New Training Offerings for 2019

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Do you need CECs or are you looking to up your skills? Join one of our Continuing Education Courses. These are open to all certification programs and levels and Pilates enthusiasts. We will be offering the Prop Shop Workshop and MVe Chair Course this winter at JSP.

Are you looking to jump start your Pilates career? Then our Peak Pilates Comprehensive Level I Training is what you are searching for. This is the foundational course to the full Comprehensive Certification, and covers all beginning exercises on Mat, Reformer, Tower, Small Barrel, Ladder Barrel, High Chair, Low Chair, Power Circle, and Wall. It’s the best way to expand on your knowledge as a Pilates practitioner and take it to the next level.

Check out all the details here.

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Pain, Pilates, and a Tool to Help

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One of the things I love about Pilates is how it gives us permission - permission to listen to our bodies.  I feel like when I was younger I was all about pushing myself and pushing my body to perform.  In order to do that, I had to ignore signs of fatigue and pain.  

Then I found Pilates, and my teacher would ask me questions like "Where do you feel that?"  Nobody had ever asked me that before.  As long as I was performing well, nobody cared.  Now that I've found Pilates, I use my workout time to not only improve the performance of my body, but to also check in.  It's one of the things I love about traditional Pilates that follows Joe's order.  If you repeat the order of the exercises each day, they become a barometer to check in and see how your body is doing.  The consistency acts as a guide to see how my body is feeling each day.  If the 100 is always first, then if it feels different, better, or worse, I know I need to adjust.  I need to listen.  So if I feel a twinge or a pain, it matters.  

The other thing that Pilates taught me is the difference between good pain and bad pain.  Discomfort that lasts during an exercise but goes away when I'm done?  Good.  Discomfort that lasts hours later?  Bad.  Muscle pain?  Good.  Joint pain?  Bad.

And that joint pain leads me to that little bottle above (housed in front of my manuals and research and general to-dos).

I was sent a sample of the Banja Balm by Khroma Herbal Products, so if I was working out and felt a twinge or pain, I would apply the balm to the area after I worked out.  I would massage it in and I always felt better.  So better, in fact, that applying the balm is now part of my ritual after my Pilates practice.  Usually, I workout at 8 or 9pm after the kids are in bed, so I use Pilates as a way to unwind and check in after a long day.  After my workout, I'll apply the balm, and really massage it in.  I've found it also helps relieve the over-stimulation that nighttime workouts can give me as well.  It smells super good, and is full of vegan and organic yummy ingredients.  I've been recommending it to my clients who want a sore muscle rub without camphor because some of them are adverse to the smell.  It is a little grainy, which concerned me the first time I used it, but the balm melts on contact and absorbs well.

So how about a little self-massage after your Pilates session?  Don't mind if I do.

Disclaimer:  I was given a free bottle of the Banja Balm, but all opinions expressed above are my own.

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Donation Mat for Hurricane Relief - and get a CEC

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Join us at The Pilates Barre Portland October 21, 2017 at 10:00am for a Donation Mat Class taught by Master Instructor Jessica Schultz.  Donate what you can.  Every dollar will be given to the American Red Cross to aid continuing hurricane relief efforts.  Any Peak instructor attending will receive 1 CEC no matter what they donate.  This class is open to the public.  Love wins!!!  Let's do this people! 

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Chair and Barrel CEC Workshop

Want to advance your Pilates practice in the new year?  Keep your certification current?  Lean 73 exercises and how to integrate them into a session?  Check out our latest Instructor Newsletter to learn more about our Workshop January 30-31st.

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The Top Three Reasons to Choose the Peak Pilates Training Program

I often get asked what makes Peak Pilates unique.  After years of owning my own studio and hiring teachers of many different backgrounds, here is what I can say for sure. 

1.  We teach Pilates by honoring the past

Peak Pilates teaches Pilates as a movement system, honoring the work of Joseph Pilates.  We don't feel his work needs to be changed, but we work hard to understand it in today's language with some minor adjustments to reflect the advancements of science and what we know about the body and mind.  You certainly wouldn't want a doctor with medical knowledge limited to the last century.  So as a Pilates instructor, it's important to understand advancements that have been backed up by science so that you have the latest knowledge to safely teach your clients and help them meet their workout goals.

2.  It's all included.

At Peak Pilates, our training is integrated.  After successful completion of PPC-I, you will know all the beginning exercises on Mat, Reformer, Cadillac/Tower, Chair, Small Barrel, Ladder Barrel, and Power Circle.  You will not pay additional money to assess.  You will pay for the four modules and material fees (and shipping).  That's it.  You will understand how to modify exercises to keep people safe with general back, knee, wrist, ankle, shoulder or neck problems, as well as how to modify a class for a healthy older client.  Everything to understand the system is included.  You don't need pre-anatomy courses.  Anatomy is included. 

3.  We teach not just WHAT to teach, but HOW to teach. 

There are a number of reputable companies that can teach you what the 100 is, but at Peak we teach you how to teach your clients to perform the 100.  That means how to spot, how to communicate, how to use imagery and touch...all the amazing things that will set you apart as a Pilates instructor.  Our Five-Part Formula for Success is unique in that it sets up people who have little to no teaching experience to achieve excellent results. Even if you have taught before, the Five-Part Formula will expand and deepen your teaching skills.

Without this system unique to Peak, it's easy for beginning instructors to get overwhelmed.  Imagine, you've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours taking exercises apart and discussing the nuances of movement.  So what do you do when you get that first new client in front of you?  If you share everything you know about an exercise, they will very quickly be overwhelmed.  How do you know what to say and when to say it?  How do you cue a body in motion to stay in motion without music?  How do you safely progress clients?  As a graduate of a Peak Pilates training program, you will know how to do all these things.  And because you have this knowledge, you will stand out, and you will get excellent results.

So start your Pilates journey will all the information necessary to succeed -  check out our latest trainings and get started today!

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The Best Pilates Exercise for your Lats

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So, that title was total click bait.  Sorry, there are no Pilates exercises for your lats...not that Pilates doesn't work your lats...let me explain...

Someone asked me the other day for an exercise to work their lats.  And I was stumped for a little bit.  What should I give them?  The arm weight series?  Row Series on Reformer?  Pull Up on Chair?  And then it hit me why I didn't have a quick answer.  All Pilates exercises work your lats.  And more importantly, in Pilates, we don't break the body down into segments.

Your lats (or latissimus dorsi) are a major posture muscle and connect your trunk to your pelvis.  They also help to rotate your scapula (shoulder blades) downward, which is important since most people are becoming kyphotic due to smart phone or computer use, or overworking their chest muscles.  If you have a kyphotic posture, your shoulders generally rotate inward. 

But in Pilates, we don't isolate the lats and then work them separately from the rest of the body for 10 minutes, or have a "back" day and a "leg" day.  We are continually trying to depress the shoulders for good posture and alignment (not the entire way, but only say, 80%).  So, the 100 becomes a lat exercise.  Even a "leg" exercise like Footwork on the Chair uses your lats to help keep your trunk elevated and stable.  See those ladies working above on the ladder barrel?  They're working their lats, too, to help keep their balance.

And that brings me to the bigger realization I had when I was asked this question.  In Pilates, we don't think of the body as separate parts.  We think of the body as a whole.  We want to strengthen our lats so they can help us stabilize our trunk, not just to have strong lats, or to have a good-looking back.  It's important to see how all the muscles connect, not to just work them in isolation.  It's this connection that makes Pilates so functional.  That way, your lats help you lift your child, lift weights, and execute the Pull Up on Chair.  We don't want to separate your muscles from the movement your body needs to perform, and that's what makes Pilates a movement system

So, go ahead and work your lats.  Every exercise, all the time.  Your posture will thank you for it, and you'll be stronger and more supported in all you do.

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Mat Vs. Equipment Pilates - Which is Better?

People often ask me which is better - mat or equipment Pilates.  Or people will tell me, "I hate mat" or "I only do mat."  So which is better?  Well, let's start by looking at what makes each unique.  As I say to my children when they complain that someone got a bigger piece of something or a longer whatever, "You are not equal, you're unique."

Some things that make mat unique:

1.  It's portable.  You can do it just about anywhere with very little equipment.  See Keeping Up Your Workout While Traveling.

2.  It's affordable.  You'll probably pay $10-15 for a mat class, while equipment classes will run you about $25-60, depending on how many people are in a class.

3.  It's what Joseph created first.  It's the beginning of the work.  It connects you to the largest equipment available - the earth.  It's is the foundation to everything.

4.  It's done using your own body for stability and is more open-chain (exercises where the hand or foot is free to move).  This means that you will have to work in your core a lot to hold your body still or mobilize it during an exercise. 

5.  Mat has more flow.  Since you're not getting up to move a box, change a spring, or attach a bar, you can just keep moving from one exercise into the next.

So how is Equipment Unique?

1.  It uses more resistance.  Most equipment (outside of the barrels) have springs.  These springs give resistance in both directions to every exercise.  So, if you're looking to strength train and up your metabolism, the equipment will help.

2.  If you need more support and alignment cues, equipment has the edge as well.  On reformer alone, you have a head rest, shoulder blocks, and a foot bar so your teacher can easily see exactly how your body is moving.  I call my Reformer the diagnostic piece of equipment.

3.  There are more exercises on equipment.  There's about 50 mat exercises, and on reformer 250, chair even more than that.  So it's great to help keep variety in your Pilates routine.

So which is better?  It's important to understand that Pilates is best as a system.  If you've always done the hundred on the mat, imagine pumping your arms with resistance (that's Reformer).  If you've always done Short Spine with springs to help you, imagine doing it without them and you'll really build up your Powerhouse and train it how to lift your pelvis while performing the Roll Over on the mat.

I've seen it time and time again, clients who only like one or the other, and they don't progress as much as clients who perform the entire system.  What you learn on one informs your body on the other.  You'll build newer connections faster and deeper if you do both.

And sadly, whichever one you "don't like" is probably the one you have to do.  Sometimes tighter people don't like mat - it's a lot of sitting or straight legs extended in the air if your hamstrings are tight.  But guess how you help lengthen your hamstrings?  By performing mat.  People who don't like equipment because it's too much stopping and starting probably have a hard time connecting their mind and body without distraction.  But guess what helps with that?  Unlocking the rhythm sections on Reformer.

So, yes, I love my two children equally.  Does one get on my nerves sometimes?  Do I feel more connected to another at points in my life?  Certainly.  But that doesn't mean I stop loving one or the other.  So challenge yourself to explore new exercises on the mat, or try an equipment class.  You may just find that it helps push your body in a new way help you go deeper into the work.

 

 

 

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Keeping Up Your Workout While you Travel

I once had a conversation with a client and I told him that I figured out my body could go three days, four tops without Pilates or I would start to feel some tightening in my SI joint.  His reply to me was, "It sounds like you're addicted.  It's like Pilates is your crack."  I do think my body does go into withdrawal when I don't do Pilates, so whenever I travel, I have a plan.  Here are some simple ways to keep up your workout while you're away from your favorite studio.

1.  Did you see those cool note pads from Pilates Nerd?  It has the classical mat order, power circle, wall, toe work, and space to write more notes!  It's perfect!  I write out my client's workouts on these papers, and it saves time since I only need to fill in reps or modifications for them.  Some of my clients even take a picture with their smart phone so they don't even have to travel with the piece of paper.

2.  Have you made friends with classical Pilates yet?  All you need is a mat and your brain.  You barely need much space at all.  You can even travel with a Power Circle easily to do a Power Circle Mat.  Or what about Reformer on Mat?  This very challenging workout will take your Pilates to a whole new level.  Have  a certified Pilates instructor teach you it before your trip.  If you know the Classical Reformer order, it won't be hard for you to remember how to practice Reformer on the Mat.

3.  Did you know I have workouts here?  All free, all fun, and a great way to take me with you on the road!  They're all listed here.  You can also find the JSP youtube channel here.

4.  Other options that cost money include:  a skype lesson with your teacher, or drop in on a Pilates class where you are traveling.  Find a list of Peak Pilates certified instructors here.

 

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In Defense of Pilates as Movement System

So I read this on a blog the other day, and, well, it kinda made me sad:

"One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer. Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”

Now, I want to be very clear.  I do not want to start to compare Pilates with barre classes.  I take barre workouts and enjoy them.  The first class I was ever certified to teach was the New York City Ballet Workout, which could easily be described as a barre workout (without the barre, it's all done standing in center).  So let's not go there.  This is not about what is better or worse.

For me, this is about Pilates and how we teach it.  Did you see the pictures of the planking on the blog?  It's bodies piled on top of each other.  How is this Pilates?  What part of Pilates should involve a competition? 

I believe that Pilates should be taught as a movement system.  I believe Joe taught it that way.  It's one of the things that makes Pilates, well, Pilates.  So what is a movement system?  It's process-oriented, non-competitive, and non-intimidating.  A movement system should stimulate the senses, the mind, and motor skill development.  It should focus on breathing and regeneration of energy.  I think you could ask any of my clients and they would say this is how we teach Pilates at JSP.  But I teach it that way because I think it honors the way Joe taught it.  Contrast Joseph Pilates' quotes below with the experience that poor woman had:

"Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.  Through Contrology (Pilates), you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."

"Beginning with the introductory series, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises."

or my favorite:

"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."

If we honor Joseph's work, we must teach Pilates as a movement system.  Even if we cannot agree on imprinting or order or neutral pelvis, can we at least agree on this?  I don't want to ever see Pilates mentioned in an article entitled "The Good and Bad of Extreme Workouts."  Really.  If you're teaching something that extreme that you are putting bodies on top of one another, working people past the point of exhaustion, and competing one person against another, can you please just not call it Pilates?  Because it really isn't.

The saddest thing about the blog post?  I agree with the author's point.  She writes, "The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice."  I couldn't agree more, I just would call that "Pilates."  

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The Top 3 Reasons Why Men Should Do Pilates

I know Pilates has gotten a girly reputation, but Joseph Pilates was not a dancer - he was a boxer!  How more manly can you get?  But I can't tell you how many times people have asked me if I have any male clients.  Yes, and do, and here's why.

You get to stretch without taking a yoga class with a bunch of hyper-flexible women.  Many of my guy clients know they need to stretch (and did you know that a tight psoas can lead to erectile dysfunction?) but they don't want to be surrounded by super flexible women (women tend to be more flexible than men) with their feet touching their heads while they struggle with straps and blocks to approximate the same position.  In every exercise in Pilates, there is a stretch and a strength.  So in Spine Stretch Forward, you're working your abs but at the same time you're stretching your hamstrings, but you get to move and flow in the position.  You don't have to sit and hold something that may feel intense for 3 minutes.

It helps to open your chest.  Many men focus on developing the muscles of their chest, but that can lead to overly tight chest muscles, even kyphosis (and hey, staring at that smart phone all day isn't helping!).  Without stretching the chest, over developed chest muscles can cause lower back pain, and tight hips (see reason #1 above for a sneaky way to stretch without forcing yourself into Cobra).  Pilates extension for the upper back focuses on opening the thoracic spine without loading the low back - it's more of a sternum lift than an arch of the mid-back.  If you're really tight in your chest, deep back bends will only cause more pain.  The smaller, more strategic extension in Pilates will help deeper postural changes take effect.

You'll perform better at your favorite sport.  Many of my clients (male or female, for that matter) remark on how much more lung capacity they experience after starting a regular Pilates practice.  The lateral opening of the side body coupled with the lift of the rib cage in forward flexion is unlike any other exercise system.  This means that in your Pilates lesson, you are lengthening your ribs off your pelvis in two directions - to the side (which is easier and will give your body more stretch) and when you round forward (which is much more challenging).  But if you can master that, you are training your internal, deepest abdominal muscles to support the carriage of your rib cage.  If you can do that, you'll make more space to breathe, helping you increase your endurance for whatever sport you do. 

By now, we all know that King James does Pilates.

Are you ready to join him?  Or are you already a male student of Pilates?  Share your story in the comments!

More Powerhouse Cues

100 - Box heavy like cement

Roll Up - String of pearls

One Leg Circle - Stir leg w/in hip socket, hips heavy into floor

Rolling Like a Ball - Keep chin to chest like a laser, Eyes focused on pelvis

Single Leg Stretch - Don't rock the boat

Double Leg Stretch - Scoop to reach out, Wrap your hips and scoop belly, Hold an orange between your thighs

Scissors - Scoop out belly with ice cream scoop

More Cues Here

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Why I Don't Workout with my Clients

I can't tell you how many times I have had this conversation.

Someone:  What do you do?

Me:  I teach Pilates.

S:  Wow, you must be in such good shape!  You get to workout for your job!

M:  Actually, I don't workout with my clients.  I lead them through a workout.

S:  Oh. 

That's right, I do not get paid to workout.  As a Pilates instructor, that is not my job.  It's not about my workout, it's about my client's. 

Here are some other compelling reasons why I continue to teach this way:

Head and Neck Issues.  Most of Pilates is done on your back.  If I'm demonstrating, you have to crane your neck, most likely to one side, to see me perform an exercise.  That's really unsafe for your neck.  A majority of the mat work is done on your back with your head lifted, and it's just not safe for my clients to try to look to see me while they workout.

Range of Motion.  When I was teaching the New York City Ballet Workout, the instructor I was training under told us not to use our longest leg extension when taking class with our students.  She said that it would lead the people in our classes to try to match the height of our leg.  For most people in the general population, it's really hard to toss your leg up high in the air without crunching your back or rounding your spine.  If your clients are watching you and you are really flexible, your clients may try to match your range of motion.  Range of motion in Pilates is determined by form.  But that means everyone's range is different, and a high leg may not be better, especially if you're using your quad to lift it instead of your Powerhouse.  So it's better not to look around a room and compare yourself to anyone during a Pilates class, not even your instructor.  It's better to stay in your body and make sure you are in the exercise, not performing the exercise.

Pilates Is Mind/Body Work.  Many of us are visual learners, and rely on that part of our brains to learn movement.  When we turn that off and really listen to our instructor's words, it forces us to go internal for movement correction, instead of external.  This is the essence of mind/body work.  I don't want to cheat my clients of that experience.  It may take them longer to learn an exercise, but it will be better for them to take the time to figure it out than to just mimic my movements.

I Want to be Safe, Too.  As an instructor, even if I'm demonstrating, part of me is watching the class and thinking about them.  How do I stay connected in my body during my Pilates work if my brain is concentrating on myself and my clients?  I'm more likely to injure myself if I'm not concentrating on my body, or worse yet, just jumping in and out of exercises to demonstrate.  I'm not aware of my own limitations or flexibility or strength that day to be safe in my own practice.

It Makes Us Human.  I have not discovered some secret to being in shape.  I have to juggle my workouts like any other mother, teacher, woman, or student around work, life, love, children, school.... Making time to workout helps me empathize with my clients when they fall behind in their homework to keep up with their Pilates practice on their own.  It also helps me help them brainstorm ideas as to how to stay fit and healthy in this world where we are all so busy.  As a Pilates instructor, I don't have eight hours a day to think about my body and workout, but I do have eight hours a day to devote to the work of Joseph Pilates.  For that, I consider myself lucky.  That's what inspires me to pull out my mat at the end of the day, sometimes at 11pm, to do the mat work.  That's what devotion to Pilates is.  That's what I teach, and that is my job.

#100FitDays

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The Best Advice I Ever Got

Follow the link below to check out my latest post for Peak Pilates, a must read if you are considering becoming a Pilates instructor!

http://peakpilates.com/en/community/the-best-advice-i-ever-got

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Pilates Series First 5 Exercises

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