates, alongside her knowledge in injury prevention and rehabilitation, Jill has evolved her training from the West Coast’s first barre class back in 2000 to a franchise with 46 studios (and counting)! The full body workout focuses on kinesiology and alignment principles while combining ballet barre work with yoga, core training and orthopedic exercises.
Each micro-bend and extension slims, sculpts and aligns every muscle group. These moves, while constantly pulling in your abdominal wall for stability and elongating the spine, are designed to deliver the toned results we are all aiming for.
The flow and innovative uses of bands, balls, light weights and, of course, the ballet barre took slight movements to a whole new burning level. I am famous for always eyeing the clock or considering my mental to-do list during workouts but did not have the opportunity to think about anything but my body in this class. I was too busy focusing on dropping my hips and engaging my abs! Plus, regular choreography changes and updated playlists keep the challenging hour fresh every time.
Read on to try two of Jill’s favorite moves. Read more
- 25, San Francisco
Cassey, the blogger behind Blogilates, is all about motivating her readers through any means necessary. “I talk with people through my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts nonstop, and it’s such a big part of who I am.” Her site is a one-stop shop for sweaty workouts, yummy meals and fun giveaways. Sounds like a perfect balance to us.
Favorite Foodie App “I think that writing down what you eat for a little while is a smart idea, and love using MyNetDiary. It helps as you’re learning more about your food. Now I know how many calories an apple has or what 4 oz. of fish looks like, so I can eyeball things and know how my body’s being nourished.”
Online Inspiration “The Blogilates community comes from all over the world, and people are constantly talking about their personal journeys. It’s so fun to make new friendships over the Internet via a common goal – getting fitter in a fun and free way!”
Workout Wonder “I love any routine that makes me really sweat! Well, except for battle ropes…I hate those. All jokes aside, I love Pilates because it helps my posture and firms my abs. I also weight train and do HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.”
Hollywood seems to be in the middle of a full-fledged baby boom. From Maxwell Drew (Jessica Simpson’s new little girl) to the upcoming film What to Expect When You’re Expecting (in which Cameron Diaz plays a pregnant personal trainer!), bumps are certainly trending in the pop culture world.
Are you or is someone you love expecting too? If so, practicing Pilates now may help make your delivery easier and help you get your pre-baby body back faster, says Mariska Breland, founder of Fuse Pilates in Washington, D.C. Breland explains that you don’t try to correct bodily changes during pregnancy, as many of these are necessary to help with delivery (like the pelvis tilting slightly back). The goal is to adjust the body and your exercises based on these changes, so that it will be primed for delivery and will have strong muscles—especially in areas that are often utilized by new moms.
For a taste of Breland’s Push Prep class, try out these three moves. They’re great for those who are expecting and those who just want to tone up!
Targets shoulders, upper back, hips, legs
- Lie on side and prop upper-body up on your forearm.
- Bend knees, right leg stacked on top of left, and bring them to a 45° angle from hip. Place hand on hip.
- Lift right knee toward ceiling.
- Extend right leg straight back and left leg straight forward.
- Return to start. Do 10 reps, switch sides and repeat.
Talk about taking the bull by the horns: Cassey Ho, a Pilates and fitness instructor, founder of oGorgeous yoga bags (featured in our 2011 holiday gift guide!) and creator of Blogilates hasn’t just turned her passion for healthy living into a career, she’s made it a critical part of her life. We caught up with this chic blogger to find out more about the Olympic sport she wants to try and what you’ll often catch her munching on.
My favorite way to work out: With passion! But if you’re looking for a literal answer, then strength training and Pilates!
5 things I can’t live without: My glasses, my drive, YouTube, peanut butter and the Blogilates community!
My fave fit snack: I’d say nuts, but I’m pretty sure I eat way too many for them to be considered a “fit snack” anymore.
Olympic sport I’d love to try: Figure skating! What girl doesn’t want to glide around in a Swarovski-encrusted mini dress?!
My “I Did It” moment: When I was able to turn my passion for healthy living, fitness and fashion design into a real career. I am so thankful to my students across the globe who do my YouTube workouts, to the enthusiastic readers of my blog and to the fitness fashionistas who believe in and use my oGorgeous gym and yoga bags. You guys are all helping me live my dream! Thank you so much.
Do you have a favorite fit blogger you want us to highlight? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Some people start a blog to document a wedding, a baby’s growth or a weight-loss journey, then fall off the writing wagon soon after the big event passes or after they reach their goal. Not Anne-Marie Nichols! She has been blogging about her favorite food trends, kitchen tips and recipes on This Mama Cooks! since 2004. In 2007, she added a nutrition focus and tacked on a few extra words to her blogs title (“on a diet”). Now the mom of two hopes to inspire her readers—and their families—to take small steps to live healthier, happier lives.
Here’s what keeps Anne-Marie feeling great, inside and out:
My favorite way to work out: Reformer Pilates. I’ve fallen in love with it thanks to my wonderful instructor, Alisa at Axis of Movement. She’s helped me eliminate my lower back and sciatica pain and improve my core strength. I go twice a week and take a Pilates mat class from her, too.
I’m happiest when I’m: Meeting my health goals for the day—drinking my water, taking my vitamins, exercising, brushing and flossing, and getting eight hours of sleep.
Most embarrassing song I’ll admit I work out to: Anything by Duran Duran. I’m stuck in the ‘80s.
My fave fit snack: Larabars. They’re the only snack bar that I can eat since they’re gluten- and sugar-free.
My biggest indulgence: Cheese. Since it’s an indulgence, I splurge on local artisanal and fancy imported cheeses and try not to worry about the price per pound cost.
Speaking of indulging, Anne-Marie shared one of her favorite sweet treat recipes with us, a sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate mousse! Click below for the 411.
We are so lucky to have a team of experts on our team at FITNESS who share their wisdom with our readers. Whether they are fitness researchers, doctors, dietitians or psychologists, our advisory board members frequently consult with our staff and sound off on the latest wellness research and trends in our issues.
We often approach them with questions from our readers for our Q&A pages in the magazine, but this month, you’ll be able to communicate directly with one of our advisory board members—she’s hosting a live Q&A on our Facebook page! Join us on Monday from 12 to 1 p.m. EST to chat with Alycea Ungaro, owner of Real Pilates NYC and author of Pilates Practice Companion, and ask any burning questions you have about staying fit with the holiday season approaching.
Before the Facebook chat, we wanted to fill you in about Ungaro’s personal and professional background and her game plan for Thanksgiving!
How did you first get involved in the fitness world?
I grew up in the ballet studio so I had access to Pilates at a very early age. But it wasn’t until my early 20s that I began to experiment with more traditional fitness and I was probably 25 before I laced up my first pair of sneakers for a run. I was always more interested in body weight exercise, toning and sculpting. In 1993 I completed the Pilates teacher training program and taught citywide before opening my own place in 1995.
What drew you to Pilates?
It was impossibly hard. Seriously. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do certain things. I was a young fit dancer and these springs and mat moves were incredibly challenging. The beauty appealed to my performance side and the pure strength appealed to my competitive side.
For tips for Pilates newbies and Ungaro’s Thanksgiving meal strategy, Read more
Pilates has a rep as a girly exercise form that attracts ladies who lunch. Private sessions can be pricey, but mat classes will work your entire body. Originally called Contrology, the practice was actually developed to rehab injured soldiers after WW I — talk about functional fitness! After teaching the method for years (and rehabbing a chronic back injury with it), FitSugar editor Susi May concluded that Pilates makes everything better, from life’s basics like sitting to things more extreme like CrossFit. Here, four Pilates fundamentals that everyone can benefit from learning.
The most basic human function, breathing supports life and a fit life, too. A proper inhale fuels your muscles with oxygen, and a powerful exhale helps you engage your deep abs to protect your spine and support your torso. The conscious and studied breathing in Pilates might feel tedious at first, but learning how to breathe into your lower lungs, rather than just your chest, helps makes you a more efficient cardio machine. The Pilates method of inhaling wide through the ribs and exhaling by contracting the deep abs to push the diaphragm into the lungs also means you can keep your upper body and neck relaxed as you take in air.
In May’s experience, bad posture makes everything hurt, from your knees to your neck. Proper alignment of the spine is an essential element of the Pilates practice whether you’re lying on your back, sitting, or standing in an exercise. The emphasis on working with a neutral spine, maintaining the natural curves of your back, helps strengthen the supportive muscles around the spine and reinforces the sensation of how the pelvis, spine, and skull stack on top of each other. Drilling good posture in mat classes and private sessions allows you to take your understanding of a lengthened and supported spine into all aspects of your life from sitting behind a steering wheel or lunging into Warrior 3.
While Pilates seems like it’s all about the abs, it’s really core-centric — training the abs and the back to work in conjunction to protect and align the spine. In Pilates, the concept of the core extends to other important though often neglected muscle groups like the inner thighs and pelvic floor (learn how to find and work your pelvic floor here). Think of a Pilates session, be it a mat class or a private one, like a movement laboratory for learning how to stabilize the torso against a wide variety of forces, namely your limbs. Engaging the core to support the torso and spine is central to almost every Pilates exercise, and repeating this action ingrains the concept into your body. When out on a run or the gym floor, you can start to access this connection.
More from FitSugar:
I consider myself a pretty fit person and given that working out is part of my job requirement, it’s no surprise for me to have seen it all and done it all. However, last week I was literally gasping for air during a boxing class with Delon Nelson of D&I Fitness here in New York City. It’s not that I couldn’t keep up (I actually have 10 years of experience with marital arts and fighting—what can I say, I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid!), but Delon’s warm up—yes his warm up—was intense! I felt like an NFL player preparing for a big game when going through drill after drill. We did jump rope for what seemed like 15-minutes straight (most likely it was just 5-minutes!), tire flips, sprints, pushup crawls, jumping jack sprints, squat jumps, training ropes…are you getting the picture?
Basically everything we did was a pylometric move to make my heart race and keep me moving the entire time. These moves weren’t just done in place either. I had to continually move from one end of the gym to the other along an imaginary line—and of course there were multiple reps. At the end of the warm up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we put our boxing gloves on. Needless to say, the old fighter in me resurfaced and I think I kicked some good butt. Delon say’s I’ve got a nice kick!
I’m constantly doing different workouts and mixing things up, so it was a pleasant surprise to have a really tough one thrown in there. I know I’ll definitely be back to Delon because I kind of enjoyed the torture—it was that much more satisfying in the end when our session was over. So I wanted to know what other editors considered to be their toughest workout.
Here’s what my co-workers said: Read more