Take a Breath

After suffering a voice injury that made it painful to talk, aerobics instructor Aliesa George “was afraid of losing her livelihood as well as the ability to share her passion with others.” Remarkably, she turned to Pilates and discovered “a whole new way to breathe as well as exercise.” Her injury healed.

“Breathing was one of the things I realized I didn’t know how to do right,” George said. “I was a competitive dancer and gymnast. I breathed shallowly through the top of my chest and not into the whole lung. … I always hated running and cardio because I could never take a deep enough breath for it to be fun.”

George’s experience is not uncommon and, in fact, such benefits are well-documented in medical research. According to WebMD, “deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body.

“Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax,” the website goes on to say.   “The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.”

images In her book Jumpstart Your Metabolism, Pam Grout notes that proper breathing can even be a key to losing weight. “You literally work at one-fifth of your potential when you don’t get enough oxygen,” she explains. “Your body slows down, gains weight, and becomes even more stubborn about changing.”

Deep breathing exercises have also been useful in treating illnesses such as ADD. In his book Healing ADD, Dr. Daniel Amen describes a simple technique that can benefit not only ADD patients, but everyone:

“One simple, commonly recommended way to start breathing deeply is to lie down and place a small book on your stomach. When you breathe in, make the book go up. When you breathe out, make the book go down. Or while sitting, place your hand on your stomach and do the same thing until you get the hang of it.”

Drawing on her Pilates experience, Aliesa George recommends this simple technique to increase awareness of how you breathe:

“Place a long scarf across your back with the ends in front, the bottom edge of the scarf sitting at the bottom of your rib cage in back. Cross the ends in front and take hold of them in your hands, drop your shoulders, and breathe. The scarf helps you to feel where your breath is in your lungs so that you can focus on breathing fully in both lungs. Most people breathe more deeply in one lung than the other…. You can work on breathing in one lung and then the other, and then on fully breathing in a balanced way in both lungs.”

“Breathing is going to make a difference for a healthy life,” George concludes. That’s advice worth taking – with every breath.

 

To read more on the benefits of breathing and Pilates, check out these recent articles:

“Use Full Lung Capacity for Better Health and Fitness” – http://www.kansas.com/living/health-fitness/article3952620.html#storylink=cpy

“Learn Lateral Breathing” – http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesmat/a/LateralBreath.htm

 

 

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RUN FOR YOUR LIFE: Pilates & Running

Whether you are a serious marathoner or simply a “run-for-fun” type, Pilates provides the optimal runner’s workout. Health and fitness experts agree that Pilates exercises are ideal, both as a preparation for all forms of running, and also as a way to repair any damage that running might cause.

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Marathon runner Aline Raywood “recalls the time when she was having a groin pull almost every 2 months, which started to interfere with her training. She was also plateauing in her training as she was feeling that she was lacking oxygen for sustained high level of endurance.”  The answer for Raywood:  Pilates.

For more about the benefits of Pilates for runners, check out these articles.  Then, mark your calendar with one or more of the upcoming, local running events listed below.

Awesome 80s Run SF (Date/Place: 11/23/14/San Francisco).

run2Highlights: All finishers receive a “Totally Awesome ’80s Finishers Medal, Circa 1980s Style T-shirt, and Free Race Photo Downloads at this Rad 5k Run / Walk. Join the Team Challenge and Costume Contest for Gnarly Prizes and Way Cool Entertainment at Crissy Field – Presidio of San Francisco.”  Discount Code: NEON.  Website: http://awesome80srun.com/san-francisco-awesome-80s-run-5k/

Mustache Dache 5k (Date/Place: 11/16/2014/San Francisco).

Highlights: All participants receive “the very truly official 2014 Mustache Dache t-shirt.” Website: http://mustachedache.com/san-francisco/

North Face Endurance Challenge (Date/Place: 12/06/2014/San Francisco).

Highlights: Marathon relay & “kids run.” Website: http://www.thenorthface.com/en_US/endurance-challenge/san-francisco-championship/?stop_mobi=yes

Santa Skivvies Run (Date/Place: 12/06/2014/San Francisco).run5

Highlights: The Santa Skivvies Run is “a festive romp through San Francisco benefiting San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The route begins at UN Plaza and follows Market Street to the Castro. In just four short years, Santa Skivvies Run has become one of the city’s most beloved holiday events.”  Website: http://dev.santaskivviesrun.org/

Holiday Hustle (Date/Place: 12/07/2014/Morgan Hill).

Highlights: Runners that register before November 24th. will receive a tech tee. All runners “will be able to enjoy a post race beer as well as the food you come to expect from a trail race. There will be finishers medals given for all distances.” Website: https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=28585

Coyote Hills Half Marathon & 10k/5k (Date/Place: 01/24/2015/Fremont).

Highlights: “Half the fun will be experiencing all the different kinds of trails, including dirt, paved and even wood bridges.  Hikers/walkers are always welcome!” Website: http://www.brazenracing.com/coyotehills.html

Bay Breeze Half Marathon 10k & 5k (Date/Place: 02/14/15/San Leandro).

Highlights: All runners will receive “custom finisher medals and custom shirts.” Website: http://www.brazenracing.com/baybreeze.htm

Use the Force: Pilates for Jedis!

The Nerd Fitness Academy’s collection of mint-in-box (and free!) resources includes the The Angry Bird Workout and Become a Jedi – How the Force Can Help You Get In Shape.

At the Academy, you’ll even find a video-game based Nerd’s Guide to Happiness and Success.

Person-of-the-Galaxy-Yoda--65561“From Zelda to Mario, Call of Duty to World of Warcraft,” say these fitness nerds, “video games have discovered fundamental principles that can teach us how to live better, happier lives. After all, there’s a reason Nerd Fitness’s tagline has always been: Level up your life!”

http://www.nerdfitness.com/resources/

Pilates for Mommies

We hold our selves to such high standards, thanks to the media splashing pictures of bikini-clad, svelte supermodels 4 week postpartum. It doesn’t work like that…If you are newly pregnant, I hate to be the bearer of this news. Your post baby body is likely to take a bit of work to reshape. It’s ok. There are two things you need: One is a profound LOVE AND RESPECT for your body, it has grown and given birth to a tiny human being! The other is PILATES. If you do both, I promise you will be amazed at the results.

Pilates is a fantastic way to keep up with the rapid changes in the pregnant body and prepare for birth. Postural changes, ligament laxity (due to hormonal changes), muscle tightness, a general sense that your derriere will never be the same…

Pilates addresses these changes by helping the client to maintain core strength, flexibility, and alignment during this dynamic time. All exercises are modified to support proper body mechanics and are approved by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In addition, Pilates aids in the recovery postpartum by training muscles to support you in proper postural alignment, re-introducing the use of the pelvic floor and intrinsic abdominal musculature, and toning those places that shifted around during pregnancy. Every woman varies in her experience of pregnancy and childbirth. The Pilates method can provide the specific attention needed. Take some well deserved “me time” to rejuvenate your body. It will make you a a happier person, and therefore a better mother and partner, when you feel good in your body.

To make 2014 your year to reclaim your body and mind, the remedy is simple:
Love Yourself + Do Pilates = look and feel like a supermodel.

Shanta De Lacrose, Ph.D is an Instructor at Fit First Pilates of Marin, mother of two home birthed babies and has a passion for empowering women in all stages of life, especially motherhood.

Gluten Free Pilates

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Don’t let the holidays settle into your hips. In fact…don’t settle at all! Make 2014 the year to get your fitness freak on and join Fit First Pilates Marin for some kick butt, inspirational, Gluten free Pilates. Melt the muffin, hurdle the curdle, and take back your abs.

Pilates is a safe and effective workout for people of all ages and fitness levels. Here’s a myth buster: You don’t have to be in shape to take Pilates. It’s amazing how many people think you already have to be in good shape to start Pilates. That’s like washing and ironing your clothes before you take them to the dry cleaner.

There is no better workout to prevent or cure back pain which is why Pilates has stayed so popular. No gimmicks, no tricks and no smelly gym. Just a challenging, personalized, awesome workout that will make you feel 20 again.

Ski? Pilates will have you dancing the double diamonds and make you feel like you never left the slopes.

So join us won’t you? You owe it to your butt!

Snap, Krackle and Pop…invade your knees

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Our clients always ask: Is it bad that my knees and shoulders crackle and pop?

Joints like knees and shoulders can make all kinds of noises, from loud popping noises to grating sounds to quiet rubbing sensations. Most of these sounds are categorized by the term Crepitus, which essentially means “joint noise.”

Like a knuckle crack, loud popping noises from your knees are most likely caused by what is called cavitation. Cavitation results from a change in joint pressure that allows carbon dioxide, which is normally dissolved in your joint fluid—a.k.a. synovial fluid—to come out of the solution and form gas bubbles in the joint. Joints have small cavities and when the cavity closes quickly, the bubble essentially “pops” and makes the familiar cracking noise.

Most medical experts agree that these noises, while disconcerting and sometimes embarrassing are nothing to be concerned about.

You might notice these noises most likely occur when going from a sitting to standing position or during certain exercises such a squatting. If it’s not painful, it’s categorized as Benign Crepitus. Many people experience this throughout their lives and never have any problems.

Another common cracking or popping sound doesn’t come from within the joint at all. During movement, tendons and ligaments that cross the joint can temporarily shift position or drag across a bone. When they return to their normal position, they make a snapping noise. You may have heard this in your knees when you rose from a sitting position, or in your neck when you turned your head. It’s also common in the shoulders. Loss of muscle mass from aging hastens this effect because more bone is exposed. This sounds scarier than it is; it’s actually a normal and harmless occurrence.

If you do experience pain with the noise this can be a symptom of something that may require medical attention and should be discussed with an orthopedic. The undersurface of your kneecap (patella) can rub unevenly on the front of your thigh bone (femur). This causes the cartilage on the undersurface of the kneecap, and on the front of the thigh bone, to soften and eventually wear off so that it hangs in strands of what looks like loose crab meat. This loose cartilage can irritate the surrounding soft-tissues of the knee joint, and result in pain in the front of the knee with squatting, stair climbing, or even just sitting with your knee bent for an extended period of time.

If this is the case, physical therapy, or in worst cases, surgery, will be required to resolve the condition to allow you to return to normal activities.

If you’re still concerned that you may need to do something preventative to protect your knees, there are a few things you can do to assure that you’re keeping your knees healthy as best as you can.

The knee is essentially a “dumb joint” which relies on normal function of the joints above it and below it to assure that it functions normally. Here are some exercises that may help.

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Straight leg raises. Without weight at first adding 3-5 pound ankle weights as tolerated. Be sure to keep the core engaged while lifting leg.

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Heel Toe Raises and Lowers: This is to strengthen the ankle as knee pain can often be a result of weak ankles.

Last but very important remember to stretch your quadriceps, hips, calves, hamstrings and iliotibial band. Often times a regular stretching program will relieve knee, shoulder and back pain.

We try to answer all the questions that come in so please…ask away!!!