Fitness for Educators

July 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Exercise, School's Out

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A teacher friend and I running a mud run two summers ago.

A teacher’s life is often misunderstood. The illusion of the workday ending mid-afternoon along with summers off is misleading. It underscores the incredible amount of time spent lesson planning, grading, answering parent phone calls and emails, attending meetings, pursuing professional development opportunities and completing coursework to update certifications. As a result, teachers often are frustrated over scheduling time for needed personal commitments as they struggle to juggle the responsibilities outside of the classroom. Coaching and extra-curricular responsibilities often take precedence too. Add a traditional food services menu still offered in schools (high carbs, processed food, sugary drinks, etc) that most would define as less than healthful, and one can see how it can be hard for teachers to stay physically fit.

Teachers like to set positive examples for their students, and we teach the student much more than we teach the content. There can be, however, many roadblocks to teachers’ personal goals, and it’s unfortunate that fitness can easily take a backseat.

As a high school English teacher myself for the past seventeen years, I completely empathize with and understand frustrations. As a fitness enthusiast for most of my life, I’ve utilized tried and true tricks to stay in-shape even during the most stressful days of the school year.

While everyone is different, and there are a variety of specific nutritional plans and exercises that will work well for specific people, here’s a general list of simple practices anyone can incorporate into his or her daily life to promote more healthful living:

Teacher Tips for Being Fit ~

1. Schedule time for exercise. Teachers love to plan ahead and work by schedules so why not write your workouts within your weekly schedule. Scheduling 30 minutes of exercise in for three – four days a week is a good goal.

Before School Option:
Wake up a half hour – one hour early to give yourself time for a morning workout. Whether it’s spending time on basic at-home movement (such as crunches, push ups, bodyweight squats or simple stretches), partaking in a morning jog or visiting the local gym, you will be more wide awake and ready to take on whatever unfolds during the day. Also, getting up before the rest of your household might help squeeze your own needed time in.

During School Option:
If there is a gym facility available for faculty during the day, why not use your free period in the middle of the day for some movement? I know some colleagues who are completely refreshed after doing so and, thereby, combat the afternoon slump we may be susceptible to.

After School Option:
Go to the gym directly after you leave the building or go after dinner. I personally like to get my grading done before I go to the gym so that my mind is free but there’s something to be said for going directly to the gym right after you leave the building – you will get your workout over and leave your evening free for family time and any grading you may have.

2. Join a gym. This is one item in your budget that will be well spent. There are many gyms with various types of packages offered for single or family members, such as Life Time Fitness or XSport.

3. If joining a gym is not an option, exercise at home. There are many body weight routines available online. If you can push yourself through some crunches, push-ups, squats and toe raises at home, you’re off to a great habit. For a comprehensive compilation of home exercises in one convenient place, check out the world’s largest interactive list of over 200 calisthenics exercises HERE at Man vs. Weight.

4. Incorporate more movement during the school day. Take the stairs more often, go talk to colleagues across the building rather than sending emails and make an excuse to walk around the hallways or outside of the building during a free hour. I see some staff members partaking in regular walks every day during their lunch hour. Movement encourages thought, and this can be a great way to problem-solve or generate new ideas. If you really want some motivation, invest in an activity tracker such as a Fitbit.

5. Plan grocery shopping and prepare as many meals as you can over the weekend. I never have time during the week to ponder over meal plans so this is key to keeping me on track with healthful eating. Chances are your grab-and-go meals are going to be much more unhealthful than your planned ones. I peruse favorite magazines or sites such as Clean Eating for healthy recipe ideas, write down ingredients I don’t have at home and take my list to the grocery store.

6. Consume caffeine earlier in the day before noon. There are many benefits to drinking coffee but doing so earlier in the day will help you fall asleep more soundly.

7. Get regular sleep – this one may be the toughest!  You may think you are doing your students a favor by finishing that grading in one particular night but you will undoubtedly do a more thorough job as a wide-awake individual. Studies show this is true.

8. Drink water throughout the day. Stay hydrated. Perhaps keep a thermos at your desk. Yes, we live by the bell but, hey, if you have to run to the restroom in-between periods, that’s another opportunity for movement!

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The very infrastructure of a teacher’s day does not cater to our health needs so it’s important that we’re cognizant of all we can do to remedy our time management and stress levels.

Try some of the steps above and you will have more energy for life both in and out of the classroom. Moreover, you will be setting a better example for your students, and will feel more positive about yourself and your life in general.

 

 

 

Life Time Fitness vs. XSport Fitness

November 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, School's Out

from my Instagram @GradingGirl

I‘ve called Life Time Fitness my gym home since 2000 but last year I was swayed by a newer XSport Fitness in my area.  Now, I can thankfully say that I’ve been a pleased member from opening day at each location. 

Since I’m continually asked to offer my opinion by friends and since, in this past week, referred two people these gyms, I thought I’d take some time to compare the two.   Both individuals I referred told me my reviews of each were dead on so I’m offering them here.  

**Please note, these are my own observations based on my own experiences only .  Furthermore, I’ve kept my comparisons fairly general here to be as fair and objective as possible.   Come visit for yourself – you won’t be disappointed at either one.**

My Conclusion:   Both facilities offer their own special amenities and I will be keeping both memberships.  Here’s why:

LIFE TIME FITNESS:

– More family-oriented. (more organized kid activities, organized birthday parties, swim classes, etc)

– More pool. There is both an outdoor and indoor pool; both indoor and outdoor pools at Life Time offer water slides, a lounge area, and small cafes.  There is one indoor lap pool available at XSport.  A perk to the lap pool at XSport – it is more out-of-way from the rest of the club, allowing for more privacy and serious swim.

– More organized groups and team activities (running clubs, rock climbing classes, yoga events, yoga instructor courses, etc)

– More varied free-weights.  7lb, 12.5 and 17.5 are currently absent at my XSPort.  

– More cafe.  Life Time offers a full menu of shakes, breakfast, lunch and dinner items.  Very nice place to sit down and/or sneak in some work in-between workouts.

OVERALL:  Life Time Fitness seems to be geared toward both the serious, the want-to-be serious, and the weekend warriors alike.  I see more souls of all ages, shapes and sizes at Life Time.  It is a great place to meet like-minded fitness folks!!!  I’m lucky to say I’ve met a select few of my life-long friends there.

XSPORT FITNESS:

– More advanced equipment.  At the entry level gym facilities such as mine, for instance, the Power Plate is available.

– More one-on-one training sessions.  I see the personal trainers at my XSport working hard with individuals any hour – very late or very early.

More store.  XSport offers clothing, protein powders, accessories such as locks, headphones, etc. 

– More salon amenities.  Tanning beds and spray tans are offered at XSport.  

– Side Note:  The XSport that I frequent plays the BEST music – my all-time favorites included.  This may seem minor but music plays a significant motivator.  😉

OVERALL,  XSport seems to be geared toward the more serious fitness buff.  I notice more male and female clientele who compete regularly although there are folks of all fitness goals at the club.  Additionally, XSport is a great ‘get-in/get-out/get the workout done’ gym.  There literally is not as much room to roam – it’s not a social hour, it’s an exercise hour.  Gym class for adults!!!

BOTH FITNESS CLUBS:

– open 24 hours

– friendly, helpful staff

– ultra- clean facilities

– comprehensive, state-of-the-art cardio equipment

– great places to be!!

It doesn’t hurt to try both out and see what you think.  I believe that both offer  – at the very minimum – a one-day pass to check out the facilities.  🙂

 

Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Workout

February 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Exercise, Listing through Life

Happy February!  Having a wee bit of trouble keeping up with your new year’s resolutions?  No worries – here are some ideas for embracing the sheer joy of exercise!



1.  Invest in a spray tan and stroll into the gym with your newly applied color.  It’ll accentuate your muscles and make you feel fabulous flexing them.  My A+ recommendation = Get Your Tan On

2.  Equipment everyone should have at home when you can’t get to the gym:

a.  10 & 15 pound dumbbells

b.  a jump rope (fun, inexpensive, easy cardio!)

c.  an exercise ball – there are so many exercises you can do with this from performing crunches while sitting on the ball to lying on the ground with the ball squeezed between your calves and performing leg raises.

d.  your able-bodied self! (push ups, sit ups, lunges, squats, kicks, etc . . . none of these powerhouse moves absolutely require a piece of equipment)

Honestly, that is all you truly need to get in a solid workout at home.  Check out my Workout for the Weary for more info.

3.  Treat yourself to a new exercise outfit.  My A+ recommendation for the ladies = the Best Yoga Pants Ever!  Trust me!!

4.  Schedule hot yoga, massage, and a mani & pedi all in the same day.  I did this once and can’t wait to do it again.  Heaven on Earth!  My A+ place for hot yoga =  The Only Guaranteed Moment is This One

5.  Break out of your mold and try a new exercise or use a piece of equipment that you’ve never used before at the gym.

6.  Try a new type of cardio.  I just played racquetball for the first time – very fun!!!  Additionally, here’s a review of a class that holds benefits for all gym goers:  Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates and Progression in Pam’s Pilates

7.  Can’t commit to one gym?  I just learned about this thanks to TimeOut Chicago!  It’s a Yoga Fitness Passbook that allows you to try one class at many yoga studios.  Genius!!

8.  One goal on my list for this year – and it should be yours too:  schedule a photo shoot with a physique photographer!!  It’ll motivate you to get into tip-top shape.

9.  Double your repetitions on all exercises for a month, then check out your cuts in the mirror!

10.  Check out my favorite resources for fitness facts:  Muscle & Fitness Hers and Oxygen.  Both of these magazines are packed with step-by-step exercise instruction, nutrition nuggets and inspiring fitness facts.  Gentlemen, Muscle & Fitness is highly recommended!

Workout for the Weary

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Exercise


No matter your shape, size, age, agility, strength – you CAN benefit from even the slightest amount of exercise.  I’m about to give my secret away here and reveal the exact exercises I’ve been performing for the past 19 years, exercises that helped me lose 33 pounds within three weeks after my daughter was born, that not only helped me maintain my desired weight every year since but made me more toned than before I was pregnant (honest!), and that energize me on even the weariest mornings.  They will cost you a mere 5 – 10 minutes and they are easy enough for everyone to work up to.  Why not do them while watching the morning news?  Or turn on some soothing morning tunes.  If you’re a night owl, perhaps you can squeeze them in while catching some late night T.V.?  . . .

Are you ready?!  This is the exact amount, exact order I execute.  Nothing fancy, not a lengthy routine at all ➜

**You can do these simply with your body weight or you can use a set of 10 or 12 lb free weights.  I alternate between body weight and free weights, and purchased my dumbbells at Target for about $12 – 15 per set.

This is as far as you need to go - that's it!

1.  100 narrow stance squats:

At first, break them into smaller sets, completing 10 – 15 at a time and resting before completing the next sets.  Work your way up to four sets of 25.

  • Feet pointing forward, shoulder width apart
  • Hands on hips OR arms at side with or without weights
  • Be sure your knees do not extend past your toes as you squat
  • No need to bend down too far
  • More challenge:  perform bicep curls or overhead presses at the same time

2. 100 wide-stance squats

At first, break them into smaller sets, completing 10 – 15 at a time and resting before completing the next sets.  Work your way up to four sets of 25.

  • Feet pointing outward, past your shoulders
  • Hands on hips OR arms at side with or without weights
  • Be sure your knees do not extend past your toes as you squat
  • You will naturally bend farther than with the narrow stance squats.  As you get the hang of it, attempt to execute deeper squats.
  • More challenge:  perform bicep curls or overhead presses at the same time

3.  100 calf raises

I usually just do 100 in a row.  Again, you can break these up into sets; you’ll earn the same benefits.

  • Perform these holding weights OR simply with body weight

4.  100 abdominal crunches

  • see Diet, Exercise, or Act of God for easy details on how to do this!
  • Beginners, do the first set only.  Incorporate 2nd – 4th set as you progress.

THAT’S IT!!!

After this routine, you should feel like you got a pretty good run for your time.  These fare me well whenever I can’t go to the gym for whatever reason.  The best part is that they can be done anywhere, anytime.  Try them and let me know what you think.

Running for All

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Exercise, School's Out

Down below is a running program given to me by a colleague who overheard me murmer that I’d like to run continuously for longer distances.  She’s a marathon machine herself and surprised me one day at work by placing the following program on my desk.  If I can do it, you can do it.  I’m not a runner by any means but following this program is making me run for longer stretches of time than I thought possible.

Upon completion of this 8-week program, I will be able to run 30 minutes non-stop.  I’m over half way there!!

I feel giddly, like a little girl again, in the middle of a great cardio session.

Try it with me!!

Points to consider before you begin this 8-Week Beginner’s Running Program →

1.  If you are not accustomed to any exercise, consult your physician first.  Unless you have a known health risk, your doctor will probably encourage you to begin a run-walk program such as this.

2.  Schedule your workouts!  You won’t find time unless you make time.  Put them in your BlackBerry, computer, appointment planner, on your fridge . . . wherever.

3. Expect bad days.  Everyone has them, but they pass quickly, and the next workout is often better than the previous one.  I find my body actually bounces back stronger after I’ve rested for a day (or week) or two.

4.  Don’t rush.  Rushing leads to injuries and discouragement.  Be patient and go slow.  The goal is to reach 30 minutes of continuous running, not to set any records getting there.

More GG Training Tips ➔

~ To fuel up for your workout, have a snack about 1 hour before.  To ensure you don’t lose all those hard earned muscles afterward, have a snack afterward. Click here for my list of pre- and post- workout snacks to fuel and replenish you: Best Pre- and Post- Workout Snacks

~ Always walk a couple of minutes for warmup before you begin and walk another couple of minutes afterward.  Don’t stretch before running.  Save it for after your workout or in the evening while watching T.V.  I get some of my best stretching and yoga moves in that way!

~ On occasion, skip your running workout and do a cross-training instead.  Bike for 30 minutes, elliptical train, do the row machine, or walk the stairmaster.  The break from running will refresh you plus you’ll develop new muscle.

Beginner’s Running Program → → →

(indoors or outdoors)

Week 1

Day 1 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 10x

Day 2 – Walk easy for 30 min

Day 3 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 10x

Day 4 – Walk easy for 30 min

Day 5 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 10x

Day 6 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 10x

Day 7 – Rest

Week 2

Day 1 – Run 2 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 10 x

Day 2 – Walk easy 30 min

Day 3 – Run 3 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 7x, Run 2 mins

Day 4 – Walk easy 30 min

Day 5 – Run 4 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 6x

Day 6 – Run 4 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 6x

Day 7 – Rest

Week 3

Day 1 – Run 5 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 5X

Day 2 – Walk easy 30 min

Day 3 – Run 5 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 5X

Day 4 – Walk easy 30 min

Day 5 – Run 6 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 4x, Run 2 min

Day 6 – Run 6 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 4x, Run 2 min

Day 7 – Rest

Week 4

Day 1 – Run 8 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 3x, Run 3 min

Day 2 – Walk 30 min

Day 3 – Run 9 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 3x

Day 4 – Walk 30 min

Day 5 – Run 10 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 2x, Run 8 min

Day 6 – Run 11 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 2x, Run 6 min

Day 7 – Rest

Week 5

Day 1 – Run 12 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 2 x

Day 2 – Walk 30 min

Day 3 – Run 13 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 2 x

Day 4 – Walk 30 min

Day 5 – Run 14 min, Walk 1 min, Repeat 2x

Day 6 – Run 15 min, Walk 1 min, Run 14 min

Day 7 – Rest

Week 6

Day 1 – Run 16 min, Walk 1 min, Run 13 min

Day 2 – Walk 30 min

Day 3 – Run 17 min, Walk 1 min, Run 12 min

Day 4 – Walk 30 min

Day 5 – Run 18 min, Walk 1 min, Run 11 min

Day 6 – Run 19 min, Walk 1 min, Run 10 min

Day 7 – Rest

Week 7

Day 1 – Run 20 min, Walk 1 min, Run 9 min

Day 2 – Run 20 min, Walk 1 min, Run 9 min

Day 3 – Run 22 min, Walk 1 min, Run 7 min

Day 4 – Walk 30 min

Day 5 – Run 24 min, Walk 1 min, Run 5 min

Day 6 – Run 26 min, Walk 1 min, Run 3 min

Day 7 – Rest

Week 8

Day 1 – Run 27 min, Walk 1 min, Run 2 min

Day 2 – Run 20 min, Walk 1 min, Run 9 min

Day 3 – Run 28 min, Walk 1 min, Run 1 min

Day 4 – Walk 30 min

Day 5 – Run 29 min, Walk 1 min

Day 6 – Run 30 min!!!!!

Day 7 – Get that well-deserved rest!!!

*Always walk 2 – 3 minutes for a warm up before you begin to run and walk another 2 – 3 minutes as a cool down.  Don’t stretch before running.  Save it for afterward (think of it as a reward!)


GG’s Gym Etiquette 101

January 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Exercise, School's Out

My Tried & True Dos & Don’ts For the Gym!!

These peeps all seem to be using proper gym etiquette.

The gym is a place to release tensions, detoxify, energize and renew.  When I walk through the doors of my gym, I immediately feel a sense of relief – it’s my place to unwind while maintaining fitness.  I’m very lucky to have met quite a few very dear friends at the gym as I spend a significant amount of time there.  In order to get the most out of the gym and earn those friendships, there are etiquette rules gym goers should follow.  Here are those that immediately come to mind ~

Do

  • Do invest in gym attire that you feel good in.  True, you are going to be sweating up your duds in no time flat but, trust me, if you feel good you will perform your exercises with that much more vigor and get a better workout.  Here is one of my personal favorite sportswear lines – Body Language Sportswear.
  • Do wear color from time to time.  Everyone wears black.  Try a brighter color to boost your mood.  In fact, invest in colors you can mix and match.  GG Tip:  Feeling a couple pounds heavier? – Wear the same color top and bottom; the monochromatic effect will slim you.
  • Do wear white socks.  Period.  Any other color will make you look like the lights went out in the locker room when you were changing and you didn’t get a chance to check yourself in the mirror.
  • Do wipe down the cardio machines after you use them.  You just spent 20, 30 or 45 long, hard minutes grinding away . . . the next person doesn’t want to share your excretions.
  • Do let others work in during your rest periods between sets. This may not always be practical, but offer to share when you can.  It’s an easy way to make friends too or meet that cute guy or girl.  🙂
  • Do refrain from melodramatic squeals and moans while pushing your limits with the iron.  There is one particular character at my gym who obviously thinks he is much more macho than he is.  He apparently has no peripheral vision to see all the rolling eyes around him.

Don’t

  • Don’t wear dirty gym clothes.  This would officially make you disgusting.  Yes, everyone around you could tell.  One way to avoid being a skank is to take your gym clothes with you into the shower and let them hang to dry for tomorrow.
  • Don’t wear baggy pants or shirts.  Not only will you not feel good in them, you won’t be able to see the muscle work you are accomplishing.
  • Don’t get overly skimpy.  You don’t want something flying out that shouldn’t during an overly enthusiastic aerobic jump or superhero set.
  • Don’t hover around a person while waiting for the machine he/she is using.  Either ask politely to work in or find another exercise to do while you wait.  There’s always something else you can do to be more productive than make the other person feel hurried.
  • Don’t stand directly in front of someone performing his/her set.  Chances are, the person is checking himself in the mirror and nothing breaks up the pumping pattern more than an oblivious hogger.
  • Biker shorts, fanny packs, thong leotard over spandex.    Enough said.

Progression in Pam’s Pilates

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Reviews, School's Out

I am now enrolled in my second set of  Pilates classes at the LifeStudio of Life Time Fitness; I’m feeling stronger and learning something new with each class.  Please note:  the following is of my own experiences.  Pilates may or not be right for you.  Check with your own personal trainer and/or doctor before trying any new fitness adventure.

See a review of my first experiences with this Pilates class here:  Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates

To perform this, begin stretched in the side plank.  With all movement coming from the lower abdominals, crunch them in as your hips rise and feet come in toward you.  At the same time, swing the arm down and under as you “thread” across your core.  Hard to perfect . . . but feels great once you do!

Contrology” – that’s what Pam Barich is teaching us in class!!  Proper Pilates technique means the body must remain in control.   Movement should not cause the body to misalign, shake, or protude.  That is easier said than done; but, Pam is showing us how to build that strong core – the Pilates powerhouse – that keeps those movements in check. The core is what connects the band of strength across our upper bodies to the band of strength across our lower bodies.  A strong core provides for the safe conduct of strain along our spines between our arms and legs. When we are connected in this basic Pilates manner, the muscles that support the spine are actually strengthened by the movement.

Pam poses perfectly

Pam poses perfectly

Pam uses fun, easy-to-remember techniques to help us progress through the movements.  For instance, when prompting us to lie in the preparatory Pilates position (shoulders pressed back on the reformer, lower back lifted and lower abdominals tucked in), she reminds us “not to kill the ladybug”. . . meaning hold the core tight that it doesn’t rest on the mat.  Or she might say “balance that glass of wine” so it doesn’t spill . . . meaning tighten those abs so that they are hard and flat as possible.  Fun!! My lower, inner abs never worked so hard!  You just can’t get this kind of workout with strength training alone.

To perform this, first position yourself into a bridge.  Next, raise one leg and hold, being sure not to let your glutes drop.

Along with progressing through these movements, Pam challenges us with new exercises during each and every class.  It amazes me how much varied stretching, pushing, pulling and strength movements that can be achieved on the Reformer.  Whether it’s leg circles, the hundred, extended arabesques . . .it’s impossible to get bored or tired. Pam’s repertoire includes classic Pilates positions along with her own productive inventions.  What’s great about Pam Barich’s classes from others is one never know what challenges and unique, fun sets Pam is going to surprise us with.  Students get the best of both worlds with Pam’s instructions:  continued progressions of the same movement for growth coupled with unique twists for challenges. Into the 7th week of classes, Grading Girl gives Pam Barich at Life Time Fitness an A+ for innovative exercise that provides more results in half the time.

Men Benefit from Pilates Too!

Men Benefit from Pilates Too!

Men, women, people of all ages and levels can benefit from a Pilates class.  In fact, a 50 year old gentleman just joined my class this past Tuesday.  He has some pains in his back and wishes to strenthen his legs.  After just one session, he exclaimed how much his muscles were shaking yet instantly felt less painful from when he walked into class.  Pilates is rehabilitation, it’s strength training, and it’s mental release all in one.  I walk out of class feeling like I’m floating – I’m that relaxed and limber after the stretches, pulls and balances we concentrate on.

Try a free 35 minute session with Pam to see for yourself!  Email her at pbarich@lifetimefitness.com

In the meantime, here is another video of Alejandra Randazzo, veteran Pilates instructor at Life Time Fitness so that you can catch a glimpse of some exercises on the Reformer:

Level 2 Exercise - This is my progression from the side plank

Level 2 Exercise – This is my progression from the side plank

Improve Posture and Poise with Pam’s Pilates

October 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Reviews, School's Out

Please note:  The following is of my own experiences only.  Check with your health care provider to see if Pilates is right for you.

I vowed this would be the summer of new experiences.  With only one week left of summer break, I can honestly write that I kept that vow!  One of the most impactful of those experiences is one I will continue long after summer is over ~ Pilates at Life Time Fitness’s LifeStudio with Pamela Barich.  I can’t say enough about Pam’s Pilates class.  My posture is more aligned.  I walk taller.  I look slimmer.  I am more toned.  I am more flexible.  In a word . . . I feel better.

Grading Girl on The Reformer - this is my first try with this move!

Grading Girl on The Reformer – this is my first try with this move!

At LifeStudio (a part of Lifetime Fitness), I am supervised by a specially trained instructor named Pam Barich.  Pam earned her Pilates certification in 2005 after a few years of teaching aerobic classes.  She was taking Pilates classes herself and found that it was the one practice that was enhancing all other aspects of her life.  As Pam explains, Pilates “develops core strength, giving overall strength.  .  . When that is strong, you can have strength all over.”   She advocates Joseph Pilates focus on concentration to achieve mind/body connection that “works the body from the inside out,” as Pam states.  Pilates gives you a work-in that makes other workouts that much more effective.

Pamela Barich on The Reformer at LifeStudio Schaumburg

Pamela Barich on The Reformer at LifeStudio

How and why did Pilates begin? As Medicine.Net defines, Pilates was created in the 1920s by the trainer Joseph Pilates for the purpose of rehabilitation. Pilates’ first clients were soldiers from war and dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine (to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches and pains). His techniques are maintained today as dancers, athletes and anyone looking to improve their overall physical and emotional fitness are utilizing the method.  I remember my dance teacher years ago recommending enrollment in a Pilates class to enhance poise and technique; but, back then Pilates classes were much harder to find in the suburbs. In fact, when I hunted for a class in the early ’90s, there was only one studio in downtown Chicago offering a few classes.  I would have had to travel to New York if I wanted to take any comprehensive Pilates sessions.  Today, Pilates is conveniently offered at my own gym with highly specialized instructors!  Very few health clubs are as comprehensive as Life Time Fitness . . . offering Pilates, yoga, aerobics, spin, marathon trainings, boot camps . . the list goes on.

What exactly is Pilates? Pilates is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, without building bulk. The method is a series of controlled (and I mean very controlled) movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus (in our class, that is the Reformer) or on the floor (mat work).  Pilates is resistance exercise, not aerobic; although, the heart rate will certainly rise.  I sometimes wear my heart monitor and my heart does raise to my Zone 2 & 3 levels.  It’s closer to weight lifting than it is to aerobic activities, and so it should be considered resistance exercise.  As an avid strength trainer, I use Pilates to refine my posture and core strength – things that I can’t perfect with weight lifting alone. It actually makes me sit and stand more properly and comfortably!!!

Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength and spinal alignmentThere are movements in my Pilates class that work muscles I’ve never worked before!  Pilates is unique in that it truly targets the core, including the very hard to train lower abdominal muscles.  Everyone talks about using your “core” but what exactly is it???  The “core” consists of the spine, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. Some of the main core muscles are the erector spinae (located in your back along your spine), the internal and external obliques (the sides of your abdomen), the transverse abdominis (located deep in your gut, this muscle pulls your belly button in toward your spine), the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack”), and hip flexors (in your pelvis and upper leg). Now, who doesn’t want to tone those muscles?!?

During a Pilates session with Pam, whether it’s on the Reformer or on the mat, she continuously prompts us to concentrate deeply on those core muscles, as well as on our breath, the contraction of our muscles, and the quality (not quantity) of our movements. Practicing that coordinated concentration enhances our life outside of the studio as well as we carry the control through to our lives.  It helps us connect our body, mind and spirit to create peace withn.

Pam pushes you to stretch to your most optimal level without overstepping your limits.  As an example of her highly individualized instruction, on the first day of my small group class (there are 4 of us), Pam had us perform basic stretches on the Reformer and mat to identiy our current (or pre-Pilates) flexibilty and strength levels.  As she approached each of us throughout the hour, she demonstrated differentiated movements for each of us to tackle according to our own body’s abilities.  Now that we’re each acclimated to the Pilates fundamentals, every session consists of choreographed movements that push each of us at our own paces and alignments.  Individualized instruction at group pricing!

Pam demonstrating more moves

Pam demonstrating another finely balanced stretch

Grading Girl gives Pamela Barich’s Pilates class an A+ for  a healthful way to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Men and women of various ages and fitness levels take Pilates.  I walk out of class feeling lithe and light with a super-straight posture.  I guarantee you will gain from it as well.

CHECK OUT MY SECOND POST IN THIS SERIES HERE:  Progression in Pam’s Pilates

** Try a class!!  Pam offers a FREE introductory session to anyone interested.  You don’t even have to be a Lifetime member for the free trial.  Email her at pbarich@lifetimefitness.com.    Don’t forget to tell her Grading Girl sent you! 🙂  **

Want more proof of how much Pilates can do for your strength and flexibility?  Here is a video of Alejandra Randazzo, a veteran Life Time Fitness (Schaumburg) Pilates Instructor, performing on the Reformer:

Come to Life Time Fitness to improve your fitness for a lifetime!

STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ON GG’S PILATES PROGRESS.  GG WILL POST TO THIS SERIES EVERY FEW WEEKS.

Diet, Exercise, or Act of God?

April 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Exercise, School's Out

I’ve heard many line openers at the gym but the title to this post particularly sticks out in my mind.It certainly is more creative than “Can I work in with you?”  Or these . . .

Line Openers at the Gym

·I like your shoes/ Did you get new shoes?/Those are interesting shoes. – (For some reason, this one’s a biggie.Do my feet stick out or something?)

·____ is your color. (Boring.)

·How long have you been working out here? (Also boring.)

·Wow, if I do those exercises, will I get those abs?(hmmmm)

·You look like my future girlfriend. (Now that’s cute!)

To answer the first question . . . while I’ve been blessed with a fairly fast metabolism (thanks, Mom!), maintaining a low fat diet and working out 6 days a week certainly plays a factor in maintaining my physique. Here’s a set of exercises I’ve been doing – without fail – since a week after my daughter was born.I gained 33 pounds when I was pregnant with her and lost it all within 3 weeks. Now, I am currently in my 40s and maintain my “6-pack.”  Unfortunately, because I am a teacher, you’ll just have to take my word for it or ask one of my gym buds.  No pictures allowed!! 🙂  

 

15 minutes, five mornings a week – if I miss a morning, I do them at night; it doesn’t matter which days of the week, as long as it’s five times within the week.I can honestly say that I’m in the best shape of my life and this little routine definitely plays a factor toward that.So, sshh, don’t tell . . . here it is ~

GG’s No Fail Daily Exercises

On the floor:

1.  100 crunches . . . lie flat on your back, bend knees, feet planted, hands behind neck

2.  50 alternate side crunches . . . same as above except crunching (25 each side, alternating with each crunch)

3.  For more challenge, add this:  50 alternate side crunches w. knee lift . . . elbow reaching to opposite knee as knee lifts to meet elbow (25 each side, alternating with each crunch)

4.  For even more challenge, add this:  100 “bicycle” crunches. . . legs raised an inch, parallel to ground, elbow reaching to opposite knee as knee lifts to meet elbow (50 each side, alternating with each crunch & keeping legs raised)

That’s it!  We can pin exercise routines on Pinterest until our fingers fing, but the truth is one needs only find that one routine that works and makes one feel comfortable and  the results will follow!!  Now let’s get those 6 packs popping!

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